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[Beanie Recs] Strong female leads, please


Ahoy, Beanies! It’s time to gather your collective genius for a recommendation series that features you and your drama knowledge. Each week we’ll drop a drama conundrum and leave it up to you to provide a drama rec, and the appropriate rationale behind it, be it long or short. Respond below!

From @sunnysaturdays:

I LOVE to see strong female characters, especially when they are supported by other women. After starting and dropping Thirty-Nine, I need a really good female-focused drama. More points if there is an enemies to besties trope between women. The more women, the better.


Have a very particular drama itch that needs scratching? In need of a Beanie Rec? Email us at hello @ dramabeans.com and we’ll feature your topic in a future post.
 
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This is totally what everyone else is going to say, but Search WWW is the one that stands out to fit this vibe.

The three women in it are all strong characters, and all go through phases of being friends, enemies, and things in between with each other.

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I think I would also recommend Her Private Life. It doesn't meet the request quite as perfectly, but the friendship between the main character and her bestie who is also a fangirl is one of the truly great parts of that show.

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Yes to Her Private Life. It doesn't fit in this criteria but I wanted it to fit in so bad.

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SEARCH: WWW was the very first thing that came to my mind also.

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WWW was women centric but the characters were kick-ass for the 1st week only. After that, it felt like invasion of the body snatchers - their ability and skill was gone and we just saw the same people playing similar SK drama tropes. Gone was the intelligence and wiles that made them so interesting in the opening.

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My recommendation for this is Age of Youth (also known as Hello, Twenties!). Setting is they are living together in one house so expect a lot of fun moments (and heartbreaking moments) with the girls.

The female characters are really relatable yet they are strong in their own ways. You can see their differences but their uniqueness totally blends with each other.

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Search: WWW would be my top list!
Age of Youth gots so many interesting women too.
And classic grandmas: Dear My Friend.

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I think Healer has strong female leads: Chae Youngshin and Jo Minja both have strong personality and are great in their fields. Though I prefer Jo Minja more. She's still a very cool ahjumma in dramaland to me

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I know Healer is very much Ji Changwook's one show(?) but i think these female characters are not weak

I think my second option would be Weighifting Fairy Kim Bokjoo. That show has so much love shown through female lead's eyes

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When watching THE WITCH IS ALIVE, I still get mental comparisons to THIRTY, NINE. Both shows center on three friends dealing with personal issues. But THIRTY, NINE was a melo-drama that focused on one character's interference and spotlight (complicated by non-show events) that made it disappointing. In WITCH, a very funny dark comedy, the three friends deal independently with the awful men in their lives, but come together to have some capers together. You can see their real friendship through actions and scenes; you can roll your eyes along with them as they slapstick their way to find a solution to their problems.

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I'd also recommend another Lee Yu-ri drama Spring to Spring. Two ladies body swap their way through their problems, and Yu-ri is a hoot.

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Female squad :
Age of Youth 1 and 2
Be Melodramatic

Strong female lead with the story focused on her until the end :
Sell Your Haunted House
The King's Affection

Others :
On the Verge of Insanity
The Spies who Loved Me
Forest of Secret 1 and 2
Hotel del Luna
Tomorrow

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Be Melodramatic and Work Later, Drink Now had strong female characters and women supporting women. The latter even had an enemies to besties trope between Jung Eun-ji and Han Sun-hwa.

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The spies who loved me for an emotionally strong, physically capable and smart FL.
Bloody Heart/Red Heart for a FL giving equal competition to heros and villains alike.

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Go Hyunjung (Mishil) x Lee Yo-won(Queen Seondeok) : Queen Seondeok
Go Hyunjung : Daemul
Seo Hyun-Jin's Oh Soojae : Why Her?
Shin Se-kyung : Queen for Seven Days
Lee Bo-young and Kim Seo-hyung : Mine
Search WWW.

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I love your inclusion of QUEEN SEONDEOK- A strong woman in a drama depicting an actual real life strong woman in the history of Korea.

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I keep waiting for the day that Daemul is available on a legal streaming site . . .

