Top 20 Badass Female Leads From K-Dramas

Top 15 Badass Female Leads From K-Dramas

While K-dramas are well known for their romance and drama, they’re not devoid of strong female leads – lead characters that can hold their own and won’t back down. There are leads that would make any grown adult shiver with their deadly stare. With so many K-dramas available, there are more than plenty of badass female leads out there.

Some defy the odds or general opinion of those who don’t believe in them or that a female detective can be skilled in martial arts. These women show that not all K-drama female leads have to be a damsel in distress looking for her prince. Sometimes she stays with her audience and has more of a story to tell.


Updated on November 18th, 2022 by Jom Elauria: In 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. TV fans who want to see badass female protagonists persevere through the toughest ordeals should check out what K-dramas have to offer.

Available to stream on Disney+Noh Da-Hyun

Link: Eat, Love, Kill is an interesting K-drama that explores what makes two people connect with each other. 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 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.

Yoo Jung – Bloody Heart

Available to stream on Disney+

Yoo Jung

One of the best K-dramas released this year is Bloody Heart. The period drama follows a man who is willing to abandon his royal duties to pursue the woman he loves. Kang Han-Na stars in the K-drama as Yoo Jung, a headstrong woman who has captured the heart of a king.

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

Park Tae-Yang – Love All Play

Not Currently Available To Stream

Park Tae-Yang

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 characters.

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 badass character, especially since she also put her career on the line.

Available to stream on Netflix

Woo Young-Woo

One of the buzziest K-dramas as of late is Extraordinary Attorney Woo. The show 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 fans 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 haters no mind and just focusing on winning her clients’ cases.

Sung Deok-Mi – Her Private Life

Available to stream on Netflix

Sung-Deok Mi

The K-drama Her Private Life is blessed with a strong woman lead. 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 who you are and like whatever they want to like, as long as it’s not hurting themselves or other people.

Kang Soo-Jin – Mother

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki

Soo-Jin and Hye-Na sitting in a field in Mother

Mother is a hidden gem in the gene of suspense and drama. Those who watch the 2018 drama will see the female lead as a sort of hero. The show is a remake of a popular series of the same name in 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.

Kang Seo-Hae – Sisyphus: The Myth

Available to stream on Netflix

Seo-Hae holding a riffle firearm in Sisyphus

Sisyphus: The Myth is a time travel drama that debuted on Netflix in 2020. 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. Fans give the character Kang Seo-Hae (Park Shin-Hye) some applause as the female lead.

It’s not easy to leave behind your 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’s tough enough to handle any danger, no matter the time period.

Oh Dong-Baek – When The Camelia Blooms

Available to stream on Netflix

Dong-Baek sitting at her desk in her restaurant in When The Camelia Blooms

Fans can’t help but root for the main female lead, Oh Dong-Baek (Gong Hyo-Jin) in When the Camelia 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 the show, what really gave her praise was her ability to not 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.

Do Ha-Na & Choo Mae-Ok 0 The Uncanny Counter

Available to stream on Netflix

Ha-Na and Mae-Ok in the basement of noodle restaurant in The Uncanny Counter

The leading ladies of Netflix’s The Uncanny Counter deserve the utmost respect when it comes to being badass 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 do kindly to the main character being bullied. The female matriarch is Mae-Ok (Yeon Hye-Ran), who loses her only son in an accident and became a Counter and her son became her handler. The character gets applause for never backing down from a fight and putting herself at risk using her healing abilities.

Hong Cha-Young – Vincenzo

Available to stream on Netflix

Cha-Young with her hands folded in her law office in Vincenzo

Vincenzo became a Netflix must-watch K-drama in 2021. While the story revolves around a former Italian consigliere’s 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. Fans 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.

Jang Man‑Wol – Hotel Del Luna

Available to stream on Netflix

Jang Man‑Wol holding long shotgun in Hotel Del Luna

Korean singer-songwriter and actor, IU transformed into the hotel manager of Hotel Del Luna, Jang Man-Wol in Hotel Del Luna. She is someone that’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 and shows 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.

Go Hae-Ri – Vagabond

Available to stream on Netflix

Go Hae-Ri holding firearm at shooting practice in Vagabond

Vagabond has become a fan favorite amongst Netflix users and the crime-thriller has two main characters: a stuntman who loses his nephew in a plane crash and an N.I.S. agent. Go Hae-Ri (Bae Suzy) proved to be a lead that isn’t to be messed with. 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 in order to uncover the truth behind the plane crash, for example, when she goes behind her superiors’ backs who want to keep things hush-hush.

Do Bong‑Soon 0 Strong Girl Bong-Soon

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki

Do Bong‑Soon in pink hoodie fighting bad guys in Strong Girl Bong-Soon

Yes, Strong Girl Bong-Soon may be applauded for its riveting love triangle, but the main female lead also has people enthralled. To start, don’t expect this sweet-faced girl to be only that, as the drama puts a unique spin on its lead.

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.

Cha Young-Jin – Nobody Knows

Available to stream on Kocowa

Cha Young-jin standing in the middle of the road with Lee Sun-Woo in 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 revolved 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, 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.

Bae Ta Mi, Cha Hyeon & Song Ga Kyung – Search WWW

Available to stream on Prime Video

Bae Ta Mi (Im Soo Jung), Cha Hyeon (Lee Da Hee), and Song Ga Kyung (Jeon Hye Jin)

Search WWW gets recognized as having three powerful and strong female leads. What fans 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. Instead of backstabbing and lying, the three characters stick together and empower each other. There’s even an intense scene where two of the character walk down a foggy street. They emerge looking fierce and holding bats.

Ji Sun-Woo – The World Of The Married

Available to stream on Netflix

Ji Sun-Woo entering her home in World of the Married

The storyline in The World of the Married is deep, complex, filled with drama, and has a badass female lead. 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.

Jung Tae-Eul – The King: Eternal Monarch

Available to stream on Netflix

Jeong Tae-Eul holding someone at gun point in 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, 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.

Go Ae-Shin – Mr. Sunshine

Available to stream on Netflix

Go Ae-shin holding shotgun 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’s 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.

Ko Moon‑Young – It’s Okay To Not Be Okay

Available to stream on Netflix

Ko Moon‑young teaching class at psychiatric hospital in It's Okay to Not be Okay

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. 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 literally afraid of no one and stands up for herself and, on occasion, others. When the main male character’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 the wife a lesson.

Cha Soo-Young – Tell Me What You Saw

Available to stream on Rakuten Viki

Cha Soo-Young

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 strong character.

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

NEXT: The 14 Best Medical K-Dramas (According To IMDb)

Author: Jack Cook