Somaek Confessions: Feminism and K-Dramas

Feminism is a topic that has been discussed for decades and has received a lot of attention recently. Feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights, opportunities, and respect. It is a movement that has brought about significant changes in many societies, and it is something that is important for everyone to understand.

Korean dramas have become global sensations. They are known for their unique storytelling style and beautiful cinematography. However, there is something that is often overlooked in Korean dramas, and that is the portrayal of women. Korean dramas have been criticized for depicting women as weak and submissive. However, in recent years, there has been a shift toward portraying women in a more positive light, and this can be seen as a sign of progress in feminism in Korean dramas. 

Korean society has historically been patriarchal. Women were expected to fulfill certain gender roles. Women should be homemakers, while men should be the breadwinners. However, with modernization and globalization, there have been significant changes in Korean society and this has led to a change in attitudes toward women. Now, Korean women are more educated and have careers. These changes how women are portrayed in Korean dramas. 

One example of a Korean drama that portrays women in a positive light is Crash Landing on You. The drama tells the story of a South Korean woman who accidentally lands in North Korea and falls in love with a North Korean soldier. The female lead, Yoon Se-ri, is a successful businesswoman who runs her own fashion company. Confident, independent, and strong-willed, she challenges gender norms in both South and North Korea. She is not afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself.

Another good example is Itaewon Class. This drama tells the story of a young man who opens a restaurant in the trendy Itaewon district of Seoul and hires a diverse crew, including a transgender woman. The female lead, Jo Yi-seo (Kim Da-mi), is a bright and ambitious young woman who helps the male lead achieve their goals. She is not afraid to take risks and stand up for what she believes in.

Lastly, the 2019 drama Search: WWW features three successful women who work in the web portal industry. The show deals with issues of gender discrimination and the challenges that women face in a male-dominated industry. It showcases the lives of women who are successful in their professional lives but also struggle with personal issues such as relationships, family, and societal expectations. The three female leads are all competent professionals who excel in their fields despite facing discrimination and inequality.

Despite the progress that has been made toward feminism in Korean dramas, there are still some significant issues that need to be addressed. One is the spread of unrealistic beauty standards that damage women’s self-esteem. Many Korean dramas feature female leads as perfect, with flawless skin, perfect bodies, and beautiful features. This is harmful to women who watch the drama because it creates unrealistic expectations of beauty. 

Another thing that needs to be addressed is the prevalence of sexual harassment and violence. Some dramas have male leads who engage in unacceptable behavior, such as stalking and verbal abuse. While some dramas try to address these issues and highlight the damage they cause, others seem to downplay or even romanticize such behavior. 

One of the most common forms of sexual harassment in K-drama is unwanted physical contact, which is often presented as accidental or harmless. This can range from a character brushing past another in a crowded room to grabbing someone’s wrist or forcibly hugging them. While these actions may seem harmless, they contribute to a culture that normalizes the invasion of personal space and lack of bodily autonomy.

Another red flag seen in K-dramas is verbal harassment, where characters often make inappropriate comments about another character’s appearance or sexual history. This type of bullying is often portrayed as comical or light-hearted, with characters laughing it off or making excuses for the behavior. However, these actions can have a serious impact on victims and contribute to a culture of objectification and sexualization. 

Sexual violence is also a common theme in K-drama and is often presented as a traumatic event that leaves the victim with permanent emotional scars. However, there are also cases where sexual violence is trivialized or even romanticized. For example, a male character might forcefully kiss a female character who initially resists but then gives in and responds to his advances. This sends a dangerous message that it is acceptable for someone to pursue a sexual encounter, even if the other person is initially hesitant or uncomfortable. 

Feminism in K-drama has been a growing trend in recent years, with more and more dramas featuring strong female characters who challenge traditional gender roles and expectations. However, there is still work to be done in the fight against sexual harassment and abuse. 

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