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Second Lead Syndrome is REAL…K-Drama Edition

When watching Korean dramas, casting is very important to the popularity of the drama. However, throughout the years there have been instances where newcomers have taken the spotlight and captured the hearts of many. 

Second lead syndrome is a real syndrome (LOL), there are multiple dramas where people have fallen for the second lead, to the point where they are rooting for them throughout the drama. In the more recent dramas there are a lot more tendencies for the second leads to shine through and these are 3 Korean dramas where I think that has happened: 


  1. Start-Up (Kim Seon-ho 김선호)

This drama revolves around a woman who has a dream to become an entrepreneur (CEO of a company), a man that is secretly her first love, and another man who is pretending to be her first love. It’s set in a fictional Silicon Valley called Sandbox in Seoul, South Korea. Kim Seon-ho plays the character, Han Ji-pyeong (the man who is secretly the female protagonist’s first love). Kim Seon-ho has been an actor in the industry for over twelve years now and he has not gotten much attention until this drama (very sad...I know). When watching his other dramas you can tell that he is a talented actor, but the reality is, there were other popular actors at the time that overshadowed him. Now that has changed, his soft charms (and dimples hehehe) are swooning women all over the world. From being able to play a serious and lowkey harsh character to his really loveable and sweet self are showing his dynamic skills as an actor and not only I but everyone is in love! (You can even ask my male friends LOL).


  1. Extra-Ordinary You (Lee Jae-wook 이재욱)

This drama is based on a Korean webtoon originally called "July Found By Chance" (English title). It follows a high-school girl who is a student at a prestigious academy. One day, she discovers that she is living within a comic book. Her entire life from a one-sided love to a heart condition that will lead her to die soon is all written by unknown writers. Her being just an extra in the comic, she is not satisfied with her fate and goes on to try and change her destiny. Lee Jae-wook plays the character, Baek Kyung (the female protagonist’s one sided-love, who despises her). Lee Jae-wook is a 23 year old actor that debuted back in 2018. He is still considered to be a new actor, however, the roles he has gotten are putting him on the map. Being so young, but looking older, he is able to play both young and older roles. Visually he can be a rude and mean character, but he can also play a sweet and shy character too (we LOVE diversity in acting!!). Extra-ordinary You is definitely the drama where he was able to make a name for himself. Surrounded by a cast full of males that are all 5’11” and up, being able to stand out would be difficult, but Lee Jae-wook was definitely able to stand out. I cannot wait to see what else is in store for him!


  1. Record of Youth (Byeon Woo-seok 변우석)

This drama follows the lives of three young people trying to make their way through the contemporary fashion and entertainment industry of South Korea. Throughout the drama the audience sees them strive to achieve their dreams (and love) without despair. Byeon Woo-seok plays the character, Won Hae-hyo (a model turned actor who is the lead male’s best friend, he comes from a wealthy family where his mother has control over his professional life, without him knowing). Byeon Woo-seok made his debut as a model in 2015, then he made his acting debut in 2016. He hasn’t appeared in many dramas and Record of Youth was one of his bigger roles throughout his career. From his physical stature and charisma, he is an actor that stole my heart as a second lead. His character wasn’t one that would steal many hearts because his male lead counterpart was none other than Park Bo-gum, but even then, his acting skills made the audience feel for him. He is definitely a face that I cannot wait to see more of. 


Like I said before, casting is a very important part when it comes to Korean dramas, especially if the producers and writers are trying to make a hit. However, it is really interesting when the popularity turns around from the male lead to second lead. Nowadays there is a charm to the second male lead that makes girls swoon and not pay attention to the lead character. The three actors/dramas that I named above are only a FEW of the dramas where the second lead takes the spotlight (at least in my opinion). It’s also really nice to see how hardworking actors that usually don’t get the spotlight, are getting the attention they deserve. 


Born and raised in the Bay Area, Shannon Kang is a California native. She is finished community college back in her hometown and is now enrolled at University of California, San Diego to pursue her Bachelor's Degree in Communications. After undergrad she is planning on furthering her education to pursue an MBA in management and operations. When it comes to tasks and her interests she is determined and persistent, she will not stop till she gets what she wants. Her interests include, music (KPOP stan), food (total foodie), Asian culture, fashion, skin care, and literature.
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