Korea is a conservative country. Korean society in general is yet to be more understanding of the LGBT (stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community. According to the “Society at a Glance 2019. A spotlight on LGBT people” by the OECD, “Korea is lagging behind compared to the OECD average regarding acceptance of homosexuality”.
That means no representation on screen or in the worst cases a wrong representation. But Korean mentalities are changing!
The change can be felt with more and more characters from the LGBT community being featured in K-Dramas. There are good representations being non-stereotypical with minor or major role in the plot.
These characters are mainly appearing in cable dramas but not always. It is a start for change of mentalities and prejudices that the community is facing but sadly only a small step.
Here is a selection of 8 K-Dramas which featured characters from the LGBT community.
Be aware that there are major spoilers.
1- “Reply 1997”
“Reply 1997” (2019) might be one of the oldest drama with a gay character acted by former INFINITE member HoYa. In the drama, he is a high school student in love with his best friend acted by Seo InGuk.
2- “At Eighteen”
There were a few touching scenes tackling prejudices after his coming-out.
MoonBin: “I’m weird, aren’t I?” / Ong SeongWu: “No, that’s just your feelings” / MoonBin: “That’s true. I’m also confused as to how I feel, so.”
Yoo InSoo: “Why is it weird? He just likes another person. You’re even weirder. Just go back to playing games.”
3- “Love Alarm”
In the Netflix Original drama “Love Alarm” (2019), the app tells people who like them in 10 meters surrounding them. To summarize what happened, one student from the same school of Jung GaRam made Jung GaRam’s Love Alarm ring because he has feelings for him.
Here is their dialogue:
Student: “Aren’t you offended I rang you Love Alarm?” / Jung GaRam: “What can you do? It’s not like you can control your feelings.” / Student: “You’re so cool about it”.
4- “Romance is a Bonus Book”
In the drama with Lee JongSuk and Lee NaYoung, “Romance is a Bonus Book” (2019), there is a quick appearance of a same-sex couple. She is Lee JongSuk’s ex-girlfriend in the drama. The short scene received a lot of interest from international viewers.
5- “Love With Flaws”
“Love With Flaws” (2019) with Oh YeonSeo and Ahn JaeHyun had a relatively big part of the story related to gays.
Cha InHa was acting as a bartender of a gay bar. His character had depth and a solid background story. He went through huge hardship to make his coming-out to his family (including a suicide attempt) but in the end, his parents told him that this is not something he should apologize for.
He is now confident with who he is and loves himself. There is another important gay character acted by Jang YooSang who has a romance line with Cha InHa.
His character is struggling with his identity and was a victim of online bullying because of it. He is trying to tell his family but can’t. Cha InHa helped him in his struggles.
6- “Hi, Dracula”
In “Hi, Dracula” (2020), Girls’ Generation’s SeoHyun took on the role of a lesbian. In the drama, she is expressing the weight and loneliness she is feeling by being not supported by her mother for who she is.
7- “Itaewon Class”
“Itaewon Class” (2020) is taking one step further in the good representation of the LGBT community with a transgender. Lee JooYoung is acting HyunYi who was born male. HyunYi is currently gathering money for gender reassignment surgery (GRS).
The drama addresses transgender issues in South Korea. As the drama just started more are to come. Park SeoJoon also had an impactful speech that confronts stereotypes.