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Nam Ji-hyun as Oh In Hyung in a still from Little Women. The Netflix K-drama lives up to its early hype, with top-draw directing and an exhilarating plot full of betrayal. Can three ambitious sisters rely on each other to survive in a cruel, top-down society?

K-drama midseason recap: Little Women – intoxicating Netflix ‘makjang’ drama dazzles with soap opera highs and lows

  • This fast-moving K-drama fulfils its early promise with more stellar screenwriting and a turbulent plot that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats
  • The series centres around the ups and downs of three ambitious sisters who must overcome betrayal and rely on each other to survive in a cruel, top-down society

This article contains minor spoilers.

Cruising at breakneck speed through a dizzying series of ups and downs, Little Women continues to deliver on the promise it showed early on.

The series is over-the-top and addictive like other Korean soap operas, or “ makjang drama”, of recent years such as Sky Castle and The Penthouse, but a much better show than both the latter, with some of the best directing, writing, production design, music and cinematography seen on Korean television.

It does, however, operate with the narrative urgency that is a hallmark of makjang dramas. Reveals come thick and fast, as defeat is followed by victory, followed by defeat, and so on, with hardly any time for the audience to catch its breath in between.

At the heart of the show’s story are its “little women” – sisters Oh In-joo (Kim Go-eun), Oh In-kyung (Nam Ji-hyun) and Oh In-hye (Park Ji-hu). Rather than copying the numerous Western adaptations of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel that have come before it, Little Women charts its own course.

Formidable and coolly ambitious, the sisters all seem as if cut from the same cloth, yet they stand in stark contrast to one another, eyeing different goals and aiming to achieve them in markedly different ways.

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Reporter In-kyung is the most ferocious of the bunch. Undaunted by danger or protocol, she always places herself in the eye of the storm, whether as a young journalist battling a typhoon or standing up to powerful figures who could destroy her.


Her belligerence eventually gets her fired from the news network she initially works at, but undeterred, she marches into an election debate, rips the microphone off another reporter, and hits mayoral candidate Park Jae-sang (Uhm Ki-joon) with savage allegations. When her mic is cut she speaks louder, commanding the room.

As the runt of the litter, In-hye is the quietest sister, but she’s no less determined. Bristling at her family’s suffocating attention and affection, she tries to break free, first through her art and then by abandoning her family for Park Jae-sang’s, whose daughter, Hyo-rin (Jeon Chae-eun), she has befriended.

Uhm Ki-joon as Park Jae-sang in a still from Little Women.

Jae-sang brings In-hye to the roof of an abandoned building one day and explains how it will be torn down to make way for something better, in a metaphor for her own life and brighter future, should she stick with his family.

As the eldest sister, In-joo’s dream is to keep the family together. Once she’s had a taste of the good life she no longer fears coveting what isn’t hers. Since she seeks to provide for her sisters, her moral scruples fall away.

Despite being the eldest, In-joo comes off as the least capable and certainly the most naive among the siblings. Yet people who come across her tend to see something special in her.

Wi Ha-joon (left) as Choi Do-il, and Kim Go-eun as Oh In-joo, in a still from Little Women.

Back in episode three, In-joo discovered that her colleague and friend Jin Hwa-young (Choo Ja-hyun) had secret conversations with Won Sang-woo (Lee Min-woo), the CEO of the corporation they both work for. In these conversations, they had compared In-joo to a rare “Princess” orchid that outshines all others when it finally blooms.


This sentiment returns in heart-stopping fashion in episode eight, after In-joo wins an orchid at auction in Singapore with an extravagant bid.

In-joo receives a message from someone who has been impersonating her; In-joo and Choi Do-il (Wi Ha-joon) have gone to Singapore in the hopes of tracking this person down. The message reads: “You look like a real princess today. I was always curious, how much you would shine when you bloom.”

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Sometimes we have to decide between the ties that we’re born with and those that we choose. In-joo is utterly devoted to her sisters, but her feelings for Hwa-young – who has since died – remain the strongest.


She saw in the cool and capable Hwa-young a kindred soul, so when we see flashes of the fake In-joo in Singapore, running in slow motion in a resplendent yellow cocktail dress – somewhat resembling an exotic orchid – we dare to dream along with her: could this be Hwa-young returned to life?

Meanwhile, In-kyung ploughs on with her investigation, but in the face of the sheer power and twisted tactics of her opponents, her rectitude shows signs of wavering.

Park Ji-hu as Oh In-hye in a still from Little Women.

Faced with her own shocking discoveries, In-hye also begins to wonder if she’s made the right choice. Jae-sang is a monster, and his wife, Won Sang-a (Uhm Ji-won), proves to be a far more complex character than anyone could have imagined.


In the end, the only people the sisters can count on is each other. They have lied to and hidden things from one another, but in a do-or-die situation, will they be able to ignore a sister in need?

Abandoned by their parents and held down by a cruel, top-down society, it’s them against the world.

Uhm Ji-won as Won Sang-a, the wife of Park Jae-sang – with whose family In-hye has chosen to live – in a still from Little Women.

Little Women is streaming on Netflix.