What to Watch after "The Glory"
Nearly a month since The Glory's release, the reunion project of blockbuster k-drama writer Kim Eun-sook and her Descendants of the Sun star Song Hye-kyo remains wildly popular on Netflix.
In this two-part revenge drama (we reviewed the first eight-episode installment here), Song takes on her darkest role yet as Moon Dong-eun, a teacher who has systematically plotted her long-term vendetta against her tormentors from her high school days. Graphic in its depiction of school bullying that was disturbingly based on true events, the series has heightened viewers' fascination with revenge-themed works, and reignited discussions on a problem that persists to this day.
Here are some similarly-themed k-dramas to satisfy your thirst for vengeance while waiting for Netflix to drop The Glory's second part on March 10, 2023. And because bullying and revenge certainly aren't limited to South Korea, we've also included films and television series from other Asian countries.
For more of the revenge-themed k-dramas...
My Name (2021)
Han So-hee (Soundtrack #1) takes on her most challenging role to date as Oh Hye-jin, a lonely student whose father — a gangster on the wanted list — is murdered in front of her eyes. Despite her gangster background, she enters the police narcotics unit but has to make sure the chief, Cha Gi-ho (Kim Sang-ho, Kingdom, Sweet Home), and her partner, detective Jeon Pil-do (Ahn Bo-hyun) don’t discover her identity while she searches for answers. Read our review here.
Avengers' Social Club (2017)
There are many things your own family could do that hurt others and yourself. For women who are expected to protect their family (even at their own expense), silence is golden. But should these women remain quiet and let these crimes go for their own benefit? Hell no! At least, according to the women (and man) of the Avengers' Social Club.
The viewers are introduced to three women (and their token handsome young man) of different social statures who are all living in quiet desperation due to different circumstances (mostly caused by men and money) in their lives. Unhappy with her husband's decision to let his illegitimate son live in their house, Kim Jung-Hye (Lee Yo-won) brings together fishmonger Hong Do-hee (Ra Mi-ran) and housewife Lee Mi-sook (Myung Se-bin) to form a revenge club called BJ club (BJ meaning Bok-ja, the Korean term for revenge). Along the way, Kim Jung-hye's stepson, Lee Soo-gyum (Lee Jun-young) joins their little club. Together, these four band together to make their husbands and tormentors pay for their wrongdoings, and—as a bonus—form meaningful bonds with each other. They eventually become what Kim Jung-hye aptly describes as "strangers that are closer than family."
While it may not seem like it, Avengers' Social Club is a hilarious drama that shows how far women will go to take revenge and right social injustice when pushed too far.
*Trigger Warning: Domestic Abuse
Money Flower (2017)
"Premium oppa" Jang Hyuk delivers the makjang-drama goods as Kang Pil-joo, an adoptee-turned-right-hand-man of the chairman of the legendary Cheong-A Group. As their family lawyer, he has no qualms about getting his hands dirty for his questionable clientele. In no time, his ruthlessness and skills earn him the family's absolute trust and devotion -- and even access to their dark chaebol secrets. However, Pil-joo harbors a dark secret of his own as well: he is doing all this in order to bring them all down one day and avenge the tragedy that the Cheong-A family inflicted on his real family a long time ago.
Part Count of Monte Cristo, and part intimate-invasion makjang drama with shades of the Pygmalion myth, Money Flower shows the corrosive quality of vengeance, and the heartless lengths some people will go through in order to win any semblance of retributive justice in this cruel world.
*Also, the suits Jang Hyuk wears throughout this drama are just *chef's kiss*. If you gotta mete out vengeance, better look fantastic while doing it, yes?
The Player (2018)
According to Kang Ha-ri (Song Seung-heon, Dinner Mate), the world is fuelled by both money and tricks. And who possesses these two in spades? Big Corporations. Big Corporations who use money and sleight of hand to bend and shift the laws of men to their will. As an honest and righteous con man, will Kang Ha-ri let them get away with it? The answer is obviously no. Bringing together a hacker (Lee Si-eon, Cheat on Me If You Can), a fighter (Tae Won-seok, Private Lives), and an escape driver (Krystal Jung, Search), this ragtag team hatches up plans to see these big corporations crumble and make some money along the way.