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I agree with Her Private Life - not just for the friendship between the FL and her BFF, but for the varied collection of other women in her life too -- there's her mom, the mother of the abandoned-then-adopted sort-of brother, the rival fangirl who learns about family from FL's mom, the rival fangirl's mom (who is not really a sympathetic character, but who does get told off by Mom)... there are a lot of strong women in this one.

And let's not overlook the gaggle of ajummas in CLOY. They are great at helping each other through tough spots, never mind trying to help the drop-in stranger who arrives in their town.

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I'm so ashamed I didn't think of all the ajummas in CLOY! Literally last night I was crying watching the scene where they are risking their safety to help one of their own. Se-ri herself is also a strong female character, and I love her interactions with them too.

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I haven't rewatched any of this one recently, like I have others... not just because of the scenes that make me tear up, but mostly because I am eventually going to lose my self control and actually throw something at the TV in an attempt to knock out the sisters in law (either or both of them, doesn't matter).

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Totally fair! I find oldest-brother-sis-in-law to be mostly petty and selfish, but ultimately harmless. But middle-brother-sis-in-law is on another level. No redeeming features whatsoever!

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I think it’s a great call to think about women who are big sister’s raising their younger siblings and mum’s and grandmother’s who are raising their children single handily against the odds and model what it means to be a person of courage in times of adversity. The mum in I can hear your voice who refuses to be show fear in front of the murderer, the big sister in Uncontrollably fond who leaves her pride on the table in order to ensure her brother has a roof over his head and can complete his education and Dear M the friend’s single mum and his sister looked out for him so he could study. The grandmother in Our beloved summer who gave her stability and the grandmother in Shopping King Louis who raised two children in the country to know how to survive.

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Memorials. The lead character (acted by Nana) has 2 female besties, iirc.

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Of course this one. Go SeRa is one of the craziest and most amazing FL you will find in dramaland, not to talk about how she and Gong are the best OTP ever.

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I will join the beanies choosing Be Melodramatic and Search: WWW.
Some amazing FL in police dramas: Stranger (season 1 and 2) and Watcher.
I would also recommend Run On (both FL are just so funny and witty) and Sell your haunted house (because Jang Nara is always perfect and watching her in black leather is a must.
Final recommendation is Diary of a prosecutor Jung Ryeo Won is the kind of woman I can relate: independent, professional, hard worker and not willing to smile just because she would look prettier. She's definitely a pot plant.

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I’m bad with details but there must’ve been something good about it that i still remember the friendship btw FL & her bestie in She Was Pretty. I remember rooting for them because at that time, dramaland has so little positive female friendship portrayed.

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Reply 1988 the women were with each other sharing food and looking out for each other’s families through the good and bad times. They were friends from school days sung together and formed a community and when the one working full time woman was struggling to manage they welcomed her into the group for a brief boost when she returned from her respite. They faced belittling in laws, remarriage, menopause, financial and mental health issues together.

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You named it! I was going to make a comment that your name is one of the answers! Loved those neighborhood women!

And of course, Search WWW. I came for the strong women, and stayed for LDH and LJW and “What’s Wrong with My Mother-In-Law?” (I think that’s the name of the hilarious drama within the drama)

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So many good ones!! I agree with all the beanies citing:
Be Melodramatic
Search WWW
King’s Affection
Run On

And want to add:
Mr. Queen - hilarious friendship between the queen and her maids
Twenty five Twenty one - forget the romance, the female friendship is what it is all about!!

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Extraordinary Atty Woo - Young-woo, Geu-ra-mi, Sunshine, and the female CEOs of three different law firms (Hanbada, Taesan, and Atty Ryu with her own firm)

Rookie Historian Gu Hae-ryung and her squad of female historians

When the Camellia Blooms - Dong-baek, her estranged mother, and the enemies-to-friends neighborhood ladies

Crash Landing on You - Se-ri and the North Korean village ladies

Be Melodramatic

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Forgot to mention Secret Life of My Secretary -- Jung Gal-hee, her strong-minded little sister, Veronica Park, and the secretary squad.

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I Can Hear Your Voice
Hyena
Nobody Knows
My Fellow Citizens
Wok of Love

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Would it be a Beanie Recs if I didn’t show up to say Kim Sam Soon? 😆

But seriously, Sam Soon is the OG of strong female characters. Her sis and Mom are great support and she even ends up in a supportive truce with the “other woman”.

