Female Leads Who Defy Kdrama Stereotypes

It's no surprise that there are certain stereotypes we see in every Kdrama and every lead character. Some stereotypes we hate, some we love, and some we refuse to admit we love. However, lately in my drama watching, I've noticed a lot of female leads whose characterizations are new and innovative and breaking a lot of these stereotypes! This article will highlight just a few of these amazing ladies!

Oh Hae Young - Another Miss Oh


What I loved about Oh Hae Young was not only that she was unapologetic about her emotions, she was apologetically vocal about them and wasn't trying to hide them for the sake of the male lead. From a plethora of drunk tears, to running back home in the middle of the night after hearing what she wanted from Park Do Kyung. Hae Young's emotions were constantly changing and super realistic. Sadly, realistic emotions aren't something we always see in Kdramas, but her emotions were real and raw and all over the place and that makes her a super unique character in my books!

Yoo Hye Jung - Doctors


Obviously, the first thing that sets Yoo Hye Jung apart is her ability to kick ass! While she's not the only female lead we've seen like this, it is still a trait that's few and far between and it's always nice to see a woman who doesn't need to depend on anyone else for protection. I also think that Yoo Hye Jung acknowledges her past, her mistakes, and all of her shortcomings. While she apologized where apologies were necessary, she never apologized for who she was, what her goals were, or what her choices were. She was strong both mentally and physically and it was wonderful to see. I also think that it was wonderful to see Park Shin Hye in a role we've never gotten to see her play before.

Ra Bong Hee - Missing 9


Ra Bong Hee is a wonderful mix of sweet innocence and unexpected strength. I don't think anyone expected the amount of strength Bong Hee has displayed throughout the series, especially after our first introduction to her where we saw her scurrying around desperately trying to keep her job. However, on the island, we saw her take her place as the leader of the group. She was essentially the reason they were able to survive. Also, since she's returned from the island, we've seen her resilience numerous times, even to the point defiantly staring down a murderer who's almost twice her size. Bong Hee is such an incredible character on a sadly underrated drama, and I can't wait to see how she finishes out the drama.

Kim Bok Joo - Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo


I think it's safe to say we all fell in love with Bok Joo's quirky and charming personality. Aside from the fact that she was meant to be an "unconventional beauty" (despite Lee Sung Kyung being an absolute goddess), that's not really what makes her an unconventional female lead. Bok Joo is sweet and funny and her personality really sets her apart from other Kdrama leads. She doesn't adhere to the feminine standards that we always see in Kdramas, but that made her no less deserving of love. We get to see her realize this and it's just such a sweet and innocent storyline to have in a drama. Bok Joo warmed all of our hearts and I hope we get to continue to see female leads like her in future dramas!

Those are just a few of the amazing, unique female leads in dramas over the past year or so! Who are some of your favorite unconventional female leads?

Comments (57)

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    preksha aryal Mar 21, 2017

    yeah Kim Bok Joo is definitely one female lead who defies k-drama stereotype ... love her character .. think there should be more female leads like her :)

  • Reply
    emylan Mar 18, 2017

    You forgot Bong Seon from Oh My Ghost! She was outstanding as well ♥

  • Reply
    KMR Mar 18, 2017

    Yeah...I liked Bok Joo. :)

  • Reply
    couchpotato_md Mar 17, 2017

    the lead in wild romance

  • Reply
    Romyan Mar 17, 2017

    Kim Bok Joo !!<3

  • Reply
    RayRay Mar 16, 2017

    Lee Sung Kyung is such a great actor I love her

  • Reply
    Akumi Mar 16, 2017 - edited

    Jang Hye Sung from "I Hear Your Voice" is one of the first characters that pop into my mind when I think about female leads breaking the barriers of their usual cliches. She was strong, unapologetically flawed, and she was not the always kind and forgiving typical female in Kdramas. She was downright mean quite a few times. She was just so human and that made me love the drama. She had a ton of the less attractive personality traits all of us humans have, but she also had the ability to grow as a person and learn. She should definitely be on this list. OH! And most refreshing, for me anyways, she did not give up her dreams, goals, or morals and immediately fawn over the male lead.

    Lee Yeon Jae from "Scent of a Woman" should also definitely be on this list. Granted, she may have started as a cliche and maybe wouldn't have broken the mold so thoroughly if it weren't for her circumstances, but she did break the mold. She was unapologetically reaching and striving for what she wanted most out of life and unabashedly letting herself be who she wanted to be. She was strong, brave, kind, and rude when she needed to be. She was very much human and utterly beautiful in all her human messiness.

    Chae Yeong Shin / Oh Ji An from "Healer". While she did encompass a few cliches, she mostly made her own path in this drama. She was quirky, sweet, kind, forgiving, but also mean, brutally honest, selfish, and unforgiving. She could handle her own in a lot of situations and didn't have to do it the cliche ways. She used her charm, her ability to lie, and her will of iron. She could be downright terrified, but she would still do what needed to be done. She was an awesome mix of the cliche damsel and strong female kdrama action star. She didn't fit either mold and just made a new one. Even if she needed to be saved from a situation over her head, she didn't crumble afterward and just kept doing what needed to be done. She also absolutely refused any and all noble idiocy from the male lead which is always refreshing. She faced her feelings head on and threw her whole heart into loving those she chose, and she did so without coming across naive or desperate for love.

    I think the main thing all these characters have in common is a certain level of maturity and at least a small amount of confidence in themselves. It's sad that that's so rare in Kdramas.

    Awesome article! It's always fun to remember the female leads that surprise us and make us fall a little in love with them!

    • Reply
      alexa Mar 16, 2017

      I was focusing on characters from more recent (2016-2017) dramas in my article but I totally agree with you about Hye Sung and Yeong Shin (I haven't seen scent of a woman)! They are two of the leads from two of my favorite dramas and a lot of the reason I love their dramas so much was because of them! Thank you for your comment :)

  • Reply
    namopanik Mar 16, 2017

    I remember Oh Hae Young once saying it takes courage to be easy or something along that line and it really hit me back then. Although she was very hard for me to understand, because we're very different and it pained me to see her make a fool of herself again and again, I kind of respected that attitude in some twisted way. She somehow made use of being desperate and openly admitting it.

  • Reply
    Faa Mar 16, 2017

    I love Oh Hae Young and Kim Bok Joo! They're my spirit animals <3 A woman nowadays should be a strong one, sometimes we need to make a move first because boys are too damn clueless about "heart", and we don't need to get jealous all the time although it's about your boyfriend's ex. Let's make more friends XD

  • Reply
    Machiyo Mar 16, 2017

    Oh Hae Young!! :D

  • Reply
    kez Mar 16, 2017

    I love all these three! Oh Hae Young was a good character.

  • Reply
    userbmc Mar 15, 2017 - edited

    Oh Hae Young is one of my favorite leads ever... she is so fierce and don't hide her feelings at all. Kim Bok Joo is so sweet on her on way, she is not the usual cute girl, but she is one of the best younger leads also. I love both of them, really strong women.

  • Reply
    Aya Mar 15, 2017

    I want more of that haha

  • Reply
    KdramaInspirit Mar 15, 2017

    Great list! I've watched them all except for one. You can add Ko Bok Shil from Shopping King Louie on this list. ^^

  • Reply
    BPetra Mar 15, 2017

    Great list! Loved al of them!

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