Dial R For Revenge: 8 Thrilling K-Dramas About Women Seeking Retribution

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is a phrase frequently heard and used. However, revenge has more often than not been synonymous with male characters, while a woman’s quest for retribution is more regarded as unnatural. From being casual bystanders to the conscientious voice of reason in tales of vengeance, women are fighting their own battles, courageously taking the stairway to redemption.

Be it a jilted wife, a young teen ruthlessly bullied, or a daughter avenging the wrongs done to her family, K-dramas have given us some gripping thrillers helmed by female leads. It’s time to dial r for revenge and take a look at seven ladies who defiantly dished out what they were served coldly and calculatedly with their mental and physical strength.

“The Glory”

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, fracture for fracture. The one who inflicted the injury must suffer the same. I don’t know. That sounds too fair to me.”

Meet Moon Dong Eun (Song Hye Kyo), who was subject to extremely violent bullying and assault by four of her classmates in school as a young teenager. Meek and helpless, Dong Eun is tempted to end her life but channelizes her rage into working hard and carefully plotting revenge against her perpetrators who left her broken and scarred. Though still traumatized by the events of the past, Dong Eun, who holds immaculate credentials as a teacher, transfers herself to the school and class of the daughter of her chief tormentor Yeon Jin (Lim Ji Yeon). Yeon Jin’s husband Ha Do Yeong (Jung Sung Il) also meets Dong Eun at the Go club and finds himself drawn to this mysterious and quiet woman unbeknownst of her agenda. Though Yeon Jin and her gang of four are still close, Dong Eun, aware of their socioeconomic dynamics, has her strategies well in place and is determined that in their destruction lies her redemption.

Song Hye Kyo gives one of her career’s best as the now hardened and desensitized Dong Eun. Cloaked in grays and blacks, her colorless shroud is a reminder of crushed dreams and innocence lost. Dong Eun is a character you cheer for and applaud, and you can’t wait to see the ruination that befalls her bullies in Part 2. We also can’t forget about Lee Do Hyun as the plastic surgeon Joo Yeo Jeong, who is smitten with Dong Eun and battling his own trauma but asks her to take him on as her swordsman.

Eve

Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold, and Lee Ra El (Seo Ye Ji) has been marinating in hate since she was just a teenager. Ra El was witness to her father’s brutal death, a conspiracy by Kang Yoon Kyum (Park Byung Eun), the CEO of LY Group, and Han Pan Ro (Jeon Gook Hwan), a corrupt and manipulative politician who is now prime minister. After her mother goes missing and her father’s company is taken over by LY Group, Ra El escapes with the help of a human rights lawyer named Seo Eun Pyung (Lee Sang Yeob). Years later, she returns under a different identity as a ballet teacher named Kim Sun Bin with a daughter in tow. But Ra El has been meticulously planning her vendetta to destroy Yoon Kyum and Pan Ro, and she starts by befriending Yoon Kyum’s wife Han So Ra (Yoo Sun). As Ra El seduces Yoon Kyum, she is well aware that she is playing with fire and will get scalded.

“Eve” does fall short on certain counts, and as a viewer it makes you wish Eun Pyung’s character had a better arc and that there was more backstory in how Ra El transformed herself as Sun Bin other than in flashbacks. However, Seo Ye Ji as the femme fatale in the game of power payback shines, and her facial expressions and fashion game are always on point.

Start watching “Eve”:

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“My Name”

“I sacrificed my future and name for revenge”—it’s a chilling statement by Yoon Ji Woo (Han So Hee) in “My Name,” which sets the template of the show. Driven to avenge her father’s death whatever be the stakes, Ji Woo realizes her two handicaps: her gender and being overly emotional. Taken under the wing of Choi Mu Jin (Park Hee Soon), her father’s friend and the head of the biggest drug cartel, the meek Ji Woo transforms into the ruthless Oh Hye Jin, an undercover cop and a mole to Mu Jin, as she tries to get up close to her father’s killer. However, as she joins the narcotics team, she has another hurdle to cross: her brusque and upright senior, detective Pil Do (Ahn Bo Hyun), who is leading the drug investigation and is hot on the heels of Mu Jin’s cartel.

“My Name” is pacy and riveting as each episode ends with a suspenseful twist, and the eerily blue tones of the drama reflect the cold and metallic feel of the narrative. As Ji Woo charts her journey of self discovery, her actions as she competes in a world of toxic male violence are nuanced and deft. Han So Hee plays her two characters to the hilt, and you can’t help but root for both Ji Woo and Oh Hye Jin. And you see her strength as she deftly handles the intense action scenes. She leads the way, and though her impassive expressions guard her emotions, deep down she is a hurt and lonely girl who gives glimpses into her sensitive nature.

“The World of the Married”

This drama shows the wrath of a wife when she discovers that her happily married life is nothing but a sham. Ji Sun Woo (Kim Hee Ae) has it all: she is accomplished, lives in a beautiful home with her filmmaker husband Lee Tae Oh (Park Hae Joon) and their teenage son Joon Young (Jeon Jin Seo), and has a thriving circle of friends. But one day, she realizes that her so-called rock solid marriage is based on lies and deceit. Her husband has been having an affair with Yeo Da Kyung (Han So Hee), a much younger and wealthy heiress, and all her trusted friends have been privy to the affair. Da Kyung, who is pregnant with Tae Oh’s child, taunts Sun Woo on her disintegrating marriage, and that’s when Sun Woo swears revenge on all those who betrayed her.

