Quick-witted banter, swoon-worthy chemistry between characters, solid storylines, and star-studded cast – romantic K-dramas have it all. And although the protagonists often drive the plot forward, the second lead couples of a few popular series managed to steal the show with their collective charm. Here’s looking at a few that we can’t help but root for.
K-drama enthusiasts are well-versed in the phenomenon that is the second-lead syndrome – when your favoured sub-plot character doesn’t get their happy ending. Often a feature of series with love triangles, this involves plenty of tears and tissue grabbing. However, every so often the second lead finds their perfect person – adding new dimensions to the storyline and winning over the hearts and interests of viewers. Not only do these couples inspire a flurry of conversations and memes across social media but also petitions for a spinoff show. Here’s a look at a few that deserve more screen time.
Check our complete list of K-dramas to watch!
Second lead K-drama characters whose romance had fans believing in love again
Cha Sung Hoon and Jin Young Seo in A Business Proposal
We’re starting this list out strong with a second-lead couple that has now amassed a cult-like following amidst Korean entertainment enthusiasts. Business Proposal’s Cha Sung Joon and Jin Young-Seo had the dreamiest arc, complete with love at first sight, forbidden relationship, funny banter, moments of affection, sizzling chemistry, quirky misunderstandings, and promises of forever. In fact, some of the steamiest scenes in the K-drama were courtesy of these two characters, including their kisses. However, what truly won hearts over is how dedicated the two are towards each other, with Cha Sung Hoon supporting Young Seo’s passions and supporting her when her family turns their back on her. They also embrace each other’s quirks. Need we say more?
Dae Young and Myung Joo in Descendants Of The Sun
A show as fast-paced and intense as Descendants Of The Sun had fans on the edge-of-their-seats rooting for the leads to overcome their respective differences and embrace their romance wholly. However, the forbidden love of Dae Young and Myung Joo – the second leads had fans gripped. The story goes that Dae Young – the master sergeant – is not seen fit to be dating military doctor Myung Joo, who just so happens to be the only daughter of a Lieutenant General. The two grapple with what’s right versus what their heart desires, consistently showing up for each other and supporting each other, even at the brink of their deaths. Take for instance the moment when Myung Joo gets infected with a deadly disease and Dae Young sits by her quarantine phase without a question, willing to sacrifice his own life to be with her. If that doesn’t tug at your heart strings, we don’t know what will.
Gu Seung Jun and Seo Dan in Crash Landing On You
A couple from another cult-class romantic K drama – the relationship between second-lead characters Ga Seung Jun and Seo Dan’s relationship blossomed beautifully through the course of the storyline. At first engaged to the male lead, Seo Dan consistently resists Seung Jun’s advances. However, the latter’s easy chemistry and genuine affection for her – especially after she calls off her one-sided relationship with the lead – helps her discover love and companionship. The two have easy banter, and a near enemies-to-lovers storyline which is hard not to root for. Which is why fans experienced collective heartbreak when Seung Jun puts himself in harm’s way for Seo Dan and loses his life.
Ahn Jeong Won and Jang Gyeo Wool in Hospital Playlist
If you enjoy a good will-they-won’t-they slow-burn romance – Ahn Jeong Won and Jang Gyeo Wool from Hospital Playlist will steal your heart. The two pine for each other through the course of the first season, only getting together during the second. Dubbed the ‘Winter Garden Couple,’ these two have a non-problematic, old-school relationship – complete with a meet-cute, exchanging of glances, proposals, and confessions. It’s no surprise that this simple yet relatable pairing had fans hooked.
Dan-Ah & Young-Hwa in Run On
An independent and opinionated sports agency CEO Seo Dan Ah, who enjoys painting meets art student Lee Young Hwa in Run On. The latter wears his heart on his sleeve, pursuing Dan Ah in the most romantic and respectful manner. She refuses his advances at first but gradually warms up to him, discovering love in the process. The fireworks are undeniable and their mutual love for art – especially that which Young Hwa creates – is relationship goals. And although the open-ended conclusion to their story had fans confused, many truly believe that the two deserve to be with each other and will find each other in the future.
