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Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo review

Drama: Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo
Type: Korean drama
Year of broadcast: 2016-2017
Episodes: 16
Episode length: approx. 60 minutes
Total hours if binge-watching: approx. 16 hours

PLEASE NOTE: I will be reviewing this work as a standalone (even if it is an adaptation/version of a manga/film/drama or based on a real-life event/person).


The title ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo’ may have raised your eyebrow, just like it had mine the first time I heard of this Korean drama. Despite its interesting name, and apart from a few moments of hilarity, the 16-episode drama is actually quite a complex and often serious one, in my opinion. It wasn’t what I had originally expected – it was heavier…but in an innocent way?


The drama follows the journey of weightlifter Kim Bok-Joo training at Haneul Sports University, working toward her dream of representing South Korea and winning Gold at the Olympics, alongside her two best friends.

The drama starts with Bok-Joo developing her first crush, who happens to be a weight-loss clinic doctor, and she goes to great lengths to be able to see him (while still keeping her feelings a secret). Apart from the close-knit family that is the Weightlifting department of the university, Bok-Joo gains a few more friends along the way throughout the drama, as well as an enemy. But along with her strenuous weightlifting training, there are more challenges Bok-Joo has to face, such as her father’s dialysis treatment.

But on a more light-hearted note, she comes to experience the blooming of a love for someone other than her crush…and it is a guy that she had never expected to fall for. They cheer each other on in their respective sports and support each other through their personal challenges.

Themes and messages:

In this drama, the low moments are really low and the high moments are really high – so let your emotions be prepared for a roller coaster ride. This series deals with real problems, some of which are family health, mental health (such as PTSD, depression and bulimia), pain from unrequited love, and bullies. In my opinion, I don’t think these problems were too confronting or graphic in the drama, but I say that based on another Korean drama I watched where it definitely and unexpectedly was.

A key theme I believe I noticed in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo seemed to be reconciling gender and sport – there are stereotypes surrounding what gender suits a sport, but this drama addressed that and then proved that gender and sport have no bearing on each other and that the athlete should feel good both in themselves and in their sport. I felt that was a powerful message.

Character and plot:

Personally, I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the series (BUT DON’T STOP READING YET). Bok-Joo really got on my nerves because she did something that no one in their right mind would do, in my opinion – not wanting to reveal any spoilers, I’ll just say that it’s something someone might do impulsively but that she did even after thinking about it, and in doing so went completely overboard. When the situation drew on for several episodes and finally came to a head, I found myself unable to feel any real sympathy for her because she had known the consequences that would come of it. And talk about the serious case of second-hand embarrassment I felt when watching those episodes…the second-hand embarrassment was REAL. I only persevered because I had previously seen some really good clips from later in the series and I knew it would get better at some point. In my opinion, the drama’s saving grace in the first six or seven episodes are the side characters who are absolutely awesome, and a few hilarious features like the “what!” sound effect (…if you watch the drama, you’ll find out what I mean – it’s pretty darn funny!).

If you like your subplots, you’ll love this drama because nearly every character either has their backstory explained or has an entire subplot of their own that develops throughout the series. That being said, even though not all the characters’ subplots have anything to do with romance, there is a lot of unrequited love going on! And a lot of secrets that people keep on keeping even though telling the truth wouldn’t be such a big deal and it would save them so much trouble later on.

But overall, I believe that it is a great drama in its richness, filming and casting. The second half of the series definitely made up for the drag of the first half. It got quite emotional, and while there was quite a bit of frustration because the main protagonist never learnt from her mistakes and kept making them again, the episodes were for the most part more fast-moving and had more light-hearted moments in them. And I think this is largely due to the main romantic couple of the drama, Bok-Joo and Joon-Hyung.

The OTP (One True Pairing):

In my opinion, the chemistry between the actress and actor that play Kim Bok-Joo and Jung Joon-Hyung is awesome, and as a result their acting while playing a couple was incredible. As I watched them, I noticed how genuinely comfortable and casual they seemed with physical contact and I would often forget that they were acting – I later found out that at the time of filming the drama, they were actually dating, so I’m sure a lot of that affection was real. But they make the cutest couple in this drama – they were so adorable and had some really funny moments that made me grin like a loon. Not to mention envious of Bok-Joo – I think we can all agree (and for those of you who will watch the drama, I am sure you will also come to agree) that Joon-Hyung is perfect boyfriend material.

My Verdict:

All in all, the first half of Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-Joo was not for me, but the richness of the plot (even if a bit questionable at times) and subplots, the great acting and the great use of funny sound effects, not to mention the absolutely tooth-rotting sweetness of the main romantic couple, all made this drama worth watching. I suppose I could summarise my opinion by saying that I didn’t enjoy the plot-line of the first half of the series but the drama itself was executed really well with great depth to its characters and subplots – in other words, a really good drama but just not entirely my taste. But a great bonus is that the drama ended on a high note for pretty much every character, which is closure I think we can all agree we need.

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