Although My ID is Gangnam Beauty isn't one of my favourite Kdramas, I have watched it multiple times. There is something about the drama that makes me come back.

It doesn't have an outrageous plot, a big plot twist, or unique characters—it is set in a university and is about regular lives. But it is also much more than that. In quiet ways, it is profound.

Every time I watch it, I find something new to appreciate. Now that I've watched it several times, I think I finally have enough to write a good review.

what is My ID is Gangnam Beauty about?

The drama is mainly about Kang Mi-rae, a university freshman who got plastic surgeries done on her face so that she won't endure bullying anymore. University is meant to be a fresh start for her—with a new face and hopefully new opportunities and friends. But it comes with new challenges too. Most of the focus is on Mi-rae but we see storylines of the characters around her based on their role in her life.

The second main lead of the show is Do Kyung-seok, a fellow freshman and Mi-rae's classmate from middle school. He is soon the most popular guy amongst the freshmen because of his straightforward and reclusive nature. University isn't a fresh start for him but he chooses a drastic change after some revelations in the show. He goes through quite a bit of growth due to that.

The third character with significant screen time is Hyun Soo-ah, Mi-rae and Kyung-seok's classmate. She is the prettiest girl in the batch and one of the most popular. She smiles all the time and is well-liked but we soon find out that it's an outer layer. Her true character gets revealed as the episodes pass.

Set during their first year of university, My ID is Gangnam Beauty is about the problems in freshmen's daily lives—especially the ones that are deep-rooted in society. The drama depicts how beauty, the standards for women, bullying based on looks, and casual sexism cause havoc in people's lives. Some of it is subtle but a lot of it is thrown at us so that the viewers can't deny the points made.

my id is gangnam beauty poster

my thoughts on My ID is Gangnam Beauty

There is a lot to talk about and a lot to unpack. In 16 episodes, the drama squeezes in various situations and issues while focusing on the growth of the main characters. I have several notes jotted about the show and there's still more to talk about.

Before getting into the main review, I want to specifically mention the trigger warnings. My ID is Gangnam Beauty tackles serious subjects and does not sugarcoat them. If you are triggered by any of these topics, be careful while watching: bullying based on looks, eating disorders, fat shaming, suicide attempt, domestic violence, catcalling/eve teasing, and sexual harassment.

the focus on beauty standards for women

The main point of My ID is Gangnam Beauty is to depict the various ugly sides of the beauty standards thrust on girls and women. While a lot of them are shown through Mi-rae as she is the main character, there are supporting characters to show a few sides that aren't applicable to Mi-rae. All of it is brought together in the last few episodes, hammering the point in.

Mi-rae had a very tough childhood because "she was ugly." She was bullied throughout her schooling by her peers and didn't have people sticking up for her. She was made to feel unworthy of everything and left out of regular childhood experiences. The torture went to the point that she tried to kill herself.

Kids aren't born with prejudices, they are taught them. Prejudices based on looks are so prevalent that kids learn them right away. Everything is more intense during childhood as well. Mi-rae missed out on several childhood experiences because of "her ugliness" and it had multiple consequences. When she is accepted and liked in her freshman orientation, she cries out of happiness because that hasn't happened to her before.

Despite all that she went through, Mi-rae grades women based on their looks when she meets them for the first time. Society teaches us to measure people based on certain factors and we all do it on some level. Mi-rae has to accept her habit and consciously unlearn it over time.

The way she grades faces points out how beauty standards are so specific and rigid—it is about things that we can't naturally control like face shapes or double eyelids.

scene from my id is gangnam beauty where the freshmen are somber and tense
source: HanCinema

After Mi-rae gets plastic surgeries done to have an ordinary life—not to be very pretty or popular but to be ordinary—she is branded as a "type of girl". People often pass comments about her as if she is nothing more than her surgeries. The common mindset causes her a very different set of problems.

The drama drives home the multiple ways in which women are blatantly objectified. Not only are women expected to be pretty and sexy, they have to be humble, sweet, kind, submissive (to men), and smart but not too smart. Men pass casual comments about a woman's weight and eating habits as if they're talking about the weather and "suggest" women to be a certain way directly or indirectly.

