There is something about a woman in charge of films and dramas. The resilience, determination, and at times sheer power-hungriness become plus points for the shows that depict women in power. Kdramas have long yielded some of the most iconic female characters who are stars of their own show. Gone are the days when women were treated as accessories in films. From the bold and sassy lawyer Hong Cha Young in Vincenzo to the assertive judge Kang Yeo-Joo in Miss Hammurabi, some of the most iconic characters to grace the screens of K-dramas are female. Can’t get enough of powerful female characters? Check out our list of top 10 female-led K-dramas!
Queenmaker is a 2023 political thriller drama. The plot revolves around the “image-maker” of a power conglomerate, Hwang Do Hee (played by Kim Hee Ae), who jumps into politics to make Oh Kyung Sook, (played by Moon So Ri) a civil rights lawyer, the next mayor of Seoul. As the “fixer” for the Eunsung Group, Do Hee’s work includes doing many unlawful things such as bribery and coverups. Refusing to cover up the company’s latest misdeed, Do-hee teams up with Kyung Sook to take down the corrupt and sinful conglomerate. The drama is lauded for its intriguing storyline and stellar performances given by the cast. Featuring two strong women as leads in this revenge drama, Queenmaker is a thrilling watch.
2. Little Women
Inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name, Little Women tells the story of three sisters embroiled in a powerful family’s twisted games. Events start panning out when bookkeeper Oh In Ju’s (played by Kim Go Eun) colleague is found dead in her apartment, leaving her 70 billion won cash. A world of power misuse, money laundering, and corruption ensues as the three ‘Oh’ sisters fight a system hell-bent on ruining them. What makes Little Women a stellar K-drama is its ability to weave lighthearted moments into the suspense-thriller mood of the drama. The romance between the two eldest sisters with their respective beaus, as well as the youngest sister’s heartfelt friendship, were wonderfully done, which fans found interesting. Featuring a star cast of Kim Go Eun, Nam Ji Hyun, Park Ji Hun, and Wi Ha Joon, Little Women was one of the best 2022 K-dramas.
3. The Glory
Song Hye Kyo’s comeback drama The Glory features her as the strong and revengeful heroine Moon Dong Eun. After suffering endless abuse at the hands of her bullies in high school, Dong Eun enacts a perfect revenge plan to make her bullies pay. The Glory was praised for its brutal but honest, realistic reality of bullying and its long-lasting effects on its victims. Revered screenwriter Kim Eun Suk’s brilliant writing, paired with the brilliant acting by Song Hye Kyo and Lim Ji Yeon, makes The Glory the perfect epitome of a revenge thriller. Song Hye Kyo even earned a Baeksang Award for Best Actress for this drama.
4. It’s Okay To Not Be Okay
Overcoming childhood trauma as an adult requires a particular type of strength. The sassy and sometimes out-right chaotic heroine of the drama Ko Mun Young is one of the most influential and honest female leads in K-drama. In the beginning, she comes off as stand-offish and mean, but her behavior is inherently shaped by her psychotic mother, who made Mun Young socially disconnected right from her childhood. With the help of her beau Moon Gang Tae and his brother Sang Tae, Mun Young embarks on a road to emotional healing and goes through a major personality transformation. Mun Young’s journey is as inspirational as it is honest, and her haywire bond with Sang Tae is a great sight.
Anna is a psychological thriller that stars Bae Suzy in the lead role. If you’re a fan of the American series Inventing Anna, you’ll love this television series. Suzy stars as the titular heroine, whose simple lie snowballs into an epochal reality. Ordinary girl Lee Yu-Mi, bored with her current lifestyle and social standing, decides to take matters into her own hands. Acquiring the position of a professor with fake credentials, Yu Mi fools everyone into thinking that she is a reputable woman named “Anna.” What follows is a chaos of lies and betrayal as Yu Mi’s lies catch up to her. The Best part? The drama consists of only six episodes, which makes it perfect for a weekend binge-watch!
Revenge thriller set in a high society setting? Yes, please! Seo Yea Ji returns after her two-year break in this revenge thriller. Lee Rael’s (played by Seo Yea Ji) father was killed by a politician who intends to hand over Rael’s father’s business to his son, Kang Yoon Kyum. After witnessing her father’s murder right in front of her eyes, Rael vows to exact revenge. Thirteen years later, she established herself at the center of a divorce legal war meant to bring Kang Yoon Kyum and his company LY Group down. This 16-episode drama is available to stream on Rakuten Viki.
7. Hymn Of Death
This drama might be an odd choice to include in this list. This television miniseries tells the story of a resilient love story in South Korea during its Japanese occupation. Soprano Yun Sim Deok and screenwriter Kim Woo Jin, (played by Shin Hye Sun and Lee Jong Suk respectively) develop a romantic connection, despite the latter having a wife. Shin Hye Sun’s character is an inspiration, as she holds her values, morals, and love for Woo Jin, against all odds.
8. Under The Queen’s Umbrella
This saguek drama stars Kim Hye Soo as Im Hwaryeong, who is a Queen in the Josea Era. Queen Hwaryeong balances her royal duties and motherly duties as she strives to turn her raggedy, good-for-nothing sons into respectable members of the Royal Family. Under the Queen’s Umbrella became a hit on its streaming platform Netflix and established itself as one of the most-watched dramas in Korean Cable Television History.
9. My Name
My Name was the drama that helped actress Han So Hee establish her caliber in the industry. Revenge-driven youngster Yoon Ji Woo enrolls in a crime gang Dongcheon to inflict justice upon those who murdered her father. To set her revenge plan in motion, she goes undercover as a mole for Dongcheon in the police force. My Name is available to stream on Netflix.
10. Strong Girl Bong Soon
Strong Girl Bong-soon remains one of the most beloved K-dramas. The chemistry between Park Bo Young and Park Hyung Sik, as well as the portrayal of powerful female leads, both figuratively and literally, helped the drama gain popularity. The plot revolves around Do Bong Soon, who comes from a lineage of super-powerful women and uses her power to fight crime in her neighborhood.