An adaptation of the English series “Doctor Foster,” “The World Of The Married” is gripping with several plot twists as Sun Woo channels her spite with calculated moves to ruin those who destroyed her and her home. And Kim Hee Ae as the unforgiving and tormented wife treads the path between vulnerability and hostility with the utmost conviction.

“Mine”

Intrigue, desires, secrets, and revenge make for a potent concoction, served by the elegant and bright daughter-in-laws of the Hyowon Group, a powerful conglomerate. Seo Hi Soo (Lee Bo Young), a former star, has given up on her thriving career to marry the second son of the family, while Jung Seo Hyun (Kim Seo Hyung), the daughter of a chaebol family, is married to the older son. Things seem perfect at the Hyowon mansion until the arrival of two women, the tutor Kang Ja Kyung (Ok Ja Yeon) and househelp Yoo Yeon (Jung Yi Seo), who are all set to upend the lives of all.

What opens is a pandora’s box of deceit, manipulations, misogyny, and crime. As the women band together in overthrowing the shackles which bind them and the injustice handed out to them, they are inspiring and relatable. What strikes a chord is how the female characters keep a united front, never once trying to double cross the other. “Mine” also sensitively and positively portrays the LGBTQ+ community, depicting a side love story of one of the characters poignantly.

“Remarriage & Desires”

Marriages may be a match made in heaven for some, but for the rich and famous, they are more often set up in the boardroom. Matchmaking is serious business as pros and cons of worthy suitors on the basis of their monetary assets and net worth are sharply scrutinized.

For 15 years, Seo Hye Seung (Kim Hee Sun) led the perfect existence. She had a plush home, fancy car, and a daughter all set for university. But it all crumbles when she discovers that her husband Kang Nam Sik has cheated on her with Jin Yoo Hui (Jung Yoo Jin), a lawyer. But it seems Nam Sik not only cheated on his wife but has also illegally stashed money in his mistress’s name who calls him out, and he ends his life. Hye Seung, who is working as a school teacher and raising her daughter, has been signed up by her mother to the exclusive matchmaking service Rex. Choi Yoo Sun (Cha Ji Yeo), the in-demand marriage maker, is clear that marriages are just business arrangements. Meanwhile, Yoo Hui is also at Rex to match with their top most clienteles and has her eyes on Lee Hyung Joo (Lee Hyun Wook), the handsome young boss of a successful video game company.

So what happens when Hye Seung meets her arch-nemesis Yoo Hui? She has the perfect plan to exact her pound of flesh and sets in motion to ruin the life of the woman who brought her family’s ruin in the smoothest way possible. “Remarriage & Desires” is a taut and pacy narrative, and the episodes never lag, giving you plenty of suspenseful moments. Kim Hee Sun and Jung Yoo Jin complement each other and give excellent performances, and they also notch up the fashion quotient with their style game.

The Penthouse

Welcome to Hera Palace. As you walk down its plush corridors, you can hear whispers of adultery, betrayal, and scandals. The cutthroat competition amongst the rich parents residing in these swanky apartments is carried forward by their children in their upmarket private schools, where bullying and nepotism are routine fare. The mothers will leave no stone unturned in protecting their brood, even if it means taking crafty means to meet their selfish ends. Oh Yoon Hee (Eugene) is a widow who moves into Hera Palace and reignites her rivalry with her high school nemesis, the super rich Cheon Seo Jin (Kim So Yeon). She also finds an ally in Shim Soo Ryeon (Lee Ji Ah). These fierce ladies will stop at nothing. Soo Ryeon, who has been victimized in the past, does not shy away from using despicable means to avenge the wrongs done to others while Yoon Hee and Seo Jin are unapologetically ambitious and willing to go to any lengths to topple the other. Their rivalry and legacy are even carried forth by their daughters.

Spread across three seasons, “The Penthouse” is an over-the-top, suspenseful thriller that comes with many cliffhangers, and its badass ladies are unstoppable when it comes to achieving their goals, whether it’s the good, the bad, or the ugly.

Start watching “The Penthouse”:

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“Avengers Social Club”

Three women from different walks of life come together to seek revenge against those who wronged them. Kim Jung Hye (Lee Yo Won), the daughter of wealthy parents, is in a marriage of benefit by being married into an equally influential family. As Jung Hye discovers that her husband has been cheating on her, she swears revenge and forms the Bok Ja club. Though she comes across as brusque and arrogant, she is at heart a sensitive soul. Then there’s Hong Do Hee (Ra Mi Ran), a single mom who sells fish. She is raising two kids on her meager income until a violent incident at school involving her son makes her join the Bok Ja club. And last but not least is Lee Mi Sook (Myung Se Bin), who is married to a university professor and has been the victim of domestic violence. After losing her son and the estrangement of her daughter, she decides to take her life in her own hands. Mi Sook is the third wheel in the Bok Ja club. And joining the ladies is Lee Soo Gyum (Lee Jun Young), who wants to avenge his biological parents.

This unlikely trio charts their course of action, and despite their distinct personalities, the ladies form a deep bond of sisterhood and friendship, empowering each other. This underrated drama is a winner all the way, and don’t we love women supporting their own?

Hey Soompiers, which one of these ladies is your favorite character seeking revenge? Let us know in the comments below!

Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Song Joong Ki and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min Ho, Gong Yoo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.

Currently watching: “The Interest of Love”

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