The Problem With Sun-mi

Can We Love? is a Korean drama circling around the lives of three best friends from college that are now 39 years old.

Sun-mi is a never been married successful, driven, businessperson, the owner of a high-end interior design company.  She is sexually active, arrogant, and aggressive.  She has a young male employee, Choi Young-suk,  that had a crush on her and makes himself available to her, he cleans her house, buys her food, all of his own volition, even though she tells him not to.  She however, accepts his efforts quite often, takes him for granted, and scratches that itch with him on occasion.   Her female employees make comments about her being demanding and crazy and oversexed because she’s not married, implying because she’s not having married sex and making babies thus her hormones are malfunctioning.

She has a relationship with a man that she thinks is going forward, and then finds out he  has only been using her to get her business services (she redecorates his house for him free of charge).  Sun-mi begins to feel societal pressure to marry, and perhaps is starting to feel her biological clock ticking and has decided despite this last fiasco, it’s time to actively find a suitable man and settle down.

Enter Oh Kyung-soo a famous movie director/producer.   He is sociable and successful and Sun-mi thinks okay, this guy is suitable.  Sun-mi develops a crush on Kyung-soo, but he in turn has developed feelings for her best friend Jung-wan.  Before she knew this, Sun-mi pursued KS, showing up at his house uninvited, tried to manipulate situations to be with him, etc.   Now, KS and JW both have told her that JW has not accepted KS’s feelings yet.    Sun-mi has outright told JW she is interested in KS, and well, JW has said she is not sure about KS.   Sun-mi does not know that Jung-wan really does have an attraction to Kyung-soo.

The character is taking a lot of heat in commentary-she is called a slut, a whore, desperate, and worse.

Why are viewers so upset with an assertive character? What is the problem with Sun-mi?

The problem is that she is not a man.

If she were a male character, she would be squeed over by second lead syndromers.

If Sun-mi were a male character:

-The sexual drive would be forgiven, i.e.,   Sun-mi would just be a “player” in need of the right person.  And oh, isn’t it sad that Kyung-soo likes someone else?  Poor Sun-mi.

-Being a demanding boss is okay when it’s a guy, right?  Because he will eventually recognize someone’s potential because in the end he will see what’s good for business, right?

-It would okay to try to spend time with the crush, because it’s cute when a hot guy is a stalker and tries to manipulate meetings and situations with a girl, oh that’s just adorable.  And if they watch them sleep or even kiss them when they are sleeping or drunk, hey, squeeable moment, because hey, hot guys really mean well don’t they?

-The puppy, Choi Young-suk, would be a woman pining over her boss, and viewers would be calling Young-suk the desperate one, and telling Young-suk to get over it because sorry, but you are just not wanted by Sun-mi.    Young-suk would have just been a convenience or a mistake, and well, all men have their mistakes, right? Stop being clingy and go away, Young-suk!

-It would have been okay to tell Jung-wan straight up, yeah, I like Kyung-soo, because it’s okay for men to say yeah, I’m going for my crush to their supposed rival, and saying to the crush hey I like you but I know you don’t like me but let’s be friends, but I hope you will like me for something more one day.   What did Chilbongie say in Reply 1994?  It’s not over til it’s over?  Despite the fact that Na-jeong showed not one iota of interest in him during the entire drama run?

But because Sun-mi is a woman:

-She is a whore for seeking out sex.  She is desperate because she sees a man she wants and pursues him.

– Being a driven, strict employer is unnatural, and she is just crazy.

-She is desperate and ridiculous because she manipulates situations to try to meet up with her crush. And is slutty and creepy because she is all about a sleeping drunk Kyung-soo.

-She is horrible and mean and a slut because she takes advantage of someone that makes himself available to her whims.

-She’s a total bitch for going after her best friends man…whom her best friend keeps saying, yeah, I don’t have time for a man and it’s not going to work.   She is desperate and clingy because Kyung-soo says hey, I am not into you, and she say’s okay let’s be friends, hoping it will lead to more.

Why are commenters on blogs and on Viki demonizing the same character traits in this female character that are accepted in a male character?

Most k drama viewers are women.  This is a fabulous example of gender role subversion by a writer (kudos for doing this) and female viewers buying into society defined gender roles and perpetuating inequality between the sexes.  Women really are their own worst enemies sometimes. It is rather disappointing.  Do you think we could get Pink to write a song?  When are women going to STOP doing this to themselves?

