Hello everyone, I’ll cut to the chase and start off by saying that this drama was honestly quite a let down for me. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon seemed to have everything going for it: a solid cast, an intriguing and playful storyline, and public approval. So what went wrong and why did it fall so flat?
[Be Forewarned: Spoilers Below].
Minhyuk and Bong Soon Moments: Everyone watched this drama for one reason: the OTP fan service. People might have also come for Ji Soo, but trust me when I say the only reason they stayed was for the main couple. These moments were made to cater to the audience and were spread plentifully throughout the various episodes to keep viewers coming back. I enjoyed these moments, simply because Bo Young and Hyung Sik had great chemistry and an ease about them that made everything come across naturally and believably. Had it been a different pair of actors, I’m not so sure I would have stayed on board.
Lovable Female Lead: For the most part, I really enjoyed Bong Soon and found her very likable and respectable. She was relatable, charming, and well intentioned. Unfortunately, they decided to make her a temporary damsel in distress about three quarters of the way through the drama, most noticeably when she temporarily lost her power. It was pretty weird, because they made her look very weak both physically and emotionally and this contradicted the very concept that was her character. They essentially forced her to need the help of the men around her and I thought this defeated the purpose of having a strong, independent, female lead to begin with. I understand everyone has their breakdowns, but having her temporarily lose her powers for the course of an episode and a half seemed like back peddling away from any progress that was made in the interim. I also felt she came across a bit haughty at times when she used her power against others, even when they hadn’t really done anything wrong. However, if you overlook these two blunders, I loved how Bong Soon always stayed true to herself. Her bright and cheery attitude was refreshing. Park Bo Young was extremely cute and the main reason this character was able to come to life.
Park Hyung Sik: Hyung Sik is great in everything he does. Min Hyuk really didn’t have much depth as a character. He was a CEO with a troubled family life that we caught a few blips of, but other than that he was just a dude that fell hard for Bong Soon. If Hyung Sik hadn’t delivered the dialogue and facial expressions in such a swoon worthy and believable manner, this drama would have flopped big time. There is something about the way he gazes at his leading ladies (no matter what drama he’s in) that just oozes charisma.
Bong Soon’s Dad: Undoubtedly the best character of the series in my opinion. Bong Soon’s father managed to put up with his wife’s treacherous domestic violence, and remain his daughter’s number one cheerleader for the entirety of the drama. Never did his love for her waver, and never was he harsh on her in the ways that characters like Bong Soon’s mother or Gook Du could be. Bong Soon’s father showed his dedication to his daughter through countless subtle actions, such as storing secret money stashes in several of his pockets to give to Bong Soon, calling Minhyuk on multiple occasions to make sure Bong Soon was okay, expressing his worries about her to Bong Gi, sticking up for Bong Soon at times when her mother was demeaning her, and the list goes on. This man wins dad of the year award, no questions asked. It was so touching the way he was always there for Bong Soon, worrying and cheering her on, but always with the honest intention of wishing for her a happy and content life. He was exactly the person she needed and though he was usually the butt of many of the shows jokes, I really think he was the hidden gem in her life.
Convoluted Plot: Most of the plot threads in this show were useless, and many of them frayed out before the show even hit the half way point. They had so much going on, yet not a single one of these various plots was developed fully or even coherently. Instead of wasting time on so many different stories, they should have narrowed down the selection to 3 or 4 and then really focused in on them. Instead we have a million different things happening and none of them feel authentic, half of them are missing backstory, and some actually disappear from the story all together. For example, nothing fruitful ever came out of the adult and teenage gangsters. They were merely forced into the show for the sake of comedy, and boy did they feel forced. And what ever happened to Min Hyuk’s family. His family troubles were a prominent part of the first 2 or 3 episodes but then quickly fizzled out of the storyline, entering the dark abyss for the rest of eternity. They don’t even make it to the wedding. Super odd. What’s even more tragic is that Min Hyuk’s family crisis had far more potential than the gangsters, the poop wine, or the temple monk. Also, the main villain was incredibly two dimensional. I really wanted to know how he came to be a criminal, why he was obsessed with the Blue Beard play, and so much more, but we never get that. Props to the actor, because he made that criminal a heck of a lot more substantial than he actually was.
