[The following is the first post of new contributing writer Olivia Hoang.  Please look forward to more of her writings in the future!–ed.]

Once in a while I like to watch some Korean drama because I like to watch Asian people (I just can’t get enough of them) and because I love Korean fashion. While the PG-rated nature of these dramas is a refreshing break from over-sexualized American media, I couldn’t help but notice that the heroines in most of these dramas are always helpless and in need of a man to rescue them.  In the wildly popular melodrama series “Lovers in Paris,” billionaire playboy Han Ki-Ju (played by actor Park Shin Yang) never knew what love was until he met bumbling Kang Tae-Young (played by actress Kim Jung Eun).  Ki-Ju had once been married to a beautiful, successful, and level-headed woman through an arranged marriage, but finally ended up in divorce because he just couldn’t come to love her.  Yet somehow, childish and dirt-poor Kang Tae-Young captures his heart.

Actress Chae Rin plays Jin Sun Mi in “All About Eve.” Ever the damsel in distress.

And the above example is only one out of many instances in which a highly desirable bachelor in a Korean drama chooses not a sophisticated, competent, beautiful woman, but a childish one that can be extremely annoying (a la Chae Rim’s role in “All About Eve”). Kim Jung-Eun’s graceful portrayal  in “Lovers in Paris” saved her from incurring my annoyance, but most of these other actresses could not escape The Most Annoying Hall of Fame.  This trend of infantile heroines is irritating not only because it is unbelievable how someone can fall for such a childish girl when they have so many other options, but also because this subtle devaluing of women can wreak damage in young, impressionable girls whose inability to see through the misogyny makes them vulnerable to imitating this kind of behavior in real life.

Television shows get high ratings by getting the viewers emotionally involved.  And what better way to get viewers involved than to come up with melodramatic plots?  The problem arises when life imitates art, and the helpless persona that girls imitate becomes a habit that affects the quality of their decisions, relationships, and ultimately, the quality of their lives. These shows carry the implicit message that naïve girls who stay childish are the most desirable as a mate, and not a smart woman who holds her own.  Young girls surrounded with these portrayals may come to believe that being “cute” is what matters at the expense of maturity, and where no drama exists, they create it in their lives.  So the next time you see one of these flashy productions with the beautiful people, beautiful clothes, decked out settings, and beautiful soundtrack music, remember to look for what lies beneath.

Join the Conversation


  1. The reason why K-Dramas choose to promote naivety is because, in my opinion, it is easier to be naive, or pretend to be naive, than it is to be confident, smart, and attractive. K-Dramas want to satisfy their audience’s fantasy, and so they present them the sweetest and easiest path towards happiness.

    Many women understand the implications behind K-Dramas and they just watch out of pure entertainment. But I have seen a good number of K-Drama fans who do buy into this narrative and act ridiculously childish toward rich and handsome guys.

    Here is my own take on K-Dramas for those interested: http://seriessays.blogspot.com/2011/05/i-am-handsome-and-my-dad-is-rich.html

  2. Olive,
    Don’t you think most women just imitate other women?  That’s why fashion is huge with the female side of the house.  So if a girl spends a lot of time watching Korean drama, she’s going to imitate (that includes you, Olive, whether you’ll admit to it or not).  Every girl claims she’s strong and independent, yet the truth couldn’t be further away.  Women are easily swayed and travel in herd.  I mean, women would even go to the restrooms together!

    So if you’re worried about Korean drama exerting undue influence on impressionable female minds (99.9% of female population) I have a proposed cure.  Stop watching it.  Go watch something else — but again, we’ll run into the same problem.  Women will imitate whatever it is that they’ll be watching.  You see my point?  All roads lead back to the same destination– women need men to provide direction and stability. 

  3. Please give young VN ladies more credit, my wifes young sisters treat this as comedy / entertainment, not “real life” as you insinuate. I do agree VN TV does need to upgrade thier programming that would provide more true to life and positive images for the most important resource VN has … it’s children. 

    1. I appreciate your taking the time to comment, kevin.  Note that I didn’t say all young girls take it seriously.  But for the ones that do let it influence them, it’s not pretty. 

  4. I completely agree with you.  Although I LOVE Korean dramas, wimpy female leads annoy the heck out of me!

    I never thought about how this type of characterization could influence how women act in reality until you mentioned it.  It is a very valid point and I hope people recognize this to understand that strong women are just as desirable, if not MORE, than the weak, can’t-do-anything-myself lady friends.  

    I also read your piece on Vietnamese-Americans.  It’s good to know that more and more of us are focusing on the problems rather than just celebrating our culture (GREAT AS IT IS) in the midst of outcries for “diversity.”

  5. Well we have had popular kdramas with strong female leads like City hunter, Myung wol the spy and Secret Garden.

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