It’s February, which means it is peak romantic comedies season, and there’s nothing better than a K-drama for that. Need a brand new romance drama without having to wait for new episodes weekly? Don’t you fret! Netflix just dropped all ten episodes of their latest Korean romance drama, Love to Hate You. This brand new series is directed by Kim Jeong-kwon and co-stars Kim Ok-vin, Teo Yoo, Kim Ji-hoon, Go Won-hee, Kim Sung-ryung, Lee Joo-bin, and Choi Yoon-do. While some may bristle under its obvious subtext and theming earlier in the series, the show’s approach and positive handling of the character Yeo Mi-ran make this a must-watch.
In this latest Netflix Kdrama series, we are introduced to Yeo Mi-ran (Kim Ok-bin), a badass female lawyer desperate for a job at a big entertainment law firm whilst seducing and punishing problematic men in her free time for a string of one-night stands. Sometimes, this involves an actual smackdown, with comparisons made to legend Michelle Yeoh, but mostly, she hooks up and breaks the hearts of unworthy male suitors. Because of her experiences, she believes there is nothing redeemable in men and plans to live life as an unmarried woman. Cue the arrival of Korea’s top actor, Nam Kang-ho (Teo Yoo).
Despite his reputation for being the go-to romance actor, Kang-ho has an aversion to women. The act of kissing a woman can lead to dry heaving and anxiety attacks. Throw in Kang-ho’s general assumption that women only desire money and status, and you can see where the natural conflicts will occur between our two romantic leads in Love to Hate You.
Love to Hate You presents a prime-time setup for an enemies-to-lovers scenario within the workplace and, for the most part, it succeeds. In the first couple of episodes, the presentation of misogyny and sexism within the show’s world can be a bit much. There’s no subtlety in the execution there. That said, it settles itself out as the series goes on. From a pacing standpoint, Love to Hate You is no slog. The episodes flow well with little drag and, with a shorter episode order, you can finish the series within a weekend. However, there is an uneven feeling to the tone that reads chaotic.
What may set this series apart from other romance series out there is the mature handling of our older leads. Kim Ok-vin’s Yeo Mi-ran will be a favorite of many. With a strong need for justice and an unapologetic ownership of self, she has a resilience and positive energy to her that radiates off the screen. There’s a level of self-awareness to Mi-ran, especially when she makes mistakes, that felt like a breath of fresh air. Early on in the series, she jumps to the worst conclusions and, upon receiving evidence that her assumptions were incorrect, there is a realization of how close she came to ruining this guy’s life. That doesn’t stop her need for justice, but the step back she took seemed rare for a Kdrama like this.
Teo Yoo is more subtle in his embodiment of Kang-ho but the character requires that subtlety. He can’t ever drop the mask. As we see his relationship with Mi-ran grow, we start to see more playfulness come out. While not necessarily the most dynamic romantic lead energy-wise, Teo Yoo’s Kang-ho complements Kim Ok-vin’s Mi-ran.
Also refreshing is the general acceptance from Kang-ho of Mi-ran’s past sexual history and, in general, the topic of sex as a whole in Love to Hate You. Korean society is fairly conservative, especially when it comes to women’s roles and expectations within the patriarchy of society. Part of what makes Kang-ho an arguably great romantic partner is that he doesn’t punish Mi-ran for her past. He’s not threatened by her experience or the traditionally male hobbies she’s interested in. Instead, he goes out of her way to celebrate and support her interests.
We see this illustrated by how the writers choose to tackle celebrity fan culture in Love to Hate You and the entertainment industry as a whole. With celebrities up for dissection by an industry willing to sacrifice ethics to make money exploiting their personal lives, we see further how these double standards come into play in the final episodes.
Love to Hate You has a chaotic energy to it that will keep you hooked. With leading characters that complement each other, a refreshing approach to relationship issues, and even pacing, this latest romance Kdrama is a quick watch to add to your rom-com line-up.
Love to Hate You is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Love to Hate You
Ultimately, Love to Hate You has a chaotic energy to it that will keep you hooked. With leading characters that complement each other, a refreshing approach to relationship issues, and even pacing, this latest romance Kdrama is a quick watch to add to your romcom line-up.