The series “Love to Hate You” is a rather quirky and glorified take on the character tropes prevalent in society. The scriptwriters really used the characters as their spokespersons for different tropes and the impact they have on society. They even go further to include the changing opinions of the public brought about as the modern waves of feminism hit the streets of South Korea, changing the tunes of the people for good. It also brings up the societal pressure an actor and those close to him have to face while being held accountable for their every move in today’s world. The main characters, although they have their own flaws, change and relearn their ways to have healthy relationships with each other and themselves as the story progresses. “Love to Hate You” is fun to watch and portrays the prevalent character traits as comedic; however, the deeper we delve, the harsher the message becomes. The article discussed the character traits of the main characters in detail, although the side characters had a lot going on for them as well.
The Character of Yeo Mi-Ran is a carefully constructed one which defies the odds of patriarchy, while standing up for people who find themselves in distressing positions. She stays true to her ideals and is not one to shy away from a confrontation. She is quick to put people in their place, be it a man or a woman, when they act questionably, and she is quick to stick up for the ones she holds dear to herself. She has a really enviable relationship with her best friend, Shin Na-Eun, which would be best termed as “friendship goals.” Throughout “Love to Hate You” Season 1, there were times that the scriptwriters really molded her according to the “not like other girls” trope; however, she really subverted the stereotypes. She is fierce and unapologetic, which is a trait usually missing in k-drama female leads; however, with the recent surge in feminism, the writers have really stumbled over themselves to get strong characters to define themselves.
There are other k-dramas that have similar strong women as their female leads, but the character of Mi-Ran is essentially a little different. She has a more mature approach to her life; she has dated people and treated them just like they treated her. Mi-Ran is by no means a push-over or an innocent lady. She is upfront and clear about her opinions and is quick to admit when she is wrong, which is a very admirable trait. Mi-Ran’s upbringing in a patriarchal household, where her father did not treat her mother right, shaped her character to become as rebellious as she is now. She holds men in contempt and rather dates men who are believed to be “scumbags” to give them a taste of their own medicine. The most admirable feature about her character is that she remains cool-headed and calmly deals with situations that pop up in her day job as a lawyer. Her character battles with the patriarchal mindset of South Korea and the blatant sexism ongoing behind the scenes of the now “woke” and rather “progressive” nation. Her traits really make her all the more relatable, as most women of this generation as well as previous generations who have had their upbringing in an outright patriarchal household, find themselves being rebellious and more attracted to feminism just so that they can break out of the mold that society and their household have created for them. Her character is a much more refreshing take on the modern feminist woman who is independent, charismatic, and knows how to stand up for themselves as well as others.
Her opinion of men being terrible had been proven to be right again and again; even the trope of “not all men” was thrown right out of the window after her male best friend turned out to be a cheater at the beginning of “Love to Hate You” Season 1. Throughout the series, Mi-Ran goes through some serious character development, where she educates herself about and confronts some of her flaws. She no longer defines men by different tropes and rather focuses on humans having their own flaws. The same Mi-Ran who would have earlier scoffed and left a relationship at a minor inconvenience has learned to get over her commitment issues and has also learned to express her emotions better. She is still resolutely anti-marriage due to the questionable customs that usually make women out to be a more submissive gender and undermine them; therefore, she might just set about changing that to suit her needs.
At first, the character of Nam Kang-Ho comes across as a misogynist, chauvinist, and sexist figure who would only refer to ambitious women as “gold diggers.” His introduction in “Love to Hate You” Season 1 was not a favorable one. His background later revealed the reason for his mindset. He was later shown as misunderstood because he was portrayed as some sort of a martyr saving the entertainment industry from prima donnas and spoiled brats all the while hiding under the umbrella of a charismatic and chivalrous actor who was also known as the Romantic King. His character did change a lot after it was revealed that he had a condition similar to gynophobia; he was administered medication to battle the anxiety associated with this. He did not like human interaction but was okay with Wun-Jun, his best friend. “Love to Hate You” Season 1 progressed, he cleared up his act as it was his upbringing and his first girlfriend terming him a stalker that had messed up his entire opinion. His character learned the meaning of respect as he was impressed by Mi-Ran’s abilities. His character took a turn and later developed into the “fixer” trope, which is usually reserved for women. Kang-Ho fell into the “I can fix her” trope as he clung to Mi-Ran and wanted her to settle down with him. Although the series later toned down on this particular trait, it was fun while it lasted.
