TV Wednesday - Strong Girl Bong-Soon (Ep. 1-4)
For February, I will be watching one of the most popular Korean dramas of definitely the past decade and possibly of all time.
I’m coming to Strong Girl Bong-Soon with a sort of love-hate relationship towards Korean dramas. Most K-dramas are unbelievably cheesy and ridiculous, yet they are so eminently watchable for most people. There a lot of factors for this love; beautiful people in easy-to-follow stories with a lot of drama and romance. Also, Korean dramas are really good at cramming a lot of plot into their episodes and making it feel like you’ve gotten your time’s worth, even as it set you up for the next episode.
A lot of the typical elements click into place just within the first episode. A charming heroine who is a bit of an underdog. Bong-Soon is forced to keep her super strength a secret as the previous female members of her family have been cursed if they used their power for personal gain. She manages to luck into a position guarding a chaebol (heir to an extensive family fortune and business) named Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik) who has had many threats made against him. There is also a friend of hers, In Guk-doo (Ji soo), from high school who is a police officer who is tasked with solving the case of a serial kidnapper in the neighborhood where Bong-Soon lives.
Most of the comedy in these first few episodes has to do with the incongruity of Bong-Soon and her super strength. Most of the scenes where Bong-Soon whales on her attackers are played for laughs. I find it interesting that Bong-Soon herself is not just diminutive but also very feminine and cutesy, as if to offset her strength and her shame about it. It plays out as an interesting metaphor, since Korean women are often expected by patriarchal society, men and women, to be feminine and full of aegyo (Korean work for acting cute). Bong-soon acts this way because of the typical reason many women do, to fit in and to not be perceived as a threat to men. The love triangle among Bong-Soon, the chaebol and the police officer is established almost immediately and plays into the wish-fulfillment fantasy of nearly all Korean dramas: two handsome guys with very different personalities but with their own special charms will woo the woman at the center, someone who is not obviously beautiful or attractive.
The series is entertaining so far. As someone who stopped watching K-dramas regularly nearly a decade ago, this is a vast improvement over those previous efforts, which often had many subplots that were left unresolved. The characters are well-drawn with their own quirks. For example, I liked how one of the police officers watched an old Korean crime series to help him solve crimes. The show is also much more visually inventive than most K-dramas I have seen, with its animations and comic book like aesthetic. So far, it is definitely a good introductory series for anyone who is even remotely curious about what a K-drama would look like.