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Tale of Nokdu has a really strong FL. And a lovely widows/assassins bunch on the side.

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20th Century Boy Girl— Strong FL with a strong girl squad as well. All the males are beta males which is really nice to see.

Baumdog Revenge Club— strong ahjumma’s for the win. Women in different social standings helping each other. Puppy male they adopt- haha.

Never give up— dark horse, but it has several strong woman (one who was a loan shark, one who definitely runs her household, one who protects her peers) and a catty mom group who become friends and loyal to another mom. (DANG, this show really has it all.)

Sky Castle— yeah, the women are the ones that are really in charge, or they stand up for their children against their spouses or other outside influences.

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20th Century Boy and Girl also had a strong mom!

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Yes! I thought so too!

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- Www Search of course
- I like Stove League: Park Eun Bin is strong but not overbearing. She was the first female operations manager in professional baseball and eventually the first general manager.
- King’s Affection: PEB again
- CLOY: Love SYJ
- King 2 Hearts: I miss Ha Ji Won. She was a N Korean Assasin
- Mr Sunshine: Kim Tae Ri
- Rookie Historian

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Kim Min-jung is another great strong female character in Mr. Sunshine! And maybe this could be an example of enemies to friends? They start out with weapons pointed at one another, but eventually form an uneasy alliance.

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Another Miss Oh/Oh Hae Young Again has an *almost* enemies-to-friends line... the two Oh Hae Youngs do not end up besties, but they do end up in a much better place than they start out. "Plain" Hae Young has hated "Pretty" Hae Young since school days - even though it turns out Pretty was actually a really nice person and was kind of jealous of Plain the whole time. Then Plain ends up with Pretty's ex-fiance (who of course Pretty would like to have back), but even with all of that the two women negotiate a sort-of friendship once they clear the air.

There are other strong women characters in this one too - this is probably my absolute favorite Kim Mi Kyung eomma character, I literally laughed out loud at her nuttiness and snark but still appreciated her supportive, nurturing, protective mother side. Ye Ji Won's noona character was fabulous too, and I'll even give a nod to the younger brother's girlfriend. These women control all of the men's lives in the show - regardless of whether the guy is willing or oblivious to it.

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I love your comment! I think this is one of the reasons why I loved the show so much (now I can’t remember what it feels like anymore. Perhaps a rewatch will be due soon).

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Thanks!

"Just take her. Let him have her."
Best line ever!

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I will stick to “You never loved me. When I was struggling so badly he took care of me. I am still alive because of him”.

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She sure made the right choice.

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Agree with almost all the recs so far. If C-dramas are allowed, I just finished Dream of Splendor featuring a trio of smart, talented women who band together to make life in the big city (ancient capital) work.

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I loved this Cdrama!! First Cdrama I managed to finish and I what I loved the best was the wonderful relation among the three leading ladies.

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My wife loved it too.

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Agreed. I was actually quite surprised to see a c-drama with such emphasis on (largely strong and healthy) female friendships - particularly the one between the lead and her bestie.

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Cdramas are definitely allowed.

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Mine
Mother
Age of youth
Avengers social club
Sky castle
Angry mom

And the movie Sunny, follows the story of seven high school girls and their older/40 year old selves

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She was pretty was bad but friendship of female lead and her wife/bestfriend was nice

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They're all strong and awesome in their own way:

Happiness 😎
Secret Forest 😎
One the Woman
Please Don't Date Him (besties)
Fight For My Way (besties)
25-21 (from enemies to besties)
WF Kim Bok Joo (both)
Six Flying Dragons
Good Doctor
Coffee Prince
Faith
It's Beautiful Now (3 FLs)
Flower of Evil 😎
Protect the Boss
Terius Behind Me
The Devil Judge
Work Later, Drink Now (besties)

(I also love the girls from Melo, WWW and Age of Youth like everyone else, of course).

Bonus: Mr Queen. Tricky tho, since Bong Hwan is the FL.
😎= They can fight.

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Oh! Into the Ring too. Good besties.

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For into the ring, i love that the kid was part of their bestie squad. He was adorable and wise for a little one.

