One of the most common tropes in rom-com K-dramas are the presence of love triangles with second leads who are handsome, caring and are willing to sacrifice almost everything for the female leads, thus giving us major second lead syndromes, which is unarguably difficult to get over with. It’s a relief if the girl acknowledges his efforts but most of the time, the female leads are so naive that she can’t even catch the obvious hints! And that’s the most heart-breaking part. Interestingly, that doesn’t apply to second female leads. No matter how perfectly suited the main male lead’s character is, if the second lead’s character, by chance, is well-written, we are ought to feel bad for him, and in some cases, want the female lead to choose him over the other guy. Well, that’s how their characters become memorable, isn’t it?
Here are our top seven second male leads in popular K-dramas that have left the fans with the severe second-lead syndrome and it doesn’t seem to get better anytime sooner. The shows have ended, but the characters have become memorable.
7. Extraordinary You: Baek Kyung
Literally no one liked his character in the drama, and he still managed to grab a spot on this list, isn’t that contradictory? Who would like a person who is rude, arrogant, and mean towards the female lead almost throughout the drama? However, as the story unfolded, we got to witness his character development which somehow pushed us to root for him and be sympathetic towards him. Well, we still don’t wish him to have ended up with Eun Dan Oh by any chance. After all, Haru was always better than him by leaps and bounds!
Baek Kyung was raised in a dysfunctional family and was lonely most of the time. And the only person who devoted her life to him was Dan Oh, but instead of treasuring her, he took her for granted and lost her. If he had realised her value earlier, he might have had a happy ending as well.
6. While You Were Sleeping: Han Woo Tak
What can be more painful than loving a girl silently, without letting her know about your feelings? Generally, we see second leads having a tough exterior but Woo Tak is just the opposite of that. Although he is a responsible police officer, he has a soft, caring, gentle and polite personality and is a supportive friend to both the leads— Nam Hong Joo and Jung Jae-Chan. He is a type of person who, after realising Hong Joo and Jae-Chan’s mutual love for each other, quietly accepts it and continues to support and protect them in his own ways, without creating any trouble for them.
His character is so well-written, that viewers find it hard not to mind the longing moments he shares with the girl. The fact that he keeps a silhouette of the two of them together as his phone background is heart-touching as well as sad. Thankfully, he was not given a miserable ending, else it would have been harder to celebrate for the main leads.
5. Boys Over Flowers: Yoon Ji Hoo
A list of most heart-aching second leads can never be complete without including Kim Hyun-Joong’s character of Yoon Ji-Hoo from the classic K-drama, ‘Boys Over Flowers’. While the female lead develops a love-hate relationship with the main lead, Gu Jun Pyo, Ji-Hoo takes care of her heart whenever it gets broken by Jun Pyo and provides a shoulder for her to cry on. While Jan Di is disregarded by Jun-pyo again and again, Ji-Hoo remains consistent and protects her.
Had it been not for this sweet, caring and protective friend, Geun Jan Di would not have been able to survive in their so-called prestigious school. When the series first aired, people were immensely affected by his story, so much that they started disliking the female lead for rejecting his confession. Let’s speak out louder, Ji-Hoo deserved the girl, but the girl didn’t deserve him!
4. True Beauty: Han Seo-Jun
Although Hwang in yeop finally got his big break with Han Seo-Jun’s character in ‘True Beauty,’ he left us suffering from second lead syndrome throughout the series. Handsome, funny and caring guy with a bad reputation but has a heart of gold! Poor Seojun, he just wanted his helmet back from Lim Joo-Gyung, but instead, fell in love with her who liked the popular A+ student of the school, Lee Su-Ho.
There were several moments in the show that pushed the viewers to think how Han Seo-Jun could have been a better match for Lim Joo-Gyung. The guy kept on taking care of her in darkness as a good friend outside of school and was by her side even more than Lee Su-Ho. When Seojun finally gets a little hope of getting the girl after Su-Ho leaves to stay abroad, he suddenly comes back after two years and regains everything in his favour. Well, that was ought to happen since this is how the destiny of second leads are made. We couldn’t help but pity him the most in the show, especially the time when he breaks down on the stairs.
3. Start-Up: Han Ji-Pyeong
One of the most hyped-up K-drama of 2020, ‘Start-Up,’ starring Bae Suzy and Nam Joo-Hyuk in lead roles is not only fun to watch, but also gives us a major second lead syndrome with Kim Seon‑ho. Ji-pyeong’s personality was like that of a typical male lead with a tough facade, but maybe because of this impression of him, it was harder to see the glimpses of his weak moments throughout the series. Right from connecting with Dal-Mi’s grandmother to providing help in keeping Nam Do San’s true identity a secret, Han Ji-Pyeong definitely wins our hearts.
In spite of having strong feelings for Dal-Mi, writing all those nameless love letters to her, he couldn’t gather up his guts to confess. That’s what happens in most of the cases, isn’t it? The second leads are always too late, or be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
2. Reply 1988: Kim Jung-Hwan
One of the most admired second male leads of all time is Reply 1988’s Kim Jung Hwan, played by Ryu Jun Yeol, who didn’t get the female lead’s heart but won the viewers hearts instead! While the other installments of the Reply series too have “second lead syndrome,” the one we get in the Reply 1988 is the strongest. Although Jung Hwan had been nurturing feelings for his childhood friend and neighbour, Sung Deok Sun for a long time, he steps back without creating any trouble after knowing that his friend also likes her.
One of the incidents that made the viewers fall for him is during the alley scene when the two of them were indeed very close to each other but instead of grabbing his opportunity, Jung-Hwan kept looking away from her in shyness. Thankfully, even though they couldn’t end up together on-screen, they found their ways into each other’s lives off-screen and are dating for years now.
1. Cheese In The Trap: Baek In-Ho
So finally we are here to shed some tears for one of the most genuine but unrequited love in the K-drama, ‘Cheese in the Trap’. In most of the cases, we pity the second lead for his efforts but also like the male lead’s chemistry with the female lead. However, it’s different with Baek In-Ho. From the very beginning, the viewers had favoured In-Ho and disliked the main lead, Yoo Jung, which turned worse when he was portrayed as a sociopath. In-Ho and Yoo Jung had been rivals to each other after the former had to lose his career option as a pianist.
Both of them fell in love with the same girl, Hong-seol but it hardly appeared if the male lead was sincere to her. Definitely we get to witness one of the most memorable love triangles here, but it was difficult for us to watch the earnest character of In-Ho and the sincere moments that he shares with the girl.