11 K-Drama Second Leads Who Steal Our Hearts And Never Let Us Go

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Get your tissues ready – because we’re about to jump into the K-Drama phenomenon called Second Lead Syndrome.

K-Drama is one of the driving forces of the spectacular Hallyu Wave. It goes without saying that the Korean entertainment industry is a pro at casting actors for K-dramas. They’re so good at casting that we sometimes get confused over who should win the leading lady’s heart!

If you have ever found yourself at a crossroad between two handsome and lovable men in a K-drama, then congratulations, you have been diagnosed with Second Lead Syndrome. Regardless of the perfection of the leading man, there are times when we quite frankly would just root for the heroine to have her happy ever after with Mr. Second Lead. Additionally, there must be also countless instances when we were in awe of the supporting characters’ shining performances, yet stunned when they were robbed of a fairytale ending.

No need to worry though, as there is absolutely no need to wallow in our ghost ships; because in the end, they too found their route for their own fairytale to come true. Grab your tissues and mentally prepare yourself to complain for days on end, because these are the second lead characters who stole our hearts!

1. Jang Geun Soo and Oh Soo Ah of Itaewon Class

Kim Dong Hee Itaewon Class


Brilliantly portrayed by Kim Dong Hee, Jang Geun Soo is a character that won us over in an instant. He starts off as the perfect best friend who stands by Jo Yi Seo’s (Kim Da Mi) side despite her over the top nasty behavior. (Let’s be honest, there were times when we all wanted to throw a shoe at the TV when Jo Yi Seo is speaking. A standing ovation for Kim Da Mi’s masterful acting!) This guy goes from getting friend-zoned to getting seriously enemy-zoned, real quick.

His character radiates kindness and perseverance, yet as the story progresses, he finally snaps and crosses over to the dark side. Regardless of this dynamic twist, it is still impossible to hate Jang Geun Soo. Our hearts just break for him.

He may not have gotten the girl or inherited his family’s company, but the storyline shows him revert to his lovable demeanor as he sets out to start a new life in the US. In hindsight, it would have been great to see this character have a happy ending too. Fighting, Jang Geun Soo!

If you thought that the Second Lead Syndrome only applies to men, then you are sorely mistaken, friends. Oh Soo Ah (Kwon Nara) is the second leading lady of Itaewon Class, and oh how we love her so! Growing up with a difficult childhood, Oh Soo Ah turns out to be a strong and quick-witted businesswoman.

With ethereal beauty and snappy intelligence, she is also Park Saeroyi’s (Park Seo Joon) one true love since high school. Most viewers are rooting for the two of them to end up together, so it comes as quite a shock when he suddenly declares his love for Jo Yi Seo (Kim Da Mi).

No need to worry though, as Oh Soo Ah does three amazing things towards the conclusion of the series. First off, she singlehandedly takes down the abusive business magnate, Jangga Co. Secondly, she quits her toxic job and establishes a successful dining establishment of her own. And finally, she hires a handsome chef who so happens to be Park Bo Gum. (Daebak).

 2. Yoon Ji Hoo of Boys Over Flowers

Kim Hyun Joong Boys Over Flowers

The Korean adaptation of Boys Over Flowers skyrocketed to intergalactic fame when it hit the airwaves in 2009. Following the unconventional love story of Geum Jan Di (Koo Hye Sun) and formidable F4 leader, Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min Ho), the rom-com series truly took the Hallyu Wave yet another step further.

Regardless of the fact that it was quite obvious that the leading lady would end up with Gu Jun Pyo, many viewers still ardently rooted for Yoon Ji Hoo. He was charming, thoughtful, and kind, so it was no secret why Jan Di was initially crushing on him.

Too bad they weren’t meant for each other. Hands down, this has got to be one of the biggest fictional heartbreaks in K-Drama history. Boo.

3. Ji Dwi (King Sam Maek Jong) of Hwarang

Park Hyung Sik Hwarang

Were you also one of the viewers torn between Ji Dwi (Park Hyung Sik) and Dog Bird (Park Hyung Sik) in the K-Drama, Hwarang? Then high five us, because so were we! Ah-Ro (Go Ara) was one lucky girl with these two noble and royal warriors vying for her love and attention.

It was a tough call for fans, but ultimately, Ah-Ro knew that her heart belonged to Dog Bird.

4. In Kook Doo of Strong Girl Bong Soon

Ji Soo Strong Girl Bong Soon

Jisoo played the role of Officer In Kook Doo perfectly. We can assume that viewers spent the first few episodes wishing for Kook Doo to realize his true feelings for Do Bong Soon (Park Bo Young), and eventually he did, but it was too late.

By the time that he bought a pretty necklace to confess his love for her, he had already lost out to An Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik). The lesson of this second lead situation? Don’t wait too long to confess your feelings, because someone else might just swoop in, okay!

5. Seung Joon and Seo Dan of Crash Landing On You

Seo Dan and Seung Joon Crash Landing On You

Image from TVN

Okay, so this one is a tearjerker, and you all know it! While Se Ri (Son Ye Jin) and Captain Ri (Hyun Bin) were obviously soulmates whose many challenges and heartwarming moments truly captivated audiences, we were also enchanted by the chemistry between second leads, Seo Dan (Seo Ji Hye) and Seung Jun (Kim Jung Hyun).

Having their hearts broken by the two main characters, we were given hope when they found each other in a magical twist of fate. He even proposed to her with a ring! Just when we were happy for every one of the characters, the scriptwriters and directors decided to rip our hearts out by dramatically killing off Seung Joon in a painstakingly heroic scene to save Seo Dan’s life. Now, that hurt. A lot. Don’t talk to us right now. We’re crying. Again. Someone must be cutting onions.

