The Rise of the WWW (Working Wonder Woman) in Korean Dramas
It’s about time Korean dramas featured some strong, kick-ass working women in its storylines. Here, some of our fave K-drama working women.
The young working professionelle of the current crop of K-dramas is a far cry from the beleaguered Candy of yesterday, working a zillion part-time jobs just to stay afloat. It might be because the “Noona Romance” is now certified gold thanks to Son Ye Jin, Han Ji Min, and Im Soo Jung, but female leads of Korean dramas are now cast in an increasingly diverse range of occupations. If I were 10 years younger and watching K-dramas now, I might have revised my own career choices because these ladies are certainly selling their jobs to me. Let’s take a look at some of the diverse occupations available to K-drama working women these days.
Im Soo Jung, Lee Da Hee & Song Ga Gyeong in Search: WWW
In Search: WWW, Im Soo Jung’s no-nonsense Bae Ta Mi starts off as a director in a company that houses a popular fictitious search engine in Korea before moving to a rival company. I never thought a drama revolving around a search engine would be so zany and thought-provoking. The drama’s delving into the complexities of managing a tool accessed by millions of human beings with their queries, quandaries, boredom, and emotions has made me question my own almost-mindless use of a certain search engine that shall not be named. The use of the internet for good or for evil is certainly a pertinent topic to our times, and WWW does a great job of heightening our awareness of the behind-the-scenes of search engine use.
The three compelling female leads are each powerhouse characters, and their makeup and wardrobe choices reflect their no-nonsense personalities. Song Ga Gyeong (played by Jeon Hye Jin) rocks a chic bob and knife-edge makeup, while Lee Da Hee’s bold eyeliner-and-lipstick combination make her complete girl-crush material. Ta Mi’s makeup and fashion choices are more deliberate: Her co-worker compliments her on the killer red lip she wears to a court hearing, and her fashion changes subtly when she switches jobs to a more fun-loving work environment.
Han Ji Min in One Spring Night
When I was little, I wanted to be a librarian. I thought being surrounded by books was the best job ever and fondly envisioned myself reading my eyes to shreds. Conversations with actual librarians did tarnish the dream somewhat (reading on the job is strictly discouraged), but they still managed to pack in a decent amount of reading during their off-hours.
One Spring Night has been my particular drama crack lately, featuring the eminently puppyish Jung Hae-jin in a noona romance with Han Ji Min. The drama beautifully explores the slow burn romance of two individuals who, through the circumstances in their lives, have felt stuck for years and are starting to rediscover their original passions as well as each other.
As you would expect of a librarian character, Han Ji Min’s outfits in One Spring Night are comfortable with a touch of femininity, and her makeup is generally understated — think a little eyeliner and lipstick shades that straddle the range between pale coral and a faint cranberry.
Minah in Absolute Boyfriend
Makeup artist might not necessarily conjure up visions of pressed business suits, but watching Absolute Boyfriend made me aware that film makeup is an art.
Absolute Boyfriend is an exploration of the perfect boyfriend — who is a literal robot. What happens when a robot programmed to be a lover par excellence starts developing actual feelings and starts falling for a professional film makeup artist?
The protagonist Da Da (played by Minah) admirably displays her makeup artist skills, whether it’s mixing together fake blood for a scene or disguising herself as an elderly ajumma to sneak into her ex-boyfriend’s house. Minah’s bright cherry lipstick work as a signature look, setting off her flawless skin and lightly made-up eyes.
Lee Yu-bi in A Poem a Day
A Poem a Day is one of my favorite dramas ever, and Lee Yu Bi’s portrayal of Woo Bo-young as a soft-hearted physiotherapist who wears her heart on her sleeve gives us a truly memorable drama heroine.
Not all of us can live out our dreams the way we want to because of circumstances out of our control, and while Bo-young would have much rather been a poet, her need to survive and provide for her family leads her to choose physiotherapy. Yet she somehow brings the same level of care and concern to her patients as she would have constructing poems. She manages to keep her love for poetry alive in a way the drama demonstrates beautifully. The lesson: Reality doesn’t necessarily crush our dreams — it remakes them.
Nam Ji-hyun in Suspicious Partner
I’m committing the sacrilege of conflating lawyer and prosecutor together, but there are so many dramas starring women as lawyers and prosecutors that I could write a couple of other articles on these occupations alone. Standout dramas featuring kick-ass lawyers and prosecutors include Suspicious Partner’s Nam Ji-Hyun as Eun Bong-hee, whose strong personality matched her polished outfits and beautifully done makeup.
Nam Ji-hyun graduated from winsome child actress to woman (in my mind) through the sheer force of her acting and makeup. Bong-hee’s vibrant lip tints, honey-dyed hair, and flawless foundation felt quite appropriate for a young woman fresh in her career but not quite settled.
With women’s careers being featured in a wide range, from Park Shin Hye in Doctors to Jung So-min’s screenwriter character in Because This Life Is Our First, it’s fun to watch the sartorial and beauty choices these characters make and glean inspiration for our own professional wardrobes.
As Stephen King famously said, “Work sells.” Dramas revolving around work give us fresh insight into places we otherwise wouldn’t access and increase our understanding of the evolving landscape of the workplace. I’m looking forward to many more dramas featuring incredible actresses in a plethora of jobs.
Who are your favorite K-drama working women?