Friday Feature: Under cover

When K-drama characters assume a false identity or a disguise, it takes a cast of clueless characters to humour them, and the viewer to suspend disbelief.

City Hunter


In K-dramas, revenge is never a straightforward affair, and never more so than in “City Hunter”. Not only does it take 28 years of amassing a huge fortune via drug-dealing in the Golden Triangle, but it also requires Lee Yoon Sung (Lee Min Ho) to become John Lee, an American computer engineer with a penchant for colourful designer clothes, and getting slapped in nightclubs. When it’s time to nab the bad guys, he takes on another identity as the City Hunter, a hero whose disguise consists of a black surgical mask and some dark clothing. It’s so convincing that Kim Na Na (Park Min Young) shoots him as the City Hunter, without making the connection that he’s playboy John Lee (except he’s not really John Lee either). – Only 만

Prosecutor Princess


In order to bring down an illegal gambling ring, public prosecutor, Hye Ri (Kim So Yeon) must disguise herself as the typical gambler: an ahjumma. Fellow lawyer, In Woo (Park Si Hoo) teaches her to play the card game, Go-stop, then takes Hye Ri to a public bathhouse to view ahjummas in their natural habitat: squawking, scratching themselves, and looking vulgar. When it comes time to go into the field, Hye Ri puts on glasses, a wig of curly hair, and some tacky clothes, and actually manages to pass assessment by the gambling ring operators. Unfortunately, her downfall are her lucky shoes: expensive, crystal encrusted heels that no ahjumma could afford. Her shoes also prove to be a hindrance to a quick escape. Hye Ri is caught, and punished for the failure of her disguise. – Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다

I Hear Your Voice


When apathetic public defender Jang Hye Sung (Lee Bo Young) fails to defend a falsely accused teenager, she realizes she has no idea how to actually argue a case. After asking lawyer, Cha Kwan Woo (Yoon Sang Hyun) for help, the two of them go undercover as the least convincing high school students ever, looking like nothing so much as cosplaying adults. Hye Sung cracks the case, though she could likely have accomplished the same thing by asking the school officials for permission to look around. But then, we would have missed out on an embarrassed Hye Sung having an awkward teenage moment with her high school love interest, Park Soo Ha (Lee Jong Suk) in the computer lab. And, that would be sad. –

49 Days


After Ji Hyun (Nam Gyu Ri) is placed in a coma by a car accident, she finds herself floating outside her body, but given the ability to take over Lee Kyung’s (Lee Yo Won) sleeping body. Looking like Lee Kyung, but acting exactly like herself, Ji Hyun goes about reconnecting with her family and friends while keeping her true identity a secret. However, Lee Kyung alternates between acting overly familiar with acquaintances when Ji Hyun is in control, to being unresponsive to her new friends when not controlled by Ji Hyun. It is not long before Ji Hyun’s rather superstitious friends begin to suspect who Lee Kyung really is. – 중국어 캐나다

I Need Romance 3


After 17 years in the States, Joo Wan (Sung Joon) returns to Korea to reunite with his first love, Shin Joo Yeon (Kim So Yeon), only to be utterly rejected by her over the phone. When he runs into her at his DJ gig, Wan barely recognizes the much changed Joo Yeon, but it never even occurs to Joo Yeon that superstar DJ, Allen Joo could be Wan, the same kid she used to call “Sweet Potato” for being so ugly. Taking advantage of the confusion, he continues to talk to her over the phone as “Sweet Potato”, and romances her in person as the cool Allen Joo, thus making him the only character in a drama to go under cover as himself. – 만

Dude looks like a lady

The girl masquerading as a boy out of necessity is a common K-drama plot device that can bring about lots of fun misunderstandings and pseudo homoerotic hijinks. But, how well did their manly disguise fare?

You’re Beautiful

Mi Nyeo (Park Shin Hye) is supposedly an identical twin to her brother, Mi Nam, so we will just take it for granted that her feminine appearance is not an issue. However, Mi Nyeo’s dainty mannerisms and effeminate voice make it hard to understand how anyone could mistake her for even a flower boy. Fortunately for Mi Nyeo, two of her three band mates find out her true identity early on, and the third simply assumes that he has developed a same sex crush.

Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Yun Hee (Park Min Young) makes for a pretty boy, which is repeatedly noted by everyone around her. Yun Hee gets points for lowering her voice and being boyishly obnoxious, then loses all credibility as a man by acting meek and cute. Fellow student, Yong Ha (Song Jong Ki) is as perceptive as the audience, and sees through Yun Hee’s disguise pretty much on sight. Yun Hee’s two dormitory roommates are slower on the uptake, but appear to sense a disturbance in the room on a subconscious level. Jae Shin (Yoo Ah In) begins hiccuping around Yun Hee, as he is prone to doing around females. Sun Joon (Park Yoochun) starts by touching her face in a way that could not be mistaken for male bonding, and it all goes to pot thereafter.

First Shop of Coffee Prince

The most convincing cross-dressing female character in K-drama by a long shot is food delivery boy and Taekwando teacher, Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye). From her appearance to her mannerisms, Eun Chan exudes the boyish appeal that convinces Han Gyul (Gong Yoo) that she would make an ideal intruder on his blind dates, and a flower boy server in his coffee shop . Hence, Han Gyul could be forgiven for being literally the last person to find out Eun Chan’s actual gender. – 중국어 캐나다


Readers: which K-drama character in disguise is fooling no one?

Outline a better disguise in Comments below.

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