If you’ve watched your fair share of K-dramas, you know by now that love stories are not always painted in black and white. Somewhere in the middle is a second male lead to shake things up and leave our hearts just as confused. If this drama trope floats your boat, here are 10 second male leads who we think deserve better! Read on and see if your favorites made the cut.
Han Ji Pyeong (“Start-Up”)
Arguably, Han Ji Pyeong was the character that defined Kim Seon Ho’s career. K-drama fans fell in love with “good boy” even though he stands as the second male lead. Audiences got sucked into the love triangle between him, Seo Dal Mi (Bae Suzy) and Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk). While Do San has his captivating charm, Ji Pyeong was the perfect representation of a good boy whose character was molded by misfortunes in his early years. As a successful businessman, he was sharp and unrelenting with his work. But behind that cold facade, viewers got a glimpse of his tenderness throughout the show. Even though he played the second lead, his charm divided fans of the show between team Good Boy and team Do San.
Wo Hae Hyo (“Record of Youth”)
Byeon Woo Seok was surely made for his role as Won Hae Hyo, who is an aspiring star who was controlled by his overprotective mother. He is close friends with Sa Hye Jun, played by Park Bo Gum. To add a layer of drama into this friendship, Hae Hyo develops feelings for Ahn Jeong Ha, played by Park So Dam. However, she ends up being Hye Jun’s girlfriend, a complication that leaves Hae Hyo defeated in love. But not one to back down from a setback, Hae Hyo still managed to carve his own path even if romantic love is out of the picture.
Gong Tae Kwang (“Who Are You: School 2015”)
Gong Tae Kwang (BTOB’s Yook Sung Jae) may be the class clown, but he’s actually weighed down by a troubled home life. Fortunately, he befriends Lee Eun Bi (Kim So Hyun), the only person who seems to give him comfort. What got viewers rooting for Tae Kwang as a second male lead is that he also gives his unrelenting support to Eun Bi as she navigates her identity. Sung Jae delivered an excellent performance, which left fans hanging when the drama concluded with Tae Kwang’s unrequited love.
Jung Nam Gil (“Go Back Couple”)
In this drama, a troubled married couple were given the chance to go back in time when they were still in college and have a do-over. When Ma Jin Joo (Jang Na Ra) and Choi Ban Do (Son Ho Jun) learned what they were dealt with, they both decided that they wanted to steer clear from each other and avoid their troublesome marriage down the line. Choi Ban Do tried to pursue another girl, while Jin Joo caught the attention of dashing Jung Nam Gil (Jang Ki Yong). He is a ROTC candidate and popular upperclassman in the same history department as Jin-joo. While all other university females fan over him, he has a one-sided crush on Jin-joo. His character was in stark contrast to that of Choi Ban Do, that you can’t help but root for him too! However, fate has other plans. Jin Joo and Ban Do were meant to be together, but this inevitably left Nam Gil on the sidelines. One can’t help but wish someone would come along for him too! Thankfully, the writers slipped that in the finale and everybody got the ending they wanted for this charming second male lead.
Kim Ji Ung (“Our Beloved Summer”)
In “Our Beloved Summer,” Kim Ji Woong (Kim Sung Cheol) was left to make a difficult choice, that is to keep his friendship with Choi Ung (Choi Woo Shik) or entertain his feelings for Kook Yeon Soo (Kim Da Mi). As a married couple swimming in conflict, it was Ji Woong who played a part in their eventual reconciliation, even if that meant it was breaking his own heart. Sung Cheol delivered a compelling performance with his character who yearned and suffered in silence. He could have chosen to be selfish, but he gave way—and that’s one reason why fans think he truly deserved a happier ending.
Kim Shin Hyuk (“She Was Pretty”)
This drama centered on how physical appearance heavily factors in someone’s worth and capacity to be loved. SUPER JUNIOR’s Si Won, made an unforgettable performance portraying the free-spirited and mysterious Kim Shin Hyuk. He fell for Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) even before she underwent her physical transformations, which endeared audiences to his character. Fans of the show would agree that he definitely stole the show from the main, male character. As the textbook example of a second lead syndrome, he managed to make the us wonder why he wasn’t the chosen one. Despite that rejection, Shin Hyuk took it like a man and proved to Hye Jin that their friendship was not just some ploy to be closer to her. Their friendship still remained even after they parted ways.
Go Chung Myung (Hotel Del Luna)
This next character we may have to qualify because Go Chung Myung’s (Lee Do Hyun) relationship with Jang Man Wol (IU) existed in the past. However, their tragic backstory is what strengthened their love and loss. Throughout the show, glimpses of their past painted their love in a sorrowful light. It was the classic case of meeting the right person at the wrong time. This left Man Wol harboring a strong resentment against him, which she carried for thousands of years. However, behind her anger was a love that was better left in the past as it is marred with so much pain.
Seo Beom Jo (“Pinocchio”)
Pinocchio brought together two of the brightest Hallyu drama stars, Park Shin Hye and Lee Jong Sook, But Kim Young Kwang’s Seo Beom Jo was also a memorable character. While some of the characters on this list seem to have the winning qualities, Beom Jo took a full 180 midway into the series. Initially, he was this kind-hearted mama’s boy who is willing to do anything for his long-time crush Choi In Ha (Shin Hye). Unfortunately, he also has conniving tendencies which was also an interesting shift of tone. But it was also revealed that Beom Jo was genuinely just interested in doing right by In Ha.
Ye Ji Hoon (“18 Again”)
In the coming-of-age series 18 Again, which stars Lee Do-hyun/Yoon Sang-hyun as Hong Dae-young and Kim Ha-neul as Jung Da-jung, Wi Ha Joon played the role of Ye Ji-Hoon, a baseball star who harbors feelings for Jung Da-yung because she reminds him of his brother who passed away in a tragic accident. He pursued her even despite the lukewarm response he is getting. Unfortunately, he had to let go of Jung Da-yung when he realized that she is still in love with her ex-husband, Hong Dae-young.
Ji Seong Hyun (“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha”)
When Kim Seon Ho rose to be the main star in the healing drama, “Hometown Cha Cha Cha,” he passed the second male lead baton to singer and musical actor, Lee Sang Yi. He portrayed Ji Seong Hyun, who is a smart and workaholic PD for a variety show. It was revealed that he has long admired Chief Hong’s (Seon Ho) love interest, Yoon Hye Jin (Shin Min Ah). His genuine efforts for Hye Jin showed that he had the right love at the wrong time. Sadly, he had to bear the brunt of rejection twice. The first was back in school and the second was when they met again after several years. In the end, he was left with no choice but to accept his fate.