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Best Friends in Korean Dramas

14 Aug

Every Korean Drama heroine has one of them–best friends who act as side kicks, often sassier than the lead, and always there to help the heroine through their troubles whether they loan some much needed money (because you know most of the lead girls are broke or poor) or kicking some ass.

Best friends are pretty much stock roles in Korean drama with the writers barely ever giving them anything to do except make the heroine feel better. They’re there as advise givers but lead characters barely ever take the time to talk about the friend’s problem. When they do talk about them, it usually just makes the heroine wiser with little to no change in the friend’s character. Naturally, most of the actresses who play these roles often don’t get to shine because of what little they have to do.

Sometimes, however, the best friends usually steal thunder from the lead whether it be through the sheer force of their acting (very rare), or the lead character is usually more annoying that the best friend acts as a counterweight (often), or most often the characters are given some delicious lines here and there to remind us that they’re awesome (most of the time).

Here are three best friends that fit those categories. They happen to be some of my favorite ones too.

Ga Eul (Kim So Eun) – Boys over Flowers [Better to watch than the lead character]

Boys over Flowers was so charming in the beginning with its super exaggeration of the cliches of Korean Drama. But as the drama continued, the story just started floundering with its redundant break-ups and make-ups that watching it is so exhausting. By the end of it, not only did I get one of the worst endings in Korean drama ever, I also felt like taking a long nap. There are so many things wrong with Boys over Flowers that listing them will take time.

If I can start anywhere with that list, it will be Geum Jan Di played by Ku Hye Sun. She is really annoying and overbearing that sometimes I want to slap her. Sure, the writers are to blame for the way they mangled up her storyline with all the repeated I love you-hate bullcrap they put her through. But I’d give the most blame to Ku Hye Sun, whose acting neither enlightened us or gave dimension on all of Jan Di’s personality. She oversells all her cute expressions as if to remind us “Damn right I’m cute”. Her duplicitous feelings for both Jun Pyo and Ji Hoo left me confused and frustrated because she can’t somehow outline the difference between genuine love (Jun Pyo) and mere attraction (Ji Hoo).

Thank heavens Ga Eul is in this drama. Apart from Lee Min Ho, I’d have given up watching had the writers not make Ga Eul and Yi Jung (Kim Bum) more interesting to watch. Theirs is a story I’d much rather watch: their feelings took time to grow, the characters don’t oversell their attraction, and they lack all the annoying cutesy faces that Jan Di has. Plus, as Jan Di’s best friend, she gave sense to a girl that the drama rightfully pegged as idiotic because she truly is. Ga Eul is far more real and far more interesting than Jan Di.

Lee Hye Ri (Min Young Won) – Shining Inheritance [Girl with juicy dialogue]

Oh Shining Inheritance. There is so much good things going on in that drama. Despite having typical Korean Drama cliches about a snotty rich boy meeting a struggling, down-on-her-luck but plucky girl, it presents them so slowly as to build tension but never slow enough to lose our interest. We didn’t get a first kiss until the end of episode 20. Boys Over Flowers overstayed its welcome with 26 episodes when I swear they could’ve done with just 16 but Shining Inheritance worked with all of the 26 episodes. I felt it needed all of those.

Of the many joys found in Shining Inheritance, one that I found very gratifying is Lee Hye Ri, Go Eun Sung’s best friend. She’s sassy and definitely knows how to talk the talk. She doesn’t easily stand down on others regardless of who they are and she’s a great friend to Eun Sung. While she typified the best friend role with her meager appearances on the show, she nevertheless had some great lines that boosted her appeal every time she’s on the screen. Her forcefulness, knowing gazes, and pride are so affecting that I just adore every minute she’s on screen.

Yoo Hye Won (Sa Hyun Jin) – Scent of a Woman [Extremely well-acted Best friend]

Nothing excites me more about watching movies or TV shows or Dramas than a great performance. Whether it be big or small, I think a great actress can make roles as dull as dirt on paper seem brilliant on screen. Scent of a Woman has many performances that are really good. I was moved by Kim Sun Ah’s heartbreaking lead turn, awed by Uhm Ki Joon’s nuanced lonely doctor, understood and empathized with Seo Hyo Rim’s evil character’s actions, and drawn to Lee Dong-wook’s repressive and charismatic lead man.

All of these main characters does wonders with their roles but they all have big ones. They have enough screentime to make their characters knowable and nuanced.What I love are characters that you barely see on screen yet you wish you did because they’re fantastic.

I’m talking specifically about Yoo Hye Won, Lee Yeon Jae’s best friend. We get little glimpses of Hye Won, all her scenes involve Yeon Jae and she comes on when Yeon Jae really needs her the most. She’s dependable and always reassuring and supportive of Yeon Jae. The script is yet to give us more hints about her life but she’s fantastic regardless. Her best scene so far is of course her scene in episode 8 towards the end where she talks to Yeon Jae about why she’s going out with the director knowing he’s getting married soon.

This scene, we see all the pain, worry, and annoyance wrapped in one go through her face. She’s hurt that her friend would do such a shameless act and not listen to her, worried that Yeon Jae might get hurt in the future, and annoyed that she has to deal with this. It is in her effortless maneuvering of emotions that struck me. When she says “This is the end of our twenty year friendship,” I was heartbroken. We see all the frustration built up in her and she can’t possibly take it anymore. But in a single second when Yeon Jae opens up about her cancer, the frustration disappears. All we see is the fear and regret she has for saying what she had said not so long ago. It’s a great performance and I admit I teared up with their exchange.

Best friends are an important part of Korean drama because they often give us an insight into the lead character’s life and by giving the lead characters strength and direction. They’re one of the most neglected roles in Korean drama yet sometimes they are the most interesting.

–Clarence

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3 Responses to “Best Friends in Korean Dramas”

  1. Alice August 24, 2011 at 3:06 am #

    What a thoughtful post!
    You didn’t really talk about it, but I wanted to share an observation. Kdrama best friends are always the best friends in the world, but also the ones most ignored by the main actresses. 😛 what kind of friend doesn’t tell her best friend that she’s dating Lee Shin, the hottest guy in school (Heartstrings/You’ve Fallen for Me)? What friend doesn’t tell her best friend that she has cancer? I know it’s tough, but when you’re not even gonna tell your mom, you should at least tell your best friend.
    I hate it when the main character keeps things from her “best friend”.

    • dramapop August 24, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      I totally agree. It’s a problem with writers of K-drama. Some actresses do so much with their tiny character arcs in dramas as best friends but writers unfortunately think that they’re props. Plus, drama heroines are always SELFISH because they think the world revolves around them they must automatically withdraw things in order to protect others. It’s a lot of bullcrap that totally makes drama sometimes annoying.

      • Alice September 1, 2011 at 3:54 am #

        LoL! Agreed!

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