Usually, Korean dramas have a storyline of a love triangle. Although the male lead always triumphs as the chosen one, there have been cases where the audience has been affected by the second lead actor syndrome. The second male protagonist, who has the good boy and whose character is loyal, supportive, friendly, and so perfect that the audience with the female protagonist would prefer him to the leading actor. It is clear that the best actors in the K-drama industry began their acting careers as second-leading men and eventually became famous through those roles. Here are the top 10 male leads in K Drama that have dwarfed the top leaders.
1. Ryu Jun Yeol In Reply 1988 (2015)
Those who have watched Reply 1988 are well aware of how effortlessly Jun Yeol portrayed the character of Kim Jung Hwan, who has always been secretly crushing over his childhood friend and neighbor Sung Deok Sun (Lee Hye Ri). Jung Hwan's love for Deok Sun is so pure and selfless. Later, Jung Hwan discovers that his other childhood friend, Choi Taek (Park Boo Gum), likes him too, he withdraws. Deok Sun's character is considered one of the best and most popular.
2. Hwang In Yeop In True Beauty (2020)
Yeop’s acting career gained momentum with the success of True Beauty, where he played the role of Seo Joon, who, although being the second lead, became a heartthrob causing the most significant second lead syndrome in recent times. Seo Joon is a cold and rough guy who has a big heart, and his actual performance made the viewers challenging to choose between Seo Joon and the main lead Lee Su Ho (Cha Eun Woo). True Beauty fans know it themselves that Seo Joon was the spotlight throughout, and they rooted for him more than anyone else.
3. Chae Jong Hyeop In Nevertheless (2021)
Jong Hyeop plays the role of Yang Do Hyeok, the estranged childhood friend of Yoo Na Bi (Han So Hee), who is hopelessly in love with her. Jong Hyeok, as the second lead, has surprisingly amassed admiration from the viewers for his stage stealing performance as the caring and selfless friend.
4. Lee Jae Wook In Extraordinary You (2019)
Lee Jae Wook’s character Bae Kyung is initially portrayed as arrogant, cold, and rude to the female lead Eun Dan Oh (Kim Hye Yoon), as their marriage hooked against his will. However, as the drama progresses, Bae Kyung’s character development is the most significant aspect as viewers begin to root for him despite knowing he doesn’t stand a chance.
5. Kim Hyun Joong In Boys Over Flowers (2009)
Every K Drama fan has a soft corner for Boys Over Flowers as it is probably one of the earliest K Dramas to gain international recognition. The love triangle between Gu Jun Pyo (Lee Min-Ho), Geum Jan Di (Gu Hye Sun), and Yoon Ji Hoo (Kim Hyun Joong) is what makes Boys Over Flowers memorable even after a decade. Even as a second lead, Ji Hoo keeps the spotlight as the near-perfect man, unlike the child-like arrogant Jun Pyo. Ji Hoo might not get the girl in the end, but he indeed began the wave of the second lead syndrome.
6. Kim Seon Ho In Start-Up (2020)
Kim Seon Ho's acting career skyrocketed following his portrayal of the second lead in Start-Up, where he played the role of Ha Ji Pyeong, who is Dal Mi's first love but is unaware of his real identity. The character of Dal Mi (Suzy Bae) that Ji Pyeong eventually falls in love with, but Dal Mi falls in love with Nam Do San (Nam Joo Hyuk). However, Ji Pyeong received positive support from viewers as they saw him as more suitable for Dal Mi. Ji Pyeong became the most beloved character in the drama, ultimately uplifting his Hallyu status.
7. Ji Soo In Strong Girl Do Boong Soon (2017)
Ji Soo is a police officer and childhood crush of the female lead Do Boong Soon (Park Bo Young), who, although he acts cold, is caring and protective. Park Hyun Sik delivers a stellar performance as the main lead, but Ji Soo’s heartfelt portrayal of Guk Doo and the wrong timing for a possible love connection indeed won him the viewer’s sympathy.
8. Park Jin Young In Love In The Moonlight (2016)
Park Jin Young has successfully portrayed his character with a charm that unmistakably makes viewers fall in love with him. Jin Young’s character Yoon Sung made us believe in more extraordinary love, for he sacrificed his life to protect the one he loves, although it was unrequited. His sincere act of kindness, selfless love and care made him a well-developed character altogether.
9. Yoo Ah In In Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
Yoo Ah In’s portrayal of Moon Jae Shin in Sungkyunkwan Scandal is the perfect blend of characteristics a man should have every girl imagined in her life. He is brave, skilled, rough, deep, handsome, and subtly gentle and sweet, who in many ways overshadows the first lead character Yi Seon Jun (Park Yoo Chun). Jae Shin is the silent lover and protector who, although he ends up, loveless wins the heart of everyone who desperately roots for him
10. Jung Hae In In While You Were Sleeping(2017)
Portraying the role of a police officer, Hae In received a lot of praise for his performance, where the audience got caught in a severe second lead syndrome. Jung Hae In's character as Jan Woo Tak, who falls in love with Nam Hong Jo (Suzy Bae), does not act on his feelings as Hong Joo is in love with Jung Jae Chan (Lee Jong Suk). Hae In's portrayal of a disinterested second lead role in the drama eventually led the entire nation to fall in love with him.