Pride and Prejudice and K-Dramas, by Lelia Eye

Pride and Prejudice and K-Dramas, by Lelia Eye

I know there are dangers to oversimplifying characters and losing some of those all-important nuances, but please forgive me for doing so here.

I’m here with regard to the “Mr. Darcy” Archetype.

You know, the rich snob with a heart of gold who is at odds with the less financially fortunate female lead but falls in love with her despite himself?

That is an archetype that I truly love seeing over and over – in part because I enjoy seeing a strong male lead butt heads with a strong female lead. There is just something about seeing a man’s pride crumble in the face of love that appeals to me.

After I ventured into watching Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean television shows focused on romance, I eventually decided K-dramas had stolen my heart. Now, I almost exclusively watch K-dramas. I think part of the reason for it is that K-dramas absolutely abound with the “Mr. Darcy” Archetype. In fact, one word you’ll see a lot when reading reviews of K-dramas is the word “chaebol,” which has to do with family wealth in business. (A lot of shows will have a rich son as the heir to his family’s company.)

The Hallyu craze (meaning the increase in popularity of South Korean culture worldwide in the past decade or two) means that South Korean television shows are getting easier and easier to find and watch. You may have to check out a few places, but places I have watched K-dramas include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Rakuten Viki (there is a free version of Rakuten Viki, but it has ads).

If you enjoy television shows where a rich man with a holier-than-thou attitude gets taken down a few notches by the female lead, then I have some recommendations for you! Please note that these K-dramas have happy endings and typically involve a mix of humor and drama along with the romance. (Most K-dramas make me laugh more than American television shows!) In addition, because the titles are translations, you may see the same show called by a variety of names.

What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim

This is my favorite K-drama involving a rich snob and a poor girl! The male lead is the VP of his family’s company, and the female lead is his secretary. She is by no means meek, though, and she is quite skilled at what she does. When she decides to quit working as a secretary and puts into motion training her replacement, the narcissistic male lead can’t believe she’s leaving and tries everything he can to figure out what is making her want to go. His snobbery lacks some of the gravitas of Mr. Darcy and is played more humorously, but you can certainly see some resemblance. This show is primarily in the romance/comedy/drama domain. Park Seo-Joon, the male lead, is now my favorite actor of all time.


Secret Garden

This one feels especially Pride and Prejudice-like in some ways, though it sounds quite far from it. The male lead is a rich jerk, but the female lead is a stuntwoman. Due to some unusual circumstances (of an, erm, magical bent), however, their lives become unavoidably intertwined. An interesting part of this show is the male lead’s house, which seems almost to be a character of its own. Though it doesn’t have the massive and beautiful grounds, the house makes me think of Pemberley in some ways. It serves as the male lead’s refuge, which I rather imagine Pemberly to be for Darcy. The house just seems important, much like Pemberley, Netherfield, Rosings, and Longbourn.


100 Days My Prince

This television show may not 100% qualify with the guidelines I set up, but it is in keeping with the spirit of the Darcy Archetype. In this K-drama set during the Joseon period, a prince issues an edict that all the kingdom’s subjects must marry by a certain age. Well, due to certain circumstances, he gets amnesia and is forced to be married to a “commoner” per his edict, not knowing he is the prince who issued said edict. But despite not knowing the true circumstances of his birth, he still acts very much like the cold and snobby prince was before…that is, until his heart is melted by the female lead.


Boys over Flowers

This one is spot-on with the archetype. You have an incredibly wealthy male lead who is a major jerk and a very poor female lead who refuses to allow him to intimidate her. In this show, the female lead gets a scholarship to a prestigious school after she saves a student trying to commit suicide due to bullying. But when she goes to the school and the male lead tries to bully her, she refuses to have any of it. The male lead is even harsher than Darcy was, but that makes his transformation all the more meaningful.


Her Private Life

The female lead’s new boss at the art gallery is the male lead and not a friendly person. But she has a secret that she must keep from him and others at her work at all costs: she is a celebrity’s ultimate fangirl. She runs a fansite and plots when and how to take the best pictures of this celebrity, all while trying to maintain professionalism at work. I suppose Elizabeth Bennet never had a secret quite like that, but if you squint, you could say the circumstances involving Lydia are just as important to keep quiet!


