More Korean Drama Characters Who Deserved Better

Sunny, Goblin

Speaking of women in Kim Eun Sook dramas, Goblin offended me twofold with both Sunny and Eun Tak. But since Yoo Inna is the light of our lives and therefore you can’t blame us for talking about her more, the way that Sunny’s story was handled is what affects me most. She started off as such an interesting and quirky character with so much story to explore, and the way she connected to the mythical aspects of the drama were one of its most enticing aspects. And yet, we never learn anything about her current life in favor of recalling a past one that she hardly feels connected to for most of the series.

What kind of family was Sunny raised in, and what led her to open chicken shops? What made it so easy for her to connect with Eun Tak and take her under her wing? Even her romance with Reaper would have been enhanced by learning what she’s comparing it to. Her character often felt like a blank slate for the boys, and only Yoo Inna’s performance and her chemistry with Lee Dong Wook made Sunny compelling and the relationship rootworthy.

I personally enjoyed the romance, but the problematic overtones are hard to ignore. We barely see more than a few flirtatious looks between them in their past life before being bombarded with his verbally abusive behavior and her eventual death at his command. And while Reaper in the present (and future!) can’t truly be held accountable for his past self’s actions, it would have been beneficial to see just how his ‘final form’ has evolved and lived out a different life. More importantly, it would have been better closure for Goblin if Kim Shin had gotten to say a real farewell to his sister and vice versa, rather than just leaving her to her lover with a joke about how he always came second. The entire drama began with her giving her brother permission to take an action that she knew would lead to her death in their past life, so it’s not true that she never thought of him.


Less heart eyes, more running away, Pyo Na Ri.

Pyo Na Ri, Jealousy Incarnate

Credit to our commenter Melissa, who almost a year ago when the first article was published commented with the addition of Pyo Na Ri, and inspired the idea of doing this second list. Thank you, Melissa, you rock!

And I totally agree with you: Pyo Na Ri, and especially the fabulous Gong Hyo Jin, deserve better than two guys who act like total childish assholes around her. I get that the central conceit of the show is jealousy, but there must be a way to still explore that without having two best friends turn so possessive and proprietary over a woman they like that they both treat her like dirt. Seriously, the scene where she’s just trying to harvest some shellfish and they literally drag her by the legs through the mud because they’re having a pissing contest? I’m about to flip my computer desk just thinking about it again.

Also, I deserve better from the drama and from myself, for going so close to teasing an actual ot3, and for me buying into it. The heroine suggested they live together since she couldn’t decide between the two of them! They agreed! Go Jung Won was always so physically affectionate and emotionally in tune with Lee Hwa Shin! It could have worked! We could have had it alllllllll…

There’s a lot we deserved better from in relation to Jealousy Incarnate, including the way it questioned traditional strictures of masculinity (thus jarring with the above nonsense), as well as the fact that we’re all supposed to believe Go Kyung Po is 36 years old (and thus 5 years older than Gong Hyo Jin’s character and the same age as Jo Jung Suk’s), but I’m getting off track.

Pyo Na Ri was a perfectly normal person who deserved better than to be treated like property by two dudes whose feelings for her turned them into cavemen.


Dol Byung, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

This was another one of my favorite dramas last year, although unfortunately the problematic way in which they dealt with LGBT themes – for gay men, specifically – was one of the glaring issues with it. Aside from the strange plot in which Bong Soon is convinced that Min Hyuk is gay yet her mother still insists that’s no barrier to marriage, there is also the entire character of Dol Byung.

He’s one of the few confirmed gay characters I’ve seen thus far in a Korean drama, but he’s such a stereotype that it’s impossible to enjoy the added representation. Not only is he the epitome of a bitchy, fashion-obsessed ‘femme’ man, he’s also made to drool over Min Hyuk in an incredibly obnoxious way. Perhaps it would have felt like less of a slap in the face if they hadn’t made him so mean and therefore more of an antagonist than anything. After all, his characterization and storyline did seem to improve once he was paired with the lovable Secretary Gong – who mellowed him out and provided him with real companionship.

But even that friendship left a lot to be desired when you consider how easy it would have been to turn Secretary Gong into a gay character that wasn’t a stereotype. The constant jokes about how they were “just friends” and couldn’t possibly be more made Gong come off as homophobic, aside from simply being a missed opportunity to explore a progressive romance outside of the main plot.


In conclusion, we ask that Korean dramas please: do the work to ensure that their leading men are worthy of the ladies they love, let gay characters be happy in fulfilling relationships, and not die just to further someone else’s manpain. And don’t forget that stories focused on female characters’ lives should delve into every aspect of their lives, and and not erase them from their narratives once a romance begins or ends. Let us know which of your favorite characters deserve better in the comments below!

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