They pulled no punches when it came to assigning traits to the characters, as Kang-Ho and Wun-Jun’s bromance pushed forward with the “no homo” trait. “Love to Hate You” pushed a narrative that tackled the ongoing changes in society’s understanding of sexuality and described the mixed opinion people of South Korea had about the scandal that the two best friends shared. The scandal broke out due to Kang-Ho’s outwardly affectionate relationship with his best friend. Kang-Ho is also portrayed in the bracket of “not all men” because he continuously pushed the “You’re not like other women” narrative with Mi-Ran. The narrative was unceremoniously chucked out during the ending while the script writers tried to pull a blindfold over the viewers as they cleared up his act to cater to the feminist audience; they then portrayed Kang-Ho as somebody who accepted Mi-Ran as herself. Kang-Ho does apologize for his actions toward the other female actors, as he realizes and learns from his errors and re-evaluates himself after he meets Mi-Ran. He even redeems himself by being willing to give up on his acting career so as to help Mi-Ran in the best way he could against the injustice she was facing for dating him after the public learned of her past with multiple men while he had been holding out for that one girl.
Here, “Love to Hate You” through Kang-Ho and Mi-Ran openly criticized the double standards of society. His decision to suggest they still date really defied the standards, as he put forward that he had made the decision to date her even while knowing her past. He put societal standards on blast as his move divided the public, and opinions started to come out. He stuck with Mi-Ran and helped her express her emotions as well. He had a positive influence on Mi-Ran and also turned out to be a “green flag” himself, as instead of being jealous of his girlfriend tending to her drunk ex-boyfriend turned friend, he went there to help her out. He trusted her and only went to help her when it was clear to him that she needed a little help as she was not getting any cabs.
The best friend Kang-Ho could ever ask for. He has been with Kang-Ho through all of his troubles. He has his own flaws, including his sometimes, narcissistic tendencies. My man’s hairstyle is his entire personality most of the time. He really does have luscious hair. He coaches Kang-Ho on how to seduce Mi-Ran and later gets confronted by Na-Eun and has to think over his actions again. He also could not take it when Na-Eun rejected him and therefore chased after her. He sticks up for Kang-Ho through thick and thin and really empathizes with his situation. His character redeems himself when he does not abandon Mi-Ran while she is being ostracized by the public. He was equally heartbroken and remorseful when he realized that Mi-Ran was in trouble because he had overlooked how the public would react to her past. He had judged Mi-Ran in the beginning only because she had presented herself as a fan rather than addressing her real intentions. He had been looking out for Kang-Ho at that time. To cover up Kang-Ho and his scandal, he decided to publicize Kang-Ho and Mi-Ran’s relationship while offering Mi-Ran compensation out of his own pocket. He was genuinely happy for his friend, who was on his way to recovering from his condition and had tried his best to protect his happiness, going further to help him out in his relationship. He later achieves his own happiness by pursuing Na-Eun and portraying himself as somebody who would even embarrass himself for the people he holds dear. He prioritizes his image in front of people and really cares about the impressions he leaves on them; therefore, he only behaves out of character and goes out of his way for his close ones.
Mi-Ran’s best friend and the ideal girlfriend upholds girl code. She followed her and decided to be her friend after Mi-Ran found out that her boyfriend had been cheating on her with Na-Eun. Mi-Ran was quick to dump him, and instead of blaming Na-Eun, who had been sorry after being found out, Mi-Ran simply asked him to show a little remorse and was on her way. After she had witnessed the situation, Na Eun dumped him as well and was quick to follow Mi-Ran instead. They became best friends over time, and Na-Eun stood up for her every time. She rationalized and even scolded Mi-Ran for some of her impulsive actions while rushing to make sure she didn’t get caught up in any scam as she met up with Wun-Jun. Almost like a sister to Mi-Ran, Na-Eun’s character is designed as the best supportive character to mellow out most of Mi-Ran’s flaws. She really does come across as a sucker for handsome faces, which is why she gets swindled so often. However, that does not stop her from sticking up for her bestie and also prioritizing her when her heart says otherwise.
The character acted admirably by confessing to Wun-Jun, while she knew it wouldn’t bring about any changes to their relationship, however, she wanted to clearly state her feelings so that there would be no room for misunderstandings. She is upfront about her past and also opens up about how she has been swindled by handsome men before. She falls for Wun-Jun as he clearly wins her over as the series progresses with his thoughtful actions that cater to the well-being of both Kang-Ho and Mi-Ran. She is truthful to herself and to Wun-Jun by confessing her feelings for him. She later perseveres and does not get into a relationship with Wun-Jun immediately when Mi-Ran and Kang-Ho go through a public breakup, but she eventually finds her happy ending in “Love to Hate You” with Wun-Jun, which in turn makes us really happy for her.