‘My Name’: How Yoon Ji-woo Breaks the Mold of a Female Lead in K-Dramas

Fans and audiences have highly praised Han So-hee in her new lead role in Netflix’s My Name Korean drama. While K-dramas often follow well-known tropes that help drive its storyline, the My Name K-drama breaks a few rules regarding Yoon Ji-woo (Han). The female character’s story down a dark path of revenge after her father is murdered is the essence of the K-drama.

While director Kim Jin-min and Han’s co-stars applaud the actor’s grit and dedication to her role, Ji-woo also deserves needed praise. My Name’s Ji-woo is a strong female lead never before seen in a K-drama that fans can admire.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers about My Name.]

Han So-hee for 'My Name' as Ji-woo poster with bloodied face and holding knife
Han So-hee for ‘My Name’ as Ji-woo poster | via Netflix

Yoon Ji-woo is her own self-made heroine in ‘My Name’

The crux of My Name’s storyline centered around Ji-woo is her broken heart and backstory. In My Name episode 1, Ji-woo is a lonely and desolate character with no one to care for her. She is self-sufficient in every way as her father is never home. At school, she has no friends, and the neighborhood has cast her away after learning her father is a gangster.

As her story progressed, it became more evident that she had no one to rely on, and it was up to her to become her own hero. Ji-woo’s only driving motive is avenging her father’s murder, and if no one wished to help her, she would do so alone. Even after being taken in by Mu-jin (Park Hee-soon), it was still up to her to survive in a world of crime.

Even as an officer, she did a lot of her personal vengeance alone and displayed that she did not need a helping hand from her teammates. Ji-woo ultimately relies on herself when the person she trusted most becomes her enemy.

‘My Name’s’ Yoon Ji-woo does not get her happily ever after

RELATED: ‘My Name’: A Complete Breakdown of the K-Drama’s Storyline and Ending

K-drama fans can often expect the female lead of a drama to get a good ending somehow. It is either her past is resolved, or she finally gets shot at true love. My Name had a small twist that fans were not expecting. Near the end, she is taken in by Pil-do (Ahn Bo-hyun) and goes to his safe house on the beach. Through the course of the K-drama, Pil-do comes to trust Ji-woo and even more so after learning about her past.

Having a shared past losing someone important to them, they embark on a steamy and emotional relationship. It seemed as though Pil-do would become Ji-woo’s salvation from her path of revenge. He even convinces her to arrest Mu-jin instead of killing him.

But in a bad twist of fate, Ji-woo never gets her shot at love. Mu-jin kills Pil-do as he sits next to Ji-woo in the car. Losing someone else she loves at the hands of Mu-jin refuels her need for revenge and blood. After Ji-woo succeeds in her quest for revenge, there is nothing left for her. She still has a feeling of loneliness as every one she cared for is gone. In the end, Ji-woo never gets the happily ever after her father wanted for her.

Yoon Ji-woo is one of the rare few female leads in a revenge K-drama out for blood

RELATED: ‘My Name’: Did a Scene in Episode 1 Foreshadow Who Killed Ji-Woo’s Father?

The revenge storyline is not new to K-dramas or its fans. Dramas such as Vagabond, The Great Seducer, and more have varying stories about revenge. These K-dramas often center around a male lead. My Name’s Ji-woo breaks the barrier and becomes one of the rare few leads in a revenge-driven drama that is a female.

In My Name’s featurette video, director Kim Jin-min explains, “What’s interesting is that revenge is almost exclusively narrated by male characters, but our lead is female. I wanted to pull this off from a totally different angle.” Ji-woo also becomes one of K-drama’s most skilled and dangerous characters in combat and wanting vengeance.

It is not often a female lead who becomes her own hero, a skilled fighter, a gang member, and a cop in a gritty revenge story. Ji-woo takes the cake for displaying strong and calculated combat tactics. She can handle knives, firearms and can take down a group of thugs, as seen in one of the K-drama’s fight sequences. By the end of Ji-woo’s story, she becomes the ravaged monster Mu-jin wanted her to become.

According to NME, Han’s inspiration behind Ji-woo’s fighting style and abilities in My Name stem from other leading female characters in movies. “When I had the first meeting with the martial arts director, we looked at different styles of martial arts, and something that he pointed out was the movie Atomic Blonde, [which had] a long-take action [scene], and a female lead winning [against] her male opponents,” said Han.