The Beauty Inside

This one doesn’t completely match in terms of monetary status, but it is so good it is worth mentioning. The male lead is a snobby executive, but the female lead is an actress who isn’t exactly hurting for money. Still, their differing careers do make the archetype feel appropriate. This show has such an odd premise that I passed it over several times before finally giving in. The male lead has a secret that may partially explain his snobbiness: he has prosopagnosia (which means he can’t recognize faces). The female lead’s secret is even bigger: once a month for a limited time, she transforms into an entirely new person – sometimes old, sometimes young, sometimes male, sometimes female.


I Am Not a Robot

The rich male lead has an allergic reaction whenever he touches other human beings, so he intends to assist with funding for a human-like robot, as this is his chance for a companion. Well, the robot’s inventor modeled her after an ex-girlfriend, and when the inventor, who needs funding from the male lead, has issues with the robot, he enlists his ex-girlfriend’s help by having her pretend to be a robot in front of the male lead temporarily. There is lots of good fluff in this one. The male lead truly longs for human contact in a way that I think Darcy privately does as well.


1% of Something

In this show, a young man’s well-meaning grandfather forces him to enter a 6-month contract engagement with a school teacher. Said young man considers the school teacher very much beneath his notice…until of course he begins to notice her. Definite Darcy vibes here!


My Love from the Star

This one does NOT feel like a sci-fi series and is more in the drama/romance/humor territory, but it will sound like one. A centuries-old alien (whom one might think of as being a bit like Superman, except that he has no interest in going out and being a superhero) finds his life entangled with that of an actress who is in a bit of a rough patch. They’re probably somewhat equal financially, but the cold male lead certainly sees himself as above the female lead, and he can scarcely believe how their lives keep getting entangled. This one is fantastic despite its odd setup.


She Was Pretty

In this one, the female lead used to be rich and attractive when she was young, but now she has fallen on hard times and has self-esteem issues. When she is to meet with an old (male) childhood friend, she panics when she sees how handsome he is and asks her friend to pretend to be her. Well, when it turns out that childhood friend is now her new boss and treats her coldly, the female lead has to tread lightly to avoid having everything blow up in her face.


So there you have ten television shows with snobby rich men who ultimately prove themselves to be worthy of love! Because these are K-dramas, there is frequently some sort of big romantic gesture that is made, much like how Darcy works to save Lydia for Elizabeth’s sake.

I’m sure folks here watch a wide variety of television shows. Do you have any to recommend that seem to follow the Darcy archetype and include happy endings? I would love to hear from you!

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January 1, 2022 7:05 PM

I love this post! I’ve been watching K- and C- dramas for almost two years (original language, with English subtitles because I can’t handle dubbing). I love Her Private Life, Boys Over Flowers/Meteor Garden, Love 020, Crash Landing on You, Cinderella and Four Knights (poor, strong female lead w/3 wealthy guys)…Refresh Man (Taiwanese) has Austen like qualities as well. Do you have any book recommendations for K-pop/Austen fans?

May 6, 2021 7:26 PM

You all need to watch “True Beauty” the first lead is much like Darcy!

January 20, 2021 1:30 PM

Thanks for sharing these recommendations, I sometimes come across fanvids of K-dramas and they seem interesting and thought about checking some out and am glad to have some titles to look for.

January 17, 2021 8:02 PM

I’m reading instead of watching television. I’m not familiar with these shows.

P. O. Dixon
January 14, 2021 4:18 PM

I love K-Dramas. In fact, I am obsessed with them, and I rarely make time for anything other than binge-watching them on Netflix, Hulu, Viki, and even Facebook. My favorite actor is Lee Minho (my Mr. Darcy) and of all his dramas, Boys Over Flowers is my favorite. It’s the inspiration for one of my current work-in-progress stories. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights!

Elaine Jeremiah
February 9, 2021 11:29 AM
Reply to  Lelia Eye

I’ve flagged up Meteor Garden on Netflix to watch now, thanks for the suggestion. However, I’ve notice with the Chinese dramas that they seem to dub the dialogue. Is that just me? I’m guessing it’s the actual actors’ voices, but they just record the dialogue separately. Puts me off a little bit TBH.

