Throwback Series: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
As a self-proclaimed K-Drama connoisseur, I watch plenty of shows, both good and bad. And despite having a massive amount of dramas to choose from on a regular basis, there are a select few that I find myself going back to rewatch time and time again. Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo is one of these dramas, and it remains one of my favorites as time passes by. And while it didn’t receive the greatest ratings during its television run, it has many great things to offer regardless.
The Unconventional Female Protagonist
Our heroine Kim Bokjoo (Lee Sungkyung) is a professional weightlifter raised by a single father who runs a local fried chicken place with her uncle. Unlike a lot of female protagonists that we see in K-Dramas, Bokjoo is not the typical fragile girl looking for a man. She’s a strong character who doesn’t exhibit many feminine qualities, though she struggles with that throughout the story upon getting a crush.
Still, Bokjoo as a character proves important for many women in that she is not made specifically for romance. The story is inspired by the life of Olympic medalist Jang Miran, and Bokjoo is similarly a woman who stays true to herself even when falling in love. Her romance with Jung Joonhyung (Nam Joohyuk) is delicately nurtured and easily relatable. It’s the type of love story many prefer over the idea of being swept off your feet by a beautiful prince.
The Realistic Romance
The romance between Bokjoo and Joonhyung follows the friends-to-lovers trope, and it’s perfectly wonderful (not that we’re biased or anything). The two recognize each other as elementary school classmates after a chance encounter, and Joonhyung soon affectionately refers to Bokjoo as “뚱,” which could easily be taken as an insult, though it’s portrayed in such a unique way by the peppy boy that it’s actually incredibly endearing. While Bokjoo finds Joonhyung’s playfulness annoying at first, she quickly develops a close friendship with her personality counterpart, who often follows her around. Joonhyung becomes an important person for Bokjoo to lean on during trying times, and he even goes so far as to help her with her crush. While there are hints of a romance developing early on, the main focus of the relationship between the two is on the foundation of their strong friendship. How lovely and romantic!
Joonhyung begins to develop feelings for Bokjoo before she returns them, and Nam Joohyuk does an unbelievable job of silently portraying this fact. The way he gazes at her when she’s not aware of it is still one of the most endearing, memorable things about the drama, and many women’s hearts were captured by Joohyuk in his (absolutely genuine) adoration for Bokjoo (and Lee Sungkyung). In addition, each of the characters gives the other room to sort out their own trauma in a way that nurtures personal growth, and thus their growing relationship as well. It’s hard to find a healthier, more romantic line than this one!
The Soft Male Protagonist
We often see the male lead portrayed as either emotionless, tsundere (which we love, don’t get us wrong), or the dangerous bad boy. Even if the male lead doesn’t fit into one of these categories, he is rarely the more openly emotional of the two in the relationship. In Jung Joonhyung we see a very emotionally open, affectionate boy who often addresses his own feelings head on. This is highlighted when he decides to receive counseling to confront a personal trauma instead of avoiding it or simply looking for a solution in someone else.
Although he struggles internally as well, Joonhyung exhibits great capacity for empathy and a genuine desire to help others out, which is evident in his habit of allowing his ex-girlfriend to lean on him more than she should. His personality continues to show through when he gets flack for being attracted to Bokjoo, who is larger and stronger than him.
The Coming of Age Storyline
A really great final point about Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo revolves around the drama’s goal of tackling the struggles of youth and their coming of age. Both Bokjoo and Joonhyung are faced with trials concerning the uncertainty of their future and the bouts of depression that many college students often face as they grow. These struggles are realistically portrayed in that they are not solved simply by the love of another; rather, the drama emphasizes that they need to be overcome by the person themselves in order for one to move on. Classic love stories have a bad habit of producing storylines that revolve around one person “saving” another, but what we see here is the antithesis of that.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo is a drama that we always find ourselves going back to amidst continual waves of good shows. If you passed up on this one while it was airing, it’s time to go back and experience all the wonderful things it has to offer!