Many men want pretty women who stand out and don't accept anybody's proposal but will accept theirs (even though they don't pass any standard). They don't want a simple yes either, they want the girl to be flattered to be asked out by them even if she is getting 10 proposals a day. Some men believe that they have the "right" to "own" and "look at" attractive women.

I really liked how My ID is Gangnam Beauty showed how women are treated as objects or trophies through multiple scenarios. Women aren't demeaned in only one clear-cut manner and ill-intentions are often not noticeable in the beginning.

Along with showing the effects on women who aren't considered conventionally attractive, the drama showed how attractive women are negatively affected by the standards (even if it looks like they're winning). I haven't seen this perspective shown before so it was interesting.

Hyun Soo-ah is a great example. She tries to tick all of the boxes of "a well-liked woman" and views other women as competition. She internalized the prejudices so much that she hurt other women and made several bad decisions.

The drama shows how beauty has power and the standards of beauty in society can make or break a woman's life. Beauty is quite literally a commodity.

my id is gangnam beauty kang mi-rae and hyun-jung
source: HanCinema

Considering how beauty standards are significantly high in Korea, I applaud this show for breaking down their impact in a nuanced manner while making it simple to understand. The country has industries thriving off of insecurities caused by beauty standards so making such a drama is a step in the right direction.

However, the execution was not perfect and the show had quite a few contradictions. The way the scenes were played out, it felt like the show promoted the very standards it is speaking up against.

The main kicker was the way it pretended as if the standards don't exist for men and actually promoted them for men. Kyung-seok's main characteristic is his handsome face before any aspect of his personality. He is placed on a pedestal due to his looks and many of his infractions are ignored or considered charming.

Kyung-seok is actually a good character with different issues and growth but he was reduced to "a pretty face" so many times that I hated it. Other men are often compared to him without any emphasis on how bad that is.

While the concept was done well, My ID is Gangnam Beauty wasn't without flaws. However, it is a step forward and I hope that upcoming dramas tackle these issues better.

the characters

I'll go deep into each of the main characters later so here's an overall opinion on the main and supporting characters.

Even though it has a good base concept, there is one major problem with the drama: the two main characters aren't very interesting to watch.

Kang Mi-rae is easy to empathise with but isn't attention-grabbing on the screen. I found myself looking at other characters more than her when they shared screen time. She is shy and awkward almost all the time. That wouldn't be bad if her face showed varied expressions and was engaging to look at. She doesn't show a lot of emotion and was often straight-faced.

I'm unsure if it is due to the acting or if that's how the character is written (I am inclined towards the latter) but it was hard to be interested in her beyond what she represents in the story. I liked her story and growth but I didn't like her.

Kyung-seok is mostly expressionless in the drama. Being expressionless and reclusive is a part of his personality because when he eventually smiles even a little bit, it means a lot. Throughout the show, he mostly has a straight face and it doesn't change when he is nervous or contemplative.

Generally, shows pair characters so that their energies complement each other on screen. One shows less emotion and the other shows more emotion. Because this drama paired two characters who aren't sufficiently emotional, many of the scenes felt bland to watch. Several of their romantic scenes were muted as well. Whatever feelings I got would have been ten times more if there was more emotion on screen.

Mi-rae did grow to become more effusive towards the end which shows that they're a good pairing and they just needed to get there but it was still not as interesting to watch them on screen at times.

my id is gangnam beauty supporting characters - freshman class
source: HanCinema

Thankfully, supporting characters made up for what the main characters lacked. I loved seeing almost all of the supporting characters on screen. They played their roles very well.

