K-Drama ‘Second Male Leads’ That Deserved Better

When watching a K-Drama, especially a romantic one, there is always a character that, by the end of the show, doesn’t get the same happy ending as the main characters – and this unlucky person is none-other than the second male lead.

Whether they got the bad end of a messy love triangle or are killed off before they could have a chance, because of the SMLS (Second Male Lead Syndrome) thing’s usually don’t end up going their way.

So to honour this sad tradition in K-Drama’s, we’re giving you five of our favourite second male leads that make you think; dang…they deserved better.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!


Yoon Ji Hoo – Boys Over Flowers

SMLS Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

©Yoon Ji Hoon, 10.02.2018, twitter

The biggest SMLS award of all time would have to go to Yoon Ji Hoo from the timeless drama Boys Over Flowers! Even though Jan Di and Go Jun-pyo will forever be an iconic K-Drama couple, we couldn’t help but feel that, over the course of the drama, Ji Hoo proved that he should have been the one Jan Di ended up with.

Throughout the drama, there is a lot of evidence that shows how much more suited Ji Hoo was for Jan Di. From their cliche meeting in the garden, whilst Ji Hoo played the violin, and their sweet ‘wedding’ photoshoot to how he rescued Jan Di from dangerous situations  – Ji Hoo constantly proved he was right for Jan Di.

And, for us, the main reason why we feel Ji Hoo is more suited for Jan Di is the fact that, unlike Go Jun-pyo, Ji Hoo never bullied Jan Di – instead, he always treated her well. Even when she didn’t reciprocate his feelings, made a bit of a mess of things and even called himself and his close friends flies  – Ji Hoo never hated Jan Di or treated her badly, and he certainly never got the whole school to harass her.

So in the end when, despite all odds, Jan Di ended up with Go Jun-pyo anyways, Ji Hoo was forever memorialised in K-Drama history as the biggest second male lead that deserved better.


Joon Byung-Hee – Shut Up! Flower Boy Band

SMLS Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

©Joon Byung-hee, 09.02.2018,

Next is a character that, despite only lasting two episodes of their drama, made the biggest impact – and that is none other than Joo Byung-hee from the amazing drama Shut Up! Flower Boy Band. Byung-hee (played by Lee Min-ki) was a cameo character that stole hearts with his charismatic performance and quirky personality – which was a mixture of a crazy musician and a love-sick puppy.

During his short role, Byung-hee tries to win the affections of his ‘muse’, a rich girl named Soo-ah, by taking her for meals (which he makes her pay for), walking with her and just spending time with her – at one point he even provides her with a pile of different snacks, claiming that he didn’t know which ones she liked so he just got them all!

But alas, just when we begin to think he has a good chance of winning the girl and being a successful musician, Byung-hee’s role in the show ended when, in line with popular K-Drama tropes, he was hit by a speeding truck. Although his role was only meant to be a short one, many fans would have loved to watch Lee Min-ki continue his part till the very end of the drama – since Byung-hee clearly deserved more than two episodes.


Hansung – Hwarang: Poet Warrior Youth

SMLS Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

©Hwarang, 09.02.2018,

Another character that deserved to last till the end of their drama was the innocent and child-like Hansung from the historical drama Hwarang: Poet Warrior Youth.

If K-Drama fans have learnt one thing by now, it’s that any K-Pop idol who has a role in a drama will most likely be killed off at some point. So it didn’t come as a surprise when Hansung, played by BTS’ Kim Taehyung, was killed in the second last episode of the drama.

But although this outcome was expected, what fans didn’t see coming was the fact that Hansung’s beloved half brother, Dan-se, was the one that accidentally ended his life – making the whole thing even more unbearable and heartbreaking.

Since Hwarang was half historical and half romantic, characters like Hansung, who had no love interest, were in charge of lifting the mood of the drama – which is why, at least for us, it was difficult to watch the last episode without him. But even though we got to see Hansung up until the second last episode, we still think he deserved to finish the drama alongside the other characters.


Do Kyungsoo – EXO Next Door

SMLS Rating: ♥ ♥ 

©Do Kyungsoo, 10.02.2018,

We can pretty much have almost every member of EXO on this list, since most of the member’s drama and film appearances ends with their characters dying – e.g. Xiumin’s character being stabbed in Seondal, Baekhyun’s getting arrows fired at him in Moon Lovers and Lay’s character getting shot in Founding of an Army.

But for now we’ve decided to focus more on the ‘losing the battle of love’ aspect of SMLS, and for that we can look no further than the LINE web drama EXO Next Door! Mainly featuring the members of EXO-K, this short drama throws members’ D.O. and Chanyeol against each other as they both fall in love with the same, forever blushing, girl Yeon Hee.

Even though Yeon Hee was Chanyeol’s childhood sweetheart, during the beginning of the web drama he acted harshly and cold towards her. D.O. on the other-hand was always sweet and kind to her, constantly showing her compassion whenever she felt embarrassed. And although it’s kind of fitting for Yeon Hee to choose Chanyeol, in the end we couldn’t help but feel that D.O. deserved a bit better than to be left on his own.

Kim Shin-Hyuk – She Was Pretty

SMLS Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

©Shin-Hyuk, 19.03.2018, dramapopuler.blogspot

Lastly we’re ending on a case of SMLS that still hurts us, and that’s the case of Kim Shin-Hyuk from She Was Pretty.

Now we adore Park Seo-Joon’s character Sung-Joon and yes, we admit that he and Hye-Jin we’re kind of destined to be together – but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Shin-Hyuk was the only person, in the beginning of the drama, to actually treat Hye-Jin well.

Whilst Sung-Joon was giving her a hard time, Shin-Hyuk was always there for Hye-Jin, whether it be getting her article ideas put into their companies magazine or even racing to her in the rain after he thought she got in a car accident. Shin-Hyuk was a true gem, which is why he most definitely deserved better.

Who is your favourite K-Drama character with ‘Second Male Lead Syndrome’? Let us know!

Feature Image Source: ©Yoon Ji Hoo, 09.02.2018,


Claudia Deborah 이보라

Book-dealer by day, writer and illustrator by night—Instagram: @kikitsa.draws. Instant coffee and trot music get me through the day. My life is simple but I’m greatful for it. 나의 인생은 조금 심심하고 단순하지만, 이런 내 삶도 나에게 주어진 삶이 기 때문에 감사함을 느끼고 있습니다.



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