When we think of k-drama parents we love, it's usually the self-sacrificing eommas who first come to mind. But once in a while, a drama will introduce us to a father character who tugs at our heartstrings. They may not always be perfect, in fact they're usually flawed, but what they have in common is an unquestionable love for their kids. Cheers to the dads of k-drama and Happy Father's Day to all the appas out there!
Seo Chung-myung in Start-Up (2020)
Seo Chung-myung (Kim Joo-hun) is father to two young daughters in Start-Up (2020). He finds that while he can put food on the table as a regular salaryman, he has to pay the price by giving up personal passion and ambition. Taking a risk on his dreams, he leaves his job and begins his quest to establish a successful start-up. Many on-screen fathers are written to be the source of strength and support for their children, as they should. But few series show that sacrificial love does not always have to be self-effacing. A man can be both a loving father and a driven dreamer, and in doing so, be the wind to push his child toward her dreams, and the sandbox to catch her in case she falls. Through his example, Chung-myung shows that only a life lived to its fullest, is a life well lived.
Hwang Chi-young of SKY Castle (2018-'19)
In a neighborhood when fathers are either absentee breadwinners leaving the child-rearing entirely to their wives, or helicopter drill sergeants looming over their children, Hwang Chi-young (Choi Won-young) stands out as a father who has a loving, supportive relationship with his son in SKY Castle (2018-19). Although a doctor, Hwang Chi-young puts no pressure on his son, Hwang Woo-joo (Kang Chan-hee), to follow in his footsteps. He simply accompanies his son as he traverses the difficult journey of puberty, preparing for university, and just generally being a teenager in a performance-obsessed culture. If the hallmark of good parenting is having a well-adjusted, morally upright, and kind son, then Hwang Chi-young and his wife must be doing a great job. Between the two of them, they manage to make their son feel that he is loved regardless of his grades, and that his purpose is to find meaning in life and in healthy relationships with others.
Hong Dae-young of 18 Again (2020)
Hong Dae-young (Yoon Sang-hyun / Lee Do Hyun) has many regrets in life. Becoming a parent at an early age, he had to focus on providing for his family— even at the cost of his own dream. Now, years later, it seems it was all for nothing. In the process of filing his divorce, estranged from his children, jobless, and with no higher education, all Hong Dae-young can do is regret—until he suddenly turns into a teenager. Faced with a new chance to pursue his basketball dream, he soon realizes that all he wants is to continue being a dad. So what does he do? He goes to the same school as his kids and tries to support them. He gives them food, protects them from bullies, gets them umbrellas, and even gets them to pursue their dreams. While Hong Dae-young’s presence in his children’s lives was fleeting (having to constantly work to provide for them), it’s definitely never too late to re-connect and mend their relationships. Hong Dae-young is a good example that there are no perfect fathers— but there are fathers who are doing their best to love us perfectly.
The Reply 1988 (2015) Dads
One may consider the Reply 1988 dads Sung Dong-il, Kim Sung-kyun, Choi Moo-sung, and Yoo Jae-myung, whose characters are named after themselves, as a staple in any k-drama Father's Day tribute.
Sung Dong-il usually screams at his wife and children, usually goes home drunk, and gets duped in money matters. Despite getting his family into debt, he is a hardworking provider to his family and talks heart-to-heart with his son or daughter when the situation calls for it (with ice cream to boot).
Kim Sung-kyun has been telling corny jokes before they were even called “dad jokes.” Unfortunately, his family does not appreciate this. On one occasion, his family leaves the ice cream he brings home untouched and melting. Feeling ignored like the ice cream, he loses his cheerfulness. He gets back to his lively self only when his son Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun-yeol) is awkwardly and hilariously forced to respond to his usual gag “Aigoo! Kim Sajang!”
Being a widower, Choi Moo-sung has raised his son Taek (Park Bo-gum) mostly by himself. Beneath his calm and “bear”-tough exterior is a deep well of love for his son. However, he is so reserved that he cannot express it in words. To Taek’s surprise, an interview video records his father telling him “I love you.”
Yoo Jae-myung is a school dean but is keenly aware of how much of a troublemaker his son Dong-ryong (Lee Dong-hwi) is. Ever the disciplinarian, he keeps his son in check, especially when he catches him with his friends sneaking into the theater to watch a movie not allowed for their age.
Park Sung-yeol of Itaewon Class (2020)
Of all the ones I've watched, there is no k-drama that is as clear-cut about right and wrong as Itaewon Class. Park Sung-yeol (Son Hyun-joo) is the embodiment of this distinction. He has instilled in his son Park Sae-ro-yi (Park Seo-joon) the importance of standing by and fighting for his principles. Following his father’s teachings, Sae-ro-yi tries to stop a class bully from hurting a classmate. Unfortunately, the bully’s father turns out to be Sung-yeol’s boss, the owner of the chaebol Jangga. While upholding his principles costs his father his livelihood (and more) and engulfs Sae-ro-yi in guilt, Sung-yeol assures his son he has done the right thing and is proud of him.
Lee Ik-jun of Hospital Playlist 1&2 (2020-present)
Despite being one of the busiest and most in-demand surgeons at Yulje Hospital and the lead vocalist and guitarist of the 99ers band, single dad Lee Ik-jun still manages to be an amazing father to his adorable son, Uju. He constantly dotes on his adeul (son), who he insists is a genius, and spends his weekends making him home-cooked, organic meals. He's such a great dad that Uju himself tells him that he doesn't need his mom, as long as he has his appa (dad).
The Once Again Dads (2020)
Song Yon-dal (Cheon Ho-jin) and his wife Jang Ok-boon (Cha Hwa-yeon) worked hard at their fried chicken restaurant to raise and put their children through school. But in their twilight years, they unexpectedly find all four adult children moving back in with them, one by one, as their marriages fall apart. It’s a situation no parent would want, as their family becomes the talk of the town, and the house gets more than a little crowded. And yet, the Yon-dal, the Song family patriarch, in his own gruff way, lovingly looks after his family as they all help each other heal.
Eldest son and stuntman Song Ju-soon (Oh Dae-hwan) is the first to move back into the family home after his wife, who is fed up with his financial irresponsibility, divorces him. Throughout the drama, he works hard to prove to her and his daughters that he’s a changed man who can provide for them. He’s so kind, determined, and sympathetic that you can’t help but root for him to win them over!