9 K-Drama Male Leads Who Treat Their Leading Ladies Right
Is there anything worse than binging a drama that’s supposed to light up the romance in our cold, dead hearts, but instead turns out to be a show where the female lead is constantly belittled, bullied, and manipulated into being with a male lead who doesn’t see her value?
While aggressive and domineering male leads can shake up our hearts, it’s never truly fun to watch a drama if the lovely leading lady is undervalued. Instead of constantly waiting for the male lead to wake up and apologize for his bad behavior, and understand that he needs to be better for the girl he loves, I want to see the opposite.
I want never-ending heart-eyes, cringeworthy pick-up lines, shameless flirting, and most of all, a constant sense of respect towards the leading lady from the male lead. Here are nine K-dramas where the male lead treats the female lead with the respect they deserve.
Warning: Minor spoilers for the dramas below.
Lee Young Joon from “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim”
While everyone thinks he’s a raging narcissist, including Kim Mi So (Park Min Young), Lee Young Joon (Park Seo Joon) is actually one of the most endearing men in the drama world. The drama begins when Mi So wants to quit being Young Joon’s secretary after several years. Drama certainly ensues as she has become a constant in Young Joon’s life and the thought of losing her breaks his heart (though he may be a little slow to admit that to himself).
With over-the-top proposals and desperate pleas, Young Joon will do just about anything to convince her to stay. However, no matter how many times he seems to overstep, he’s always ready to own up to it. When Mi So confronts him about how he overworks her, or other problems in their relationship, he is quick to remedy his mistakes. He genuinely wants to make things work with her and puts forth his best effort.
Watch “What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim”:
Nam Se Hee from “Because This Is My First Life”
At first glance, Nam Se Hee (Lee Min Ki) doesn’t seem as if he’d make this list. He’s cold and stoic, which is usually a tell-tale sign of a male lead who is too self-absorbed to even have a clue of how to treat a lady right. But fortunately, Se Hee is a pleasant surprise. Even after a slew of misunderstandings land Ji Ho (Jung So Min) and him to be roommates, he adheres to every boundary they set. When she first rejects his proposal he doesn’t fight it. He respects her choices and never once coerces her into something she doesn’t want to do.
One thing we love the most about him is how he always asks Ji Ho for permission to kiss, hug, or even sleep next to her. It’s something small but very endearing. Of course, this behavior comes as no surprise when we take into consideration the lovely speech he gave to Ji Ho’s mother on their wedding day.
Se Hee and Ji Ho show what love truly should be like.
Catch the first episode below:
Do Kyung Suk from “My ID Is Gangnam Beauty”
Daddy Issues? Check. Mommy issues? Check. A cold disinterested personality? Check. Honestly, Kyung Suk (Cha Eun Woo) is very close to being the poster boy of a toxic male lead but he isn’t. While he may not be the most talkative, he’s constantly in awe of Kang Mi Rae (Im Soo Hyang). While she doesn’t look like the girl dancing at the bus stop that he knew from middle school due to plastic surgery, Kyung Suk still recognizes Mi Rae (talk about soulmates, huh?). He doesn’t care about her looks and he makes this clear over and over again.
In fact, this is one of his best traits. He doesn’t seem to care about what any of the women in this drama look like. He sticks up for almost all of the women in the show, and like a true ally, he always calls out the other men who are constantly making lewd comments when women aren’t around. Sure he has dashing looks, but his personality is what makes him the biggest dreamboat.
Watch “My ID Is Gangnam Beauty”:
Louie from “Shopping King Louie”
If Louie (Seo In Guk) is a king, then Bok Shil (Nam Ji Hyun) is his queen. Though he’s suffering from amnesia, these two face the beauty and terrors of Seoul all on their own to try and find Bok Shil’s brother. It’s quite comical as Louie seems to wind up being the boss of any situation. No matter who he meets, someone is always doing something for him — whether it be holding an umbrella and feeding him, or something else entirely.
However, he keeps a special eye on Bok Shil. His addiction to shopping gets Bok Shil and him in many pickles, but he always apologizes with a seriously cute pout. While Bok Shil isn’t completely immune to Louie’s charms, she does get him to do the dishes and other household chores. They are a team, and one could even say each other’s pillars. If the epitome of being in love with someone is being able to hug them and feel your worries wash away after a long, hard day, then they certainly fit the bill.
One of their sweetest scenes is when Louie swoops in at the bus stop for Bok Shil with an umbrella while it’s raining. While it seems so simple and inconsequential, it actually leaves a deep impression on Bok Shil’s heart.
Watch “Shopping King Louie”:
Gong Woo Jin from “30 But 17”
Gong Woo Jin (Yang Se Jong) has all the traits to be a male lead you may not want to root for in the end, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. While Woo Jin is the poster boy for being a loner, there’s actually a method behind his madness. After he witnesses a massive bus accident, he believes he got his crush killed so he vows to shut off his bright personality and never get involved with people again. And he takes this very seriously. At 30 years old, he walks around with a pair of broken and unplugged headphones in his ears to avoid social interaction.
However, this all changes when he meets the ever-optimistic and youthful Woo Seo Ri (Shin Hye Sun). Seo Ri has been in a coma since she was 17 and all she knows is that she used to live in the house that Woo Jin lived in. Caught up in the whirlwind of trying to help Seo Ri put her life back together, he slowly opens up. While he’s very encouraging of Seo Ri’s dreams and aspirations to get back to playing the violin, she encourages him to open up and give life a chance again. Whenever she’s at a crossroads she always finds herself going to him for advice and he gives it to her.
