Korean dramas have proven themselves to be more than a source of entertainment. They often give a stage to the struggles of humanity by covering stories of bullying in schools to lookism of society. Yet K-dramas have disappointed the queer community with misguided or minimum representation. But in recent times, a new wind of queerness is present in the K-drama community. The representation of LGBTQ in K-drama shows and films is evolving.
The Comic Relief
The LGBTQ community has mainly been used as comic relief in Korean dramas. A police officer going undercover cross-dressed as a woman would pretend to flirt with their partner creating ripples of laughter in the audience.
Such as in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, the lead played by Park Hyung-Sik is a conglomerate (Chaebol). He is mistaken as gay due to his easygoing personality. Steamy flirty scenes of him getting attracted to the second lead are projected as imagination for comic purposes.
This kind of scene, while appearing like an innocent joke, creates the mentality that being gay is a matter of ridicule than reality and sexuality.
The Demand of the Plot
Korean movies, especially historical films, are usually bold and more accepting regarding LGBTQ representations.
Such as in the movie The King and The Clown. Lee Joon-gi and Jeong Jin-Yong’s characters share an illicit affair. Although, in such stories, the gay relationship is more based on the characters’ mental state than romance.
Another example would be Method (2017), starring Park Sung-Woong and Oh Seung-hoon. In this film, two stage actors start to get closer to each other to prepare for acting as gay characters. But this complicated way of method acting sends them into a messy relationship which has them questioning their feelings for each other.
Once again, the point that this could be a romantic choice rather than situations demands is missed.
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LGBTQ: The Side Plot in Korean dramas
Many of the latest K-drama includes characters that are a member of the LGBTQ community. They aren’t comic relief nor forced by the plot to fall for someone of the same gender. It is their choice, and it is who they are.
- Be Melodramatic 2019 drama by JTBC broke many stereotypes. Although it wasn’t a hit among the Koreans, it gained massive respect from the Kdrama-philes. One of its characters played by Yoon Ji On is gay. What the audience loved the most about the show is that the character’s LGBTQ identity is naturally mixed into the K-drama’s story without any unnecessary reasons or ridicule.
- Love In Contract, starring Park Min-Young, Go Kyung-Pyo, and Kim Jae-Young as lead characters, displayed the struggles of a gay man (played by Kang Hyung Seok) in current society as a side plot.
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- Netflix’s drama ‘Under The Queen’s Umbrella’ represented the struggles and suffocation of a transwoman who wasn’t allowed to embrace her identity due to her position as a royal prince. Another example of LGBTQ representation is in Korean dramas.
- New Love Playlist is an ongoing drama delicately incorporating a gay character in the storyline. The show is directed toward youth and their challenges, which shows the change in perspective toward the LGBTQ community in places like Korea.
LGBTQ Leads in Korean media
The sensitivity towards the representations of queer people is growing in K-dramas with more focus on the struggles and stories than ridicule. However, the question remains: shall we ever see a mainstream drama with queer or LGBTQ leads in K-drama shows and films? What do you think?
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