Second Male Lead Syndrome: A Couch Kimchi Roundtable


How many times have you fallen for the second male lead? Did you cry when he didn’t get the girl or end up throwing things out of rage? Why exactly do drama writers make that other guy so damn charming and sweet? This week, the Couch Kimchi girls will dissect our infatuation with some of K-drama’s second male leads.


Page 1

The Male Lead vs. That Winsome Second Dude

Page 2

Second Male Leads Make Great Friends

Confessions of a Second Male Lead

Page 3

Our Favorite Second Leading Men

The Pesky Second Male Leads

Page 4

The Other Guys Who Got The Girl



Tessieroo: It has been my experience with K-dramas that the second male lead is usually more compassionate, funnier, and much more willing to put his leading lady first. Who wouldn’t fall for someone like that, especially if he’s up against a leading man who is petty, spoiled, jealous, and has an ego bigger than most people’s homes? I’m just not a huge fan of a leading guy who’s a jerk but suddenly changes.

I know I’m not the only one, but I’ll never understand why Go Mi Nam (Park Shin Hye) chose Tae Kyung over Shin Woo in “You’re Beautiful.” Her interactions with Shin Woo made her feel happy and secure. He made her laugh whenever they were together! Tae Kyung usually ended up making her cry. Who wants to be around someone who makes them miserable and causes them pain? I don’t understand!

Goodange: I admit I’m joining this discussion because I’d like to understand myself why I root for the main leads in dramas when the ideal second lead is someone whom I would choose in real life. When I think very hard about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever found myself 100% behind the second lead in any drama I’ve watched. Well, I guess Yoo Jun Suk (Park Shi Hoo) in “How to Meet a Perfect Neighbor” counts. He was the second lead, and it was midway through the series when it became obvious that the writers were going to pair him up with Bae Doo Na‘s Jung Yoon Hee. (It wasn’t till much later that I found out that the writers swapped the coupling due to viewers’ demands.) Yoo Jun Suk also didn’t have the typical positive characteristics of a second lead, and the edge in his personality gave the character a bit of dimension, so, he was more appealing to me.


If some viewers have second male lead syndrome, then I can only explain that I have a Mr. Darcy complex. LOL. It’s the romanticized idea that an arrogant jackass can be reformed partly because of the female lead with that special something. Perhaps it’s harder for others like me to appreciate the second lead because he’s practically nearly perfect, whereas we see the process of the main guy’s growth. In some weird way, that makes him an underdog, yeah? It’s also kind of fun to see the initial love-hate between the main leads and have that be transformed into a mutual attraction.

Rinchan: I think we might have the same complex. LOL. When I watched “You’re Beautiful,” I fell in love with Shin Woo, but in the end, I wanted Mi Nam to be with Tae Kyung. Although he wasn’t as consistently sweet and warm like Shin Woo, Tae Kyung wasn’t a jerk all the time. There were instances when he was supportive and nice, too. This contrast between his normal outside persona and the more private, warm side gave him a greater level of depth. To lots of women who enjoy escapism and live vicariously through the female characters, Tae Kyung might be more intriguing and/or a challenge. Although women would like the warmth Shin Woo exudes, they would be enthralled by the fire Tae Kyung lights in them.

Goodange: Yeah, the imperfect lead tends to carry out his good deeds inconspicuously or with more subtlety, while the second guy, who’s always been nice, is just naturally inclined to show it. It’s also that kind of openness that viewers can appreciate because we like to see the female lead, who’s probably already down on her luck, to be treated with respect. Also, the main guy has to struggle with himself first before admitting he’s falling for a girl. Meanwhile, even when everyone thinks she’s a hot mess, there’s the second lead who immediately hones in on her attractiveness and kindness. This is perhaps one of the reasons why some viewers preferred Yoon Pil Joo (Yoon Kye Sang) over Dok Ko Jin (Cha Seung Won) for Ku Ae Jung (Gong Hyo Jin) in “The Greatest Love.”

Tessieroo: You hit it on the head exactly, Ange! The few second lead characters I’ve rooted for treated the leading lady with respect and warmth right from the first meeting. Maybe it’s just that I don’t deal very well with rudeness or feel attraction for the misunderstood “bad boy” type? If the leading guy is mean but in a flirty, harmless manner, then I’m usually on board. However, if he’s just a plain old jerk, then I shut down.