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Saranghae Superhuman: K-drama Heroes and their Superpowers

From strong girls to psychics to supernatural hunters, fantasy k-dramas often feature ordinary people having extraordinary powers. In this article we look into the world of k-drama characters with superhuman powers. 

Heroes are products of well-loved myths in every culture. The superhero, as we know it today, however, is a purely Western construct. The “Golden Age” (1938-1949) of US comics produced humans with superpowers who were the all-around good guys (Hughes, 2006). And the Western superhero was dressed in flashy costumes to set him apart from the real world and his stories extolled Western values such as individualism, democracy, and justice (Hammonds, 2021). It was escapist fare for a world struggling with economic and wartime struggles. 

In contrast, the Korean hero in the late Joseon period literature showed that a hero was anyone who contributed greatly to the state or the nation and valued the interests of the community more than his own (Lee, 2014). Often, he had unusual birth origins and great military ability. Moreover, he was also steeped in Confucian morality, virtuous above all, and sacrificed himself for others. 

Perhaps one way to look k-drama characters with superhuman powers is to see them as reluctant heroes—someone who was gifted with some power or other but who never wanted them in the first place. Stuck in the real world, they try to be as inconspicuous as possible, aware that their superpowers might get them into trouble, labeled as a freak, or exploited. Sometimes, their superpowers only concern their own lives and the lives of those in their immediate circle. Sometimes the life the reluctant heroes save is their own. 

K-dramas have a wonderful way of humanizing their characters and making them feel as though they were just your regular neighbor who happened to be born under different circumstances. Here are some of our recos.


Moving (2023)

Something lies beneath the surface of a nondescript high school where we meet seniors—cheerful and polite Kim Bong-seok (Lee Jeon-ha, Nevertheless), transfer student Jang Hui-soo (Ko Yoon-jung, Alchemy of Souls: Light and Shadow), and class president Lee Gang-hoon (Kim Do-hoon, Today's Webtoon). We discover early on that each has a set of superpowers that they keep hidden from everyone else as they try to live ordinary lives.

As the story unfolds, we find out that they are, in fact, the second generation caught in the complex web of government schemes and secrecy. The first generation consisted of agents who used to work for the Korea National Intelligence Service (NIS). Field agents Kim Doo-sik (Jo In-sung, Escape from Mogadishu) with the power to fly and Jang Ju-won (Ryu Seung-ryong, Miracle No. 7) with the power to heal, cross paths with intelligence agent Lee Mi-hyun (Han Hyo-joo, Happiness). Soon, their quiet lives are about to be disrupted by a mysterious assassin whose kill list includes all former agents with superpowers and an even bigger evil that wants to take out their children as well. Read the full review here.

Strong Girl Do Bong-soon (2017)

Meet k-dramaland’s most adorable superhero: Do Bong-soon (Park Bo-young), a tiny bundle of cuteness who inherited Herculean strength from her mother’s side of the family. She puts this strength to good use as the bodyguard of Ahn Min-hyuk (Park Hyung-sik), the young CEO of a gaming company facing death threats, who hires her after seeing her beat up a group of gangsters. Comedy, romance, and even a bit of mystery ensue. 

Strong Girl Nam-soon (2023)

The sequel to the much-loved Strong Girl Do Bong-soon, the 16-episode action-packed series revolves around Nam-soon (Lee Yoo-mi, Squid Game), a cousin of Do Bong-soon who also has superhuman strength. Upon her return to Korea from a mysterious disappearance in Mongolia, she gets embroiled in a drug case alongside her wealthy mother (Kim Jung-eun, Lovers in Paris) and grandmother (Kim Hae-sook, Inspector Koo). 


Behind Your Touch (2023)

There’s a serial killer on the loose in small town in South Korea. Don’t worry though. Help is on the way with a detective from Seoul who’s been demoted to the already challenged local police force, Jang Yeol, and a veterinarian who’s recently come into some butt-touching psychic powers, Bong Ye-bun. Lee Min-ki and Han Ji-min play the leads in this hilarious comedy mystery. They are joined by Kim Jun-myeon (EXO’s Suho) who is easily crushable material but also potentially mysterious murder suspect. Will these two squabbling neighbors and the rest of the town ever be able to work together to find the culprit? Read the full review here.

Girl Who Sees Scents (2015)

Shin Se-kyung plays Oh Cho-rim, a young woman who gains the extraordinary ability to see smells as colorful, animated shapes and figures, which allows her to detect scents and odors in a highly visual and sensory manner. This ability becomes crucial in solving crimes, particularly murder cases, as she can see and identify scents left behind at crime scenes. She collaborates with a detective named Choi Moo-gak (played by Park Yoo-chun), who has his own unique sensory ability, to solve various cases, including the mystery surrounding her own past.

