Dear kfangurl: Can you talk about your favorite & least favorite second leads?

So, full disclosure, this wasn’t submitted as an actual Dear kfangurl question. Rather, on my post on scene stealers, J3ffc left a comment which included this following paragraph:

“For CLOY, I would have pegged scenes stolen by second leads Seo Ji-hye and Kim Jung-hyun, but then it occurred to me that that might be a category unto itself – second leads that outshine the main leads. A discussion with the good and bad examples of second leads – ones we love and then ones that we hate – would be fun.”

..And I thought, why not?

So here I am, with a list of my favorite and least favorite second leads. I hope you guys enjoy. ❤️

“I get half the credit for the existence of this post, yes?” – is what I think he’s thinking! 😁

Dear J3ffc,

Thanks for triggering this post – even though it was probably completely unintentional, on your part! 😉

This was a fun exercise, looking back on the various second leads whom I’ve loved – and hated – over the years.

I realize that as a general rule, the second leads that end up on my favorites list, are characters who are genuine and interesting, and who do not try to interfere in the OTP relationship.

..Which means that the second leads that I tend to dislike, are the ones who are the direct opposite of that. 😂 I realize I am very predictable, after all!

To be clear, there are lots of other second leads who fall into similar categories. It’s just that I’ve watched so many dramas over the years, that not all of the second leads are equally memorable. These are the ones that have stuck with me.

Everyone, as always, do feel free to share your own favorites and least favorites, in the comments! If you feel I’ve forgotten a particularly memorable second lead, remind me in the comments as well! ❤️

FAVORITE SECOND LEADS

18 Again

Who: Wi Ha Joon as Ji Hoon

Why: Ji Hoon’s a great example of the perfect second lead. He’s sincere, understanding, considerate, gracious and not at all pushy – not mention handsome too. 🤩 If not for the OTP being A Thing, I would’ve totally rooted for him to get the girl.

Review is here.

Bossam

Who: Shin Dong Mi and Lee Joon Hyuk as Court Lady Jo and Chun Bae

Why: I loved this secondary couple a lot. Chun Bae’s crush on Court Lady Jo, and Court Lady Jo’s reluctant fondness for Chun Bae, was very cute. These two amused me a great deal, and made my watch more enjoyable, particularly during the parts where the actual OTP was going through angst.

Review is here.

Crash Landing On You

Who: Kim Jung Hyun and Seo Ji Hye as Seung Jung and Seo Dan

Why: I loved this odd couple, and how sincere and heartfelt their loveline was. In fact, I feel like there’s enough here, between these two, to be the central loveline in their own drama. Can you imagine a B-side drama, where it’s Captain Ri and Se Ri, who are the supporting couple, on the sidelines? 🤩😁

Review is here.

Descendants of the Sun

Who: Jin Goo and Kim Ji Won as Dae Young and Myeong Joo

Why: I legit felt (a lot) more invested in this secondary loveline, than in the main romance, in this show. Their angst felt real, and their connection felt real as well. I would’ve watched a whole drama, just focused on these two. 😍

Review is here.

Find Me In Your Memory

Who: Kim Seul Gi and Lee Jin Hyuk as Ha Kyung and Il Kwon

Why: I was rather taken by surprise, by this little loveline, but once I noticed it happening, I was utterly thrilled and charmed by it. There’s so much cuteness between these two dorks, that I still think on them fondly.

Review is here.

Mr. Sunshine

Who: Yoo Yeon Suk as Gu Dong Mae

Why: Full disclosure: I didn’t finish Mr. Sunshine, but from the 13 (or 14?) episodes that I did watch, I can say that it was Gu Dong Mae who commanded my attention, more than either of our main leads, with his tortured samurai vibe. I feel like he deserved his own show, almost.

Hi Bye, Mama!

Who: Go Bo Gyeol as Min Jung

Why: This is a great example of a second female lead who is nice (vs. nasty) and sympathetically written, without taking away from the appeal of the main female lead. I loved the eventual bond between our two female leads, and wish more dramas would learn to write appealing second female leads.

Review is here.

Hometown Cha Cha Cha

Who: Lee Sang Yi as Seong Hyeon

Why: I found Seong Hyeon to be a very good-hearted, sincere, earnest sort of a guy, and I found him likable, even though he was in direct competition with our male lead, for our female lead’s attentions and affections. I also appreciated the non-antagonistic vibe between our two male leads, despite them liking the same woman.

Review is here.

My Roommate is a Gumiho

Who: Kang Han Na as Hye Sun

Why: I LOVED Kang Han Na as Hye Sun. SUCH a scene-stealing breath of fresh air, in a drama that was already pretty darn fresh, all on its own. Hye Sun is my favorite role of Kang Han Na’s to date.

