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Why Yoon Ji-woo from "My Name" Is the Monster You'll Root for Until the End

Han So Hee's character breaks the mold of the typical K-drama leading lady.
Why Yoon Ji-woo from "My Name" Is the Monster You'll Root for Until the End
IMAGE Min Jeehee/Netflix
Han So Hee's character breaks the mold of the typical K-drama leading lady.

If the phrase “hell hath no fury than a woman scorned” took the form of a K-drama, it would be Kim Jin Min’s My Name. The latest series under the genre to hit Netflix, it stars NeverthelessHan So Hee in an almost unrecognizable role as skilled revenge-seeker Yoon Ji-woo. She swapped out her sneakers and bangs for bomber jackets and a bob, and that’s only the first layer of transformations she went through for the role.

PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix
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Before you keep reading, I’m going to let you in on a secret: I haven’t seen Han So Hee in Nevertheless, nor have I finished watching any other K-drama. Saying that almost feels like admitting to a crime in today’s K-obsessed world. Action thrillers aren’t necessarily my favorite genres either, but something about this show made me automatically hit the “Next” button at the end of every episode. Despite all the gruesome depictions, there was an allure to the series that I could only attribute to the fact that it had a female lead, which to my knowledge, is a novelty in K-Dramas. 

Having a woman take center stage in a TV show or film, for lack of a better term, hits different. Especially when they're placed in traditionally male-dominated action or adventure narratives, having a femme fatale be the principal role adds certain dimensions that beg to be noticed more in mainstream media. We've seen it happen in The Hunger Games, and even in local fanfare like Encantadia. Seeing a woman succeed and become a hero makes a story all the more uplifting, given how females have historically been perceived as incapable damsels in distress. 

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PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix

But the thing is, I don't think Han So Hee as Yoon Ji-woo/Oh Hye-jin was a hero—and that's exactly what made her story even more captivating. As a K-Drama newbie, and as a guy who's also tired of seeing women on the shorter end of the socio-cultural stick, here's what I picked up from the mighty Yoon ji-woo. Fair warning: heavy spoilers ahead.

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How Yoon Ji-woo from My Name exhibited the lethal power of women

We initially meet Yoon Ji-woo in a seemingly typical way: Just a teenage girl in her room, with moody LED lights and synth-laden background music. That opening scene was the first and last time we get to see her be a "usual" girl. From then on, she's forced to embody her rage after having her father be killed just inches away from her. Hellbent on finding who murdered her only family, she joins crime ring Dongcheon, led by her dad's closest friend Choi Mu-jin (Hee Soon Park).

Under his six-year tutelage, she hones her assasination skills in preparation for her ultimate revenge plan. She goes undercover at the Inchang Metropolitan Police Agency's Narcotics' Unit as Oh Hye-jin, being paired with Jeon Pil-do (Ahn Bo Hyun.) No matter what stage of her life she was in, or what identity she took on, Ji-woo/Hye-jin was always a pariah.

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Perhaps what distingushed her from all of her circles was the fact that she was a she. At her all-girls school, she was known as the daughter of a mobster, who stunned everyone with her capability to fight. At Dongcheon, she was the underestimated rookie who was quite literally pushed around until she showed everyone how persistently strong she was. 

Yoon Ji-woo leaving her all-girls school
PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix
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In the boys' clubs she infiltrated, Ji-woo made sure that her superiors and colleagues looked at her as anything but a feeble lady. She was on a mission after all. She needed to be taken as seriously as possible since the very reason she was even in those circles was because she was out to kill.

Mu-jin doubted her at first, and Pil-do, as much as they get romantically involved, saw the need to cradle her at times. One of her nemesis, Do Gang-jae (Chang Ryul,) even went as far as attempting to sexually assault her since he felt ashamed about getting beaten by her in a fight. Ji-woo faced the reality that as a woman in a man's world, she had to prove herself on levels her male peers didn't have to. 

Ji-woo and Gang-jae in a brawl
PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix
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The ways Ji-woo's womanhood was exhibited throughout the drama were subtle yet impactful. On her literal climb to face the actual killer of her father (I won't spoil who it is, don't worry), she tore through dozens of men whose fighting skills stood no chance against hers. Even during instances when she did need help, it was her fellow women that got her through; she wouldn't have escaped from captivity if not for a nurse lending her her car, or a lawyer finding her a way out.

PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix
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What I found so peculiar is that throughout this rendezvous of avenging her dad, there was never mention of a mother figure. Even in flashback or dream sequences, we never catch a glimpse of a woman taking care of her alongside her late dad. One could assume that this absence is meant to exacerbate how much Ji-woo needed to learn what it's like to be a woman, and how much she had to find out about it on her own.

With no other female figure to look up to, the assailant had walls built up around her femininity, which is possibly because she had to; or more likely, because she didn't know how to let it out. Ji-woo essentially crafted her own version of womanhood, one that deflects whatever men expected from her as woman.

Yoon Ji-woo with her father in a dream sequence
PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix
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Even with the thousands of jabs she dealt and endured herself, Ji-woo still upheld her womanhood in a way only she could. In one of her conversations with Mu-jin, he made mention that, "[she] never learned how to say [she's] in pain." "Maybe no one taught you... the whole purpose of living is to search for a person like that, a person you can tell that you're in pain and that life's too hard," he continues.

By the end of the series, we've come to acknowledge that the one person Ji-woo did regard as solace when she was in pain was her father. It's in this regard that we can see how Ji-woo's manhunt was rooted in something far less hedonistic than just wanting revenge. At the end of the day, Ji-woo was a daddy's girl, who kept a promise that she will find a way to serve him justice, come hell or high water. She hid so much about herself but she never took her heart off of her sleeve. 

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PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix

When the credits started to roll after the eighth and final episode, I got to thinking, and I realized that the character Han So Hee breathed life into was indeed not a hero—or at least, not a type of hero we're used to seeing. If her courage and and outstanding skills make her one, then sure. Though, I actually think the term undersells her, because the way I see it, Yoon Ji-woo was a monster. A monster whose thunderous roar and lethal dexterity were pulled out of her by other monsters. A monster who was born with a dagger in one hand, and a bleeding heart in the other. A monster who, at the end of it all, retrieved back into her cave, because it was only a fragment of the human—the woman—behind it.

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PHOTO BY Min Jeehee/Netflix

Yoon Ji-woo knew how to hone the monster inside her, and how to let it manifest in the subjectively "right" ways. If My Name made anything evident, it's that there's a skill to harnessing the monster within, and it seems like something women are more proficient at than men. I'd like to tell Yoon Ji-woo that finally, she can let the monster rest. She can just be human nowand if ever she needs to let the monster out again, whoever is in her way better prepare for their inevitable demise.

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Having said all of that, it’s always better to see things for yourself. My Name is available for streaming on Netflix. Enjoy.

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