K-Dramas With Badass Female Leads
Being a K-drama fan for more than a decade, there’s nothing more exciting for me than noticing an increasing number of K-dramas that empower women with strong female lead characters. Instead of portraying them as damsels in distress, many of these shows also break gender stereotypes that make you wonder “Oppa who?”.
If you’re looking for some girl power to get motivated, here’s a list of K-dramas that show just how girls are much stronger and capable than we realise.
1. Yoon Jiwoo – My Name (2021)
In 2021’s My Name, Yoon Jiwoo’s background is heartbreaking for many reasons ‒ she witnessed her father’s murder, was wronged as the daughter of a drug addict, and joined a mafia gang to seek vengeance for her father. During her journey to track down her father’s murderer, she narrowly escapes a sexual assault despite being drugged, which proves her deadly fighting skills.
Despite her broken self, Yoon Jiwoo also shows that she doesn’t need anyone to survive in a dog-eat-dog world.
2. Tokyo ‒ Money Heist: Korea ‒ Joint Economic Area (2022)
The Korean reboot of Money Heist gave us gems like Tokyo – who’s not to be messed with as she was trained in the military in North Korea. Not only does she know how to handle ammunition, but she also proves her ability in taking control despite being in chaotic situations. Plus, she dares to go against Berlin by rounding up fellow robbers to lead a “coup”.
While her no-BS personality might have portrayed her as a cold-blooded person, she also has a soft side. During the heist, she shows concern for the injured hostages and even helps Rio to overcome his fear of blood.
3. Do Hana ‒ The Uncanny Counter (2020)
Being a “counter” aka evil spirit hunter, Do Hana is capable of fighting demon-possessed humans and taking them down in 2020’s The Uncanny Counter. In contrast to her sweet appearance, she has the ability to sense evil spirits and is even skilled in mind-reading.
While her past is one reason why she became a fearless adult, Do Hana works hard to live the life she almost lost during an unfortunate poisoning incident – which cost the lives of her other family members.
4. Taealha ‒ Arthdal Chronicles (2019)
Taking after the orders of her father to become a spy when she was still a teenager, Taealha is a force to be reckoned with. Since Arthdal Chronicles is set in an era where male dominance is the norm, Taealha’s power-seeking bloodlust depicts how she isn’t afraid of eliminating both her adversaries and stereotypes.
5. Shim Eunseok ‒ Juvenile Justice (2022)
In Juvenile Justice, Shim Eunseok is not a cold-hearted judge for no reason ‒ her son’s unjustified death made her warm nature disappear and she transforms into a workaholic who dedicates her life to convicting underaged criminals. On one occasion, she even chases after a suspect, injuring herself in the process.
While Shim Eunseok is stubborn in her belief that adults are the reason behind juvenile cases, there are times in the drama when she still reveals her motherly and vulnerable side.
6. Seo Yikang ‒ Jirisan (2021)
Not everyone is suited to be a mountain ranger as you need to have a passion for conservation efforts, a physique to conquer a mountain and strong communication skills. Known as the best Jirisan ranger, Seo Yikang impresses with her knowledge of the mountain, as well as her life-saving skills, in 2021’s Jirisan.
As the plot of the drama thickens with mysterious deaths taking place on Jirisan, Seo Yikang begins to investigate with a rookie ranger, displaying her curious and bold nature. We have no choice but to stan a dauntless female lead.
7. Seo Hyeseung ‒ Remarriage & Desires (2022)
One focal character in Remarriage & Desires is Seo Hyeseung – a changed woman ever since her ex-husband was caught having an affair. The latter even committed suicide after he was wrongly accused with no one believing his words.
In an attempt to clear her ex-husband’s name, Seo Hyeseung finds herself in the competitive world of the elite where marriages mean nothing except business and money. She later realises that things have to be done sneakily and even learns to manipulate people for her own good.
8. Jeong Taeeul ‒ The King: Eternal Monach (2020)
Inspired by crime shows when she was young, Jeong Taeeul became an inspector within the violent crime division of the National Police Agency. Her strong will and never-say-die attitude lead her to life-threatening conflicts against mafia gangs ‒ something that not all inspectors dared to do.
