The Small Screen

Kdramas Heavy on the Second Lead Syndrome

Before I started watching kdramas a couple months ago, I had no idea what second lead syndrome was, but now I’m well-versed in it. Luckily, I’m usually as head over heels for the main love interest as the main character is, but sometimes I wonder about the second male lead or completely prefer him, and that’s when everything becomes sad because ugh. I’ve only watched two dramas where I fell head over heels for the second lead, while in the others I only wondered about how they would be with the main character or acknowledged that they were better than the main love interest. The first two on this list are my personal favorite second leads.

Drama: She Was Pretty | Second Lead: Kim Shin-hyuk

She Was Pretty Siwon Kim Shin hyuk second lead syndrome

Kim Shin-hyuk was the first kdrama man to make me fall in love with someone other than the lead love interest. This man is 500x more complex than any character I’ve ever seen, and even though I knew who the main character would end up with, I became so invested in this one dude. He has an interesting backstory, a great personality, a unique outlook on life, and I didn’t even know a person could be this much fun. I don’t usually fall for happy, fun guys, but this one did it for me (plus he had this slightly less happy side that he hid behind his beautiful smile). He was there for the main character before anyone else, and he called her pretty when no one else thought so. He’s forever my fave, and without him, I probably wouldn’t love this drama as much as I do.


Drama: The Heirs | Second Lead: Choi Young-do

heirs kdrama choi young do second lead syndrome

Is Choi Young-do a bully? Yes. Is he kind of a villain? Yes. Is he scary? Oh my, yes. But the more episodes you watch, the more you learn about him and the more you see him when he’s not performing for an audience, and hello, I would totally choose this dude over Kim Tan. I started falling for him the first time he ate ramen near a sleeping Cha Eun-sang (the main character) and I never went back. Both Kim Tan and Choi Young-do are both well-written and acted characters, but I guess I just have a thing for the hot bad boys except he’s clearly not a bad boy because excuse me but have you seen him talking to Eun-sang’s mother.


Drama: Cheese in the Trap | Second Lead: Baek In-ho

Cheese in the trap baek in ho second lead syndrome

I don’t know how to say this, but Cheese in the Trap is bit of a weird drama – you have to be in a curious, open-minded mood to get into it. The main love interest, Yoo Jeong, is frankly more than a little frightening. Baek In-ho, on the other hand, is this awesome combination of cool and nice, and whatever may have gone down in the past, he’s a hard-working and fun person to be around. Also, he’s a piano prodigy. I didn’t outright love him or anything like I did with the above two second leads, but honestly, he was just more “normal” than the love interest. I often thought about how being with him would lead to a healthier relationship.


Drama: The King Loves | Second Lead: Wang Rin

the king loves wang rin second lead syndrome kdrama

I’ve always had a thing for the quieter, perhaps not as nice guys, so when you see Wang Rin and compare him to the jolly, happy to flirt outrageously crown prince, you can’t really blame me for preferring the second lead. Also the second lead is played by Hong Jong-hyun, who I actually really like now that I’ve gotten over his evil character in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. Wang Rin and the main character, Eun San, have some of the cutest scenes together, but unfortunately, a lot of them are interrupted by the prince. I feel so bad for him because we all know he’s not going to get the girl.



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7 thoughts on “Kdramas Heavy on the Second Lead Syndrome”

  1. I actually liked the second lead better in The Heirs. 😂
    And I don’t know if you’ve watched Goong (Princess Hours), but I also liked the second lead better. At least, if I were the girl in the drama, I would pick the second lead. 🙊


    1. Right?? I accepted that Kim Tan and Cha Eun-sang were meant for each other, but I would LOVE for there to be a second season where Choi Young-do gets a girl.

      I tried the first episode of Goong – I read most of the manhwa volumes and loved it – but it was so slow.😩 I personally preferred the main lead in the manhwa though because he’s just my type.

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    1. Oh yeah, you’re right! Boys Over Flowers totally suffers from second lead syndrome. I think the only reason I didn’t add it to the list is because thanks to Gu Jun-pyo I wasn’t even tempted by the second lead lol (although I definitely felt bad for him).

      Also, I’m officially recommending She Was Pretty and The Heirs to you! The former is just all sorts of adorable and you’ll love the latter if you liked Boys Over Flowers.

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      1. I have such a love-hate relationship with Jun-Pyo. One second I love him and then the next I hate him and he annoys the crap out of me. I felt so bad for Ji-Hoo… maybe that’s why I wanted him with Jandi more?? I don’t know…
        I’ve gotten loads of recs for The Heirs! Isn’t the same actor who played Jun-Pyo in it?

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        1. I SO get what you mean by he can be annoying. When he said that Jan-di likes him because she kicked the crap out of him, I was like really??? He was the worst in the first few episodes.😂

          Yep, same actor! I actually watched Heirs first and then used BOF to fix that hangover.

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