The Player is a short drama series that explores the possibility of righteous criminals, using their own set of highly illegal skills to dole out punishment to those who seem untouchable by the law.
*Trigger Warning: Rape
Taxi Driver (2021)
Jang Sung-chul (Kim Eui-sung) is the CEO of Rainbow Taxi, the legal front for a ragtag team of vigilantes who use highly-specialized skills to exact vengeance on parties that somehow manage to slip through the law's fingers. On his team are taxi driver Kim Do-gi (Lee Je-hoon), tech expert Ahn Go-eun (Pyo Ye-jin), and mechanics Choi Kyung-goo (Jang Hyuk-jin) and Park Jin-eon (Bae Yoo-ram). Among the five of them, they strategize, execute, finance, and troubleshoot elaborate plots of vengeance. Read the full review here.
Why Her? (2022)
In a radical departure from the rom-com heroines she's best known for playing, Seo Hyun-jin suits up as ice queen Oh Soo-jae, a brilliant lawyer at one of Seoul's top law firms. In this legal thriller (with a side of romance this drama, frankly, would've done just fine without), she metes out justice to a trio of the country's most powerful men led by the chillingly diabolical chair ok TK Law Firm, Choi Tae-kook, played by Heo Joon-ho. Read our short review here.
Military Prosecutor Doberman (2022)
Ahn Bo-hyun stars as a corrupt and apathetic military prosecutor Do Bae-man who has a change of perspective (and heart) when he meets his replacement, captain Cha Woo-in (Jo Bo-ah), a prosecutor who is bent on inflicting revenge on all those who had a hand in disgracing her late father and their firm. Soon, Do Bae-man realizes that he has also been victimized by the powers that be in the military, and now, therefore, has his own very personal reasons for seeking vengeance.
The series showcases the numerous scandals and issues that both prosecutors have to untangle before they can take down the most corrupt and powerful players in the military. Not only do the duo have to deal with their own private demons, but they also have to serve justice to fellow victims who have been subjected to the worst military experiences, from excessive power trips, horrific discipline tactics, fake heroic narratives, medical “accidents,” rampant abuse, mass shooting, and even murder. Read our full review here.
Again My Life (2022)
Kim Hee-woo (Lee Joon-gi) is a fearless lawyer out to punish Korea's corrupt and powerful. Inevitably, he gets himself murdered. Through some fantastical means (that never quite gets explained) he gets a second chance and finds himself reliving his life several years prior. Entering law school again with all his memories from the future intact, he sets things in motion to plan for his ultimate revenge.
The drama's fast and linear storytelling makes it enjoyable and easy to follow. There are no moral ambiguities in this drama, no scruples to weigh down the escapist feels for watching the bad guys being taken down one after the other. This Count-of-Monte-Cristo-esque plot is helped by an interesting mix of side characters and the overall likability of Lee Joon-gi’'s portrayal. It's a good, easy watch that doesn't demand much emotional investment but still provides plenty of entertainment. Read our quick review here.
Reborn Rich (2022)
Song Joong-ki shows the world that he’s the current king of k-dramas by starring in the highest-rated show in Korea in 2022. Shot and thrown off a cliff by the conglomerate he has devoted his life to, he finds himself reborn into the family that owns it. With all his memories from his former life intact, he schemes his way into a company takeover. The real star of the show though is veteran actor Lee Sung-min(Misaeng: Incomplete Life), who plays the family patriarch and founder of the Soonyang empire, and who both intimidates and wins the audience over with his powerful performance. The fascinating script sees Jin Do-jun (Song Joong-ki) go through several turning points in Korea’s history as he and his uncles fight over who would inherit the family’s wealth.
With stellar casting and an interesting premise, the show was definitely one of 2022’s best k-dramas, despite its divisive ending.
Itaewon Class (2020)
Park Sae-ro-yi (Park Seo-joon) unjustly loses everything in his life that matters, including his beloved father, because of the powerful food conglomerate Jangga group. In order to get back at the Jang family led by chairman Jang Dae-hee (Yoo Jae-myung) and Saeroyi's high school bully Jang Geung-won (Ahn Bo-hyun), our hero sets out to build his own food empire with the help of sociopathic genius Jo Yi-seo (Kim Da-mi).