Kiss Sixth Sense (2022)

Hong Ye-sul (Seo Ji-hye, Crash Landing on You) has a unique special ability: When she kisses someone, she is able to see that person’s future. The story gets more interesting when she accidentally kisses the neck of her annoying boss, Cha Min-hoo (Yoon Kye-sang, Chocolate)—and sees a vision of his future in bed with her! The 10-episode rom-com is based on the popular web novel Kiss Six Sense.

While You Were Sleeping (2017)

Bae Suzy takes the lead as Nam Hong-joo, a young woman who can see the future through her dreams. However, her dreams don't always provide clear or complete information, and she often struggles with the weight of knowing about tragic events before they happen. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she crosses paths with Jung Jae-chan, a prosecutor played by Lee Jong-suk, who can also foresee future events.

I Can Hear Your Voice (2013)

After testifying in court to convict a murderer when she was 15 years old, Jang Hye-sung (Lee Bo-young) went about her life struggling to finish school and ultimately become a lawyer. The more she learned about the law, the more cynical and jaded she became. As an adult, her goal revolves around money and having an easy life—until she's reunited with the child she saved from a murderer. No longer a child, Park Soo-ha (Lee Jong-suk) has dedicated his life to fulfill a promise he made to Jang Hye-sung (even though she doesn't remember him). With his ability to hear the thoughts of people around him, Park Soo-ha helps Jang Hye-sung put criminals behind bars all the while falling deeper in-love with the noona (older female) he swore to protect.

Master’s Sun (2013)

The talented Gong Hyo-jin plays Tae Gong-shi, a perpetually terrified woman, who sees ghosts around her. However, when she’s with chaebol Joo Joong-won (played by the debonair So Ji-sub), the dead people magically disappear. This prompts Gong-shi to hang on to Joong-won for dear life. Both leads adeptly maneuver the heavy themes of death and dying along with the levity of their banter and obvious chemistry as they come to terms with the skeletons in their closet and the ghosts of their past.


The School Nurse Files

Students have been falling ill and behaving weirdly in the school where nurse Ahn Eun-yong (Jung Yu-mi) works. Fortunately, Eun-yong can see the invisible jellies that have been ailing them. While most jiggly critters look cute, blown-up microorganisms, they can also be deadly. Wielding a rainbow lightsaber to fight against them, Eun-yong eventually teams up with Chinese teacher Hong In-pyo (Nam Joo-hyuk). Nam Joo-hyuk may have been made to look ordinary because of his unfashionable look, but his character is special—his protective aura shields him from the monster jellies and he joins the fight despite his physical disability. Going to the nurse’s office takes on a whole new meaning in this quirky fantasy series The School Nurse Files.

The Uncanny Counter Seasons 1 & 2 (2021, 2023)

In Seoul, a group of demon hunters known as the "Counters" work undercover as employees at a noodle restaurant to capture evil spirits that seek eternal life on Earth. The youngest member of the group, So-mun (Jo Byeong-gyu), becomes a crucial figure after surviving a mysterious childhood car accident. Joined by Do Ha-na (Kim-Se-jeong) , who can sense the location of evil spirits, Ga Mo-tak (Yoo Jun-sang), a former cop with immense strength, and the healer Chu Mae-ok (Yeom Hye-ran) they work together to eliminate the malevolent forces. Together, they fight to protect humanity from the evil spirits that threaten their lives and the balance of the universe.


About Time

Choi Michaela (Lee Sung-kyung) has the special ability to see the remaining days, hours, and seconds left in a person’s life. To her, it looks like a digital countdown timer on people’s skin. What makes it worse is, she is able to see her own remaining time. This causes her to live a conflicted life, torn between wanting to YOLO or to make things as ordinary as they can be. Enter chaebol, Lee Do-ha (Lee Sang-yoon), who, Michaela notices, causes her life clock to stop its countdown. The rest is a story of two people coming to grips with the reality that time is fleeting but love makes the journey worthwhile.

Other Time-travelers

Human beings are obsessed with time. We’ve divided our world into arguable time zones and our days into productive time and rest time. We structure our language with when things occur in the past, the present, and the future. We put clocks and other time-telling devices all around us and insist that we eat, sleep, and meet people according to schedule. We judge people when they’re late and reward them when they’re early. We’ve basically made ourselves slaves to a human construct that doesn’t concern any other creature on earth. 

It’s no wonder then that we find so many time-related themes in k-dramaland where time can be bought, sold, questioned, manipulated, and ultimately bent to human will. For more about time travelers, read our article Seconds to Saranghae"here



Hammonds, K. (2021). The Globalization of Superheroes: Diffusion, Genre, and Cultural Adaptations. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication.

Hughes, J. A. (2006). “Who watches the watchmen?”: ideology and “real world” superheroes. The Journal of Popular Culture, 39(4), 546-557.

Lee, S. A. (2014). Conception of the Hero in Korean Popular Fiction of Late Choson Period (Doctoral dissertation, UCLA).


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