Top 20 Badass Female Leads From K-Dramas

Summary

  • K-drama audiences want badass female leads who are both relatable and superhuman, and there are plenty of formidable female leads out there.
  • Not all K-drama female leads are damsels in distress. Some are dynamic and well-rounded characters who defy societal expectations and persevere through tough challenges.
  • Strong female leads in K-dramas break stereotypes and prove that they can pursue their dreams, stand up for themselves, and be successful despite the odds.


When looking for a badass female lead, K-drama audiences are hoping for a heroine who is both relatable and superhuman. While K-dramas are well known for their romance and drama, they’re not devoid of strong female leads, meaning lead characters that can hold their own and won’t back down. Various protagonists in K-dramas would make any grown adult shiver with their deadly stares. With so many K-dramas available, there are plenty of formidable female leads out there. Most defy the odds or general opinion of those who don’t believe in them.

These women show that not all K-drama female leads have to be a damsels in distress looking for their prince. In some of the best K-dramas, audiences get to meet dynamic and well-rounded characters, such as Kang Sae-Byeok from Squid Game and Nam On-Jo from All of Us are Dead. The challenges that K-drama protagonists go through are not at all easy, since they mirror real-life societal issues. Audiences who want a badass female lead in a K-drama that sees their protagonists persevere through the toughest ordeals should check out what these K-dramas have to offer.

Related

10 Best Platonic Relationships In K-Dramas

Korean dramas are full of wonderful platonic relationships that are just as sweet as a romance. These friendships can often be the crux of the drama.


Noh Da-Hyun

Noh Da-Hyun smiling in Link

One of the best strong female-led K-drama series on the market has a surprisingly sinister name. Link: Eat, Love, Kill is an interesting K-drama that explores what makes two people connect. The K-drama features a young woman named Noh Da-Hyun (Moon Ga-Young) whose emotions ⁠— including happiness, sadness, and pain ⁠— begin to be felt by a man who has a long-lost twin sister.

What makes Da-Hyun a force to be reckoned with is her strong desire to achieve her dreams, with her doing whatever it takes, even if that means standing up to her mother. In an argument with her mother, Da-Hyun bravely says that she wants to make her own decisions and be responsible for herself, forcing her mother to stand down. One of the most difficult things in life is trying to prove one’s worth, and Da-Hyun has successfully done that.

Watch on Hulu

Yoo Jeong

Bloody Heart (2022)

Yoo Jong looking concerned in the K-drama Bloody Heart

One of the best K-dramas released in 2022 is Bloody Heart, and it’s also one of the best badass female-led K-drama series available to stream. The period drama follows a man willing to abandon his royal duties to pursue the woman he loves. Kang Han-Na stars in the K-drama as Yoo Jeong, a headstrong woman who has captured the heart of King Lee Tae.

Due to her prolific position and eventual status as the crowned princess, Yoo Jeong has been the target of an evil villain, who plans to use her in order to gain power. However, Yoo Jeong remains firm and does not budge, even though she and her family are threatened. Without a doubt, Yoo Jeong is a fearless woman. No wonder she’s caught the good graces of the king.

Bloody Heart is available to stream on Disney+ in certain regions but is not yet available to stream in the U.S.

Park Tae-Yang

Love All Play (2022)

Park Tae-Yang playing badminton in the K-drama Love All Play

Love All Play is a sports show that’s worth the binge due to its romantic plot that revolves around two badminton players. What’s notable about the show is that it doesn’t feature a villain unlike other K-dramas, and instead focuses on the character development and growth of the main protagonists.

One of the lead characters is Park Tae-Yang (Park Ju-Hyun), a badminton player who has wholly devoted her life to the sport. Aside from being a formidable player on the badminton court, Tae-Yang is also an admirable person who decides to come clean and admit her fault in an accident that badly hurt her previous friend. Her decision to come clean instead of avoiding liability makes her an honest and brave character, especially since she also put her career on the line.

Love All Play is available to stream on Disney+ in certain regions but is not yet available to stream in the U.S.

Woo Young-Woo

One of the buzziest K-dramas as of late is Extraordinary Attorney Woo, and it’s consequently one of the best strong female-led K-drama shows on Netflix. The series follows the titular character who is a neurodivergent lawyer and chronicles her rise to the top despite the prejudice her peers have against her. The show is so enjoyable that many viewers are calling for a Hollywood adaptation of Extraordinary Attorney Woo.

