6 Morally Conflicted K-Drama Male Leads Who Mesmerize Us

Most K-drama “bad boys” only look bad from a distance. Get up close, and you’ll find they’re actually a basket of puppies and kittens with a tragic backstory. That’s why we get really excited when a male lead with a real dark side comes along. You know, the type who finds it easier to hate you than love you. Here’s our selection of delightfully dangerous male leads who keep us guessing. We’re mesmerized by their constant push and pull between oh-so-bad and maybe-kind-of-good.

Seo In Guk in “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes


Alternative title: “There’s Something About Moo Young.” 

This brewery assistant turned maybe-murderer is equal parts menace and charm. He’s a very honest person, but that makes it even harder to know what he’s thinking. There’s no point trying to uncover his lies. Instead, you have to try and read between his lines.


Is Kim Moo Young a psychopath, though? The beauty of “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” is that it’s never quite clear-cut. You’ll feel one way in one episode and completely change your mind the next. One thing’s for sure though: no actor in Korea right now could do this role justice except for Seo In Guk.

Check out the first episode of “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes”:

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Park Hae Jin in “Cheese In The Trap


Oh, Yoo Jung *shakes head and sighs*. Park Hae Jin‘s character, college senior Yoo Jung, is definitely the most passive-aggressive person on this list. We bet he has a Burn Book hidden somewhere that would put the meanest Mean Girl to shame. Like Hong Seol (Kim Go Eun), we find ourselves wondering if Basket of Puppies Baek In Ho (Seo Kang Joon) is a better bet.


Yoo Jung keeps drawing us back, though, because he’s just as cute as he is creepy. What kind of guy could be so tender when talking to a bug? Who else could be so adorably confused by convenience store kimbap? Just remember, if Yoo Jung invites you to a romantic cliff-top picnic, he’s just as likely to propose as he is to push you off.

Check out the first episode of “Cheese in the Trap“:

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Lee Joon Gi in “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo”


Wang So (Lee Joon Gi) certainly has his moral ups and downs in “Scarlet Heart: Goryeo.” When we first meet him, he’s dissed and dismissed as a vicious, bloodthirsty “wolf dog,” which seems a little extreme. Surely this poor abandoned prince is just misunderstood. That mass murder thing was just a fluke, right? With a little help from Hae Soo (IU), he’ll become the good king we all need! Right? …Right? Hello?


You’ll have to watch until the end to see how things turn out for So, but let us just say this: mommy issues and a savage streak aren’t the best recipe for kingliness. There’s a lot that can be fixed with the help of good old true love, though. If So can learn to trust in those who care about him, he’ll find a strength that can see him through the centuries.

Namgoong Min in “Chief Kim


Phew, this list sure needs a little comedy to lighten the mood. Thank goodness we have Chief Kim (Namgoong Min)! A shady accountant who could wrangle your books out of any tight spot, Chief Kim seems set on a happy life of crime. It’s pretty much a fluke that he ends up on a moral crusade, and even then he tries to turn back more than once.


Chief Kim” shines thanks to the strength of its central performance. Namgoong Min transforms everything about himself, including the pitch of his voice, to do the part justice. You wouldn’t expect to find yourself rooting for a serial scammer, but when he skips around humming his own theme song you just can’t help but be won over.

Check out the first episode of “Chief Kim”:

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Cho Seung Woo in “Forest of Secrets”


Cho Seung Woo‘s character Hwang Shi Mok is not bad in a big and splashy way like some of these male leads. He’s not about to go burn a village down or fake-accidentally trip you up on a flight of stairs. In fact, nothing like that would ever occur to him, because he’s completely rational and incapable of feeling human emotion.


That makes Shi Mok a great prosecutor but a flawed human being. He has sympathy for no one and no desire to help unless it helps him out. At least, not on the surface. But what could be hiding under those cold, dense layers? Is he only like this because he shields himself from real relationships? Better ask his new partner in (solving) crime, Han Yeo Jin (Bae Doona).

Seo Kang Joon as Human Nam Shin in “Are You Human Too?”


Wait a second, aren’t robots supposed to be the bad guys? Human Nam Shin (Seo Kang Joon) shows us that no hunk of metal could ever be scarier than a human with hurt feelings. On the other hand, he also shows us how scary it is to be replaced by your own robot twin (also Seo Kang Joon). It’s enough to make you feel bad for the guy… but then he has to go and be such a jerk about it.


Human Shin would be compelling enough on his own, but what makes him even more fascinating is the contrast with his too-good-to-be-true robot self. Don’t get us wrong, we adore Nam Shin III. But Human Shin is the one who holds a mirror up to our own insecurities. How would we react it if we found ourselves in his shoes? Less violently, sure, but no less ticked off. Thanks a bunch, grandpa!

Which dark but dreamy male lead has you head over heels? Let us know in the comments!

Azra_A spends most of her waking hours waiting patiently for 2PM’s next comeback (roll on 2021!). She relies on sheet masks and weird ice cream flavors to help her endure (cucumber is great, ceylon is better). When she’s not watching the comeback clock, you’ll find her on Instagram.

Currently watching: The Smile Has Left Your Eyes,” “Where Stars Land
All-time favorite dramas: My Love From the Star,” “Healer
Looking forward to: The Last Empress,” “Memories of the Alhambra” (welcome back Hyun Bin!)

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