My favourite characters were:

  • Hyun-jung, Mi-rae's best friend. We don't get to see her as much (and one of her storylines gets cut off without resolution) but I loved her whenever she came on screen. She is short, cute, and spunky. I loved her energy and the way she spoke up for Mi-rae.
  • Kyung-seok's mother is an icon. Her grace, her style, and the way she treats people in her life is outstanding. I absolutely loved her and I wish I could meet her in real life.
  • Yoo Eun, the freshman class's representative. This was my first time seeing Park Yoo-na in a role and I became a fan. I loved her style, the way she cared for her classmates, and how she stood up for her friends. I especially loved her role with Soo-ah in the last few episodes. She is the friend that everyone needs.

the romance

Mi-rae and Kyung-seok have a slow relationship growth. While Kyung-seok is clearly enamoured with her from the start, they don't fall over each other or take steps towards each other immediately. They are pushed into situations together and slowly bond. I really liked how they cared for each other before they saw each other in a romantic light.

The path to their happily ever after isn't a smooth one as well. They got off on the wrong foot a couple of times and had to clear out the air by communicating honestly. They shared their vulnerabilities and they consciously worked towards working through them to be together properly. All of it made their relationship better.

Because it takes a long time for anything to happen, when they do start dating and being a couple, it is incredibly swoony. They have some great swoon-worthy moments, mainly because of Kyung-seok's confidence and Mi-rae's shyness and awkwardness.

Kyung-seok is unapologetic in supporting and defending her, which she needs often. In turn, Mi-rae helps him have better relationships with the people in his life. They are a part of each other's growth and it was beautiful to see.

my id is gangnam beauty kang mi-rae and do kyung-seok in the rain, under a umbrella together
source: HanCinema

miscellaneous points

Some opinions that don't fit into the above categories:

  • Mi-rae and Hyun-jung's friendship was so pure and lovely. Their love for one another shone on screen. They had fun together and they supported each other in everything. I really liked their relationships.
  • I loved the emphasis on perfumes. The drama points out how scent doesn't depend on looks and is separate from traditional "beauty" yet it can provide confidence and make a lasting impression.
  • Kyung-seok's relationships with his mother and sister were <3. Kyung-seok is the best brother to Kyung-hee and learns to mend his relationship with his mother and I loved seeing all of it.
  • The love triangle with Kyung-seok, Mi-rae, and Woo-yeong felt unnecessary to me, barring one thing (I'll talk about it in the spoiler section). Mi-rae was so clearly meant to be with Kyung-seok that the love triangle never felt important to me.
  • Woo-yeong is technically the fourth main character in the drama (after the main two and Soo-ah) but we never get his backstory or learn more about him. He was like any other supporting character to me.
  • Watching Kyung-seok and Woo-yeong bond was so nice. They like the same girl and have some competition but once they become roommates, they also bond with each other and become unlikely friends.
  • The pacing of the drama wasn't consistent. It was very slow at some parts and fast in the last two episodes. Some things were given too much screen time. It could have been better because it was almost like a bunch of things were crammed in the last couple of episodes because they were running out of time.

the main characters

Kang Mi-rae

my id is gangnam beauty kang mi-rae

Played by Im Soo-hyang, Kang Mi-rae is the main star of the show. She's shy, awkward, and skittish. Because she grew up facing the brunt of bullying, she is wary and doesn't try to hope for better with new people. When people at the university like her, she cries. Im Soo-hyang played the character really well. I liked how Kang Mi-rae's gait and posture were reflective of her personality. She walks slowly and her shoulder curve inwards to form a defensive posture.

Her growth over the drama is beautiful. I loved seeing her accept love, consciously unlearn her bad habits (like grading people's faces), care about new people, and find her new place in the world. She faces new challenges after her plastic surgeries and she grows through them.

At the start of the show, she is naive about people because she never had "good" interactions with them. She didn't learn about people pretending to be nice while having ill intentions. She has always directly seen the bad side. But in university, she goes through experiences with two-faced people and learns how to judge people.

Do Kyung-seok

my id is gangnam beauty do kyung-seok

Do Kyung-seok was literally the star of the university. Played by Cha Eun-woo, the character is meant to be perfect. He is handsome, smart, and good at fighting. He calls people out on their nonsense and doesn't bother with friendships, preferring to be alone. But over time, he clearly falls for Mi-rae and wants to be the person who stands with her.

