Although what makes people so obsessed with K-dramas is the fact that they follow recognizable patterns and have the same kind of tropes to rely on that are simultaneously predictable yet somehow always exciting, there’s one trope that is extra special. Yeah, we like a decent second lead or a hyper-feminine villain (this one’s a bit of a stretch for sure), but we have a special place in our hearts for the best friends of the female lead who will do anything in their power to relentlessly support their friend through thick and thin. It’s possibly one of the biggest reasons some of these shows are popular. Friendships are just as important as romance, as K-drama writers are well aware. There’s something comforting about seeing three best friends living their best lives together, and everybody watching these shows aspires for that. While it may be unrealistic to expect a knight in shining armor, in the case of K-dramas and a Chaebol CEO, female friendships are very achievable.
It’s interesting to see how much K-dramas encourage this dynamic and show the force that is positive female bonding. In King the Land, we can assume the leads are somewhere between their late 20s and early 30s. Sa-Rang, Pyeong-Hwa, and Da-Eul had been friends for years when we met them in the show. Two of them even live together, and they all work for the same larger company in different departments. Throughout the series, we see how they support each other through both the fun and the hard times. They know exactly when to give each other space and when to intervene. It’s not a friendship; it’s pretty much family for them. It’s always exciting to see what their special night out looks like and what they do when one of them is sulking. While otherwise completely poised, oftentimes, the female lead will only show her true erratic self amongst her friends and not in front of her lover. It seems exhausting, but may not be too much of a stretch from real life.
Work Later, Drink Now is a great example of a show that solely depicts such a trio. It’s a comedy, but in typical K-drama fashion, it gets pretty dramatic in the best way possible. As the characters go through a rollercoaster of emotions together, so do you, and soon enough, you feel like you’re a part of that group. You can’t help but figure out which one of these characters relates most to you and your own best friends. From what they do for a living to how they dress, everything makes these groups completely believable. Again, these women are career women in their 30s who are still trying hard to find their footing in the big, bad, scary world. But there’s some comfort in knowing that they can rely on each other to pick each other up when they fall. For youngsters, this is an aspirational friendship, and for those older, it’s wishful thinking. The perfect balance that can never go wrong. For those who are around the same age as these protagonists, it’s time to live vicariously and hope that one day they’ll be doing the same with their girlfriends.
In the West, there’s usually a focus on one best friend rather than a group of friends. There’s something more superficial about group friendships that usually mix gender with incestuous possibilities (Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Riverdale). On the other hand, in Korean shows, these friendships alone take center stage. While King the Land is mainly a love story between Won and Sa-Rang, there are many shows that are just about women getting through life with their friends. Take the aforementioned Work Later, Drink Now as an example. There’s also Be Melodramatic, which is an underrated gem, or Thirty-Nine, which plays out between older women. There’s also Hello! My Twenties, which is about the friendships you forge in university that will never leave you. But why are these shows so popular? Is it because the viewership is dominated by women, and just as they live out their romantic fantasies in these shows, do they also live out their hope for good friendships? Maybe it’s that and also the fact that it reminds them of the good times they had. It’s almost healing watching them just sit around and solve each other’s problems while ordering too much food and destroying karaoke nights.
In Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo, we saw them teach others to become team players and get through university. In Twenty-Five, Twenty-One, we see the enemies to best friends trope and the two friends that are bonded together by the presence of a third. In Because This Is My First Life, we see that the more dynamic the trio, the deeper the bond. Each member of the group is entirely different from the others, yet it all works in harmony. Search WWW is unique in this aspect and in the fact that the friends are also business enemies. There’s a lot of drama, which makes the show extremely entertaining. There’s also some impeccable styling in most of the shows mentioned in this article, but specifically in this one. To run away into the horizon with your girls or to sit and share a meal as exhausted mothers, everything is covered in K-dramas. Pick your age group and the vibe you’re feeling; more often than not, Hallyu’s got you covered.
King the Land is non-dramatic as it completely avoids any kind of confrontation. Of course, the chemistry between the two leads is the glue that holds the show together, but there are also Sa-Rang’s best friends who entertain us for most of the show. Were it not for their separate storylines, it may have been too syrupy and given one person diabetes. Enough credit isn’t given to the female trios in these dramas that tie the whole thing down to reality and give us a different kind of mush. Reply 1988 is a great example for older women, and the fact that it’s set in the 80s and really drives home the fact that a lot of the time, friends are our best entertainment. It may be hard to determine why Korean shows nail the female friendship power trio, but there’s no denying that they do it right.
Which of these K-drama friendships is your favorite? Who else would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.