Where’s the Girl Power?

Female Friendships in K-dramas

Where are the genuine girl-girl friendships in K-dramas, something that can hold a candle to Buffy and Willow in BtVS? I just saw one of my best friends over the weekend. We don’t see each other often, but the strength of the friendship remains undiminished. How can it, when it was built on something true and lasting, requiring not constant nurturing but understanding and loyalty.

I’ve been racking my brains thinking of female friendships in K-dramas that have felt meaningful and genuine, and have come up with a shockingly short list. While the female lead often has a sidekick to encourage her relationship with the male lead and make wisecracks here and there, I’m not looking for that level of superficial depiction of female friendship.

I want a watch a friendship that is on equal terms. The friend who challenges and supports our female lead, and a friend who is unafraid of confrontation on behalf of her friend. And a friend with her own story to tell, not just there as a sidekick.

Unfortunately, it appears friendship is always thrown under the bus for the sake of romantic development, and there are a piddling amount of friendships in K-dramas worth writing about. But nevertheless, a few shining examples have stood out that I can remember. Hopefully you can share a few more to expand the list.

Mi Rae and Boo Mi in City Hall:

Now this is a friendship I could understand and admire. They argue and tease each other, but they also support and encourage each other. It’s not like Mi Rae is Buffy and Boo Mi her Willow, but more like they each have their own strengths that fit their professions, and from there a friendship grows even stronger. I wished their friendship was given more screen time, especially in the second half of the drama, but alas, I came away feeling like this was a pair of friends I admired and believed in their friendship.

The ladies in The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry

I didn’t watch this drama yet, but from the glowing recommendations I don’t even need to watch it to surmise that these three ladies truly embody what friendship between women means. Honestly, laughter, tears, and above all else, companionship through thick and thin.

Jan Di and Ga Eul in Boys Before Flowers

I feel like this friendship was told to me more than shown to me. But the drama was fraught with so many horrors, that this was one of the rare positive beacons. Their friendship fell by the wayside in the second half of the drama, as Jan Di waffled her way to Belgium and Ga Eul had to deal with emo Kim Bum. But still, these two had each other’s backs, and that was lovely to see.

So Hi and Mi Ri in Goodbye Solo

They talked, they bitched, they chilled, these two women found time for bonding sessions in between dealing with their own male romantic issues. This is probably the most true-to-real-life depiction of female friendship I’ve seen on screen, and of course it’s written by a writer who strives to make the real world only a dash dramatic for the screen without losing its honesty.

In the end, while no female-female friendships have ever been depicted with as much depth, breadth, and scope as Buffy and Willow in BtVS, at least K-dramas have tried and succeeded in a few instances, which I greatly appreciate.


Where’s the Girl Power? — 6 Comments

  1. Other examples that I can quickly think of:

    My Sweet Seoul: Eun-soo (Choi Kang-hee), Yoon-hee (Moon Jung-hee) and Jane (Jin Jae-young).

    What Happened in Bali: Soo-jung (Ha Ji-won) and Mi-hee (Shin Yee).

    Brilliant Legacy: Eun-sung (Han Hyo-joo) and Hye-ri (Min Young-won).

    My Girl: Yoo-rin (Lee Da-hae) and Jin-shim (Hwang Bo-ra).

    Was going through the list of kdramas that I’ve watched. Wow, there’s really a paucity of genuine girl-girl friendships after discounting siblings or kinship and colleagues!

  2. Hi, this is my first comment on your blog. 🙂

    I’ve also often wondered why there are so few depictions of real female friendships in comparison to the male ones (they even have their own genre – the bromance! lol).

    I guess it plays into the cultural assumption that a woman lives for her man and not the other way around, so in dramas we always see the romantic relationship eclipsing all others. The woman does the sacrificing; even nowadays when women work and are seen as more equal, emotionally they tend to be more inverasted. Even if a female lead starts out having a lot of scenes with her friend(s), by the time the main couple gets serous these friends are just drinking buddies or sympathetic ears. It’s rare to see a friendship being given realistic screen-time. And friendship never trumps love (I guess how could it, in a rom-com).

    Plus, usually there are four main characters and the second female lead is a rival at the least (if not a crazy obsessive witch). I wonder if there’s some rule where female characters can only get so much screen time and so they don’t have time for girly bonding. Just a thought 🙂

  3. hi there, this is my first comment too.

    i really like this post. I think you’ve pretty much listed out all of it, and the rest are in thundie’s comment. i’m just surprise how few and far between those friendships are or has been sacrificed in the name of romantic plotline. I do have a few to add in though:

    Who Are You?: Young In and Ji Suk – the latter calls the former ‘kijibe’ in an affectionate way.

    Personal Taste: Kae In and Young Sun

  4. @ thundie, Laica, Pyjamagirl

    Thanks everyone! I love the additions of a few female friendships I left off my list.

    It’s a shame though, there aren’t more.

  5. I agree, I haven’t see girl friendships in Korean dramas that ever made me tear. I think the most heartwarming so far has been WWSWTM. I did like the Sam Soon relationship with her divorced older sis. That relationship felt so real.

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