Last year, I wrote about “My ID Is Gangnam Beauty” and its message on beauty. Now, months later, it’s still a drama with elements and characters I love. One of the things that sticks with me is the female roles. I loved so many of the characters, from the blunt and awkward Yoon Byul and the caring Eun (Played by Bae Da-bin and Park Yoo-na, respectively). Still, one character won my heart and that’s Park Joo-mi as Na Hye-sung.
When we first see her, Hye-sung gets the typical “Mysterious Figure Walking in the Airport” introduction. We don’t know her name or background, only that it’s been an incredibly long time since she’s been back in South Korea. Now, after years of watching K-dramas, I was immediately skeptical. Yes, our good guys have those moments, but this is usually how we meet the drama’s bad guy/antagonists. Also, she’s older and rich, another K-drama red flag. This isn’t my first rodeo, and my new babies must be protected!
But before we talk about her personality, we need to talk about clothes.
Shallow, I know. But clothing choices can give nice insight into a character. For example, Im Soo-hyang‘s Mi-rae was mocked for years because of her look,s so she leaned into what she could control. Her outfits are modern, with an interesting mash of causal and formal. She dresses like she finally has the chance to wear what the fabulous people wear.
Hye-sung, on the other hand, subtly plays with gender roles. We usually see her in flowy trousers and plain dress shirts. She’s never flashy, but she always has this simple glamour about her. Her clothes are fitted without being tight or uncomfortable. She’s rarely in dresses or bright colors. Her clothes tell us she hates being confined in rigid positions. A fact we realize as we learn about her relationship with her ex-husband.
She actually reminds me of Katherine Hepburn, a style icon who I adore. A subtle but powerful way of playing with femininity. So let’s talk about her as a character.
Hye-sung — A Fully Realized Icon
With every episode, we get glimpses into her life’s story. Not only does she represent who Mi-rae wants to be (an effortless beauty and successful CEO). But she saved Mi-rae’s life years beforehand. From then on, we realize how amazing Hye-sung is and that she’s a beacon of life and hope for Mi-rae.
The easiest way I can explain Hye-sung is that she has Big Auntie Energy. She reminds me of the numerous mature women who inspire me. She has the easy confidence that often comes with years of discovering who she is. A woman who has fought to be herself and is unafraid of another battle. Even how she walks, often strolling with her hands in her pockets, gets me all swoony. She reminds me that there are different ways to be brave and strong.
I also love how Hye-sung is able to exist in her own right. Usually, older women in movies and shows don’t get the chance to be their own characters. Often, they’re a secondary character who only adds conflict. gives comic relief or both. Not with Hye-sung. She’s not the flighty, emotional CEO who’s only a figurehead. She’s also not the crazed workaholic who everyone fears.
She’s not there to do the emotional heavy lifting for our leads, and she’s not this perfect, blameless woman. Hye-sung has her faults, and never once does she run away from them. When faced with the two children she left behind, she never tries to shift the blame. (Even though her ex-husband is actual scum and we hate him.)
Na Hye-sung is as three-dimensional a character as our leads. I’m thankful for it. I hope to see more roles like her in the future.