Mark the End of Pride Month with These Relevant K-dramas
K-dramas have some way to go when it comes to LGBTQiA+ representation. Nevertheless, check out this list of a few that have made a mark with their heartfelt and authentic portrayals of queer characters
Although South Korea continues to be largely conservative about the LGBTQiA+ community with discrimination rife in professional as well as public spaces, there have been a few notable queer portrayals in Korean dramas. Moreover, with the rise of ‘boys love’ (BL) dramas in Korea, queer representation in mainstream K-dramas is also slowly but steadily increasing. Although much of it is still in the form of side characters or secondary plotlines, there have nevertheless been some memorable examples.
With Pride Month ending today, here is a list of great K-dramas with queer characters in them.
To My Star (2021)
This short BL drama follows actor Kang Seo-joon (played by Son Woo-hyun), a hugely popular celebrity who comes under fire after a pub brawl is blamed on him, as part of a conspiracy. He is advised by his management to lie low and he does so, moving in with the quiet and stoic young chef, Han Ji-woo (Kim Kang-min).
Their opposite personalities strike from the very beginning, with the disciplined Han getting annoyed at the louder and more free-spirited Kang. Soon, however, they find themselves attracted to each other and their relationship blossoms even as trouble brews around them.
Itaewon Class (2020)
One of 2020’s biggest K-drama hits, Itaewon Class sees Lee Joon-young play the role of a transgender woman, Hyeon-ji. She is saving up for a sex reassignment surgery working at a café, and as the drama progresses, we see her being more open and embracive of her gender identity.
One of the more notable LGBTQiA+ representations, the role is also authentic in its depiction of the apprehension Hyeon-ji herself felt about revealing her identity and the reactions that a conservative society often reserves for trans people.
Hometown Cha Cha Cha (2021)
Hometown Cha Cha Cha is one of those feel-good K-dramas that not only has memorable main characters but equally engaging side plots. Jang Young-guk (In Gyo-jin) and Yeo Hwa-jung (Lee Bong-ryun) have been divorced for a while when Jang’s first love, Yoo Cho-hui (Hong Ji-hee), returns to the sleepy seaside town of Gongjin. But as Jang pursues Yoo once again, one of Gongjin’s so-called mysteries gets revealed – that Yoo was and has been in love with Yeo.
The sensitive and relatable portrayal of Yoo’s character makes it stand out. She had to deal with her mother’s disapproval, which itself is largely based on a fear of acceptance while struggling with unrequited love. When she finally confesses to Yeo, it is touching to see Yeo say that while she might not be able to reciprocate the love in the same way, she understands and appreciates it and would like to continue to be friends.
One of the very few K-dramas with a queer main lead, Mine’s Jung Seo-hyun (Kim Seo-hyung) is a lesbian woman who has to hide her sexual orientation since she’s part of a powerful chaebol (a large family-owned business conglomerate). The charisma and no-nonsense attitude, with Kim’s sleek style, makes this murder mystery all the more interesting.
You Make Me Dance (2021)
Another BL K-drama, You Make Me Dance is short but sweet. Song Shi-on (Chu Young Woo) is a 22-year-old contemporary dance student riddled in debt. It is also how he meets Jin Hong-seok (Won Hyung Hoon), who initially comes to him as a creditor on behalf of a lending firm.
Living alone and struggling to pay the debt, Song and the dependable and stoic Jin eventually end up living together. Although love blossoms between them, not everything is in their favor. The drama beautifully shows how love can affect passion and art, and is set in Seoul in winter, with the city looking gorgeous.