Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Representation is a key component and a driving force behind the empowerment of the LGBTQ+ community. Not only is it a medium of expression and a means to validate their identities, it also serves as the voice of those who cannot speak up yet, giving them the courage to do so.

In recent years, K-Dramas have not shied away from providing a stronger platform as characters belonging to the LGBTQ+ community have stolen our hearts time and time again. As such, check out a list of some of our favorite LGBTQ+ characters from Korean dramas!

1. Ma Hyun Yi (“Itaewon Class”)

Media: JTBC

The definition of a strong independent woman, Ma Hyun Yi (played by Lee Joo Young) is one of the titular characters in Itaewon Class who carries the narrative forward with her sharpness, sincerity, and strength of character.

Being a transgender woman only adds to her mettle as she finds more of her spunk and assertiveness after coming out publicly on her own accord rather than being outed by cheap journalism. She is truly an excellent character in this great K-drama.

2. Jun Hee (“Reply 1997”)

Media: tvN

A perfect example of respectfully addressing the character arc of a gay man was portrayed through Joon Hee (played by INFINITE‘s Hoya) in “Reply 1997.” His sexuality is treated as casually and respectfully as anyone else’s in the series, and it is never made out to be an issue. Even when we see him years later, it is evident that he has only become comfortable with himself.

3. Jung O Je (“Moment at Eighteen”)

Media: JTBC

Charming, beautiful, and lively, Jung O Je (played by ASTRO‘s Moon Bin) comes to terms with his feelings for Ma Hwi Young (played by Shin Seung Ho) through the timespan of the series “Moment At Eighteen.”

Much like the name suggests, eighteen is the age when feelings and emotions tend to overwhelm and overshadow all. Jung O Je realizes his heart and is at peace with the lack of any romantic possibility with Ma Hwi Young. Despite his sexuality being revealed to the whole school without his consent, he is not embarrassed. After all, being himself is nothing to be embarrassed about.

4. Yang Tae Sub and Kyung Soo (Life Is Beautiful“)

Media: SBS

“Life is Beautiful” was aired in 2010 and is perhaps most notable for its sincere and sensitive portrayal of a gay couple at the centre of the narrative. Spanning across 63 episodes, the drama follows generations of a family living on Jeju Island.

Despite being an older drama, it is one of the most open representations of a gay couple through Tae Sub and Kyung Soo (played by Lee Sang Woo and Song Chang Eui) and the gradual process of the family learning to accept and love their son as he is.

5. Ji Anna (“Hello Dracula”)

Media: JTBC

“Hello Dracula” was a short form drama that aired on JTBC and starred SNSD‘s maknae Seohyun as the openly lesbian character, Ji Anna. Unfortunately, in some cases, affirming one’s identity comes with a side of struggle.

Such is the situation for Ji Anna who only seeks approval from her mother, a parent who turned her back on her after she came out as a lesbian. Having broken up with the love of her life and girlfriend of eight years, Ji Anna returns. She partly hopes to seek respite in her mother while also wanting to hide away from her.

6. Sooyeon and Eunbin (“Schoolgirl Detectives”)

Airing in 2014, “Schoolgirl Detectives” (also known as “Seonam Girls High School Investigators”) is surprisingly the first K-Drama to feature a kiss between a female couple. Sooyeon and Eunbin (played by Kim So Hye and Kang Sung Ah) are two high school students in love. They are initially apprehensive about their relationship but soon realize that they are much stronger together.

7. Lee Hyo Bong (“Melo Is My Nature”)

Media: JTBC

Lee Hyo Bong (played by Yoon Ji On) is an openly gay musician who is in love with Moon Soo (played by Jeon Shin Hwan). No more than a simple statement was made to establish this dynamic and it was as easily accepted as it was mentioned. His character is built with his sexuality as merely another part of him, minus any aggressive heteronormativity, which really makes it an admirable portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community.

8. Yoo Han Yang (“Prison Playbook”)

Han Yang (played by Lee Kyu Hyung) plays an openly gay character that goes to prison for abusing substances. However, what makes him endearing are his behavioral quirks and his desperate attempts keeping drug abuse at bay while also trying to salvage his relationship with his ex-boyfriend, Ji Won. Nowhere through the series is his homosexuality trivialized and used as a punchline. In fact, it is his relationship that only makes him more human to the audience.

Slow but steady, Korean entertainment is moving towards a respectful portrayal of the LGBTQ+ community. Which of these is your favorite character? Do you think these characters were done justice? Who else would you add to the list?

Let us know your thoughts on this list by tweeting to us @whatthekpop1!

Ishani Sarkar is a self-professed learner for life, trying to find meaning and happiness in the smallest of things. She found her safe haven within the world of Korean entertainment and she’s never letting go.

Media: As credited
Featured Image Credit: JTBC/tvN