Boring Filler Material: The school gangsters, the adult gangsters, the temple dude, Hee Ji x Bong Gi, the keystone cop scenes. There was so much in this drama that was not only sloppily done but incredibly boring. A lot of this crap could have been edited out, or at the very least, significantly sized down. In my opinion, the show should have focused on three things. Bong Soon, Min Hyuk + his family story, and the criminal story. All three of these arcs could have been developed a lot more. It would have made the drama a lot cleaner, easier to follow, and a hell of a lot more interesting. Instead we had so much drab filler material that I couldn’t bare to move forward without fast forwarding, which by the way, I have never done in my life when it comes to kdramas. If I find a drama boring, I drop it. End of story. I made a special exception for this drama because of the lead pairing, but I’ll never make that mistake again. Next time, I’m dropping.
Hee Ji x Bong Gi: I’m not sure why the show had this girl in there to begin with. From the very start, I found her character quite dull. I think this is the fault of both the writers and a sub par acting job. What frustrated me most was that she was kind of shoehorned in there to create a reason for Gook Du not being available or interested in Bong Soon for the first half of the drama, but what really rustled my jimmies was when she started this strange affair with Bong Gi. Bong Gi seemed like a super sweet dude, and therefore (I feel), deserved a super sweet woman. It only marred his character when they lowered him to her level. I was glad when they finally broke it off in the last episode, but it was such a pointless plot line that fizzled out in the weirdest way possible. It is beyond me why they couldn’t have simply paired him up with Kyung Shim. Those two would have made a fantastic and highly more believable/sensible pairing in terms of the show and its plot. They really mucked this one up in my book.
Inappropriate Blend of Comedy and Crime: There was something incredibly disturbing about the way this drama tried to mingle comedy with crime, domestic violence, homosexuality, and other controversial topics. This imbalanced blend gave birth to some incredibly insensitive moments. I found many of them present in the final episode, which was supposed to be happy-go-lucky. But perhaps the gold medal for most disturbing moment was the point at which Jang Hyun receives his sentencing. We see him in solitary confinement screaming and writhing on the cell floor, and then we are shown one of the victims still suffering in a psychiatric ward. The woman is hysterical and riddled with fear. It becomes clear that she will never recover from the trauma she has experienced. It was extremely morbid, but the creepiest aspect was following these two sequences with a satisfied and smiling Bong Soon, which totally undermined the gravity of the situation. The cheeriness in her voice as she narrates the whole thing was troubling.
The Ending: Finally, we are given the ending, which I found very unsatisfying for many reasons, a few of which were already listed above. It was incredible to me that Gook Du and Min Hyuk still couldn’t put their differences aside and become friends. I found the way Min Hyuk refused to shake Gook Du’s hand at the wedding shamefully immature. Ironically, Gook Du’s character looked more respectable in that moment. The nature of the wedding was also quite odd. Min Hyuk’s family and Bong Soon’s grandmother were both missing. The adult gangsters showing up felt very out of place. I’m surprised they didn’t give the poop wine one last cameo. What concerned me most was the final scenes revealing their married life. It seems Min Hyuk is left alone to take care of the children. He is a replica of his father-in-law, helpless, alone, exhausted, and faced with a task way out of his league. I thought it was cruel to have him as the abandoned house-husband, while Bong Soon is out saving the world, care free and indifferent to what is happening to her husband and children in the home. I hated when she essentially chastised him for calling her ‘at work.’ The gangsters being used as nannies was also in bad taste. I didn’t find the humor in these scenes though I’m quite aware they were intended to be funny.
Domestic Violence: This was honestly disgusting and unforgivable. Domestic violence is a serious issue and it’s never funny. The show decided it was a good idea to take a grave societal problem and turn it into a joke. Several times in the drama, Bong Soon’s mother was shown beating up Bong Soon’s father in retaliation for what I would deem innocent behavior. There is never a good reason for domestic abuse, but even the reasons the mother claimed to have were lame in themselves. The point was to portray Bong Soon’s father as the sort of goonish, weak, laughing stock but unfortunately this was an incredibly stupid idea that left many of us with a bad taste in our mouths. In the final episode, Bong Soon’s mother dishes out some bullshit excuse that she never actually abused her husband despite the fact that we all saw it happen with our very own eyes. Not sure what the writers thought they were doing, but that little trick did not work. If they felt they were going to need to come up with an excuse in the first place, that should have been enough to let them know this concept should never have been a part of the plot to begin with. End of story.
