5 K-Dramas That Gave Us Serious Second Lead Syndrome

Because we all know what it’s like to root for the guy who is “second best”

Contrary to popular belief, not every leading man in the realm of K-Drama is perfect. That’s right—while some may seem straight out of fairy tales or look like the absolute incarnation of your bad boy daydreams, it’d be an exaggeration to say we root for the male lead all the time. In fact, it isn’t rare that we find ourselves pining over the second lead.

That’s right, we’re talking about the boy-next-door, the funny best friend, the guy with the cold exterior and a tender heart, the ones who aren’t meant to end up with the protagonist but we root for anyway. Around the K-drama world, this condition is called Second Lead Syndrome or SLS—and chances are, you’ve experienced it, too.

Up ahead, we recount some of our favorite second lead syndrome-inducing Korean dramas and clue you in on where to watch them online.

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Reply 1988

Starring Lee Hye Ri, Park Bo Gum, Ryu Jun Yeol

While the first installment of the Reply series got us hooked, it was Reply 1988 that had us torn between the male leads. Following a group of friends as they go through the motions of growing up, this drama is full of funny, angsty, and toe-curlingly cute moments that have us shipping Deok Sun (Lee Hye Ri) with both Taek (Park Bo Gum) and Jung Hwan (Ryu Jun Yeol). Although, we’ve got to admit: despite Taek’s no-holds-barred affection for Deok Sun, we may have a softer spot for Jung Hwan’s signature stoicism.

See which of the leading men you end up rooting for. Watch Reply 1988 exclusively on Viu!

Who Are You: School 2015

Starring Kim So Hyun, Nam Joo Hyuk, Yook Sung Jae


Unlike most of the titles on this list, romance seems to take a back seat in Who Are You: School 2015. Shifting the lens to focus on issues like bullying, family life and the never-ending search for one’s identity, the love triangle between the three main characters might seem bleak at first watch. But don’t be so quick to write off Eunbi’s (Kim So Hyun) relationships with her leading men just yet. Give the drama a shot and you’ll likely find yourself see-sawing between Han Yi An (Nam Joo Hyuk) and the school’s resident troublemaker, Gong Tae Kwang.

Stream Who Are You: School 2015 on Viu!

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Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

Starring Park Bo Young, Park Hyung Sik, Ji Soo


It’s not that Park Hyung Sik’s character, Min Hyuk, isn’t sweet. In fact, with his adorable antics and the way he looks dotingly at Do Bong Soon, he could quite possibly be one of our favorite leading K-drama men thus far. Despite all of his good qualities and those gorgeous, expressive eyebrows, the second lead syndrome got us bad with Ji Soo’s character, Guk Doo. The perfect balance between serious and adorable, cold and caring, the model-turned-actor leveled up his performance when it came to bringing Guk Doo to life.

Watch every episode of Strong Woman Do Bong Soon on Viu!

My ID is Gangnam Beauty

Starring Im Soo Hyang, Jo Woo Ri, Cha Eun Woo, Kwak Dong Yeon

The boys surrounding Kang Mi Rae (Im Soo Hyang) are the very definition of opposites. While Do Kyung Seok (Cha Eun Woo), a familiar face from her middle school past, is cold and timid, their class’ teaching assistant, Yeon Woo Young (Kwak Dong Yeon) is warm and accommodating. Don’t get us wrong—Kyung Seok definitely has his charming points: he’s tall, charismatic, and most importantly, cares for Mi Rae despite being a man of few words. Although we have to admit, we can’t help but swoon a little over Woo Young, too.

Find out if My ID is Gangnam Beauty drums up your second lead syndrome!


Starring Song Hye Kyo, Park Bo Gum, Jang Seung Jo

It seems like Cha Soo Hyun (Song Hye Kyo) and Kim Jin Hyuk (Park Bo Gum) just couldn’t be any more different. While Soo Hyun was born into the family of a politician, Jin Hyuk gets by with side-hustles and part-time jobs. Right from get-go, we know that these two protagonists are bound to help each other find a way to happiness. But naturally, a little SLS has to kick in when we get to know Soo Hyun’s ex-husband better.

Fall in love with the slow burn of Encounter, only on Viu!

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Words Cessi Treñas

Art Alex Lara

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