Played by Park Eun-Bin, Woo Young-Woo is a lawyer who has risen to the ranks in a prestigious law firm and is challenged by the social bias other people have against her neurodivergence. Young-Woo is a praiseworthy protagonist who has been able to find success by paying her detractors no mind and just focusing on winning her clients’ cases.

Watch on Netflix

Sung Deok-Mi

Her Private Life (2019)

The K-drama Her Private Life is blessed with a strong woman lead and, thanks to its unique plot, is one of the best out there. The show is about an art gallery curator named Sung Deok-Mi (Park Min-Young) who tries to live a double life. She makes sure that her work is impeccable and infallible, but Deok-Mi hides the fact that she’s a dedicated fan of a K-pop idol.

What’s notable about Deok-Mi is that she breaks the stereotype of fangirls. She proves that one can be a devoted fan while still having an illustrious and successful career. She’s hardworking and strong-willed ⁠— and she lets the viewers know that it’s okay to be themselves and like whatever they want to like, as long as it’s not hurting themselves or other people.

Watch on Netflix

Kang Soo-Jin

Mother (2018)

Hye-na and Soo-jin sitting together in a field in the K-drama Mother

Mother is a hidden gem in the genre of suspense and is subsequently one of the best strong female lead K-drama series. Those who watch the 2018 drama will see the female lead as a sort of hero. The show is a remake of an eponymous popular series from Japan and follows a temporary elementary school teacher, Kang Soo-Jin (Lee Bo-Young) as she notices something is wrong with one of her students. Soo-Jin learns that the student is being abused at home. In an impulsive act to save the young girl, Soo-Jin kidnaps her. Soon-Jin goes above and beyond to save the little girl even if it’s against the law.

Watch on Rakuten Viki

Kang Seo-Hae

Sisyphus: The Myth (2021)

So-Hae holding a gun and looking off camera in Sisyphus: The Myth

Sisyphus: The Myth is a time travel drama that debuted on Netflix in 2020 and easily stands out as one of the best strong female lead K-drama shows. The storyline entails a young woman tasked with traveling to the past to stop a genius engineer from the danger that will change the future. Audiences are immediately starstruck by protagonist Kang Seo-Hae’s (Park Shin-Hye) dedication and prowess.

It’s not easy for Seo-Hae to leave behind her only family and life to make the difficult and unprecedented journey to the past, not to mention she has the outcome of the future riding on her shoulders. Seo-Hae proved that she was tough enough to handle any danger, no matter the time period.

Watch on Netflix

Oh Dong-Baek

When The Camellia Blooms (2019)

Dong-Baek smiling and looking off camera in the K-drama When The Camellia Blooms

Audiences can’t help but root for the main female lead, Oh Dong-Baek (Gong Hyo-Jin) in When the Camellia Blooms. To start, she’s a single mother who’s constantly ridiculed in town for not having a husband so her decision to raise a child alone is seen as blasphemous, but the best part is that she doesn’t care. She holds her head up high and is proud of being able to raise a great child.

Dong-Baek also has moments of self-doubt that are amicable. In one of the best K-dramas on Netflix, what garnered praise from audiences was her ability not to back down. There’s a serial killer who has her eye on her and, instead of going into hiding, she keeps her bar-restaurant open. She refuses to let anyone take what she’s worked hard for.

Watch on Netflix

Related

13 Best K-Drama Soundtracks, Ranked

Though most audiences look for strong storylines in shows, many K-dramas have phenomenal soundtracks that are worth listening to on repeat.

Do Ha-Na & Choo Mae-Ok

The Uncanny Counter (2020)

Ha-na and Mae-ok looking scared in the K-drama The Uncanny Counter

One of the most intriguing K-drama series with a badass female lead contains not one, but two, formidable protagonists. The leading ladies of Netflix’s The Uncanny Counter deserve the utmost respect when it comes to being outstanding female leads. Ha-Na (Kim Se-Jeong) becomes a Counter after her family is poisoned and killed, leaving her the only survivor. Still riddled with guilt over her loss, she is closed off about revealing her past.

