9 Of The Nicest Rich Guys Who Shatter K-Drama Stereotypes
Where would K-drama be without chaebols? That’s the Korean word for a wealthy businessman, owner of a vast conglomerate empire, aka the job description of 80 percent of K-drama male leads. It makes sense that this trope is so popular: when we enter the world of chaebols, we get to see how the other half lives and to revel in glamour and luxury which we’d never otherwise experience.
But you know what doesn’t make sense? So many K-drama chaebols are arrogant jerks, and so many female leads keep falling for them anyway. It’s 2019, people! Our leading ladies have better things to do than chase cold, aloof guys who don’t treat them right. That’s why we always love to see a chaebol who knows how to be a decent human being. The more these charming fellas turn up, the more the tide turns and the fewer tired tropes we have to endure.
Want to know which rich guys are leading the way? Let’s find out!
Warning: spoilers ahead!
1. Kang Chul in “W”
Kang Chul (Lee Jong Suk) is so incredibly perfect, it’s like he walked straight out of a webtoon! Oh, wait, he actually did do that. Chul will always have an advantage over ordinary rich dudes, because he was literally drawn to be the perfect guy. He’s smart, athletic, cute, witty and, yes, also really rich.
But what makes Kang Chul a truly great guy is that, even when the webtoon stops and real life takes over, he still tries hard to be good. He’s always on the quest for justice, never losing sight of his mission to find his parents’ killer, but he still cares deeply about the people he shares his life with. Chul won’t sacrifice small moments and sweet romance in pursuit of a bigger goal, even when that goal has driven him all his life.
Check out the first episode of “W”:
2. Kim Shin Hyuk in “She Was Pretty”
Nice, caring chaebols are such a rare breed that when one doesn’t get the girl, it can cause a global epidemic of Second Lead Syndrome. Such is the case with “She Was Pretty,” where Choi Siwon plays Kim Shin Hyuk, a second lead with such adorable charm that he even outshines the king of rom-coms, Park Seo Joon!
Most filthy rich second leads make no bones about flaunting their riches to score points with the object of their affection, but Shin Hyuk doesn’t play that way. He knows that money doesn’t matter – it’s what’s inside that counts. Our heroine Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) may need a glow-up to get everyone else’s attention, but to Shin Hyuk, her red cheeks, frizzy hair, and freckles are what made her beautiful to begin with.
Check out the first episode of “She Was Pretty”:
3. Ahn Min Hyuk in “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon”
We love a male lead who doesn’t feel threatened by a strong, powerful woman. In Bong Soon’s (Park Bo Young) case, that’s not only emotional strength but also literal, physical strength. She’s the kind of girl who can pick up her man in a princess carry and swoop him out of harm’s way. And as for Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik), he doesn’t just not feel threatened – he actually, actively loves it!
As the drama begins, Min Hyuk swans around on a hoverboard, king of his own little world, but when he meets Bong Soon, he more than meets his match. It’s fun to watch this chaebol throw himself wholeheartedly into a relationship where he is the sidekick who needs to be rescued. He’s also fine with being the cutesy, clingy one, throwing out hearts and flowers to his cooler, more reserved girlfriend. How’s that for a refreshing role reversal?
Check out the first episode of “Strong Woman Do Bong Soon”:
4. Kim Young Ho in “Oh My Venus”
The chaebol lifestyle isn’t exactly known to be healthy. In most dramas, it’s a parade of late-night drinking, spending too much time at the office, and brooding while driving really fast. There will probably also be a good dose of yelling at minions involved. But then along comes Kim Young Ho, a mild-mannered, soft-spoken fitness fanatic who’s never too far from a treadmill.
Young Ho grew up rich but lonely, shuttered indoors due to illness and injury. His passion for fitness is not about honing those chocolate abs. It’s more about keeping fear and loneliness at bay: if he doesn’t get sick, he won’t have to feel alone. When he meets charmingly chubby Joo Eun (Shin Min Ah), his worldview is turned upside down. Health, he realizes, is not just a physical condition. Just as much, it’s about learning to reach out and let yourself be loved.