Elaine Jeremiah
January 15, 2021 2:52 PM
Reply to  P. O. Dixon

I’m the same as you and I hardly watch anything else now lol. I think my favourite actor is Hyun Bin. He’s just such a great actor and so talented. He can portray so many different characters and personas so well. I’m hooked! 😀

P. O. Dixon
January 15, 2021 4:00 PM

I love Hyun Bin so much that I watched Memories of the Alhambra. I almost never watch that type of story. I fell in love with him in Crash Landing on You. It’s high on my re-watch list. 🙂

Elaine Jeremiah
January 15, 2021 4:41 PM
Reply to  P. O. Dixon

Oh Crash Landing on You is my favourite! I’ve watched the entire series twice and I might watch it a third time. It’s so wonderful and Hyun Bin is just sooooooo good! As is Son Ye Jin. Or BinJin. 😉

Elaine Jeremiah
February 9, 2021 11:27 AM

I thought CLOY was mostly happy and I loved it, but I am a stickler for a happy ending so I didn’t like Memories of the Alhambra that much cos the romance storyline was unresolved at the end.

Elaine Jeremiah
January 14, 2021 3:34 PM

I LOVE KDRAMAS!!!! Finally, I’ve found someone else who’s an addict! 😉 I’ve watched about 25 now on Netflix UK. I really want to watch ‘What’s wrong with secretary Kim’ but it’s not on Netflix UK yet and although I have Amazon Prime, I don’t have those other streaming services you mentioned.

I tried watching ‘Boys over flowers’ but didn’t get on with it – but I’m thinking I might give it another go. ‘My Love from the Star’ is on my TBW list and I absolutely LOVED 100 Days My Prince – it’s probably my favourite traditional Kdrama.

My all-time favourite has to be ‘Crash Landing on You’. If you haven’t watched it yet, Leila, I would thoroughly recommend it. I completely agree with you re the Darcy/Elizabeth archetypes. And Kdramas are past masters at romance! I’m like you – I hardly watch anything else now lol. They’re perfect for me. Thanks so much for sharing! And thanks for the recommendations. I hadn’t heard of all of them – I will see if they’re on Netflix UK. 😀 (I’m currently watching ‘Record of Youth’ with Park Bo Gum and Park So Dam – would recommend.)

Elaine Jeremiah
February 9, 2021 11:35 AM
Reply to  Lelia Eye

I got the free version of Viki the other day and started watching ‘What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim’. I love it!!! I didn’t realise I could get Viki here in the UK but the free version is fab and the ads aren’t that bad at all, there only seems to be one lot per episode and you can skip through most of them. The picture quality, while not HD, isn’t that bad.

I will give ‘Boys Over Flowers’ another go. The style was just a bit too quirky for me, but sounds like it may be worth another try. I LOVE Kim Soo Hyun 😉 so yes, will definitely watch ‘My Love from the Star’ at some point.

Elaine Jeremiah
February 22, 2021 10:21 AM
Reply to  Lelia Eye

I’ve got the paid for version of Viki now lol. My husband got me a Google Chrome Cast so I could watch it through the TV but I could only do that if I got the paid for version.

J. W. Garrett
J. W. Garrett
January 14, 2021 11:12 AM

I have always thought Austen would translate well and this just shows she transcends any language or era. Austen just works, period. Thanks for sharing. We don’t have cable so I don’t see a lot of movies. Thanks for sharing with us. Blessings, stay safe, and healthy.

Riana Everly
January 14, 2021 9:03 AM

My daughter and her friends are all into K-Pop, but I had never thought to explore beyond the music to see what else is coming out of Korea. That’s really fun. Thanks for the recap of all these fun-sounding shows.

Patricia Noda
Patricia Noda
January 14, 2021 6:35 AM

Wow! You have been into K-romcom! Binge-watching them?

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
January 14, 2021 6:21 AM

I don’t know of any shows but there have been books I have read and thought that they resemble P+P. It is funny how you can recognize things like that!

Patricia Noda
Patricia Noda
January 14, 2021 6:57 AM
Reply to  cindie snyder

I don’t normally watch them but my sister usually has a Hallmark movie or something similar up on her tv so I can’t avoid them. A number of them have P&P elements in their storylines. In fact, there are 4 movies that stand out – “Unleashing Mr. Darcy”, “Marrying Mr. Darcy”, “Pride, Prejudice & Mistletoe”, and “Christmas at Pemberley Manor”! Who knows what others are out there.

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