It’s clear that she can rely on him for her most private thoughts and he’s happy to take on that role. But the most important part of their relationship is when he has to come to terms with the fact that she’s the girl from the bus accident all those years ago.
Instead of reverting back to his ignorant habits of shutting people out and running away, he bears his heart on his sleeve. This raw honesty is what all profound love stories are made of.
Watch “30 But 17”:
Ryan Gold from “Her Private Life”
If Park Min Young is in a drama, you can probably bet that she has a stunning male lead. Kim Jae Wook shines as Ryan Gold in “Her Private Life.” After Sung Duk Mi (Park Min Young) gets caught up in a dating scandal with Cha Si An (ONE), Ryan steps up to protect her and pretends to be her boyfriend. Of course, something that was just supposed to be fake turns very real. With stolen kisses in empty workshops and the back alley at work, these two simply make your heart flutter.
Ryan is also very respectful and encouraging of Duk Mi. While she doesn’t know at first, he knows that she’s a fangirl and even helps her keep her identity a secret. He doesn’t look down on her or think it’s weird, but rather finds it endearing. This already makes him a great contender for this list, but he also proves time and time again that he is willing to communicate and make things work.
A poignant scene is when he catches her looking at his paintings in his apartment although he didn’t invite her there. In a very beauty-and-the-beast-don’t-enter-the-west-wing fashion, he lashes out at her. However, within minutes he seems to realize his mistakes and runs across town to apologize. This man is a king of owning up to his mistakes and that makes him all the more dreamy.
Watch “Her Private Life”:
Yoon Jae Won from “Wednesday 3:30 PM”
If we had to assign a meme to everyone on this list, Yoon Jae Won (Hongbin) is the epitome of “get you a man that ____.” After a tough break up, all seems hopeless for Seon Eun Woo (Jin Ki Joo) until Jae Won walks back into her life. Of course, their childhood friendship already sets up these two as a couple to swoon over, but the way Jae Won helps her every day at 3:30 makes him some ride or die material. He truly sets the bar for how anyone should treat their partner.
While his gestures for Eun Woo start with a cup of coffee and pretending to be her boyfriend at her workplace in front of her ex, they soon turn into trips down memory lane. He adopts her a dog that reminds them both of one they had when they were younger. Then he brings the warm and delectable dumplings that he used to give her whenever she was upset back into her life.
Jae Won always puts a smile on her face, and while they bicker like an old married couple, it’s clear their affection and respect for one another run very deep.
Watch “Wednesday 3:30 PM”:
Chae Do Jin from “Come And Hug Me”
If we’re getting into specifics, Chae Do Jin (Jang Ki Yong) is Prince Charming. While some may consider his relationship with Gil Nak Won (Jin Ki Joo) ill-fated since his father (Heo Joon Ho) murdered her parents, they certainly beat those odds. Since they were kids, Do Jin has always been protective of Nak Won. Although he could not save her parents’ life, he was able to spare Nak Won from his father. Which is why it only makes sense that he makes his next grand entrance in her life by saving her from rabid paparazzi cameras.
It’s clear from their initial meeting that his feelings for her still gnaw at his heart, but he never once tries to insert himself in her life. While it could be easy for him to be selfish to reconnect with her, he doesn’t believe that he has a right to after what his father did. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching how self-sacrificing he is. He always looks out for Nak Won and it’s his fierce loyalty that Nak Won knows she can rely on when things get crazy. It’s easy to root for their happy ending because of their past, but it’s even more satisfying knowing he will treat her like she’s the most precious person in the world.
Watch “Come and Hug Me”:
Jung Cha Shik from “Page Turner”
While Yoon Yoo Seul (Kim So Hyun) and Jung Cha Shik (Jisoo) don’t actually become a couple in “Page Turner,” they have a riveting love story. Yoo Seul, a piano prodigy, gets into a car accident which results in her losing her eyesight, while Cha Shik’s promising athletic career comes to an end with a groin injury. They first meet in the hospital when Yoo Seul is looking to go to the rooftop, ultimately to end her life. Sensing this, as he was having the same thoughts, Cha Shik leads her to the parking lot instead.
While they most certainly roast each other in the beginning, they form an incredible bond when Cha Shik becomes Yoo Seul’s helper at school. Although Yoo Seul picked him so she wouldn’t have to be around her rival, Seo Jin Mok (Shin Jae Ha) or her mother (Ye Ji Won), she comes to rely on Cha Sik.
His boastful yet loving and protective personality finally softens her heart when he helps her confront a man who was screaming at her in the park on the way home from school. He takes her on her first bike ride and eventually convinces her to play the piano again by helping him learn. His tenacity to impress not only her but her mother shows that he is willing to do anything just to make her smile.
They spark a new inspiration for life within one another and it’s honestly a shame that this drama didn’t have more episodes to develop their relationship further.
Watch “Page Turner”:
These are just a few of the amazing and devoted male leads the K-drama world has to offer. Who are your favorites? Were they on this list? Let us know in the comments below!
kaityv spends most of her time watching K-dramas even though she should be writing. If she’s not watching a drama then she’s for sure binging BTS, iKON, and Red Velvet music videos.
Currently watching: “Abyss”
All-time favorite: “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon”
Looking forward to: “So I Married An Anti-Fan” and “Vagabond”