Meanwhile, we don’t know where Sun-mi is going to go.   Will she in fact earn some of the hate she’s garnering?  Will the writer succumb to gender defined stereotypes and cast her as the betraying best friend that wants to “steal” your man?  What will happen when Jung-wan faces her feelings?  Will Sun-mi still feel Kyung-soo is an option or will she back down gracefully or will her competitive streak get the better of her?    Will Sun-mi really take a look at her life and see what kind of person fits her life, and realize that a “suitable” man is not the only criteria?   Will she realize that the beta male helpmate puppy might actually fit her alpha female ambitious careerwoman life and her needs, and not buy into any further to what society says she should need?


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Caitlyn Burton
    Jan 31, 2014 @ 03:32:22

    I was annoyed at Sun Mi for how she was acting before episode 8, but mostly because she didn’t actually like Director Oh for himself, she liked him for what he represented. She saw him as someone who can give her a secure future and she latched onto that, and I don’t like that aspect of it. But then in episode 8, she basically told Jung Wan to back off because Sun Mi liked him first. Really, Sun Mi? Is that how it works? Maybe in high school but not when you’re all mature adults. Oh showed no interest in her, and had told her point blank that he liked someone else, but she still told her BEST FRIEND that she slept with him (which she didn’t actually do, even if she keeps telling people that) and that she liked him and that she was going after him. I don’t mind her telling Jung Wan that she’s going after him too, as long as she’s upfront about it, but she was also talking about Jung Wan to Oh as if she was trying to help him understand her but she was actually trying to make a subtle dig at JW instead.

    Totally get you on Puppy. If he was a woman, it would be a completely different reaction. She wouldn’t be Puppy, she’d be “that pathetic clingy girl”. But because he’s an adorable young man, he’s just Puppy and we all feel sorry for him. I keep forgetting his name because I just always think of him as Puppy, lol


    • randomsoju
      Jan 31, 2014 @ 14:29:17

      I understand why you see it as unattractive behavior, but we will have to agree to disagree on this one lol. On first glance, we are like eww, she’s not being cool, but is it because of our ethics are because she is a woman? I’d personally argue it’s both, actually, because I’d not behave that way, but also that we as a society are more critical of women. But for the subject of the post, gender roles in k drama, this behavior would be forgiven in a male character and that is where I was going with the discussion. I was moving beyond whether it’s “nice” or ethical and looking at specifically in context of gender role and how we are more inclined to criticize behaviors based on sex of the perpetrator. I think regarding best friend rules no matter what age, the whomever sees him first, that IS how it works, lol. Unfortunately Sun-mi doesn’t understand that JW and KS were goners for each other from the start and she in fact did not like him first, because Jung-wan is in denial and not telling. Sun-mi still thinks she has a chance. Which in context of this post, aligns her in place with the typical male 2nd lead that never gives up until the end of the drama. In context of this post, how many times do female leads indicate or even point blank tell 2nd leads-not interested-but the 2nd male leads still cling to hope? And in regards for her manipulations of JW and KS, no it’s not attractive, but in context of the post subject, male leads, both first and second, have pissing contests and try to manipulate the female lead and each other, albeit they rarely say they slept with the female lead because of the social stigma, the female lead is supposed to be a “good” girl. The writer can get away with this with Sun-mi because she is female and Kyung-soo is male. IF the social stigma was not there you bet your bippy male characters would be dropping that bomb trying to manipulate.

      This kind of stuff always makes me think of a situation at my previous workplace where a top level manager was complaining that a female employee “drank like a man,” that she went out and partied with male peers that sat right beside her in the next day meetings, but she alone was criticized for partying too much. I pointed out that the male employees were at the same bars/get togethers. The manager said the female employee had no business staying out partying all night and rolling into the office afterwards. I again pointed out her male peers were at the same events and also rolled into the office after partying all night. (Let me put this in context that these people were remote employees in town for conferences and local employees and the remotes would get together after work during these conferences, this was not people partying all night every night). The manager just kept saying this “girl” should not being doing this. My peer pointed out the female employee was doing the exact same thing as the male employees. The manager still just kept saying the “girl” should not be coming to work after partying all night, ignoring the fact that a dozen men were doing it. To make matters even worse, the complaining manager was a woman.

      With k drama, its the same thing. We can’t squee over or excuse male characters and in the next breath vilify female characters for the same behaviors. But we do. And that is mest, and we are doing nothing but perpetuating attitudes that keep women in the second class citizen role because we are held to different standards than men.

      I’ll get off the soap box now!


  2. westerngirleasternboy
    Feb 01, 2014 @ 14:13:19

    “This is a fabulous example of gender role subversion by a writer (kudos for doing this) and female viewers buying into society defined gender roles and perpetuating inequality between the sexes. Women really are their own worst enemies sometimes. It is rather disappointing.”

    LOVE this. I guess I have another drama I need to watch!


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