15 great LGBT+ dramas

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American shows have, more recently, been noted for showcasing LGBTQ+ representation on the small screen, albeit in a relatively small way. But when it comes to K-dramas, the genre is a bit more conservative. That said, over the years, there has been a growing number of LGBTQ+ representation in K-dramas, whether involving same-sex couples or small storylines.

Some of these representations may feel small to a Western audience, but they have a strong impact in a country that previously never tackled these themes on TV. In fact, there’s now even a K-drama dedicated to a gay love story that’s changing the game and helping the rise of the new “Boy’s Love (BL)” genre.

Updated on August 4th, 2022 by Jom Elauria: K-dramas like The Silent Sea and Business Proposal are becoming more accessible to audiences around the world thanks to streaming websites like Netflix and Viki. However, those who aren’t familiar with Korean culture might notice that K-dramas are on the conservative side. But, there’s a handful of K-dramas that break the mold and feature LGBTQ+ characters. K-drama fans who are looking for more diverse K-dramas with moving storylines should check out the ones that have LGBTQ+ representation.

Secret Garden

Available to stream on HBO Max.

The K-Drama Secret Garden is one of the first few shows in Korea to feature LGBTQ+ narratives. The show focuses on four different main characters, all of whom are dealing with their own issues.

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One of the main characters in the show is named Oska, played by actor Yoon Sang-Hyun, a free-spirited Hallyu actor whose time in the limelight is slowly fading away. His life is given purpose when he meets Han Tae-Sun (Lee Jong-Suk), who is a gay musical prodigy. While the show features a heartwarming love story between its two main characters, it also doesn’t forget to add depth to the narratives of its supporting characters.

Schoolgirl Detectives

Available to stream on Viki.

While it may first appear that Schoolgirl Detectives is a K-drama show that might appeal to K-pop fans thanks to its mostly female leads, the show actually touches on some heavy, but real-life themes, such as suicide and bullying.

The show follows five high school students who form a detective club. In their cases, they help their classmates solve their personal issues and mysteries. The show is considered groundbreaking in South Korea as it features the first lesbian kiss on Korean television.

The Lover

It’s refreshing to see a show like The Lover. The K-drama is unapologetic when it comes to featuring its gay characters and their romance. In the show, the lives of four couples living in one apartment complex slowly come together as they navigate their day-to-day life.

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The LGBTQ+ character in the show is played by actor Lee Jae Joon. His character in the show is looking for a foreign roommate to avoid talking to them. However, he ends up with a Japanese roommate who is extroverted enough to help Joon Jae revive his social life.

Be Melodramatic

Available to stream on Viki.

Be Melodramatic is a K-drama show that doesn’t leave its LGBTQ+ characters on the sidelines. In the K-drama, three female best friends are seen living their life in their thirties, where they are forced to handle the transformations in their personal lives and career.

The show also prominently focuses on the brother of one of the characters who is openly gay and is in a loving and stable relationship. Be Melodramatic is a show that will tug at the heartstrings of viewers thanks to its three-dimensional portrayal of its characters, as well as its relatable narrative.

Lily Fever

The K-drama Lily Fever features the romance between two women. Kim Kyung-Ju (Kim Hye-Joon) is dumped by her boyfriend and tries to get her passport from the house of his new girlfriend. Along the way, she meets the charismatic Jang Se-Rang (Jung Yeon-Joo) and soon after, a budding relationship between the main characters blooms after they both realize that they’re mutually attracted to each other.

Lily Fever might have a very simple plot, but the two leads, as well as the narrative of the story, are compelling enough to actually hook the audience.

Love Alarm

Available to stream on Netflix.

Love Alarm was a Netflix K-drama that helped elevate the genre into stardom overseas. It was a unique take on a teen love story combined with the addiction to a social media app. But there was one aspect of the show that fans didn’t expect to see, and what set the show apart was its inclusion of a discussion around LGTBQ+ issues.

The story revolves around an app that lets people know whether someone in your radius is in love with you. Hye-Young (Jung Ga-ram) gets an alert and discovers it’s another male student and he pushes him into the bathroom to confront him. Hye-Young would also go on to stop another student from being bullied because his app alert rang when he walked by a group of male students.

At Eighteen

Available to stream on Viki.

This K-drama is a coming-of-age show around a young male student who decides to be a loner after transferring schools, but he and his classmates’ lives experience turmoil and a whirlwind of emotions. Some of this drama surrounds a supporting character, Oh-Je (Moon Bin).

Oh-Je is athletic, built, and handsome, and another girl’s crush, and in episode 13, it’s revealed that he’s gay. In the scene, Da-Heen (Kim Bo-Yun) is in the infirmary and he tries to set things straight. He tells her he likes someone, but that it’s not a girl. It gets emotional as he has never felt these emotions and can’t change how he feels. It’s then revealed that another student was listening in on them.

Romance Is A Bonus Book

Available to stream on Netflix.

