Second Male Lead Syndrome is a real thing. My sister and I often find ourselves backing the person who does not get the girl and has to seemingly live out the remainder of their life in misery… (and it really is portrayed as the rest of their life).
I suppose that is what every girl wants, right? A kind, well-resourced, ever-devoted Plan B…
In the real world, I have moral objections on wishing such misery on another human. In Dramaland I have a Top 10…
Here is a list of my Top 10 Second Male Leads, let me if you think anyone else belongs to this list:
10. Shin Hu-ye | Bride of Haebaek (2017) | Portrayed by Lim Ju-hwan
While not my favourite drama, the Bride of Habaek featured a pretty decent tortured second male lead in the form of Shin Hu-ye. Shin Hu-ye is a semi-god disguised as a CEO. He also happens to be a doctor and enjoys gardening! Truly, a well-rounded man.
9. Yoon Ji-hoo | Boys over Flowers (2009) | Portrayed Kim Hyun-joong
Although it never made a lot of sense why the gentle, violinist Yoon Ji-hoo chose to get into not one but two one-sided relationships (first with Min Seo-hyun and then with our Geum Jan-di) he made an exceptional second male lead.
8. Kim Yoon-sung| Love in the Moonlight (2016)| Portrayed by Jung Jin-young
Kim Yoon-Sung, the tender-hearted artist, was a truly tragic second male lead. Looking great in floral, he graced our screens (and finally broke our hearts) in Love in the Moonlight.
7. In Guk-doo| Strong Girl Bong-soon (2017)| Portrayed by Ji-soo
My sister’s #1, this second male lead is rough, gruff and fights for justice 💪. If you are into boyish charm and a strong moral compass, this man is the man for you. Too bad for Buk-doo, I mean Guk-doo (you have to watch the drama to get the joke) he realised his feelings for Bong-soon too late 😭
6. Seo Jung-woo| My Girl (2005)| Portrayed by Lee Joon-gi
Don’t let the fact that Lee Joon-gi dressed in Santa Claus themed colours for the My Girl promotional pictures dissuade you from his contribution to Second Male Lead Syndrome! Seo Jung-woo had excellent martial arts skills, a killer smile and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time…
5. Kang Shin-woo| You’re Beautiful (2009)| Portrayed by Jung Young-hwa
Go Mi-nyeo’s gentle secret supporter, Kang Shin-woo, was a stark contrast to the callous first male lead, Hwang Tae-kyung. Audiences were so puzzled by the non-eventuality of this relationship that Heartstrings (2011) followed soon after.
4. Goo Dong-mae | Mr. Sunshine (2018) | Portrayed by Yoo Yeon-seok
Dong-mae may have been a cold-blooded killer but his love for Ae-shin was anything but cold. This self-sacrificing, skilled-swordsman was my reason for watching Mr Sunshine to the very end…
3. Choi Young-do | The Heirs (2013) | Portrayed by Kim Woo-bin
Choi Young-do is the bully you never want but the admirer you dream of having. It still confuses me how Choi Young-do’s striking looks and playful charm could not win over Cha Eun-sang when she clearly had a thing for the tormentor-type.
2. Lee Hee-kyung | My Love from the Star (2014) | Portrayed by Park Hae-jin
The bestfriend/wannabe lover was so earnest/unwavering in his love for Cheon Song-yi that despite her near-perfect coupling with Do Min-joon, I was #teamleeheekyung.
1. Han Tae-seok | Autumn in my Heart (2000) | Portrayed by Won Bin
A second male lead pioneer, Won Bin was fast-tracked into the Hallyu hall of fame following his role as heart-throb hotel magnate Han Tae-seok.
The oldest drama to be featured on this list, Autumn in my Heart marked the beginning of what was to be eventually known as the Korean Wave (our forever source of second lead heartbreak).