6. Choi In Sub of When Time Stopped

When Time Stopped

Lee Si Hoo was the ideal actor to portray the charming supernatural sidekick of Suna (An Ji-Hyun). With the extraordinary ability to teleport himself from one place to another, Choi In Sub is one of the few humans born with magical powers.

The whole story gets thrown into a spiral of disarray when Moon Joon Woo (Kim Hyun Joong), a mysterious guy with the power to stop time, moves into the basement of the apartment building he lives in.

While on the run from the grim reapers who hunt down people with powers, In Sub and Suna forge an unlikely friendship with Joon Woo. In the process, however, our second lead solidifies his spot in the friend zone, while Joon Woo and Suna unravel their deep-rooted connection.

It’s high time that we see Lee Si Hoo star in a K-Drama where he sheds his second lead feathers and finally finds his happy ever after! Be right back. We’re manifesting.

7. On Joon Soo of More Than Friends

Kyung Woo Yeon (Shin Ye Eun) and Lee Soo (Ong Seong Wu) have been best friends for over ten years. By a turn of events, Woo Yeon falls head over heels in love for Lee Soo one-sidedly, but sadly gets friend zoned every time. Getting sick of rejection, she one day proclaims that she no longer likes him, and the two split up to head in their own directions.

After approximately 12 failed relationships, she’s grown tired of being deprived of experiencing real love. Then she meets On Joon Soo (Kim Dong Jun), who volunteers to be her “test man” to see if the fault lies with her first-love fixation or her past boyfriends.

Fast forward three years, Lee Soo returns to South Korea. Now that he’s ready to confess his mutual feelings to his former best friend, it may seem too late… or is it? If you’ve seen this cute yet poignant series, you know how it ends.

While the two leads look great together, we can’t help but wish for an alternate universe where Woo Yeon and Joon Soo stayed together for the long haul.

8. Junghwan of Reply 1988

Reply 1988

Image from TVN

The biggest K-Drama heartbreak of 2015 was courtesy of Junghwan and Deok Sun of the massively popular series, Reply 1988. The plot follows the lives of five households in a quaint neighborhood in Seoul, called Ssangmungdong. The endearing vintage aesthetics and interesting storyline take us on a time machine back to the year 1988.

Traversing everything from dinner time talks, school, career, dreams, friendship, family, and love, this TV series build us up just to tear us down when Junghwan and Deok Sun gave us one huge ghost ship to cry over.

We can’t help but think that they would have been each other’s endgame if Junghwan had only realized his feelings sooner. You know what they say: You snooze, you lose. *Sigh*

9. Yoon Pil Joo of The Greatest Love

The Greatest Love

Let’s not forget the Second Lead Syndrome induced by The Greatest Love. Stemming all the way back to the year 2011, this K-Drama is a classic that is worth watching over and over again. The story revolves around the sparkling and complicated world of the entertainment industry. It depicts the blood, sweat, and tears put into building a successful career, and also how easy it is to fall from grace with just one misstep.
In the midst of showbiz rivalry, romance blooms to form somewhat of a love square, and in this polygon of love, Yoon Pil Joo (Yoon Kye Sang) is the one who gets hurt. He may not have been Gu Ae Jung’s (Gong Hyo Jin) soulmate, but that’s okay, because there are plenty of fish in the sea – or celebrities in show business, rather.

10. Moon Jae Shin of Sungkyunkwan Scandal

Sungkyunkwan Scandal Yoo Ah In

This period drama plays out in an era when it was not yet socially acceptable for women to be educated or employed. This is why Kim Yoon Hee (Park Min Young) decides to disguise herself as her brother in order to earn money for her family. After going through a series of odd jobs, she is in danger of getting exposed once Lee Sun Joon (Park Yoo Chun) discovers her secret.

Later on, he agrees to keep mum on her situation and encourages her to attend a university. Once at school, she must endure the endless antics of her peers and mischievous roommate, Moon Jae Shin (Yoo Ah In).

In a turn of events, she ends up falling for Lee Sun Joon, unknowing of Moon Jae Shin’s feelings for her. Just like every good second lead must do, the latter just hovers in the background while he accepts his fate of rejection. Basically, this K-Drama hits you straight in the feels in true period drama style.

11. Kang Shin Woo of You’re Beautiful

2009 was a wonderful year of phenomenal K-Dramas. And one of them was titled You’re Beautiful. The series focuses on the lives of twins who each takes their own path towards their dream. Met with an unconventional circumstance, Ko Mi Nyeo (Park Shin Hye) is compelled to stand in for her brother in his idol group, while he gets plastic surgery in the US.

While disguising herself as a man, she is forced to deal with her brother’s bandmates (a mix of kind and arrogant). One of them, Hwang Tae Kyung (Jang Keun Suk), eventually discovers her secret and threatens to expose her, but their manager finds a way to convince him otherwise.

As you can most likely already guess, Tae Kyung slowly starts to develop romantic feelings for the leading lady. And somewhere in the background, so does his bandmate, Kang Shin Woo (Jung Yong Hwa). Regardless of the kind and gentle demeanor of the latter, Mi Nyeo runs off into the sunset with her former enemy, Hwang Tae Kyung.

Aww, do nice guys really finish last? We really hope not!

Source: KBS W | TVN | JTBC | KBS

Image Sources: KBS W | TVN | JTBC | KBS