Ha-Na is tough as nails and doesn’t take kindly to the main character, So Mun (Jo Byeong-kyu), being bullied. The matriarch is Mae-Ok (Yeon Hye-Ran), who lost her only son in an accident and became a Counter while her son became her handler. Mae-Ok gets applause for never backing down from a fight and putting herself at risk using her healing abilities.

Watch on Netflix

Hong Cha-Young

Vincenzo (2021)

Cha-young with her hands folded in the K-drama Vincenzo

Vincenzo became a Netflix must-watch K-drama in 2021 and also one of the best strong female lead K-drama shows. While the story revolves around a former Italian consigliere named Vincenzo Cassano and his return to South Korea, the real star is Cha-Young (Jeon Yeo-Boon). Cha-Young was a prosecutor in the firm that represents the corrupted Babel Group company.

When she learns that they orchestrated the murder of her father, she joins forces with Vincenzo (Song Joong-Ki) to seek justice. Audiences may have a good laugh with her carefree antics but get chills over her ability to flip the switch, and when it comes to the people she cares for and seeking to bring down Babel Group, she’ll do whatever it takes to succeed.

Watch on Netflix

Jang Man‑Wol

Hotel Del Luna (2019)

Korean singer-songwriter and actor, IU, transformed into the hotel manager of Hotel Del Luna, Jang Man-Wol, in Hotel Del Luna, one of the many K-dramas to feature a K-pop idol in an acting role. She is someone who’s not to be messed with, especially with her past crimes. To atone for killing people, she must serve a sentence as the manager of the Hotel Del Luna.

In the drama, she can sometimes be cold and ill-tempered. She scares the wits out of people, and she often saves the day by showing off her immense power. She isn’t shy either when it comes to getting what she wants. Despite having her heart broken, she shows that she doesn’t need a man to survive.

Watch on Netflix

Go Hae-Ri

Vagabond (2019)

Hae-ri holding a gun in the K-drama Vagabond

Vagabond has become a favorite among Netflix users and the crime-thriller has two main characters: a stuntman named Cha Dal-Gun (Lee Seung-gi) who loses his nephew in a plane crash and an N.I.S. agent. Go Hae-Ri (Bae Suzy), who proved to be a lead that isn’t to be messed with in one of the best strong female lead K-drama series. Audiences are first introduced to her as she works as a spy looking for information.

She also proves more than once that she’s skilled in combat and firearms. Above all, she’s willing to put things on the line to uncover the truth behind the plane crash, for example, when she goes behind her superiors’ backs who want to keep things hush-hush.

Watch on Netflix

Do Bong‑Soon

Strong Girl Bong-Soon (2017)

Yes, Strong Girl Bong-Soon may be applauded for having one of the best K-drama love triangles in television history, but the titular main female lead also has people enthralled. In one of the best strong female-led K-drama shows, Do Bong‑Soon (Park Bo-Young) was born with superpowers passed down through generations. She has superstrength and her strength combined with her “never back down” attitude lands her a job as the bodyguard to the CEO of a gaming company. A fun scene in the drama is when she beats up a group of gangsters for mistreating an elderly man. She even goes after the suspected kidnappers of her best friend.

Watch on Rakuten Viki

Related

Strong Girl Bong-Soon: 12 Reasons Why The K-Drama Is So Memorable

K-drama series Strong Girl Bong-Soon is getting all the hype, but what are the 12 reasons why it is possibly the best in its class?

Cha Young-Jin

Nobody Knows (2020)

Young-jin standing on a street looking serious in the K-drama Nobody Knows

Nobody Knows was a K-drama that was ranked as one of the best to air in 2020 and the crime mystery series had not only its storyline to thank but its main female lead. The show revolves around Cha Young-Jin (Kim Seo-Hyung), a detective who is haunted by a mistake she made years ago.

After her best friend is murdered when they were teens in one of the best strong female lead K-drama shows, she vows to find the killer. Cha shows her resilience when the killer calls her after the murder, and she threatens him. Years later, he’s back to haunt her, and she won’t stop until he’s caught. When contacted again, she has the courage and strength to face him in person.

