The Hidden Powerhouses of the Screen

By: EnVi Media
03/28/2021
en
Powerhouses

By Heather | @jaehyuniepot 

When watching a movie or show we often forget the great masterminds behind the lens. Thinking back on dramas or movies we can recall the names of directors like Bong Joon-ho or Lee Eunbok. However, did you know many of your favorite works were also created by women? 

It bears asking, why do we fail to remember the women producing the same projects? There is a disproportionate representation of women in key roles working behind the scenes in the global film industry, but somehow South Korea has become an anomaly. In fact, more than 90% of Korean drama screenwriters are women.

They dominate the field yet their names are often overshadowed by their male directors. Female directors have limited space in the industry, and Korean filmmakers are no exception, coming in at 5-10% in the last 10 years. This is regrettable considering the target demographic of Korean drama consumption are female viewers. 

The “male gaze” is a deep rooted patriarchal viewpoint often used in media that incorrectly portrays female characters. Korean female screenwriters and directors have combatted this by bringing real women perspectives to life through their characters. They provide a lens view that reflects the ambitions and complex emotions of women. Even their love interest counterparts are given care and portrayed as what an ideal lover would be.

Writing is a steady start to change in representation, with Korea already taking a step forward by passing the Bechdel test with flying colors. The Bechdel test measures the representation of women in various forms of media. 50% of Korean movies have female leads or female co-leads, which is 6% higher than the global average. Unfortunately, writers still lack power in the direction of their writing and production, which is why it’s important to have women directors also working on projects to provide a more accurate angle.

This female gaze has become necessary and contributes to the popularity of Korean dramas. In hopes of bringing more attention and praise to these lovely women, here’s a list of directors and screenwriters who have created some of your favorite Korean dramas you might not have known about. 

 

Directors 

Lee Na Jung (Co-Director)

Lee Najung has co-directed several popular romantic comedies, her most recent works being both seasons of Love Alarm (2019/2021) which can be viewed on Netflix. 

  • Love Alarm (2019/2021)
  • Fight For My Way (2017)
  • Oh My Venus (2015)
  • The Innocent Man (2012)

Lee Eunjin 

Lee Eunjin co-directed King of Baking, Kim Tak-gu which broke records becoming the 25th highest rated drama in Korea and launched the career of actor, Yoon Shi Yoon. 

  • King of Baking, Kim Tak-gu (2010) 
  • Sassy Go Go (2015) 

Kim Kyung Hee

Kim Kyung Hee found greater success after changing her direction from sweeter drama to challenge the mysterious suspense series, 365: Repeat the Year (2020). 

  • 365: Repeat the Year (2020)
  • Lucky Romance (2016)  

Kim Hee-Won 

Kim Hee-Won is known for directing darker dramas tied with humor. Her currently airing work, Vincenzo (2021) is a perfect example of this. 

  • Vincenzo (2021) 
  • The Crowned Clown (2019)
  • Money Flower (2017)

Lee Yoon-Jung (1974)

Lee Yoon-Jung directed the highly rated romantic comedy series, Coffee Prince (2007) which has won countless awards and to this day is still referenced for it’s iconic scenes.  

  • Argon (2017) 
  • Cheese in the Trap (2016) 
  • Coffee Prince (2007) 

Jeon Go-Woon 

Jeon Go-Woon was 1 of 4 directors chosen to showcase their different styles per episode in the drama Persona (2019) which starred singer-actress, IU. 

  • Persona: Kiss Burn (2019) Episode 3

Lee Kyoung-mi 

Lee Kyoung-mi recently directed the quirky Netflix series, The School Nurse Files (2020) which starred Jung Yumi and Nam Joo Hyuk. 

  • The School Nurse Files (2020)
  • Persona: Love Set (2019) Episode 1 

Lee Kwang Young 

Lee Kwang Young established herself as a romcom director with her heart fluttering series, The Secret Life of My Secretary (2019).

  • The Secret Life of My Secretary (2019) 
  • Judge vs. Judge (2017)
  • Entertainer (2016)

Han Sooji 

Han Sooji directed popular web dramas like A-Teen (2018/2019) which are famous for jump starting the acting careers of Shin Ye-eun and Kim Dong-Hee. 

  • A-Teen 1-2 (2018/2019) 
  • Twenty-Twenty (2020)

Kim Ga Ram 

Kim Ga Ram has directed dynamic and cute dramas in the past which is why her upcoming work, Nevertheless (2021) starring popular actor, Song Kang has drawn great attention. 