Review is here.

One Warm Word

Who: Park Seo Joon and Han Groo as Min Soo and Eun Young

Why: I found the little loveline between Min Soo and Eun Young to be very cute and welcome, in the midst of the more serious, angsty main relationships. I found Eun Young especially cute and winsome; it makes me wish Han Groo would come back to Dramaland.

Review is here.

Romance is a Bonus Book

Who: Wi Ha Joon and Jung Eugene as Seo Jun and Hae Rin

Why: I found the little loveline between Seo Jun and Hae Rin very cute and endearing, and would have loved for Show to have spent more time teasing out the relationship between these two adorkable individuals.

Review is here.

She Was Pretty

Who: Choi Siwon as Shin Hyuk

Why: Oh my goodness, Siwon gave me major second lead syndrome, in this role. Shin Hyuk works out to be such a tenderhearted, sweet and swoony second male lead, that it legit broke my heart, that he was destined to have his heart broken by our female lead. I almost never have second lead syndrome, and I had it bad, here. Talk about memorable. 💔🥲

Review is here.

Someday Or One Day [Taiwan]

Who: Patrick Shih as Junjie

Why: I love Patrick Shih as Junjie, so very much. ❤️ He’s such a sweet, tenderhearted, loyal friend. Perhaps my favorite thing about him, is that he’s such a gentle soul. Add on the fact that he’s a bit of an underdog sort of character, and my heart will basically always have a huge soft spot for him.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

The First Half Of My Life [China]

Who: Yuan Quan as Tang Jing

Why: I freaking love Tang Jing. She’s the most wonderful, loyal, caring, AWESOME best friend a girl could ask for. I cared about Tang Jing’s relationship with our female lead, at least as much as I cared about the loveline that Show served up, for our female lead. ❤️

Flash Review is here.

The King 2 Hearts

Who: Jo Jung Seok and Lee Yoon Ji as Eun Shi Gyung and Jae Shin

Why: Augh. Jo Jung Seok as Eun Shi Gyung will always have a piece of my heart. He’s as loyal and caring, as he is reserved and stoic. His romance with Princess Jae Shin stays with me more than the main romance between the OTP, not even exaggerating.

Review is here.

The King Loves

Who: Hong Jong Hyun as Rin

Why: I LOVED Hong Jong Hyun as Rin. So gentle, thoughtful and caring, and so very, VERY  handsome, in the hanbok and the mane of glory.

Review is here.

The Secret Life Of My Secretary

Who: Kim Jae Kyung as Veronica Park

Why: Who could ever forget Veronica Park?? 🤩 So unapologetically quirky and fabulous, that she deserves her own show. LOVE HER. 😍😍

Review is here.

True Beauty

Who: Hwang In Yeop as Seo Joon

Why: I have to admit that I had a softer spot for Seo Joon, than for our male lead. Not only is he a bad boy with a marshmallow heart, he’s also a dork, underneath it all. Together, that made him much more interesting to my eyes, and therefore more memorable as well.

Flash Review is here.

LEAST FAVORITE SECOND LEADS

I’ve definitely encountered a lot of unlikable second leads in all my years of drama watching, but somehow, in writing this post, these are the few that actually stand out in my memory.

Goong

Who: Kim Jeong Hoon and Song Ji Hyo as Yul and Hyo Rin

Why: Gosh, I hated these two characters, so much. I hated how manipulative they both became, in Show’s later stretch, as their desperation to gain the affection of our respective leads, grew stronger.

Review is here.

Save Your Last Dance For Me

Who: Lee Bo Young as Su Jin

Why: It’s completely ironic that Lee Bo Young ended up marrying male lead Ji Sung, when she’d played the clingy second female lead in this show, ha. At the time, I hated Su Jin, not only for her clingy, manipulative ways, but for the way she tended to hyperventilate, whenever she felt jealous or angry or helpless.

Winter Sonata

Who: Park Yong Ha and Park Sol Mi as Sang Hyuk and Chae Rin

Why: These two take the cake, when it comes to manipulative second leads. Without going into spoilers, I’ll just say that, in all my years of drama watching, these two may have gone the furthest, in terms of scheming to manipulate our main leads. It was extremely aggravating to watch, and still leaves a strong impression, although it’s been literally 15 years since I watched the show. 😅

IN CLOSING

I hope you had fun with my quick list of my favorite and least favorite second leads! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a good number of worthy contenders, since there are so many dramas out there. Still, I hope this gives you a good flavor for what I tend to like – or dislike! – when it comes to second leads.

Feel free to share any that I’ve missed – as well as your own favorites and least favorites – in the comments!

Thanks, everyone.

Smooches. ❤️

~kfangurl

Yay for fantastic second leads! 🤩

POST-SCRIPT:

1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!