*Honestly, none of us here at the blog is really a fan of this series on account of the super cringy romance and a head-scratching second half, but for whatever reason, Itaewon Class is one of the highest-rated cable dramas of all time, so you may want to see what all the fuss is about for yourself.
For more dramas and movies about school bullying…
King of Pigs (2021)
As the first-ever work of Yeon Sang-ho (who would eventually make Train to Busan and Hellbound), King of Pigs is his brutal and bloody revenge tale that goes hard on bullying and doesn't let up. So far, so very good. If you’re a Korean movie fan, you’ll see how it moves and breathes like a classic Korean revenge movie and spares no mercy at all. The original 2011 animated film was already a tough watch, but this live adaptation is even more so. Terrific, but terrifying.
Girl From Nowhere (2020, Thailand)
Girl from Nowhere is the rare binge-able Thai series that will hold your attention from start to finish. Quite subversive and at times disturbing, the show is a feminist countermove to all the sexism and abuse women suffer in Thailand and in their Thai lakorn (drama). The imperfection and callousness of the lead, Nanno, are part of the show's charm. Both seasons of Girl From Nowhere are available on Netflix.
Better Days (2019, film, China)
Derek Tsang’s scathing adaptation of the young adult novel In His Youth, In Her Beauty was nominated for Best International Film Feature at the 93rd Academy Awards. It tells the story of a high school girl whose life has been ruined by relentless bullying and her friendship with a street thug who begins to care for her. The film about ill-fated teenage love went on to earn more than $230M in China and became a pop culture phenomenon.
John Denver Trending (2019, film, Philippines)
This critically-acclaimed Filipino independent film tackles the harsh realities of social injustice and cyberbullying in a country with the sixth most number of Facebook users in the world. Shot entirely in a small town in the province of Antique, John Denver Trending is about a teenage boy who becomes the target of online bullying after being falsely accused of stealing, and a video of him fighting with a boy from an influential family goes viral. In addition to competing at the Busan International Film Festival, John Denver Trending became the first Filipino film to have a theatrical release in South Korea.
For women-led revenge movies...
No Mercy (2019)
It's a typical revenge story about an older sister out to get the abusers of her mentally-challenged younger sister. Lee Si-Young plays the titular unnie (older sister) who has come for blood, and boy, does she get a lot of it. There's nothing to dissect or think about; there's no nuance at all. Just old-fashioned bloody revenge, if revenge wore a red dress and bludgeoned men with a sledgehammer. The whole movie is a trigger warning though: it gets explicit in the vile ways men abuse hapless young girls who cannot defend themselves, so watch with caution.
The Villainess (2017)
If you were expecting this movie to be a mashup of Salt, Kill Bill, and even some Mr. and Mrs, Smith, you wouldn't be far off. Girl's father gets killed; girl goes on a revenge mission and is discovered by an elite team of assassins; girl gets trained by said team and becomes an assassin herself, only to fall in love and lose everything again. The Villainess is the usual revenge-by-the-numbers rampage with one stark difference -- the insane camerawork. So crazy are the editing and camera angles in this film that it easily won two Blue Dragon awards for technical work and cinematography in the year it was released and supposedly earned standing ovations when it was shown in Cannes. Many scenes here are bound to be iconic -- the assassination sequence she has to do in a pretty wedding dress, for one----so even if the film becomes forgettable in the next few years, you just know the action scenes will remain in your brain for a long. time. Just remember you saw them in k-cinema first (before Hollywood steals them again).
Furie (2019, Vietnam)
Vietnamese superstar Veronica Ngo stars in this female version of Taken. Ngo plays a mother who wants out of her shady past, but the kidnapping of her daughter drags her back to her fighter days. And man, if her past drags her, she's dragging everyone with her. I mean, she slaps a man with a cooking pot, bludgeons a man with a durian, and even strangles a man with water spinach (kangkong). Those scenes alone make this action romp worth two hours of life on a weekend.