  • Flower Crew: Joseon Marriage Agency (2019) 
  • Nevertheless (2021) 

Choi Eunjong 

Choi Eunjong is best known for directing Dokgo Rewind (2018) which was EXO member, Sehun’s first main lead role in a series. 

  • Dokgo Rewind (2018) 

Lee So Yeon 

Lee So Yeon is most known for the delightful and family-oriented, Prime Minister & I (2013) which starred Yoona from Girls Generation.  

  • Moorim School (2016) 
  • Prime Minister & I (2013) 

Kim Hye Young 

Kim Hye Young was behind the series Be Melodramatic (2019) which became popular for its relatable and strong female leads. 

  • Be Melodramatic (2019) 

Lee Jung Mi 

Lee Jung Mi recently worked on the mystifying romantic comedy, I Wanna Hear Your Song (2019) starring idol singer Kim Sejeong.

  • I Wanna Hear Your Song (2019)
  • Naeil’s Cantabile (2014) 

Kim Min Kyung 

Kim Min Kyung’s latest romcom, Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol (2020) is notable for being actor Kim Jaewook’s first main lead role and can be found on Netflix. 

  • Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol (2020)
  • Matrimonial Chaos (2018)

Shim So Yeon 

Shim So Yeon’s latest work was when she co-directed the fantasy romcom, Welcome 2 Life (2019) which starred singer-actor Rain. 

  • Welcome 2 Life (2019) 
  • Rich Family’s Son (2018) 

Kang Soo Yeon 

Kang Soo Yeon co-directed The Tale of Nokdu (2019) with 2 other directors. The drama tackled the popular K-drama trope of historical crossdressing but with a twist, instead focusing on a male character crossdressing as a woman. 

  • The Tale of Nokdu (2019)
  • The Ghost Detective (2018) 

Lee Hyun Jin 

Lee Hyun Jin was 1 of 3 directors working on The Tale of Nokdu (2019) starring actor Jang Dong-yoon. 

  • The Tale of Nokdu (2019)

 

Screen Writers 

Kim Eunsook 

Kim Eunsook has become well known to fans for being the Queen of penning some of the most popular dramas in the country. 

  • The King: Eternal Monarch (2020) 
  • Mr. Sunshine (2018)
  • Goblin (2016) 
  • Descendants of the Sun (2016) 
  • The Heirs (2013)
  • Secret Garden (2010)

Kim Soon Ok 

Kim Soon Ok recently penned the still airing series, Penthouse: War in Life (2020/2021) which is famous for it’s mind boggling storyline. 

  • The Penthouse: War in Life 1-3 (2020/2021) 
  • The Last Empress (2018) 
  • Temptation of Wife (2008) 

Jin Soo Wan

Jin Soo Wan has written some of the most well received and engaging dramas to ever grace the small screen with her dramas with Moon Embracing the Sun (2012) reaching a high of 42.2% in ratings .   

  • Chicago Typewriter (2017) 
  • Kill Me, Heal Me (2015) 
  • Moon Embracing the Sun (2012)

Park Jieun 

Every drama written by Park Jieun has reached ratings of at least 20% viewership, truly proving she has the golden touch and knows what her audience wants. 

  • Crash Landing On You (2019) 
  • The Legend of the Blue Sky (2016)
  • Producers (2015)
  • You Who Came From the Stars (2013)

Lee Woo Jung

Lee Woo Jung’s writing is renowned for its ability to bounce between touching people’s hearts and making them roar with laughter. 

  • Hospital Playlist 1-2 (2020)  
  • Prison Playbook (2017) 
  • Reply Series (2012/2013/2016)
  • Reply 1997
  • Reply 1994
  • Reply 1988 

Hong Sisters

The Hong Sisters (Hong Jung Eun and Hong Mi Ran) are the rare few female screenwriters who are infamous amongst the general public for their works. It’s no surprise when they’ve created so many notable classics. 

  • Hotel del Luna (2019) 
  • The Korean Odyssey (2017) 
  • The Master’s Sun (2013) 
  • Big (2012)
  • My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (2010)
  • You’re Beautiful (2009)

 

Here’s to hoping the Korean media industry takes note of the effect and appeal of projects worked on by women. May it continue to grow into a more inclusive space where voices of all backgrounds can be heard. 

Not sure what K-drama to watch next? Check out why you should watch the powerful women in The Penthouse here!

Thumbnail by @yangsbff