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You're totally right! He was adorable. ^^

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Most of what I was going to suggest has already been listed, yay! So to add one more…

My Name: This is not everyone’s cup of tea and I know some people didn’t really enjoy it, but I LOVED it. (I’m a sucker for these types of femme fatale-led stories.) Mainly because of Han So-Hee’s [email protected]$$ character that was strong both mentally and physically. It lacks in other female characters (aside from the boss b***h attorney working for the gang), but I think that’s what made her character shine even more.

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I’ll Go To You When The Weather Is Nice
While female friendships aren’t at the forefront, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Candy. Deals with quite a complicated relationship between our FL and her family.

Also seconding Age of Youth & Work Later, Drink Now

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Ex-girlfriend Club has one of the funniest enemies to besties trope between women.

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Dramas with strong female leads are some favorites. Be Melodramatic. On the Verge of Insanity. Forest of Secrets. Crash Landing on You. Ahjumma in Healer. Six Flying Dragons the female sword fighter. Hospital Playlist.

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I would add the Fl and her sister in STARTUP. Kang Hanna went on to play another strong woman in RED HEART.

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Unfortunately, many people, under the influence of what is produced in the US, think that "strong woman" is She Hulk and similar demented and one-dimensional characters.

I have found the strongest women in Kdramaland and Cdramaland. You have to understand that the characters don't have to be "strong" or "weak", but both. They must have a meaning, an arc of maturation, some conflicts.

If you consider the women of My Mister weak you deserve Western entertainment. I have found the most extraordinary figures of women in Kdramaland and Cdramaland, even in fluffy comedies like My Roommate is a Gumiho. And extraordinary women are also the protagonists of The Story of Xing Fu or The Bond, just to name other examples.

I really hope that many of you can understand that the main reason you love Korean and Chinese shows is precisely the absence of identity politics that is irreparably ruining the West.

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If you think She-Hulk is representative of female characters in American TV and film, then I'm afraid you've obviously barely watched any American TV and film. Just off the top of my head: Veronica Mars, Buffy, The Good Wife, The Good Fight, Unbelievable, Homeland, The Americans, Mare of Easttown, I Will Destroy You, Maid. All the female leads in these shows are strong, flawed and complex; all of them undergo trials and tribulations, make mistakes, and learn from their experiences.

Moreover, if you think there's no identity politics in Korean shows, you're sadly mistaken. For a start, My Ahjusshi and Age of Youth have feminist streaks several miles wide, while even comedies like Angry Mom and Special Labour Inspector Jo wear their politics on their sleeves. And I haven't even mentioned Korean movies yet, many of which are almost stridently anti-capitalist.

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Oh, sorry, I Will Destroy You is British, not American.

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You dont get to tell me why i like kdrama. And you are obsessed with identity politics. Unlike you i hope kdrama becomes more woke in the future. Just waiting for a good mainstream show about a gay couple. (Semantic Error on Viki aint bad though. And Kim seohyung in Mine is fantastic)

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The difference between you and me is that i only want good story! And Kdrama and Cdrama provide good stories. Evrerybody could see who is obsessed with identity politics.

Can anyone tell me a good american show produced in the last 5 years? Something good as My Mister or Mother? Or funny like SWDBS or Waikiki? It is the problem with western entertainment in my opinion.

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Pal, in more than half your comments here you are bleating abt kdrama being infected by evil netflix and western values and political correctness. Everyone on this page is just talking abt their fave female characters, but you simply HAD to bring up identity politics. Me, i want gd stories that are more realistic about modern society, including the existence of lgbtq people, but i dont go around moaning abt kdrama being too conservative.

And something as gd as my ahjusshi? See knewbie's examples above.

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Ok more recent ones that as at least as good as my ahjusshi:
Better call saul
Ted Lasso
Atlanta
Severance
Veep
Succession
Barry
Marvelous mrs maisel

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None of the titles mentioned are worth half as much as My Ahjussi.

Even medium Chinese (My Little Happiness, Go Ahead) or Korean (My Girlfriend is a Ghumio or SWDBS) products are infinitely more fun and better.

As far as I'm concerned, in the last 5 years the only American TV series capable of moving me has been When Calls The Hearts. To find true masterpieces, you have to go back to 10 or 15 years ago (The Office, FNLora Mad Men). However, they are personal tastes. If you are happy with American entertainment, I am happy for you, I say this without irony.