Watch on Rakuten Viki

Bae Ta Mi, Cha Hyeon & Song Ga Kyung

Search WWW (2019)

The female cast of Search WWW in side by side images

Search WWW gets recognized as having three powerful and strong female leads. What audiences praise the K-drama for is its ability to not rely on common tropes or characterizations about women in a competitive field. Bae Ta Mi (Im Soo Jung), Cha Hyeon (Lee Da Hee), and Song Ga Kyung (Jeon Hye Jin) work for two competing IT companies.

All three hold high-level positions and face unique challenges within their field. Instead of backstabbing and lying, the three characters stick together and empower each other in one of the best strong female lead K-drama series. There’s even an intense scene where two of the characters walk down a foggy street, after which they emerge looking fierce and holding bats.

Watch on Rakuten Viki

Ji Sun-Woo

The World Of The Married (2020)

Sun-woo staring off camera in the K-drama The World of the Married

The storyline in The World of the Married is deep, complex, filled with drama, and is subsequently one of the best strong female lead K-drama shows available to stream. Ji Sun-Woo (Kim Hee-Ae) is a revered doctor who seems to have a perfect life, but she is betrayed by her friends and husband when she discovers that her husband is having an affair and her friends know about it. Now she seeks revenge and to ruin the lives of the people who hurt her. While the drama takes many twists and turns, Sun-Woo tries to hold things together and keep up a strong facade.

The World Of The Married is available to stream on Disney+ in certain regions but is not currently available to stream in the U.S.

Jung Tae-Eul

The King: Eternal Monarch (2020)

Jae-eul pointing a rifle at someone in the K-drama The King: Eternal Monarch

Jeong Tae-Eul (Kim Go-Eun) from The King: Eternal Monarch surprised viewers with her upfront attitude and her skills as a police officer. She’s ranked as an Inspector in the Violent Crimes Squad and takes her work seriously. Viewers learn that her father was a Tae Kwon Do instructor, and she was trained from a young age.

In the fantasy-driven storyline of one of the best K-drama series to feature a badass female lead, she keeps her head up as she learns that there’s a parallel world. Tae-Eul is a strong female character when facing peril. It’s a riveting scene when she evades the kidnappers, fights them off, and even when wounded, manages to seek help.

Watch on Netflix

Go Ae-Shin

Mr. Sunshine (2018)

Ae-shin pointing a gun at someone in Mr Sunshine

The historical romantic melodrama Mr. Sunshine has a female lead that’s just as skilled as her male counterpart. Go Ae-Shin (Kim Tae-Ri) isn’t just a Joseon noblewoman. Behind her facade, she secretly joins the Righteous Army, and she’s also a highly trained sniper. Her personality and skills put her as an equal force with her love interest, who is a Captain in the United States Marine Corps. Ae-Shin defies the odds of what being a woman is meant to be during her time period and breaks all stereotypes. Her character and drive make her captivating to watch.

Watch on Netflix

Ko Moon‑Young

It’s Okay To Not Be Okay (2020)

Ko Moon‑Young (Seo Ye-Ji) from It’s Okay To Not Be Okay is a bit quirky but in a good way. The character endured emotional abuse as a child from her mother while also having an antisocial personality disorder. As an adult, she’s a force to be reckoned with, making her one of the best strong female lead K-drama examples. She comes off as cold, detached, and controlling, but she knows what she wants, no matter what people say.

Her impeccable fashion sense matches her fiery attitude. She’s afraid of no one and stands up for herself and, on occasion, others. When Moon Gang-tae’s brother is being berated by a father at her event, she steps in. When the father starts, she pulls his hair, demands an apology, and teaches him a lesson.

Watch on Netflix

Cha Soo-Young

Tell Me What You Saw (2020)

To be fair, Tell Me What You Saw has two strong female leads that deserve recognition. One of them is Cha Soo-Young (Sooyoung) and the other is Hwang Ha-Young (Jin Seo-Yeon). But Soo-Young has a special ability that sets her apart and makes her a formidable character in one of the best strong female lead K-drama series.

She’s a police officer with a photographic memory. In this gripping thriller K-drama, she’s teamed up with a criminal profiler to catch a serial killer. Ha-Young turns out to be someone people don’t want to upset. She’s the team leader who is highly skilled in combat and takes down criminals by whatever means necessary, but both women can hold their own just fine as badass female leads in this K-drama.

Watch on Rakuten Viki