Check out the first episode of “Oh My Venus”:
5. Cha Do Hyun in “Kill Me, Heal Me”
90 percent of the time, a chaebol’s family business is a whole hot mess, thanks to inept, crooked relatives running the show. Some chaebols can’t wait to dive into the mess, while others run away from it. Cha Do Hyun (Ji Sung) is an exception: he’s smart, decent, and savvy enough to be great at the job – if only one of his other personalities wasn’t trying to destroy the whole company.
“Kill Me, Heal Me” is a drama about a man who tries to face his inner demons. It may seem at first that his being rich is incidental to the story, but we soon learn that it’s a key part of what makes him who he is. Hunger for power has corrupted Do Hyun’s family so much, you think it’d do the same for him. But his mental confusion, which seems like a weakness, turns out to be his biggest strength: it’s what keeps him good and decent in the face of all the horrors around him.
Check out the first episode of “Kill Me, Heal Me”:
6. Suk Joon Soo in “Dear Fair Lady Kong Shim”
Joon Soo (On Joo Wan) has plenty of reasons to be a classic chaebol jerk. His parents are both pretty huge jerks, for one thing. Meanwhile, his matriarch grandmother resents him because he’s still around, while his cousin Joon Pyo, her beloved favorite, disappeared when he was a child. It wouldn’t even be weird if Joon Soo was spoiled and bitter.
So how great is it that Joon Soo turns out to be the nicest guy in the whole drama? He misses Joon Pyo, even though his return would mean Joon Soo loses his inheritance. He sadly laments his grandma’s coldness, but he doesn’t let sadness overwhelm him. Instead, he channels his energy into proving himself through good old-fashioned hard work. And his sweetness, charm, and warmth win him plenty of lifelong friends along the way, including our lead characters Kong Shim (Girl’s Day’s Minah) and Dan Tae (Namgoong Min).
Check out the first episode of “Dear Fair Lady Kong Shim”:
7. Kim Min Kyu in “I Am Not A Robot”
Plenty of chaebols have a tragic backstory, but Min Kyu’s (Yoo Seung Ho) story hits harder than most. Orphaned at an early age, he’s left with a debilitating allergy to human contact. He lives his life like a princess locked in a tower, surrounded by beautiful things, but with only a robot vacuum to keep him company.
Anyone else might become a bitter hermit in such circumstances. But the most touching thing about Min Kyu is that when he’s given even the tiniest chance of connection with the outside world, he jumps on it. His desperation for companionship is written all over his face. Because he has been deprived of it for so long, he values it more than most of us, which means he finds joy in even the simplest interactions. This is one chaebol who knows how to appreciate the little things.
Check out the first episode of “I Am Not A Robot”:
8. Seo Bum Jo in “Pinocchio”
As “Pinocchio” starts out, Seo Bum Jo (Kim Young Kwang) seems like the typical chaebol we love to hate. He has been intercepting our heroine In Ha’s (Park Shin Hye) texts to her mother for years, not admitting it because he just likes reading them. He’s a complete momma’s boy who uses his connections to get a job alongside In Ha, then spends all his time flashing his cash to impress her. Ew!
But there’s more to Bum Jo than first meets the eye, as even our grumpy hero Dal Po (Lee Jong Suk) eventually realizes. Bum Jo may have chased In Ha for fun, but he never intended to be mean. Being a momma’s boy has made him naive and childlike, to the point where he’s almost too innocent for this world. When he’s put to the hardest test and forced to question everything he knows, Bum Jo might just turn out better than most of us.
Check out the first episode of “Pinocchio”:
9. Louie in “Shopping King Louie”
C’mon, you didn’t think we were going to close out this list without including Louie, right? As if we would! Played by Seo In Guk, Louie is the poster-child for good-as-gold chaebols. He’s sweet, silly, and sometimes a little strange, but he could never, ever become an arrogant jerk. He’s drawn to pretty trinkets and blows money like there’s no tomorrow, but nice things are nothing compared to the people he loves.
Our favorite thing about Louie? Unlike most other guys on this list, he’s not tormented in the least. He has suffered as much tragedy as any of them, but he’s not the type to feel sorry for himself or suppress his sadness. Louie is inherently sunny and optimistic. Just being around him puts you in a good mood! Even if he accidentally spent all your money on ski goggles and terrible haircuts, you’d forgive him in five seconds and take him out shopping again the next day.
Check out the first episode of “Shopping King Louie”:
Which K-drama chaebol surprised you with their awesomeness? Let us know in the comments below!
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.