If you’re a huge K-drama fan, you’ll probably be awfully familiar with the second lead syndrome (SLS), a fixture in Korean dramas. One of the most overused television tropes, the love triangle normally involves three characters: the lead actor, the lead actress and of course, the nice and lovelorn second male lead.
SLS happens when we find ourselves rooting more for the underdog and feeling secondhand sorrow when they don’t get a happy ending.
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Still not over a second male lead? Here are some of our favourite ones that you might have cried your heart out for.
Baek In Ho (Seo Kang Joon) – Cheese In The Trap
It’s been more than a year since Cheese In The Trap ended, but Baek In Ho’s character, played by Seo Kang Joon, is still fresh in our minds. Besides his hot temper and rash personality, In Ho is everything you can ask for – funny, charismatic, sensitive, caring, playful… and also a piano prodigy.
What’s most endearing is how he has never tried to force his feelings on Hong Seol (Kim Go Eun); he was content with caring for her from a distance.
Image: Seo Kang Joon’s Instagram
Kim Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol) – Reply 1988
Jung Hwan is the classic case of the SLS because nobody has ever imagined that he wouldn’t end up as the husband of Sung Duk Seon (Hyeri).
The Reply series is known for their “guess the husband” game and Reply 1988 takes the cake in misleading its viewers into thinking that Jung Hwan, the tsundere friend, would end up with Duk Seon. Although he failed to get the girl in the drama, Ryu Jun Yeol and Hye Ri have started to date in real life after the drama!
Reply 1988 is available on Viu or Viu mobile app with English subtitles for free.
Shin Hyuk (Choi Si Won) – She Was Pretty
Siwon played the free-spirited, goofy and sweet Shin Hyuk, whose ending has left hearts broken left and right. He develops a friendship with Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum), a newcomer to The Most magazine and eventually falls for her freckles and crazy curly hair.
Even after discovering her feelings for deputy chief editor Ji Sung Joon (Park Seo Joon), he continues to be by her side and dotes on her as a friend. He even ends up revealing his identity as Ten, a renowned author, to help Hye Jin.
She Was Pretty is available on Viu or Viu mobile app with English subtitles for free.
Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) – The Heirs
Choosing between Kim Tan (Lee Min Ho) and Choi Young Do (Kim Woo Bin) is a tough one. Brash and cocky, the latter comes from a dysfunctional family and isn’t exactly the nicest second male lead.
When he starts to follow Cha Eun Sang (Park Shin Hye) around and tries to do nice things for her, his pursuit of friendship and love is absolutely heartening to watch. The vast contrast between his arrogance and his soft spot for Eun Sang has left everyone aching for him.
The Heirs is available on Viu or Viu mobile app with English subtitles for free.
Chil Bong (Yoo Yeon Seok) – Reply 1994
Truth be told, I stopped watching Reply 1994 after Twitter spoiled the ending for me. The actual pairing of Trash (Jung Woo) and Sung Na Jung (Go A Ra) was kept subtle and hidden, as the show focused more on the dynamics between Chil Bong, the nice and sweet friend, and the female lead – which explains the popularity of Team Chil Bong.
It was only towards the end of the drama when they revealed the husband, and many viewers are still disappointed with the ending.
Reply 1994 is available on Viu or Viu mobile app with English subtitles for free.
In Guk Doo (Ji Soo) – Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
Ji Soo is infamous for playing the second lead role and his role in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon is just another one on the list. Bong Soon (Park Bo Young) and Guk Doo have been friends since high school, but he doesn’t know about Bong Soon’s romantic feelings for him and only sees her as a good friend.
He only realises his feelings for Bong Soon after she starts to fall for Ahn Min Hyuk (Park Hyung Sik). In the last episode, there’s a scene of Guk Doo playing basketball with Bong Soon’s twin brother, Bong Ki (Ahn Woo Yeon) where he confesses that he has loved Bong Soon since high school, but was too blind to realise her feelings.
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