5 Korean Drama Characters Who Deserved Better

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, which I go into here. 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.

3. Seo Yoo Kyung and Oh Sae Young, Pasta

I’m the first to admit that, despite my unending adoration for its two lead actors, Pasta is unremarkable. The only reason either of these ladies, lovely though they are, make the list/stand out is because I ship them so hard. I wrote about it in 2013 and I will continue to shout about it until the end of time.

This is their first meeting. C’mon, seriously, look at that body language.

I don’t know if it’s just that these two have even more chemistry together, but it’s certainly that despite the fact that Sae Young is the leading man’s ex, she’s much nicer the whole way through the show to Yoo Kyung than he ever is. Well that, and seriously with their chemistry. Just look at all the smiling and touching. The physical contact is uncommon for two female kdrama characters who aren’t established besties, let alone romantic rivals.

Ideally Yoo Kyung and Sae Young realize what an asshole the main guy is and run off to open their own restaurant together. So like Korrasami, but in an Italian restaurant in modern day Korea. You’ll only pry this head canon from my cold dead hands. Have some more gifs of them with all the beaming and touching and shy glances downwards and I can’t even.



4. The whole cast, Surplus Princess

Surplus Princess could head up a similar list on its own, of dramas that deserved better from their networks. While it was airing the network yanked their episode order by two, meaning that the show had to come to an abrupt end. It didn’t get to finish things off the way that it planned, and that rushed, and even angry, ending wasn’t what the characters deserved.

Not that there was a ton of story, but that’s not where the heart of Surplus Princess resided. It was in this house of millennial cast-offs, connecting amid their shared feeling of uselessness to society. With a lot of wacky kpop and cultural parodies to keep things light. I miss my lusty mermaid (way to rock the female gaze!), costumed mukbang unni, duo of doe-eyed pretty boys, and sidekicks brimming with both screwball humor and thoughtful nuance. I’d watch them forever, but all I’d really ask is that these “Surpluses” be given the proper ending to their stories that they deserve. Below is how I think they all feel about the show’s sudden cancellation.

5. Choi Choon Hee, Trot Lovers

Trot Lovers is the worst drama on this list by far. It’s just not good, and Choon Hee isn’t anything particularly unique. But I find myself returning again and again to watch the clip of her first audition. It’s not uncommon for actors to sing in kdramas, but for some reason the clip below is one of my top two musical kdrama moments. I know even less about trot than I do about kpop, but Jung Eun Ji really knocked her musical performances on this show out of the park.

Her Choon Hee is so effervescent and dogged, which is par for the course for a kdrama Candy type, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish her well. Trot Lovers should be remade into a movie still starring Jung Eun Ji; stuff it full of more fabulous musical numbers, keep a few of the stellar slapstick scenes with the main male character (reduced to love interest), and ax all the melodrama.


Honorable Mentions

This space commemorates all the kdrama ladies who deserved better. The countless female leads stuck with jerks who suddenly (and half-assedly) sort of reformed for their love. But especially for the second female lead. The endless women who were written as catty shrews, existing only to feel jealous ownership over the male lead and to make the female lead suffer, to demonize choosing one’s career over a man, to add unnecessary romantic drama to the show, and to imply that women will always just fight over a man. You all deserved to be real characters, not caricatures. You, and we, deserve so much better.

What do you think of the list? Do you have any characters you’d like to add?