Sunny and Grim Reaper in Goblin
Another wildly-popular romantic-fantasy Korean drama – Goblin’s second leads Grim Reaper and Sunny have a love that transcends time. In their current timeline, the latter – who is a chicken restaurant owner – meets the former when he takes up a job at the establishment. The two fall in love. However, the Reaper later unlocks his memories, discovering that he can’t be with her as a result of his sins in their first lifetime together when they were Wang Yeo and Kim Sun, the king and queen of Goryeo. The two shared both comedic and intense moments together – with a romance so enduring, despite the lack of a happy ending, that fans had the two actors star in their own show titled Touch Your Heart later on.
Hee-Kyung & Joon-Woo in True Beauty
Boasting a dramatic storyline – True Beauty features a range of K-drama tropes, including a love triangle with the female lead and her two former best friends who can’t stand each other. However, what truly won fans’ hearts over was the relationship between the lead’s older sister Hee Kyung and the homeroom instructor Joon Woo. In particular, the allure of the two lay in how the former took the lead in the equation, pursuing the man in a way that isn’t quite common in K-dramas. And although there was a bit of reluctance in the beginning, the pair discover a love that is the stuff of fairytales.
Lee Ji Yi and Yoo Chang Soo in High Society
Chang Soo, a rich man who’s the CEO of a company falls in love with girl-next-door character Ji Yi – his employee – in this popular K drama. The only thing unusual about this equation is that the two have a storyline that’s often reserved for the leads. The two have mutual admiration for each other, with only their family background adding painting their union with the colours of forbidden love. Chang Soo remains dedicated to Ji Yi, over-riding the latter’s practicality and apprehensions in the process. There’s plenty of cliches here, with the mother-in-law committed to tearing them apart. However, their romance endures and grows, winning the hearts of fans.
Joo-Man & Seol-Hee in Fight For My Way
As far as heartbreaks go, few K drama couples have managed to evoke emotional mayhem in viewers like Joo Man and Seol Hee – the second lead characters. The two childhood friends discover their feelings for each other gradually, going through a rough patch in between. The cause? Seol Hee is content with leading a simple life while Joo Man harbours ambitions for something greater. That said, their roller-coaster of a relationship eventually finds its happy ending, much to the relief of fans.
Sa-Ra & Eun-Ho in The Beauty Inside
Girl boss Kang Sa-Ra has several walls up as she dates powerful men and leads her life on her terms. On the outside, she’s cold and calculating – the stepsister of the main lead. Enter Ryo Sun-Ho, an aspiring priest who has an unassuming, near-angelic presence. The latter shows her a new way to lead life, helping her process her emotional side. This initially unsettles her but she later discovers love. Their exciting journey – marked by heartwarming moments – tugged at fans’ heartstrings and their union continued to be highly celebrated across social media.
Veronica Park and Ki Dae-joo in Secret Life Of My Secretary
Rounding out this list on an exciting note is the love story of Veronika Park – a confident, feisty woman who always has her way and Ki Dae Joo- who doesn’t seem to be interested in her. Seeing this as a challenge, she pursues him and their relationship has the most rib-tickling, heart-warming witty banter in the show. As the two discover love, you’ll find yourself quite drawn to the chase.
Which of these second-lead K-drama characters do you ship together?
All images: Courtesy Netflix
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Cha Sung Hoon and Jin Young Seo in A Business Proposal, Dae Young and Myung Joo in Descendants Of The Sun, and Sunny and Grim Reaper in Goblin are amongst the best second lead couples.
Answer: The second lead couple is the supporting pair to the protagonists, often driving the sub-plot of the story.
Answer: A second lead character is one that's essential to the plot but doesn't drive it the way a protagonist does.