I went into When The Camellia Blooms expecting to be enamored by Gong Hyo-jin and Kang Ha-neul. I’ve loved both actors for a long time, and the prospect of them doing a rom-com together was like Christmas came early. As expected, the chemistry between them is making every second of watching this show worth it. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was to be as invested in the side characters as I am in the main couple.
One thing common to all my favorite dramas is the fact that the supporting characters are written as well as the main ones, with their own independent backstories that make you want to root for them. Good secondary characters are a hallmark of good writing for me simply because they give the narrative so much variety and depth. So I thought I’d introduce you to my favorite supporting characters from When The Camellia Blooms!
Dong-baek’s son Kang Pil-gu (Kim Kang-hoon)
My major worry before starting this drama was that the writers would not give personality to Dong-baek’s son. And I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. Right from the first episode, Pil-gu leaves an impression as the feisty son of Dong-baek when he asks the customers in his mom’s bar to address her as Sajang-nim (CEO) instead of speaking informally to her!
Pil-gu is just eight years old but seems more grown-up than even the adults in the show. He has a lot on his plate—from worrying about his mom’s finances and fending off the lecherous men around her to dealing with bullying at school. Despite his small size, however, Pil-gu doesn’t back down and is always ready to fight for his mom. Kim Kang-hoon‘s acting skills leave me in awe every single time I watch him. You can also see him in My Country: The New Age, Hotel del Luna, and Mr. Sunshine.
Ms. Kwak aka Yong-sik’s mom (Ko Du-shim)
Ms. Kwak being in this list is no surprise because she’s the only one in Dong-baek’s neighborhood who stands up for her when the rest bully her. Dong-baek calls her “the most influential person” she’s been friends with, and the two are best friends. This is partly because Ms. Kwak also runs a restaurant single-handedly, just like Dong-baek, and understands how much a working single mom has to struggle.
Her character takes a weird turn when despite her friendship with Dong-baek, she tries to keep Yong-sik from dating her. But soon we realize that, in her own way, she’s trying to look out for Dong-baek because she believes Yong-sik is simply infatuated. Unlike the other women around them, who blame Dong-baek when their husbands splurge at her bar, Ms. Kwak refuses to put any blame on Dong-baek and instead places the accountability on her son. We love women looking out for other women!
Lawyer Hong Ja-young (Yum Hye-ran)
Lawyer Hong is the most badass character in this show. She’s the wife of No Gyu-tae (Oh Jung-se), Dong-baek’s incessantly annoying landlord. Initially, it seems that her sole purpose in life is to belittle her husband. But it soon becomes clear that she’s battling her share of sexism at home—her husband can’t stand the fact that she’s smarter than him and makes more money, and her mother-in-law leaves no chance to show off her qualifications, while at the same time belittling her.
Lawyer Hong, however, is not apologetic for either her wealth or her brains, and continues living her life. For a while, it was looking like she might make things hard for our heroine because she suspects Gyu-tae of having an affair with Dong-baek. Then Dong-baek decides to press charges against Gyu-tae for harassment, and imagine how surprised I was when Lawyer Hong, instead of taking her husband’s side, decides to help out Dong-baek. She’s the friend we’d all like to have.
Hyang-mi (Son Dam-bi)
Hyang-mi is a bit of a grey character, so I’m not sure where her loyalties lie, but that’s what makes her interesting. When she’s working part-time at Dong-baek’s bar, she steals alcohol. But in her own way, she also looks out for Dong-baek by reminding her when she’s being TOO nice and helps out by picking up Pil-goo from school.
Hyang-mi has a secret—she seems to be on the run from someone and looking to get a large amount of money. She tries blackmailing both Gyu-tae and Jong-ryeol (Kim Ji-suk) for this purpose. While blackmailing is not the nicest thing to do, I couldn’t even be mad at her, because the other two characters are the most annoying ones on the show. Hyang-mi is doing the dirty but necessary work, and I love her for it.
Captain Byun (Jeon Bae-su)
Captain Byun is Yong-sik’s boss. He’s been with Yong-sik since his days as a high-schooler, and had a hand in making him the policeman he is today. While Captain Byun’s role isn’t too meaty, a couple of things have stood out to me. First, his comic timing is amazing, especially when he has to clean up after his fiery junior Yong-sik.
What also got my attention was the unusual empathy and concern he treated Dong-baek with. Knowing that as a single mom, she would be hounded by both the press and the neighbors, he kept her involvement in the town’s serial murders a secret from everyone, including Yong-sik. As far as policemen go, he seems to be one of the better ones.
Have you caught up with When The Camellia Blooms on Netflix? Let us know in the comments who your favorite character is! If you’re still deciding whether to watch or not, check out our review of the show here.
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