Strong Girl Bong Soon was a popular series when it aired in 2017 and has been well-loved since. So it was no surprise when a sequel was first announced. Strong Girl Nam Soon (힘쎈여자 강남순/Strong Woman Kang Nam Soon) is essentially a loose sequel, set in the same universe as the former series. It stands on its own in many ways, but perhaps shares many of the same hurdles as well.
Strong Girl Bong Soon tells the story of Gang Nam Soon, a young woman who is born with superhuman strength. After getting separated and lost from her father while on a trip in Mongolia, Nam Soon is raised by caring adoptive Mongolian parents as Tsetseg. Upon learning of her Korean roots while growing up, Tsetseg (Lee Yoo Mi) does all she can to learn the Korean language and about Korean culture. All in the hopes that she will be able to reunite with her biological family one day.
When the time comes for her to finally fly to Korea, Tsetseg/Nam Soon’s superstrength naturally catches attention until she is finally able to meet her biological mother, the uber wealthy Hwang Geum Joo (Kim Jung Eun) and grandmother Gil Joong Gan (Kim Hae Sook). Both of whom also have superhuman strength. But while she reconnects with her family, including father Gang Bong Go (Lee Seung Joon) and twin brother Gang Nam In (Han Sang Jo), she gets wrapped up with Gang Hee Sik (Ong Seong Wu) of the Gangnam police department who specializes in investigating drug cases.
Mother Geum Joo has made it her life’s mission to use her wealth to help people and society at large. Now she is aiming to rid Korea of its emerging drug problem. And they all come together to find a way to expose and take down Ryu Shi Oh (Byeon Woo Seok), the CEO of a distribution and sales company that turns out to be behind the development and spread of a new and deadly synthetic drug.
Like the former series, Strong Girl Nam Soon tries to balance its over-the-top humor with the more serious crime drama aspect of its story. And like the former series, Nam Soon has a bit of trouble walking that tightrope. What makes it even more difficult for Strong Girl Nam Soon is its disjointed storytelling that has to navigate through several plot threads. Some that intertwine, others that feel very much like trivial side stories and distracting vignettes.
The many different plot threads don’t flow together in the best way. And the disjointed narrative in the first couple of episodes may be enough to turn some potential viewers off. But the series manages to right or at least stabilize the ship halfway through when stories do finally meet at common points. Though the series is unable to truly find the perfect balancing act, at the very least, things become a bit more focused.
Compared to the former series, Strong Girl Nam Soon plays more like a traditional superhero story. A young, affable superhero growing into her powers before facing a dangerous villain. Unlike the former, this series features not only Nam Soon using her powers in everyday situations, but also shows mother and grandmother Geum Joo and Joong Gan as well. Whether it is fighting off goons or grinding up pork bones for soup or even just showing off the latest fashions, veterans Kim Jung Eun and Kim Hae Sook join Lee Yoo Mi as the series’ heroines.
It’s a family affair, even if the series is titled Strong Girl Nam Soon. But this series focuses much more on the idea of family. And it is probably what the series does strongest. Tackling the idea of what the family will do for each other and what they mean to each other, with or without superpowers. How families can argue and disagree, but will always come together in the end. And on the flip side, how a search for family can have a joyous outcome for some, but have a painful and devastating effect on others.
Strong Girl Nam Soon is one of those situations where the series has all of the pieces it needs, but has trouble putting it all together.
It has an absolutely stunning all-star cast, led by the aforementioned Kim Jung Eun and Kim Hae Sook with the talented Lee Yoo Mi in the title role. Lee Yoo Mi is able to take on a considerably lighter role here than her recent performances that have gained her attention. And she does a good job finding the balance between the over-the-top slapstick and the more serious and reserved moments that are required of her. Even if the series itself is not as successful with that balance.
Kim Jung Eun and Kim Hae Sook are effortless in their performances. Both also tasked with showing off their more comedic sides rather than the dramatic performances they are also known for. They lead a solid ensemble cast that includes singer-actor Ong Seong Wu as almost the straight man sidekick and love interest to Lee Yoo Mi’s Nam Soon.
Byeon Woo Seok, however, probably does most of the heavy lifting (pun intended) in the series as his performance elevates the sometimes caricature character of Ryu Shi Oh. It is thanks to his performance that the series has the needed antagonist to truly lift up Nam Soon and family’s heroic acts. And Byeon Woo Seok is able to inject some much needed (though still not enough) depth to what can sometimes be an unfortunately shallow story.
The series dives into the familiar trappings of corruption in the government and media in actually interesting ways. And tapping into the increased scrutiny of drugs in Korea is also a timely subject even if the series isn’t necessarily doing so in the most serious or dramatic way.
Still, the series has just enough things going for it to help bear the excess weight that tries to bog the entire thing down. Along with the charming and charismatic cast, the action sequences are legitimately exciting and fun. It really never gets old seeing the three generations of women tossing people, objects and even large statues around like they were pieces of rolled up paper.
And ultimately, Strong Girl Nam Soon is simply an amusing and fun ride. You can toss out all expectations and just hop along for some mostly mindless fun with some touches of heart and emotion sprinkled throughout.