Some shows are tight nuggets that deliver a concentrated, consistent experience. And then you have Strong Girl Bong-Soon, a Korean show that, like many Korean shows, tries to be everything to everyone with varying results.
Do Bong-Soon (Park Bo-young) seems like a dainty woman but she has a secret. Like all the woman in her family, she posses extraordinary super-strength. She can bend metal bars and lift cars, sure, but with the power also comes a curse. Misuse it, and it will suddenly disappear. This central concept is a great one and the show knows it.
As an establishment of Bong-Soon’s power, episode one has an extended sequence of her defending a primary school bus driver who is being attacked by gangsters. One slap from her sends teeth flying and a red indented handprint on the culprit’s face.
Men are thrown in the sky only for them to plummet, screaming. One shove catapults a thug back at sonic boom inducing speed. Each episode will have at least one instance of this, and the sheer comic-book OTT nature of it never ceases to bring a smile.
The rest of Strong Girl Bong-Soon is a wash of tones that don’t mesh particularly well. There’s the obligatory love triangle between Bong-Soon, her lifelong crush Guk-Doo and her arrogant boss, Ahn Min-hyuk. He is a rich heir who hires her as his personal bodyguard after witnessing her take out a gang of bad guys.
There’s a serial kidnapping plotline involving murder and forced ‘marriages’ and a comedy bitchy mothers who criticises everything. And there is a corporate drama in which Min-hyuk is being blackmailed by someone within his own family.
Strong Girl Bong-Soon is primarily a comedy. Most of the conversation is punctuated by little sound effects and crash-zoom cameras to emphasise the dialogue or facial reaction punchlines. This imbues the whole show with a rather daft quality that is fun, for the most part.
However the humour can border on crude and there is a recurring ‘gay is funny’ undercurrent with winks, bum squeezes, and effeminate speech that borders on the offensive when viewed through a western lens. I’d charitably call it ‘childish’ instead.
What works well though is that Park Bo-young and Park Hyung-sik (as Ahn Min-hyuk) are compelling leads. Their banter is engaging and their growing attraction handled with fun. When she chastises him for his arrogant ways the sparks fly and his fascination with strength means that her character grows realistically through knowing him. Scenes without either of them in miss this energy which is why the show veers around so wildly.
Netflix is awash with a whole host of Korean shows. If you are a fan then you’ve really got a ton to choose from. And whilst all these shows are obviously different, I would argue that watching Strong Girl Bong-Soon gives you a flavour of what most are like: Fun, but with plenty of qualifications!
Words by Michael Record