2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!

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Alexandra
Alexandra
3 months ago

Some of my favorite second leads are Jung Sun Saeng (played by Lee Sung-min) and Ko Hwa-Jung as the highly unlikely but endearing couple of the thug and the smart chemist in Miss Korea (an underrated drama that I really liked). I also liked the second couples in Romance is bonus book, One spring night (the young sister and the best friend), the third couple in You are my hero (the neurosurgeon and his old college love) and the second couple in The Princess’ Man (the real princess and her husband). That is a must for me in a good drama, second leads that I like and care about.

beez
3 months ago

Gil Dong mae and Veronica Park! ❤❤️❤️

ngobee
ngobee
3 months ago

Yoo Inna and Lee Dong Wook in Goblin as my favourite second couple. They captured the bittersweet, enigmatic, melancholy spirit of the drama much better than the leads, in my opinion. I really felt for them. And I’m no Lee Dong Wook Fan per se.

Ele Nash
3 months ago

Of the ones I’ve seen, I totally agree with you, kfangurl! Argh, the CLOY one was particularly involving and, ah, Gu Dong Mae in Mr Sunshine 😍 I’d include Kim Min-jung who played the hotel owner as it was her evolving relationship with Gu Dong Mae that affected me so much more than the main leads. Oh, of course Junjie in Someday or One Day!! And only to emphasise Trent and Snow Flower and add our Seolhwa! Chuno would not have been the same without her starry heart eyes for my – I mean our – Daegil 😍🤩

Aiki4640D
Aiki4640
3 months ago

Oh I see my number 1, favourite second male lead here in the list — Choi Siwon in She Was Pretty. And just the same, I had a very bad 2nd lead syndrome too to the point that I felt I couldn’t continue with the story. I wanted the fl to end up with him. He’s funny, charming, a sweetheart and handsome, like, who can carry off a good grubby stubbly beard but him…but oh wait, so did Yoo Yeon Suk in Mr Sunshine….I was rooting for him too but maybe I’m a sucker for a broody cutie with a katana. And bad-boy Hwang In Yeop should have been the ml in True Beauty but yeah….as the story goes, fl had to end up with clean-cut good boy Cha Eun Woo. Oh well. Some actors just stand out more, no matter the character.

overjoyed marshmallow pieD
overjoyed marshmallow pie
3 months ago

What an interesting post! I have to say, one of the things I dislike about Dramaland is that the second female lead gets the short end of the stick, both from the scriptwriters and the audiences who are like “BEGONE THOT” the minute they start expressing any affection towards the male lead. I have to say it’s getting better these last couple of years, though!

My contender for favourite second lead would have to be Taekwang from Who Are You: School 2015 <3 He was such an absolute sweetheart

Spoiler
and I will forever be mad that he didn’t get a girl, especially since the writers literally had two girls and could have paired one up with each male lead.

And as for second lead couples, the Lee Bona and Yoon Chanyoung couple in Heirs (although not without their more questionable moments) are the only thing about the show I can watch without cringing these days.

Last edited 3 months ago by kfangurl
Elaine
Elaine
3 months ago

Agree on the CLOY second couple, although I wouldn’t say they outshone the main couple, they really grew on me, super endearing. Agree also on Seong Hyeon from Hometown CCC and Mo Junjie from Someday One Day!

Elaine
Elaine
3 months ago

Second leads I disliked – Park Hae Joon and Yoo In Na in My Love from Another Star. No Diss to the actors, they’re great but it was the way their characters were written. 2ML was obtusely and stubbornly refusing to take no from an answer from FL, and 2FL acted like a sweet good friend but was actually passive aggressively sabotaging FL behind her back.

For She was Pretty I also felt Hye Jin should have gone for 2ML Si Won.. My enjoyment of that drama was undermined by ML being a bad jerk for the first half and also the prolonged deception by the female leads carried out on ML, I took pity on him for getting really unnerved and confused about what is real.

Natalia
Natalia
3 months ago

My only case of second lead syndrome: Yoo Ah In in Sungkyunkwan Scandal.

Trent
3 months ago
Reply to  Natalia

Natalia — I almost mentioned SKKS as well. I liked both the other guys in that foursome (Yoo Ah-in and Song Joong-ki) a lot more than the actual ML, even though only one of them was interested in the FL (as “more than friends”).

Natalia
Natalia
3 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Of course!Song Joong-ki was glorious in this. I just thought he would be a great contender for the “third male lead” category!

