Are you looking for some motivation to work? While some Korean dramas offer an escape from reality by telling stories of how a rich, handsome man comes and sweeps the girl of her feet, others give viewers a glimpse of reality in which the female leads work hard on their own. These damsels in distress do not need any rescuing because they pick themselves up no matter what.

If you are looking for Monday motivation, here are ten hardworking female leads from K-dramas to inspire you in a day’s work:

1.She Was Pretty (2015)

Kim Hye-jin (Hwang Jung-eum) is an intern in the administration section before being transferred to be a junior writer at a fashion magazine.

Here is the problem, Hye-jin knows nothing about fashion or writing. Nonetheless, she starts from the bottom and is willing to learn to do her job properly.

She slowly learns the ropes of fashion writing with the help of her colleagues.

Hye-jin grew up rich but after her family’s publishing company went bankrupt, her family lost their fortune.

Hence, she works hard to help her family’s financial situation. After saving a lot of money for her family, Hye-jin then focuses to achieve her own dream as a children’s book author.

This hardworking female lead shows that it is okay to postpone your dream for the sake of your family.

Realistically, most people are like Hye-jin who has to put food on their table first before they can even think about their own ambition.

But once you’ve reached your financial goal or are financially secured, it’s never too late to pursue your own dreams.

Watch the trailer here.

2.Fight My Way (2017)

Due to its realistic storyline and great performance, this drama was popular when it first aired.

The hardworking female lead in this drama is Choi Ae-ra (Kim Ji-won), a department store employee who dreams of becoming an announcer.

Together with her friends Ko Dong-man (Park Seo-jeon), Kim Joo-man (Ahn Jae-hong) and Baek Seol-hee (Song Ha-yoon), the gang faces the ups and downs of quarter-life crisis.

Fight for My Way is far from your usual glamorous K-drama as it is relatable and has true-to-life background stories.

The most relatable quote in the drama is when Ae-ra vents out her frustration in episode eight: “Even though we woke up earlier than others, even though we went to bed later than others, we never had time. We lived harder than anyone, but our resumes that doesn’t show anything pretends to reflect who I am. I’m angry, I’m frustrated.”

This line could not get any more relatable than this for those who are struggling to find a place in the society.

Overall, the plot highlights the competitive working environment among young adults today and the high unemployment rate in South Korea.

Watch the trailer here.

3.Doctors (2016)

Is there any hope for a delinquent to become a successful doctor? Apparently in this Korean medical drama, there is hope after all.

The hardworking female lead of Doctors (2016) Yoo Hye-jung (Park Shin-hye) works her way up to become a neurosurgeon.

She might have a juvenile record but it doesn’t stop Hye-jung to turn her life around.

Sometimes, you only need that one person to believe in you.

For Hye-jung, the people who trust her are her teacher Hong Ji-hong (Kim Rae-won) and her grandmother.

Watch the trailer here.

4.Search: WWW (2019)

Search: WWW (2019) features not one but three hardworking female characters.

It is a story of three women in their late 30s, Bae Ta-mi, Cha Hyeon and Song Ga-kyeong who work in top two competitive web portal companies.

The drama is considered a breath of fresh air as it highlights professional women striving for success as the main plot.

Meanwhile, the male characters in Search: WWW are the subplots of the story just like most female characters in other dramas.

These hardworking female characters are unapologetic when it comes to their careers as well as their love lives.

Watch the trailer here.

5.Be Melodramatic (2019)

This romantic comedy tells the story of three best friends Lim Jin-joo, Lee Eun-jung and Hwang Han-joo.

They are all in their 30s, each having her own struggles in love and career.

Lim Jin-joo (Chun Woo-hee) is a drama screenwriter who just got out from a long term relationship. She has unique personality who sometimes talks to a luxurious purse.

Meanwhile, Lee Eun-jung (Jeon Yeo-been) is a documentary director who runs her own one-woman company. After the death of her boyfriend, she suffers from PTSD and often imagines and talks with him.

The last member of the trio is Hwang Han-joo (Han Ji-eun) who works as the head of a marketing team for a drama production company. At home, she is a single mother who struggles to balance her work while raising a kid.

All three hardworking female characters having real-life struggles is something that some of us could relate to.

Watch the trailer here.

6.What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim (2018)

If you have been working hard for nine years under a difficult boss and you finally paid off your family’s debt, you have definitely earned a break.

For Kim Mi-so (Park Min-young), she does not even bat an eye when she turns in her resignation letter after all that hard work.

Her life as a secretary for the past nine years has revolved around her work and her boss. She even carries around a men’s handkerchief and lighter in her handbag just in case her boss needs it.

When Mi-so’s boss Lee Young-joon (Park Seo-joon) asks the reason for her resignation her answer might resonate with some viewers.

“I need to go find my life now. A life as not as someone’s secretary nor as a breadwinner, but life just as myself.”

Watch the trailer here.

7.Second 20s (2015)

Ha No-ra (Choi Ji-woo)’s dream to become a dancer was interrupted when she unexpectedly became pregnant at 19.

She then had to quit school and get married. For the next 20 years, No-ra spent her life being a housewife and mother.

At the age of 38, she finds herself on the brink of divorce. To make matter worse, No-ra is diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a six-month prognosis.

No-ra decides to go back to college again to the horror of her own son Kim Min-soo and his girlfriend Oh Hye-mi who becomes her new classmate.

Unbeknownst to No-ra, her estranged husband accepts a new job at the same university.

Well, do not wait until being diagnosed with cancer for you to achieve your dream like No-ra.

As cliched as it might sound, time and tide wait for no man.

8.Strongest Deliveryman (2017)

Have you heard of the term “Hell Joseon, Hell Chosun or Hell Korea?” It is a satirical South Korean term used to criticise the socioeconomic situation in the country.

The phrase is often used when complaining about unemployment among youths and the inability to escape from poverty despite being overworked.

In Strongest Deliveryman (2017), the hardworking female lead Lee Dan-ah (Chae Soo-bin) is doing everything she could to make money and escape from ‘Hell Joseon’.

She has no time for romance so she turns down all advances from men while working as a delivery woman.

However, Dan-ah did find love in the story in veteran deliveryman Choi Kang-soo (Go Kyung-pyo).

Equally hardworking as Dan-ah, Kang-soo eventually works his way up to become the CEO of his own delivery app company.

Watch the trailer here.

9.Start-Up (2020)

Speaking of opening up a company, here is a story of a woman who dreams to become a prolific entrepreneur.

Seo Dal-mi (Bae Suzy) is bright and ambitious ans wants to be Korea’s Steve Jobs. In order to do that, she takes a wide range of part-time jobs.

The drama sets in South Korea’s fictional Silicon Valley called Sandbox. It follows the story of Dal-mi and other aspiring entrepreneurs as they struggle to take their business off the ground.

Watch the trailer here.

10.Romance is a Bonus Book (2019)

One of the most hardworking female leads in K-dramaland is none other than Kang Dan-i (Lee Na-young).

After her husband cheats on her, she is left to take care of her daughter.

Not an easy task since Dan-i quit her job before her marriage and now no one wants to hire her.

She then gets a job at a publishing company as a temporary task support team member.

Despite the scepticism Dan-i faced from her superiors and colleagues being a former ‘housewife’, she proves them wrong by performing well in her job.

Watch the trailer here.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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