Are you looking for Korean dramas with strong female leads? If so, please consider the suggestions in this two-part list. In total, there are four (4) K-drama series to add to your watch list.
The recommendations are divided into two parts:
In two (2) series, the female leads were strong, but in a bad way. Two women used their strength and power to crush whoever got in their way, like ants.
In the other two (2) series (Part 2 of 2), the female leads were strong, but in a good way. Two women used the strength and power of love as their motivation to make the right decisions.
♦ Part 1: Korean Dramas with Strong Female Leads, But in a Bad Way
(1) Cruel Palace — War of Flowers (2013)
In Korean culture, women in the palace are referred to as “flowers”. The high-ranking flowers were, of course, the queen, any princesses, and the king’s concubines. The queen and the royal concubines were constantly vying for the king’s attention and affection. Sometimes the competition was BLOODY WAR! No surprise that the alternate title for this TV series is “Blooded Palace: War of Flowers”.
What’s worse than having a bad king to rule over you? Having an evil wicked queen or concubine who has that king under her thumb and rules over him. Nothing happens in the palace without her say so. Well! This concubine/wanna-be queen thought she was all that. But there was a eunuch who had been serving the king since he was a child. He let her know in plain words and by his actions that … she was not all that. The eunuch warned her that he knew very effective ways of dealing with people like her.
In this K-drama series, Soyong Jo / Cho Yam Jun (played by Kim Hyun Joo, “JUNG_E”), was a flower who would stop at nothing to become Queen. Committing murder was all in a day’s work. She even went so far as to trick the king into believing she had given birth to his son, by switching babies. This series has 50 episodes and if you do not have a strong stomach, do not add it to your watch list. It was exhausting. But you had to watch it until The End because you just had to know: Did she ever become queen?
Viewership and Ratings:
- IMDb Rating: 7.8 out of 10 stars
- My Drama List Rating: 7.4 out of 10 stars
My personal rating is 9 out of 10 stars.
- It was necessary to take breaks about every 10 episodes and this series wore me out! But it was worth watching to The End. Kim Hyun Joo is a versatile and competent actress, and her performance alone was worthy of 9 stars. Ms. Kim’s filmography dates back to 1997; she has won numerous acting awards; and even appeared in music videos. As a general rule, if her name is listed with the cast members, the movie or series makes my watch list.
KBSWorldi. “War of the Flowers Trailer with English Subs.” YouTube, 20 Mar. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qjJUGramIQ.
(2) Queen Insoo (or Insu — The Queen Mother) (2011)
This is another K-drama series where a woman would stop at nothing to become queen. Not just the queen, but the queen mother, i.e. the mother of the king. In the Joseon Kingdom, that position had a special status. Because … you may be king, with everyone under your authority; but your mother is still your mother. She can still wield a lot of influence in palace politics. Can you imagine? You’re trying to persuade the king to do something and he will not be moved. The court official thinks to himself: “Never mind. I’m gonna ask yo momma!” Often times that actually worked!
In this TV series, Queen Insoo (played by Ham Eun-Jung and Chae Shi-Ra), started out as the youngest daughter of one of the royal court officials who set her eyes on the throne. She crossed paths with the man she determined would be her father-in-law and would also become king. She not only had wealth to lend to him in support of achieving his political ambition, but she was also intelligent and shrewd. Her father-in-law listened to her advice, no matter how cruel or ruthless the methods. This woman had no problem committing all kinds of wicked acts and justifying what she did as “needful”.
What was it that made her strong, but in a bad way? There was a scene in one of the episodes that summed it up. At this point in her “climb to the top”, she had done incredibly wicked and evil acts to gain the throne, i.e. whatever was “humanly” possible. When asked what to do next, she replied: “The rest is up to the heavens”. WHAT?? Do you want the heavens to “bless” all of those cruel horrific SINFUL things that you’ve done?
NOTES OF INTEREST:
This series was 60 episodes and was loosely based on historical records, so you know that she did eventually become queen and the queen mother. The real Queen Insoo (1437–1504) was the wife of King Deok Jong and the daughter of Hanh Wak, the second state councilor. Her son was King Seongjong, the 9th ruler of the Joseon Kingdom.
Viewership and Rating:
- IMDb Rating: 8.1 out of 10 stars
- My Drama List Rating: 7.6 out of 10 stars
- KoreanDrama.org: 7.6 out of stars
- The Viki viewing audience rated it 8.6 out of 10 stars.
My personal rating was 9 out of 10 stars.
- It took a lot of research to recreate these historical characters and write a believable storyline. But then to choose a cast that can pull it off! Why not 10 out of 10 stars? The OST (original soundtrack) was just OK. To get a perfect score from me, a movie or series has to have a believable storyline, an excellent cast, and a memorable soundtrack. That’s how my ratings are developed.
Ani-Hongo. “Queen Insoo (2011) – Teaser.” YouTube, 22 Nov. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxrjBZvlIVU.