Korean Drama Squee: Strongest Deliveryman

strongest deliveryman poster

Gather round my lovelies, because we need to talk about Choi Kang Soo, the lead of Strongest Deliveryman.

In 2017 dramaland, which if anything is a hellish landscape of the revenge of the ajusshi romance (blech), there’s this dude right here:

choi kang soo cutie

Who gives us all hope for the future.

Kang Soo is a leader of delivery workers, a man who’s considered alternately too crazy to mess with and the loyal guy you call whenever you need a hand. He spends his free time helping friends with their work and chasing down hit-and-run offenders. He’s received good citizen commendations from the police for his efforts, and is generally considered a steadfast guy.

What makes Kang Soo special is that he is kinda super feminist without the show ever saying anything approaching those words.

How does he display that? Let me count the ways…

  • Oh Jin Gyu, the second male lead, approaches Kang Soo to say that he’s going to “take care of” the female lead Lee Dan Ah now. You know, the whole “I’m interested in her so anything to do with her is my territory” conversation so many kdrama men have without the woman in question ever present or consulted. Kang Soo replies, “All you can do is what you want, and all I can do is what I want, but the rest is up to her.” Respecting a woman’s agency FTW!
  • No forced kisses or even sudden surprise kisses! Kang Soo doesn’t always ask Dan Ah verbal permission to kiss her, but he always clearly telegraphs his movements and doesn’t proceed unless she meets him halfway (I want to cry that this is a laudable kdrama moment, instead of a given one).
  • Twice Dan Ah comes onto Kang Soo while drunk. She first confesses her feelings to him while he’s piggybacking her home. Kang Soo rejects her advances in both cases, but in the least jerk ways possible, especially the first time. He declines to reply to her drunken confession, even though he’ll answer her when she says something else. After that, though, he begins to show more interest in her, but always in really respectful ways that simultaneously make clear to her that he’s interested (unlike we commonly see with passive or stalkery second male leads), while putting the ball in her court and leaving it there.
  • Later in the series when she tries to kiss him while drunk he stops her and sends her home instead. But he comes to help her with her cleaning job bright and early the next morning, ready to maturely talk about their relationship.
  • Kang Soo discusses his observations about sexism in the workplace, how he noticed the microaggressions and the harassment a female coworker faced. He knows Dan Ah must experience it too, and wishes she would never have to. He wants to form his own company because he understands how privileged he is to never have to deal with what women have to deal with. So he wants to use that privilege to create a work environment, and hopefully from there on a culture, that is free and safe for everyone.
  • In the final episode, Kang Soo asks for Dan Ah’s permission for two specific things. The first is to sit next to her on the train, after he’s broken up with her and run away. Asking for her permission is how he asks for her forgiveness: respecting her space, her feelings, the fact that he hurt her and doesn’t deserve her attention again if she doesn’t want to give it.
  • The only time Kang Soo ever displays anything approaching jealousy over Dan Ah is in the final scene. Surrounded by pestering admirers (who, before she arrives, talk about dating her as if she’ll have no say in it), Dan Ah rebuffs them and marches off to a waiting Kang Soo. He then asks “can I chase them away?” before kissing her. Given that this is the last scene in the drama, they were probably going to do that anyway in greeting. That’s the only thing approaching jealousy or proprietary behavior Kang Soo engages in in the entire drama, and he only does it after obtaining Dan Ah’s permission.
  • Throughout the drama the lesser male characters creep on a female character. They believe that they have to act first aggressive, then standoffish, in order to win her affection. The drama rejects this instantly, showing how terrible and disastrous such actions are. Then later, Dan Ah pulls one of the same moves the lesser men had mentioned – tossing the object of one’s affections against a wall – on Kang Soo. The reversal is delicious; both characters are already aware of and acting on their interest in each other (instead of this being how you introduce yourself smh), Dan Ah doesn’t use real force with Kang Soo (he clearly walks backward once he catches on), and he clearly digs playing along.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Look at how he sliiiiiiiides down the wall when she tells him to “make yourself shorter.”

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now look at this smitten boy when, moments later, she gives him a flick on the forehead instead of a kiss, and leaves the room. Yeah. He loves it. Same, Kang Soo, same.

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Is Strongest Deliveryman perfect? Does it even get a perfect score on feminism, let alone intersectional feminism? No, no, and no. But it’s a huge step in the right direction, and the more we make a big deal out of our heroes behaving like this, the more we’ll perhaps be able to see in the future.

…..which is a perfect ending, but hey, this is a squee post so let’s rave about our other main characters too.

1 2 3 4