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In Focus: 8 Times Second Lead Syndrome Crushed Our Hearts

In Focus: 8 Times Second Lead Syndrome Crushed Our Hearts


By Jonnie Anne Ngo
Chalk Campus Correspondent


If you're a fan of K-dramas, then you're no stranger to falling in love with the second male lead instead of the actual hero. It's called "second lead syndrome," and it's one of the most painful things in the world. Because we all know that no matter what he does, the leading lady won't ever fall in love with him, no matter how hard we root for them.

By some twist of fate, second lead syndrome would often be played out as the "better man"—he'll treat her better, he'll be there for her when she's being ignored by the male lead, and he'll even understand her better. Despite all these, however, he will never be prioritized by our heroine, and will often be relegated to the sidelines. Being a fan of the second lead isn't easy—how will you even finish the whole drama and accept the fact that they can't ever be together? 

To help ease your pain, here are seven K-dramas and second male leads that will forever change your perspective of chivalry and true love.

1. Kim Shin Hyuk of She Was Pretty

While Super Junior's Choi Si Won had already starred in lead roles prior to She Was Pretty, his performance in this drama is arguably his best work yet. He broke everyone's hearts as the second lead Shin Hyuk, a prankster who loved teasing the heroine, Hye Jin (played by Jung Da Bin), but was secretly looking out for her because he actually harbored intense feelings for her. But even with his free-spirited charm, Hye Jin just couldn't move on from her first love. Talk about "laugh it all out"—we guess that's what Shin Hyuk was really feeling inside when he was still making everyone laugh despite his heart breaking inside. Brb, crying.


2. Choi Young Do of The Heirs

We might have wanted to strangle him when we first saw him, but Choi Young Do (played by Kim Woo Bin) proves that bad boys can also be good guys when they find the love of their lives. Admittedly, his ways of wooing Cha Eun Sang (played by Park Shin Hye) made us question whether he really liked her or not, but this toughie ultimately proved that he's a true softie—despite being a chaebol troublemaker, he was able to look beyond Eun Sang's social status and fall in love with her simplicity and kindness. He does whatever it takes to get her attention, but, unfortunately, she only has eyes for another—and to make it even worse, that guy was his former best friend turned frenemy. DRAMA, Y U DO DIS?


3. Gong Tae Kwang of School 2015

Before his cutesy, playful role in Goblin, BTOB's maknae Yook Sungjae already garned much attention as Gong Tae Kwang in School 2015. Dubbed as a "problematic child," the character's life dramatically changes when he takes a more serious outlook toward life the moment he meets Eun Bi (played by actres Kim So Hyun). Tae Kwang is the type of guy who will accept the real you and be literally around you just to make sure you're safe. Despite his problems, he sees Eun Bi as an inspiration, and he becomes motivated to overcome his life's obstacles because of her. But while Tae Kwang may have done everything for her, it still doesn't mean that they can end up together. Second lead syndrome, right? Huhu.

4. Seo Ha Joon of Cheer Up!

We like to call actor Ji Soo as the "Pambansang Second Lead" because he always gets stuck as the second male lead in most of his dramas. Not that we're complaining, he always gives us the feels! In Cheer Up, his characer Ha Joon becomes involved in a love triangle with his best friend, Kim Yeol (played by Lee Won Geun) and Kang Yeon Doo (Apink's Jung Eun Ji). Together, they all happily break school rules and live their lives without a care until he falls in love with Yeon Doo. The catch—she's already in love with Kim Yeol! In the end, he gives way and chooses to accept the couple's relationship and becomes happy for them. Oh, Ji Soo! Hang in there, you'll be the male lead soon enough!


5. Shi Woo of My Lovely Girl

Admit it or not, idol group Infinite’s L (a.k.a Myungsoo) definitely touched our hearts despite his bratty attitude in My Lovely Girl as Shi Woo. In the drama, he is a popular member of a boy group. He meets Yoon Se Na (played by Fx’s Krystal Jung), a trainee producer, and the two become enemies until Shi Woo separates from his boy group and their friendship blossoms. Being with her constantly makes his heart skip a beat, but the sad truth is, whenever they hang out together, she's always thinking about something else. Ang sakit, bes.


6. Baek In Ho of Cheese in the Trap

We can’t help but fall in love with Seo Kang Joon as Baek In Ho in Cheese in the Trap. His difficult past coupled with his angsty character just made our hearts naturally gravitate toward him, but it's his interactions with Seol (the drama's heroine, played by Kim Go Eun) that truly made us feel the second lead syndrome. He's almost always by her side and is always looking out for her (we can't forget that scene when he ran out of his house just to wrap a scarf around Seol because it was cold!). Their friendship just seems so natural and real that we really can't get why Seol didn't choose him in the end. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

7. Cha Eun Gyeol of To the Beautiful You

Lee Hyun Woo as Cha Eun Gyeol rose to fame thanks to his stellar acting performance in the hit drama To the Beautiful You. Eun Gyeol only has eyes for football, but as soon as Koo Jae-Hee (played by FX's Sulli) entered their school, he begins to discover what love is. Because Jae-Hee is pretending to be a boy in the drama, Eun Gyeol questions his sexuality, but ultimately confesses his love for her, and was ready to accept the fact that he was attracted to a boy. You'd think, #LoveWins, right? Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be!


8. Yoon Ji Hoo of Boys Over Flowers

Behold, the legendary second lead! No matter what version, the second lead syndrome for this show will always give you the ultimate feels! Kim Hyun Joong, who acted as Yoon Ji Hoo in Boys Over Flowers (Hua Ze Lei in Meteor Garden) is such a charmer, not to mention his violin skills and the fact that he was a chaebol made him swoon-worthy. He totally fell hard for Geum Jan Di, but no matter how perfect he is, and no matter how much he tried, he still couldn't get the girl. Akin ka na lang, plz.


Yup, kilig but masakit! Which K-drama characters made you suffer from second lead syndrome? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

ALSO READ: The Six Fix: Disbanded K-Pop Girl Groups That We Miss

Banner photograph from Choi Si Won. GIFs from  Make A Gif (Shin Hyuk), Hippogriffjuice (Choi Young Do), Lovingthepowerofblue (Gong Tae Kwang), SohotcakesSasith (Baek In Ho), WiffleGif (Cha Eun Gyeol), jamieanddomaremyjacelightwood (Yoon Ji Hoo).




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