While South Korea’s feelings towards the LGBT+ community seem to be slowly getting more progressive, the country is still pretty conservative as a whole, and seeing queer characters in the media is still really uncommon. In fact, according to research done by OECD, Korea is “lagging behind compared to the OECD average regarding acceptance of homosexuality”.
However, there have been a few K-dramas that have had LGBT+ characters and/or relationships on the show. Nearly all of these have occurred within the last year or two, which is promising for the future of LGBT+ representation. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a bigger wave of acceptance and understanding.
Here’s a list of 8 K-dramas that incorporate queer representation in one way or another (spoilers ahead).
1. Reply 1997 (2012)
One of the first K-dramas with LGBT+ representation, Reply 1997 stars INFINITE member HoYa as a high school student who is in love with his best friend played by actor Seo Inguk.
2. Love With Flaws (2019)
Cha Inha plays a bartender working at a gay bar in this drama. While he isn’t a main character in the show, he does have a strong storyline that shows him going through the hardships of coming out to his family. Thankfully, he is eventually told by his relatives that being gay isn’t something he needs to apologize for and is accepted by them for who he is.
3. Romance is a Bonus Book (2019)
This drama, starring Lee Jongsuk, has a brief scene involving a same-sex couple. Lee Jongsuk’s character has an ex-girlfriend who is now dating another woman, which garnered a lot of interest from international watchers.
4. At Eighteen (2019)
At Eighteen stars ASTRO member Moonbin as a supporting role. He plays a high school student who is just coming to terms with his homosexuality but is still confused about his feelings. The drama features a couple scenes that show support from other characters to help him accept himself.
5. Love Alarm (2019)
One key feature in this drama is the use of an app that tells a person who likes them within a 10 meter radius around them. One high school character, played by Jung Garam, has his “love alarm” go off because of a fellow male student nearby that has feelings for him. The following interaction is cute and accepting of the occurrence.
6. Itaewon Class (2020)
This is a relatively new drama that actually stars a transgender character, which is huge for South Korea. Lee Jooyoung plays a character, HyunYi, who was assigned male at birth, but is in the process of saving up for gender reassignment surgery to transition. This drama is still in process, so hopefully HyunYi’s storyline will be highly impactful!
7. Hi, Dracula (2020)
Another recent drama, Hi, Dracula, stars Girls’ Generation member Seohyun as a lesbian character in the show. Her storyline includes her feelings of loneliness and loss towards her mother who won’t accept her sexuality.
8. XX (2020)
While he doesn’t play a huge role in the show, actor Lee Jongwon portrays a perfumer who is gay, and had an ex cheat on him.