This one’s for all my beloved Korean drama characters who deserved better. You were the shining highlight in shows that just didn’t deserve you. This list is for fabulous characters who weren’t done right by their narratives, who weren’t appreciated by either their own shows or the characters within them, or who felt like they were in a different show altogether.
1. Ra Bong Hee, Missing Nine
My flawless unstoppable unwavering queen Bong Hee, inspiration for this list. I just want to revel in your unflinching minions-evading, baddies-stymieing, amnesia-beating, societal-hate-ignoring, deep-sea diving glory forever. Missing Nine had the elements of a show that deserved you, until the survivors all returned to Korea and just about everything and everyone stopped making sense. It culminated in an ending that ignored all consequences of what happened after episode 3 or 4 (or the whole show, really), and we were even cheated out of a consolation prize kiss/confirmation of dating status between Bong Hee and Joon Oh. *flips every table*
What really did it for me, though, was the lack of appreciation any character other than Joon Oh had for Bong Hee. All of you would have died on that island without her. She single-handedly fed EVERYONE, and yet when they (again, excepting Joon Oh) sell her out later, they only seem to feel guilty/are persuaded back around for what they did to Joon Oh. I get that everyone but Bong Hee had years of history prior to the plane crash, but don’t you think surviving on a deserted island with someone who keeps you from starving to death would forge a similar bond?
The primary character arc in the show is Joon Oh’s, and the show does mostly right by him. That’s in part what’s so frustrating, because would Joon Oh have had such growth if not for Bong Hee’s influence and example? Certainly the whole stuck on a desert island thing was the catalyst, but it’s hard to imagine he would have turned out quite so strong a leader devoid of her guidance.
But it’s for his utter devotion to Bong Hee (and the fact that she’d never go without him) that Joon Oh gets to accompany Bong Hee somewhere she’s appreciated.
Until that happens, here are some of my fave clips of Bong Hee putting on her ferocious hat and owning one of the villains. They bring me joy, despite the lack of subtitles.
2. Goblin and Reaper, Goblin
We all know what the real relationship draw was in Kim Eun Sook’s most recent smash hit. Forget the weird loveline between a 19-year-old high school student and a 930-something general-turned-powerful-supernatural being. Forget the drowsy melodrama between a reaper and his queen from his past life.
The squabbling, playful, and ultimately dear friendship between not-so-odd couple roommates Reaper and the Goblin blew right past bromance into full on old married couple. Their scenes were the highlight of the early show and what myself (and I suspect myriad others) were really watching for. Reaper and Goblin deserve a show that focuses on their best aspects, and honestly so do the other characters and the viewers.
All the seeds are there for more or less the same show, but done much better with this one change. Reaper and Goblin get to be adorable old marrieds for the first half of the show, and for the second half it can be a whole “omg you were the king who betrayed and killed me, but somehow you’re still my ‘bride’” angst-fest.
I’m not a fan of erasing the women in this narrative, but let’s be real: this is writer Kim Eun Sook. Remove the women and the male characters are basically the same, but do the reverse and Ji Eun Tak and Sunny both lose their purpose. Never fear: I have ideas for how to rewrite Goblin and do better by its female characters too, but I don’t have the space to go into them now, so look out for that coming soon. That’s why, even though everyone on the show deserves better, it’s Reaper and Goblin who make the list. Reaper and Goblin were already totally married, so just let them be so.
If you watch nothing else, do yourself a favor and jump to about 2:00 into the above video for the underwear song. But really you should watch it all.