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Moments with Mimi: ‘Extraordinary Attorney Woo’ breaks boundaries with autism awareness, shows there is still work to be done

This summer has been the summer of TV binge-watching. From “Criminal Minds” to “Bling Empire,” my Netflix account has been working double time with how much I’ve been watching. My newest obsession has been the new ongoing Korean Drama, or K-Drama, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” which follows young attorney Woo Young-Woo, who has autism spectrum disorder, and how she takes on her everyday life. 

When the series first started coming out, I thought nothing of it since K-Drama episode runtimes are usually over an hour and my attention span can’t last that long. However, the fan edits and teaser clips from the show were intriguing enough for me to curiously start it. From the first episode on, the drama has been funny and entertaining but makes the viewer take time for self-reflection as well. 

The show depicts the normalized ableism in society today such as Youngwoo’s coworkers viewing her as lesser than because of her disorder or everyday things like revolving doors that may not be accessible to some people. Specifically, Youngwoo has issues with her coworker, Kwon Min-Woo, who feels threatened by Youngwoo’s intelligence and tries to constantly belittle her.

There are characters in the show that also progress over the course of the season to begin understanding Youngwoo, and the harsh reality that people with autism have to go through. Choi Suyeon is a good example, as she is Youngwoo’s peer during law school as well as her new coworker at Hanbada law firm. Suyeon used to get discouraged by how successful Youngwoo was during their time at Seoul National University with her high bar score and impressive IQ. It isn’t until Suyeon recognizes the discrimination against Young-Woo at work that she takes on a protective older sister role.

The love interest, Lee Junho, is another person who learns about the prejudice in society against people with disabilities, as he begins to develop feelings for Youngwoo. Junho is constantly bombarded by others asking him if he truly likes Youngwoo. When the two are in public and run into Junho’s friends, they continuously believe he’s doing charity and volunteer work. 

One thing that makes the show successful is the devoted romance that Junho has for Youngwoo. Throughout the season, Junho has swooned viewers with many green flags like letting Youngwoo talk about her love for whales when no one else does, consoling her when they witness a car crash and being her endless support when she feels like she has no one.

However, there is some criticism on social media that the main actress, Park Eunbin, is not autistic herself, so should she really be playing a character with autism? I read that she was hesitant to take the role, but did extensive research on the disorder and met with medical professionals in order to properly portray the disability without being offensive. Nevertheless, there is still discourse on both sides, as there has been a point made over her taking the opportunity away from autistic actors that could have taken the role instead.

Although the show is by no means perfect, it’s hard to ignore that this series is a big step for South Korea. Because the country is known to be on the more conservative and traditional side, having a piece of media that discusses a topic that is quite stigmatized is huge. Hopefully, the success of the show will allow the K-Drama industry, as well as other TV and film industries around the world, to be more inclusive in their topics and characters.

Mimi Calhoun is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Have something to say? Email Mimi at mc300120@ohio.edu or tweet her @mimi_calhoun.


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