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Wow for someone who dislikes US tv you have certianly watched a lot of it. Cos you must have seen all shows listed by me and knewbie, right, if you are able to say they are only half as gd as my ahjusshi?

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Of those mentioned I have seen at least one episode (most often a season of all but Severance). Succession I found the first two seasons very good, the third very boring. However, as I have said on other occasions, since two years I have been watching kdrama and cdrama for over 90% of my free time, which I find infinitely superior in quality.

As I said, the last time I got excited and moved with a non-Asian tv-show was with WCTH.

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You can't judge a show from just 1 episode. If i had just watched 1 episode of my ahjusshi i wouldnt have thought it was any bettrr than average.

You say you have spent only 10% of your time on non k and c drama in the last 2 yrs. Which means there is no way you can have seen enough non k and c dramas these last 2 yrs to make sweeping statements about how they compare with k and c drama. And anyway u also say its all down to personal taste, so whats with all that stuff abt american tv being ruined just cos YOU dont like it?

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In my opinion, a strong female is someone who knows who she is, what she wants and remains true to herself.
So here are the dramas where I encountered one: Emperess Ki, Taxi Driver, Hello Monster, Start up, The red sleeves, Man to man, My fellow citizens, Good Manager, When the camellia blooms, Run on, The tale of Nokdu, Dali and the cocky prince, Hotel del Luna, Into the ring, Happiness, My secret Terrius, The Devil judge, Flower of evil, fight for my way, Oh my Venus, Kill me heal me, Doctor John, Another Miss Oh, Descendants of the sun, Please don't date him, Crash landing on you, Healer, It's ok to not be ok, 100 days my prince.

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Lovely comment @darwi
In that vein you may like "Girls Generation 1979". A very rare time period for SK drama.

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Thanks for the recommendation, I'm adding it to my future watchlist.

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Because This is My First Life could potentially scratch this itch. I'm not sure about "strong" women, but there are strong female friendships, women finding their happy place and Jung So-Min struggling against the patriarchy.

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And Esom was a badass :p

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“Marriage, not dating” will definitely scratch that itch! Strong female lead, check. Enemies to besties trope, check. Adorable love story, check. Laughter galore, must go watch!

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And the greatest mother-in-law story of all time

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I get the feeling most viewers don't notice how strong UEE's character is in Marriage Contract. She's soft-spoken, seems rather meek, and suffers in recognisably makjang ways. And yet: she is an excellent professional chef; stands up to Lee Seo-jin during his early bitchy phase; quietly wins over not one but TWO mothers-in-law; and (this is my favourite) lies through her teeth to the nasty chaebol father while posing as Lee Seo-jin's rich fiancee.

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I would like to recommend Protect the Boss! It has the cutest enemy turn bestie friednship! The female lead is strong and very independent and the second female lead (the "enemy" whom the FL nicknamed as "ice-cream") initially hated the FL but she gradually found herself orbiting around the FL (phone calls, dinner invites and even sleepovers!) The FL's best girl friend also ended up befriending "ice-cream"! Extra points for the great comedy and dialogues!

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1. I can hear your voice - Both women are strong and go from enemies to (sort of) friends.
2. WWW search.
3. Protest the Boss - the FL is pretty strong character and her dynamic with SFL was pretty interesting.
4. Hello twenties - This is where I became a Park Eun Bin fan
5. Hotel Del Luna had one of the most badass FL I have ever seen.

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Search WWW and Be Melodramatic comes first to mind. Other good options are Weightlifting Fairy KBJ (girl squad goals), 20th Century Boy and Girl (great girl squad), 2521 (enemies to besties, the main love line is bittersweet though), Terrius Behind Me (better than show NIS) and Her Private Life.

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I would say
Spies who loved me
WWW
Age of youth 1 & 2
Sell your haunted house ( Just love Jang nara in it ..she was so badass !!)
and low key "Oh my venus "too. The story was a mess but I loved how they characterized the FL into dealing with all the crisis.

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The webdrama XX is a nice little watch (10 25-minute episodes). Not enemies to besties but besties to enemies and back again. It's on Youtube (Playlist Global), no subscription required.

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