This show has everything you want in a romantic comedy: a clever female lead, a reformed badboy, a workplace romance, and lots of laughs.
With the apparent resurgence of the romcom this year, people are starting to dig around for good romantic comedies that are both funny and profound. But many of us have been watching the best romantic comedies this whole time on TV — well, Korean TV.
If you haven’t heard of K-dramas or still have doubts about whether you should get into them or not, here’s a handy guide on what to watch and where to watch it, and what you can expect.
But even if you haven’t watched any Korean TV (or if you’re looking for your next obsession), there’s a new show that you shouldn’t miss: What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim.
Here’s why you should be watching this amazing show.
The perfect set-up
It’s tricky to get a good ship right. We want original romances, but we also love cliches. We want the couple to live happily ever after, but we also want love triangles and misunderstandings (or some people do). We want a slow burn but we also want fan service.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim manages to be all of these things. It has the perfect cliché: a self-absorbed businessman who falls in love with his secretary… and a twist: he falls in love nine years after she started working with him, right after she announces her resignation.
By making these characters already familiar with each other in a professional relationship, the show can skip over all the boring parts — but still make the sexual tension nerve-wrecking and the burn slow, as the couple start to get to know each other in a different, more personal capacity. Cue the love triangle and misunderstandings… but since they have nine years of knowing each other, and are relatively mature adults, even these serve to deepen their relationship rather than artificially inflate the stakes.
Better yet, What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim doesn’t ignore the potentially problematic aspects inherent in a boss/secretary relationship. Instead, it uses the situation to show how its characters learn to balance out the power in the relationship, and establish themselves as equals.
An unproblematic badboy (finally!)
The biggest victory of this show is how it manages to get the complicated character of Lee Young-joon, the male lead, right. He’s a trademark badboy in the beginning: a selfish jerk who doesn’t respect anyone. He’s rich and attractive and apparently, a terrible person.
But unlike other narratives which seek to apologize for the leading man’s bad behavior, What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim faces Lee Young-joon’s faults head-on. As he begins to realize what he needs to do to keep Kim Mi-So in his life, his realizations span much further than only his relationship with her: he becomes a kinder, more compassionate person towards everyone. It becomes clear that Lee Young-joon’s bad attitude is more a result of a lack of understanding of the way society operates than bad intentions — which inevitably makes him someone you root for.
While we’re used to seeing rich love interests show domineering, assertive attitudes when it comes to relationships (and we’re expected to find these attitudes sexy!), Lee Young-joon is at his best when he’s being vulnerable and honest to himself and those around him. His character development makes him a more well-rounded person — someone who isn’t intimidated by a woman, because he sees her as his equal, and makes efforts to make her a part of his life.
A capable and witty heroine
In a genre notorious for headstrong-yet-ultimately-submissive heroines, Kim Mi-So’s character development is fascinatingly unique. She’s not the frazzled, awkward female character we’re used to: she’s elegant and incredibly capable when it comes to running a business… and she’s also hilariously witty.
It’s fun to see such a different character take the stage, and Kim Mi-So still manages to be relatable as she explores her identity and discovers what she wants from life. And although she begins to soften towards her irritable boss, she never once sacrifices her dignity — even in a job that seems set up to be demeaning.
Kim Mi-So carries herself with both intellectual and emotional strength that makes her stand out as a unique female lead in thee romance genre.
(The supporting cast is also excellent, with some great dialogue that keeps workplace banter and background romances funny and entertaining. There’s plenty of strong friendships that develop between women, and they’re wonderful to watch.)
The opportunity to finally get into K-dramas
It can be scary to jump into a whole new sub-section of entertainment, but K-dramas are worth it. As the years have past, Korean television has only become more creative and complex, while still keeping its unique style alive and strong.
It would be a lie to say that What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim doesn’t have stereotypically cheesy moments. There are plenty of slow-motion turns and long gazes into each other’s eyes. But take it in stride; it’s worth it. If there’s anything Korean shows know how to do, it’s make you fall in love with the leading couple, and make you root for them through thick and thin — even when that means dealing with an occasional cartoon animation in the humorous scenes.
It’s also an excellent opportunity to learn from a different culture, the values that surround men and women’s interactions, and how romance can unfold even in such seemingly stiff conditions. After all, romance isn’t only a Hollywood thing. K-dramas have been doing it much better than the West for a long time.
What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim is currently being released on Viki.com and other streaming services.