Homophobic Undertones: There were an infinite amount of homosexual caricatures in this drama that shed plenty of light on Korea’s anxieties about homosexuals. Dong Pyung (the doppleganger) was the most prominent example of this. Kim Won Hae is a fantastic actor, and even I enjoyed certain parts about this character, but unfortunately, Dong Pyung was designed to be comedic fodder. He was an outrageously stereotypical representation of the “flamboyant gay” that poses a threat to what Korean society would deem the “healthy man.” This train of thought is further underlined when Min Hyuk has to declare his straightness at a company press conference just to make sure everyone will still support the company. In his statement he claims to be, “A healthy man that likes women.” Furthermore, the reaction of everyone around him when the rumors first come out are expressive of this rampant homophobia. Bong Soon’s family in particular have an awkward dinner table discussion where they laugh uncomfortably while verbally voicing that it’s okay if Min Hyuk is actually gay, though their tone and body language would hardly hint at the same.
Queer Baiting: But onward ho to the glaringly obvious queer baiting that the show used not only to gain views but to portray what it mistakenly thought were some humble steps toward acceptance. Look! We have two boys flirting with each other after having too much liquor, but you don’t have to be afraid everyone! It’s not real! They’re just drunk! Presenting the same sex interaction under the guise of intoxication was a ‘safe’ way to allow for these types of scenes to play out without the writers or homophobes feeling the threat of any authentic homosexuality being present. In other words, they purposely set up the scene as a scapegoat from any real ‘gayness’ …because we all know that could upset or trigger Korea into having a crisis. I found it all distasteful from Min Hyuk using his rumored homophobia as a way to get closer to Bong Soon without facing any consequences, to the Gook Du and Min Hyuk interactions, etc., etc.
Bong Soon’s Mother: Probably the most unpleasant character of the show. Not sure how anyone could sympathize with a mother who not only beats her husband for fun, but encourages her daughter to sleep with a CEO in order to obtain a rich trophy son-in-law. She basically whored her daughter out, which I found far from appealing, in fact, it was rather appalling. She seemed to have no authentic love for her daughter, nor her husband, at least not until the very end after being heavily chastised for her flawed antics. The only person she did portray any form of love toward was her son Bong Gi. A repulsive character all in all if you ask me.
Gook Du: I don’t think I can name a single episode where Gook Du doesn’t get up in Bong Soon’s face and yell at her, or give her a backhanded compliment where he half insults her via disguised flattery. Countless times on the show he aggresses and antagonizes her for being a woman, and therefore deduces that she is in need of a man’s protection or is somehow less capable simply due to the fact that she is a woman. I also hated the fact that right after Hee Ji cut ties with him, he suddenly has this newfound love for Bong Soon (which he claims goes way back… but the turn around is hardly believable) and thinks he can just swoop in and use her as his rebound girl because he says so. There are quite a few instances where he expresses to Min Hyuk that Bong Soon is his woman and he instructs Min Hyuk to stay away from her. These happen both before and after his epiphany. Either way, the are downright baffling considering inexcusable abrasive behavior toward her throughout the whole show. How could someone who talked to her like a puppy in need of good discipline make such bold and arrogant statements without feeling somewhat guilty or hesitant to voice them because of his history of grotesque treatment of her. Yikes. Unfortunately for Ji Soo, this made Gook Du’s character completely unappealing or pitiable to say the least. Sadly, Ji Soo really wasn’t able to shine through this character. Gook Du lacked the depth and growth potential that the character Wang Jung possessed. If you want to see a solid performance from Ji Soo, watch Scarlet Heart Ryeo instead.
This drama ended up being shamefully shallow. Not only was the majority of it boring to the point where I found myself skipping various parts, but a good chunk of its ‘comedic’ elements were extremely problematic. The poorly balanced mingling of comedy with heinous crime made my stomach churn and never should have been done in the first place (especially in the manner with which this show went about it). If not for for Park Bo Young and Park Hyung Sik’s chemistry I would have dropped this drama straight away. Now that it has ended, I can’t even say their magnificent chemistry was worth my time, since the rest of it was such a yawn fest. I don’t recommend this drama unless you just want to skip through to watch the OTP moments. Otherwise, stay away.
Did you watch Strong Woman Do Bong Soon? What did you think of the drama? If you haven’t already, you can check out a short trailer for it here.