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Womance dramas dominate Korean television

“Twenty Five Twenty One” presents the friendship between two teen fencers Na Hee-do (left) and Ko Yu-rim. (tvN)
“Twenty Five Twenty One” presents the friendship between two teen fencers Na Hee-do (left) and Ko Yu-rim. (tvN)

Hit television dramas portraying the special bond between female characters have given rise to a genre called “womance.”

A combination of the words “woman” and “romance,” womance refers to the non-sexual, tight bond between female characters that goes above and beyond ordinary friendship.

Though there have been many films and television shows centering around “bromance” – a combination of the words “brother” and “romance,” and the equivalent of womance -- including the hit movie “Friend” (2001), KBS’ “Boys over Flowers” (2009), SBS’ “A Gentleman’s Dignity” (2012), “The Heirs” (2013), action thriller “New World” (2013), KBS’ “School 2017” (2017) and “School 2021” (2021), womance-themed projects have started to attract attention recently.

The romance between the two main characters aside, tvN’s “Twenty Five Twenty One” has captured viewers’ attention with the relationship of two teen fencers Na Hee-do (played by Kim Tae-ri) and Ko Yu-rim (played by Bona) developing from an athlete-fan relationship to rivals and best friends.

With another high school friend Ji Seung-wan (played by Lee Ju-myoung), the 16-part series portrays teenagers pursuing their dreams and ambitions.

The latest episode of “Twenty Five Twenty One” on March 27 recorded 12.9 percent viewership according to Nielsen Korea, topping the ratings among television shows airing in the same time slot.

JTBC’s “Thirty Nine” presents a different style of womance with a trio of best friends -- Cha Mi-jo (played by Son Ye-jin), Jeong Chan-young (played by Jeon Mi-do) and Jang Joo-hee (played by Kim Ji-hyun) -- and their love lives on the brink of turning 40.
Trio of best friends -- from left: Jeong Chan-young (played by Jeon Mi-do), Cha Mi-jo (played by Son Ye-jin) and Jang Joo-hee (played by Kim Ji-hyun) -- appear in “Thirty Nine.” (JTBC)
Trio of best friends -- from left: Jeong Chan-young (played by Jeon Mi-do), Cha Mi-jo (played by Son Ye-jin) and Jang Joo-hee (played by Kim Ji-hyun) -- appear in “Thirty Nine.” (JTBC)

The characters of “Thirty Nine” show a 20-year friendship that is stronger than the bonds with their families and lovers. It is a heartwarming story centering around the terminally ill Chan-young.

Meanwhile, SBS’ rom-com “Business Proposal” is also riding the trend with the chemistry between young office worker Shin Ha-ri (played by Kim Se-jeong) and her childhood friend Jin Yeong-seo (played by Seor In-a).

“Starting in 2016, broadcasters have been showing womance stories such as tvN’s ‘Dear My Friends’ (2016), JTBC’s ‘Melodramatic’ (2019) and Tving’s ‘Work Later, Drink Now’ (2021),” said culture critic Hwang Jin-mi.

“As more drama fans, especially female viewers, got tired of watching characters falling in love with a Prince Charming, different approaches were needed,” Hwang added.

The critic believes that the growing number of television series featuring womance allow the viewers to see many sides of women in our society.
Childhood friends Shin Ha-ri (played by Kim Se-jeong) and her childhood friend Jin Yeong-seo (played by Seor In-a) star in “Business Proposal.” (SBS)
Childhood friends Shin Ha-ri (played by Kim Se-jeong) and her childhood friend Jin Yeong-seo (played by Seor In-a) star in “Business Proposal.” (SBS)

“Ranging from a calm career woman to a mother devoted to her family, there are different types of women. And this development, continuing since 2016, is meaningful to the Korean content industry,” Hwang said. “With the growing popularity of global streaming services, more multidimensional characters are being played by female actors, including Han So-hee of Netflix’s action noir ‘My Name’ and Kim Hye-soo of ‘Juvenile Justice.’”

“Business Proposal” and “Twenty Five Twenty One” also caught global viewers’ attention, respectively ranking fifth and sixth place as of Monday on the global Netflix chart according to the US-based streaming analytics firm FlixPatrol.

By Lee Si-jin (sj_lee@heraldcorp.com)
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