Adding to Jeong Taeeul’s inspirational character, she even stopped a group of bullies from hurting an innocent classmate when she was a student. Her constant belief in standing up for the weak made us look up to her even more.
9. Ahn Goeun ‒ Taxi Driver (2021)
Ahn Goeun might be doing a mundane, administrative job at the Rainbow Taxi Company in Taxi Driver, but she transforms into a skillful hacker whenever duty calls. What’s so admirable about her is that she learned the skill in an attempt to erase her dead sister’s sex tape which was circulating on the internet.
As she helps the innocent alongside the Rainbow Taxi team, she also rides a sleek motorbike which all the more shows off her badass character.
10. Mo Seokhee ‒ Graceful Family (2019)
Graceful Family’s Mo Seokhee shows her absolute boss personality when she went behind bars for a short period of time. Despite entering the female-only prison for a couple of days, Seokhee establishes her powerful image easily so no one dares to mess with her.
Plus, she also hates when the strong bully the weak, explaining why she stands up for an inmate who is being tormented by another inmate.
11. Jo Yiseo ‒ Itaewon Class (2020)
Jo Yiseo is not your typical K-drama female lead as she is reckless, lacking in empathy, and blunt in her words. However, that doesn’t mean she is a bad person as her sociopath traits later allowed viewers to witness her growth in the drama.
Her high IQ of 162 also plays a part in her ingenious business strategies for Dan Bam, a restaurant opened by Park Saeroyi, which eventually overtakes the food conglomerate that had been a long-time rival of the latter.
12. Oh Dongbaek ‒ When The Camellia Blooms (2019)
If you thought When The Camellia Blooms is another typical K-drama about romance, wait till you watch the first episode ‒ Oh Dongbaek will change your mind in a heartbeat. Her backstory of growing up as an orphan, her role as a single mother, and being the owner of a bar named Camellia in a small village is instantly hook-worthy.
While Dongbaek settles in the village alongside facing groundless rumours spread by nosy ahjummas, she is targeted by a serial killer. Instead of hiding and closing down her bar, she chooses to face the potential danger and refuses to let anyone bring her down.
13. Kang Saebyeot ‒ Squid Game (2021)
Here’s a character most of us would be familiar with. If it wasn’t already tough to defect from North to South Korea, Squid Game’s Kang Saebyeot was scammed by a broker who demanded more money in order to bring her mother in. Rather than succumbing to his unreasonable request, she threatens him with a knife against his throat ‒ a move that not anyone can pull off.
In contrast to her fearless nature, she also cares for her younger brother by promising that she will find a solution to bring their mother to South Korea to lead a better life.
14. Gang Seohye ‒ Sisyphus: The Myth (2021)
To stay alive in a dystopian future set in Sisyphus: The Myth, Gang Seohye picks up survival skills like fighting and handling combat arms through merciless and fierce warlords. In an attempt to save the earth from destruction, she time-travelled to the present to keep Han Taesul alive, protecting him from unforeseen danger ‒ even if it means never seeing her family again.
From escaping from the protagonists to saving the life of Han Taesul, Gang Seohye serves as a selfless character and never bows down to evil.
15. Gong Mari ‒ Becoming Witch (2022)
It is normal to lose your cool after discovering your spouse is cheating on you. But rather than being hysterical, Gong Mari makes her husband pay for his adultery ‒ by never agreeing to a divorce so that he will suffer for the rest of his life.
Through various comedic and creative ideas, Gong Mari’s strategy to stay married to her husband turns out to work, and it suggests that you never know the outcome of situations unless you give it a try. A word of advice? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
These K-Dramas Prove The Power That Females Hold
These K-dramas showcases the power that females hold like taking the lead in a male-dominated society, and getting even with a disloyal husband who was caught having an affair.
On top of seeing more K-dramas gearing towards such a female-empowering route, we hope that they will also be able to inspire younger females to take charge of their lives.