The LGTBQ+ representation in this K-drama is minimal but still worth talking about. The drama became popular for its dream-worthy romance and there’s one scene that captured the audience’s attention. It occurs early on in episode two when the male lead admits that the female salesperson was the one his girlfriend cheated on him with.

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However, the issue is handled sensitively in the series. He also doesn’t mind what happened and he even says he had no chance, referring to the saleswoman’s looks. His ex soon meets her new partner at the salon and Dan-I (Lee Na-young) smiles at the fact that Eun-Ho (Lee Jong-suk) accepts the new relationship.

Hello Dracula

Hello Dracula was only a short drama with two episodes, but it left a lasting impact as its revolved around three women. It stars Seohyun, a former K-pop Idol turned actress as An-Na. But what captured audiences’ attention was that the lead character was a lesbian having just broken up with her girlfriend of eight years.

An-Na, along with the other two female characters, go about their life and experience its many troubles. An-Na tries to get over her lost love while trying to reconnect with her mother, who she often hid her emotions from since coming out to her. Fans of the show begged for a longer series and called it a game-changer.

Life Is Beautiful

The 2010 K-drama had a subplot revolving around a gay relationship. The main focus is on a multi-generation family on Jeju Island and their everyday lives and conflicts. One story involves the family’s oldest son, who gets involved in a romantic relationship with a divorced male professor.

The professor, Kyun-Soo’s (Lee Sang-Woo) sexuality isn’t accepted by his family, and there’s even a point where his mother tries to force him to change and return to his ex-wife. There are some intense and emotional moments because of this, but fans rallied behind the couple and their love.

Reply 1997

Available to stream on Viki.

Reply 1997, along with its prequel, Reply 1988, became a K-drama staple. But the sequel had something the first didn’t – a small subplot involving LGBTQ+ representation. One of the main characters, Joon-Hee (Hoya) is best friends with Shi-Won (Jung Eun-Ji). Joon-hee soon confides in her his biggest secret.

He’s gay and is in love with Yoon-Jae (Seo In-Guko), Shi-Won’s childhood best friend. There are many scenes that fans of the drama remember, but after the show’s end, the actor who played Joon-Hee was met with discrimination and speculation about his real-life sexual orientation. On the 4-Things Show, he explained that many people questioned his sexuality just because he played a gay character on screen.

Love With Flaws

Available to stream on Viki.

Some K-dramas are all about love, romance, and cute couples. Love With Flaws had a subplot LGBTQ+ relationship that fans couldn’t stop talking about. The budding relationship between Won-Suk (Cha In-Ha) and Ho-Dol (Jang Yoo-Sang) stole the spotlight many times.

Ho-Dol is coming to terms with his sexuality and soon meets bartender, Won-suk, at a gay bar. Their relationship soon blossoms as Won-Suk helps Ho-Dol accept who he is. When Ho-Dol is bullied at school, Won-Suk swoops in to sit next to him, puts his arm around him, and effectively quiets the judgy students.

Itaewon Class

Available to stream on Netflix.

The Netflix K-drama quickly became one of 2020’s hit shows in the genre. Besides the riveting storyline, fans were happy to see an LGBTQ+ character. Many important characters help Sae-Ro-Yi (Park Seo-Joon) build his dream of opening a bar restaurant and defeating his archnemesis, one of them being Hyeon-Yi (Lee Joon-Young).

She met Sae-Ro-Yi in a factory where they worked. In the show, it’s revealed that Hyeon-Yi is a transgender woman who has been saving money for her sex reassignment surgery. Along the way, she becomes more comfortable with her gender identity and her character was loved by fans. Because of its story and compelling characters, Itaewon Class is a great K-drama to watch for newbies in the genre.

Mr. Heart

Available to stream on Viki.

Mr. Heart was a short K-drama in 2020 that was a follow-up project to Where Your Eyes Linger. The drama turned heads as it marked the beginning of a new K-drama genre called “BL drama,” short for “Boy Love,” a Japanese term normally used for manga series in which the two main characters are both males. The genre has some controversial aspects to it, but it is well-loved by overseas fans for its LGBTQ+ representation.

The K-drama tells the story of two track athletes, both wanting to achieve success when one is partnered with the other and there are some ill feelings. The more they get to know each other, they soon realize their feelings have taken a turn. Can they give in to their new feelings without risking everything?

Where Your Eyes Linger

Available to stream on Viki.

Where Your Eyes Linger stirred the pot for being a BL drama. Fans and audiences were overjoyed to see a worthwhile show that featured romance and drama and centered around two male characters. The series has everything a k-drama fan is looking for, including intense chemistry, riveting romance, and swoon-worthy kisses.

Kang-Gook (Jang Eui-Soo) and Han Tae-Joo (Han Gi-Chan) have been best friends for 15 years, but Kang-Gook knows his real feelings for Tae-Joo, and he longs to tell the truth but he can’t. Tae-Joo is the opposite, having had many girlfriends, but there’s an unrequited sexual tension between them and the arrival of a female student might push both of them off the edge.

 

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