He is the son of a cunning politician and hasn't been in contact with his mother for years. His heart has been hardened due to what happened in his family. He moves out suddenly after a while and rooms with Yeong Woo-yeong. It was interesting to see him learn to be an independent adult and care about money when he didn't have to before. He was finally able to make decisions for himself and have relationships with people of his choosing.

At the start, Kyung-seok was full of sharp edges. Being with Mi-rae and having other good people in his life softened his edges a bit. It was nice to see him smile and have fun.

Hyun Soo-ah

my id is gangnam beauty hyun soo-ah

Hyun Soo-ah is an unlikeable character but is the most complex one. She is the perfect natural beauty and has the personality to match. She is kind, smiles at everyone, and tries to be friends with everyone. She eats well and supposedly never gains weight. She is smart but doesn't show it off. She's seemingly perfect but as the drama progresses, we see that it's all a well-crafted layer.

Soo-ah's character and character arc was so interesting. Although I couldn't like her, she is my favourite character because of her complexity. She was also a master manipulator—she knows how to play people and get what she wants. Jo Woo-ri played the character so well that she even received some date because of the drama.

I loved how her layers were peeled back one by one until we see her real personality at the end. I would have preferred the pacing to have been consistent so things like her arc's resolution weren't rushed at the end.


If you don’t want to get spoiled, click here to skip to the “overall” concluding section.

Some quick spoiler points:

  • The scene where Woo-yeong tells Mi-rae that he was first attracted to her because of her looks and "what is wrong with being attracted to the way someone looks" was so good. It pointed out how most people view attraction and why it is not acceptable for Mi-rae—because of everything she went through. She doesn't want someone to like her for her face because they wouldn't have liked her if she didn't get plastic surgery. She doesn't want her features to be an aspect considered at all.
  • Soo-ah's dialogue about hating people who get plastic surgeries because the number of pretty faces increases and it reduces the value of truly attractive people was so interesting. It pointed out how beauty is a commodity. Most people wouldn't think or say what she did but for someone who wants to be the only one to stand out (like Soo-ah), it is everything.
  • Kyung-seok's mom's story was interesting too. She used to think that she had the world in the palm of her hands because of her beauty but the "good" man she found only wanted to have her on his arm and stay at home. He basically wanted her in a cage. It didn't matter that she was talented in her field because, according to him, a woman's place is at home with the kids. Her story was about how even if a woman seemingly has all the potential, she is still objectified and is expected to bend to a man's will. Beauty can be a curse, too.
  • Loved the episode on the university fest where the men wanted the women to serve because "they will bring in more customers" and wanted them to wear short skirts. As the guys complimented Mi-rae, Soo-ah, and Ji-hyo, they also fat-shamed Tae-hee and made fun of Yoon-byul. It showed just how common misogyny is and how men don't care if women are uncomfortable. Even the "good guys" stand aside quietly without calling out problematic things.


It wasn't a perfectly done drama but it was interesting. If nothing else, the individual character growth of the main characters was great to see.

I recommend the drama if you're in the mood for something complex and are okay with slow pacing. The drama can be incredibly slow at times but it is worth it. If you like to analyze characters and situations without any action scenes, this is a good pick.

While I've watched it multiple times, I wouldn't call it a comfort show. I don't think most viewers would rewatch it. It's not enjoyable enough to watch multiple times unless you want something to play in the background while you do something else.

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let's chat!

Have you seen My ID is Gangnam Beauty? What did you think of the drama?

Is there any drama that you rewatch regularly even though it isn't one of your "favourites"?

photo of Sumedha

Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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  • Stephanie | The Espresso Edition says:

    I feel like every few days, my list of kdramas that I want to watch grows exponentially. This sounds like a really interesting story and definitely one that speaks to topics close to my heart. I've already got quite the watch list, but I'm adding this on there! Now if only I can have the free time to actually sit and watch them all haha.

    Reply ➔
  • GWT says:

    I will admit to have started watching this Kdrama, then stopped. I kept willing it well. So I thought I read your review to see if I missed anything. I may just give it another try

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      If it's really uninteresting, you may as well skip it. While I found it good, I recognize that it isn't for everyone with the slow pacing and stiff main characters.

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