Apr 3, 2024

"Bloodhounds": Strong Gay Subtext among Korean Boxers

 Gay subtexts occur when two guys not specifically identified as gay through statements or displays of affection have a relationship that is exclusive (no significant interest in women), domestic (living together), emotionally intense, and permanent (they stay together at the end of the adventure).  Platonic pals could have a similar relationship, of course: that's why it's called a subtext rather than a text.  A casual glance at the Korean action-adventure series Bloodhounds revealed a lot of gay subtext potential, so here goes:

Scene 1
: Innocent-looking Geon-Wu (Woo Doh-Hwan, left) and rowdy-looking Woo-Jin (Lee Sang-Yi, below) practicing boxing in separate empty gyms. Later, on a bus, Geon-Wu intervenes when a passenger refuses to wear a mask and starts assaulting the driver. 

He goes home to find his mother begging creditors for more time to pay, and leaves to avoid embarrassing her.

Scene 2
: Some suit guys discussing how COVID is threatening their hotel business. Loan shark Kim Myeung-Gil (Park Sung-Wong) passes out his business card to everyone. 

Scene 3:
The Rookie of the Year Tournament, in a giant stadium (empty due to COVID).  Rowdy-looking Woo Jin (left), who specializes in weird noises, Maori haka-dancing, and punching himself in the groin, beats two opponents.   

Geon-woo beats his opponent, then rushes to see if he is ok (a really nice guy, apparently).  

Next the guys fight each other.  Rowdy Woo Jin loses, and is devastated.  How could this by-the-books upstart beat him?  He is dishonored forever.

Scene 4:  Geon-woo waits for Rowdy Woo Jin outside the locker room, and invites him to dinner.  "Why, to rub it in?  You won, now get lost!"  But he consents.

Dinner consists of ten minutes of flirting, being way over-impressed by each other's back stories, and figuring out ways to touch each other.   The sexual tension is intense, but the conversation is boring.  

The only statement of interest is when Woo Jin reminisces about being in the marines.  He loved "taking showers together...soaping each other up..."  Geon Woo, surprised, says "So you're...."  Woo Jin: "Of course not!  I was just messing with you."

Scene 5: 
 They walk to the bus stop very slowly, each trying to figure out how to get the other into the bedroom; instead, Woo Jin just asks for a second date.  They discuss the loan sharks who are exploiting everyone, now that COVID is making everyone lose their businesses.  Like Geon-woo's mother, who can't make the rent on her coffee shop.  

Scene 6: Mom on the phone to her creditors. Geon-woo comes in, all excited over the money he won today, and the cute guy he met, not in that order.  But Mom won't take the money to cover the rent: it would be dishonorable.  

Cut to the loan shark crew going from business to business, grinning hungrily as the owners sign the papers.

Scene 7:  Geon-woo's gym is closed due to a COVID exposure!  But his coach tells him to take a week off anyway, and rest after his big tournament.  So he calls Woo Jin.  So early in the morning? If you're too over-eager, you'll scare him off.  "I'm sleeping!"  Woo Jin tells him. "But I'm bored.  Let's hang out."  "So clingy! Ok, you can come over and sleep with me."  

On the way to Woo-Jin's house, Geon-woo stumbles upon a guy getting beat up.  He chases the assailant, who fights back with a taser.  "Who sent you?" the guy wants to know.  "No one -- I just wanted to help."  The guy lets him go.

Cut to a lady trying to pay back an old guy in a library for the loan that allowed her to get her daughter some life-saving surgery.  He refuses: pay off your urgent debts first.  Is this a comparison of "nice" loan guys with evil loan sharks?  When she leaves, he takes out his ledge and cancels the loan.

Scene 8: The assailant, who turns out to be a girl, returns to headquarters and reports that the client didn't have any money, so she took his gold watch instead.  Gasp -- she worksfor the nice library guy, her Grandpa!  "But the watch is worth 20 million won, and I only loaned him 10 million!" Grandpa exclaims, demonstrating his honesty.  

They discuss the evil loan shark gang.  Granddaughter wants to do some recon, but Grandpa thinks it's too dangerous.

Scene 9: 
The guys having breakfast, discussing boxing, and finding new ways to touch each other. They end up wrestling or hugging or something, and chase each other off-camera, where presumably they are kissing. 

Cut to the wealthy Mr. Park celebrating his birthday with dinner and a show: can Kang in-beom (Tae won-suk) smash a watermelon with his bare hands?  He can.  His gift is some golden turtles worth billions of won, and so clean that no one will know they are stolen.  

Scene 10: Kang in-beom also works for the loan sharks: he is tasked with taking fifteen goons and smashing the storefronts of business owners who aren't paying up, including Mom!  

 She calls Geon-woo for help.  He jumps out of Woo-Jin's bed, runs home, and fights the goons.  After he finishes clobbering them, head loan shark Myeung Gil shows up to explain the loan agreement and send in Kang in-beom, who bashes him repeatedly with his head, strangles him, and squeezes him into unconsciousness.  Myeung Gil then slashes his cheek while "laughing sinisterly" according to the subtitles.  The End.

Beefcake: The guys box shirtless.

Gay Subtext:  I went through a couple of episodes on fast-forward. By Episode 3, they're all living with the friendly librarian.  They always appear as a pair.  Neither ever expresses any interest in a girl.  And at the end of the adventure, they (and Mom) go home together.  

That's every characteristic of a gay subtext.  It's almost text, except there are no overtly romantic displays of affection, like holding hands, kissing, or having sex, and the lack of expressed interest in women is not unusual in Korean dramas.  


  1. Boxing like wrestling is a very homoerotic sport

  2. I watched half of the first episode. The two boxers are gorgeous but they're both pretty boring when they have their clothes on. And jesus, you can cut the gay sub-text with a knife. But Korean dramas seem to be like that, a lot of 30ish adults who are practically virginal in their sexual inexperience and naivete.

  3. In episode 7 there is a scene where host asks "who wants the top bunk" and the boys respond "it doesn't matter" then she looks at Geon-woo and says... You get the top... Then rowdy Woo-jin gets upset and asks her how she reached that decision... Mmm hmmm we all knew

  4. Lol, I also thought the same thing. I suppose it's natural to assume there's going to be a love interest, I even thought one of them would fall in love with the daughter but nothing. But the strongest scene was in the later episode like after the old man got killed. They were sleeping very close beside each other shirtless in those red shorts. Then I was like maybe this is a little more than brotherhood. But then again, I understand the dynamics are different in Korean culture. I think the Kpop guys have a similar dynamic.


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