Shahz
Shahz
3 months ago

What a fun post and great question by J3ffc. Have to agree with Siwoon! And also loved Byun Yo Han in Misaeng and not forgetting Lee Sang Yeob in On the verge of insanity.

reaper
reaper
3 months ago

As always great post… haven’t seen most of these dramas but I have to say my dislike for the second leads in Descendants of the sun is immeasurable ^^

Carulhein
Carulhein
3 months ago

Hi Kfangurl. Thanx for this fun post. For me, I think Yoon Kye Sang in the greatest love was a great 2ML. My hear broke with him when his heart was broken. Also,

Spoiler Reply 1988
Ryu Jun Yeol on Reply 1988. But I comfort myself with the fact that he got the girl in real life
😊

Last edited 3 months ago by kfangurl
Su San
Su San
3 months ago
Reply to  Carulhein

SO agree with Reply 1988!

MC
MC
3 months ago
Reply to  Carulhein

So agree on R1988! And R1994 too I’m always on the wrong ship. But the shows are so good I have to forgive them…

seankfletcher
seankfletcher
3 months ago

An enjoyable read, kfangurl – like Beez, J3ffc does come up with these little pearls of worthy consideration. Yes, for me it is the Bossam second leads followed very closely by the CLOY second couple who do deserve a show of their own (we did get some fan service re their brief appearance together in Dinner Mate).

I am looking forward to The First Half of My Life 2. This time it will have the delightful Liu Tao in the lead role. Apart from her roles in much other loved shows (NIF, Ode to Joy), she was the superintendent in Reset, and as it turns out, I am watching her in two other CDramas at the moment – both very different and very good.

uyen
3 months ago

Omgggg Jo Jung Seok in King2Hearts!!!!! <3 <3 <3

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
3 months ago
Reply to  uyen

Yes!!! He transformed a good drama into a memorable one.

uyen
3 months ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower, yes I totally agree!

Medea
Medea
3 months ago

I loved this list!! I’d probably also add Han Ji-Pyeong from Start Up to the list – honestly, I didn’t actually love him as much as most people seem to have, but I feel like it would be wrong to leave out a character that took over such a large chunk of the collective K-drama fan conscience in 2020. I’d also include

Reply 1988 spoiler
Junghwan
from Reply 1988 with the second leads I like. Even if his behavior sometimes frustrated me, boy did I love him (though, I did love the main couple). I’d also include Bosong from A Love So Beautiful in that section. As for the ones I disliked, I’d add all of the second leads from Marriage, Not Dating, especially Se-Ah, because they were so freaking poisonous. I’d also add the second leads from Dinner Mate, because they singlehandedly ruined the show.

overjoyed marshmallow pieD
overjoyed marshmallow pie
3 months ago
Reply to  Medea

When Start Up was airing, the fanwars between Ji-pyeong and Do-san stans was something fierce, and I remember a large majority of the fans shipping Ji-pyeong and hoping against hope that he’d get Dal-mi 😆 Bosong from ALSB is my favourite as well! He never gave me SLS but his love for the FL was so sincere that I was quite tempted at times. Same for

Spoiler Reply 1988
Jung-hwan. It’s too bad we didn’t see him in the future, being happy and moving on with some nice girl 🙁

Last edited 3 months ago by kfangurl
Trent
3 months ago

Great topic, so thanks to J3ffc for the suggestion!

I have to admit as I was reading your faves, there were several that I was like, “huh-uh! no way! but, but, but….” So I was going to rush off to register my respectful disagreement, when fortunately I realized that it’s ungenerous to harsh people’s squee, so better not.

IN LIEU of that, I will offer:
Kim Seul-gi in Oh My Ghost–I can’t say I liked her better than the FL (who was Park Bo-young, after all), but she was super fun to watch and had her own complicated, humorous/poignant narrative going on as well.

Kim Ha-eun as Seol-hua in Chuno; loved her chirpy, optimistic young ex-drama trouper with an unrequited passion for the ML.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
3 months ago
Reply to  Trent

Seol Hwa from Chuno is one of my favorite characters in general. Who can forget her haegeum and her heartbreak?
The second female lead in Gaksital (Bridal Mask) starts out as not very likeable character, but by the end of the show she totally outshines the main female lead.

Kate
Kate
3 months ago

Haha, what a fun list. Completely agree about Descendants of the Sun’s SLs outshining the main couple.

And omg did I swoon over our Samurai  Gu Dong Mae and his love story 🥰😭

And yes, the conniving SLs in Goong were really hard to endure 😖

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
3 months ago

Excellent post, ! I have not seen all dramas on your list, but out of the ones I have seen, I agree with you on second leads. My heart still hurts for Kim Jung Hyun’s character in CLOY, and Gu Dong Mae from Mr. Sunshine totally deserves his own drama. I am very happy to see sweet Mo Junjie on the list as well. I would add Ji Ung from Our Beloved Summer (played by Kim Sung Cheol) to the list.