10 Korean actors who leaped from second lead syndrome to stardom
If you've ever suffered K-drama second lead syndrome, you know how strong it can be. There you are, pining for the guy who the girl will never love, and you curse the writers for not making your dreams come true. While drama writers don't usually let the second lead win (though sometimes they do!), dramaland sometimes makes up for the pain by casting the actor as the romantic lead in his next drama. Here are 10 K-drama actors (in no particular order) who went from giving us terrible second lead sorrow to being the romantic stars of their own shows.
Yonghwa made his drama debut with a bang in You're Beautiful. His portrayal of the sweet and supportive Shin Woo gave so many viewers second lead syndrome that he followed it up not only with a leading role, but with a leading role opposite his You're Beautiful costar Park Shin Hye in Heartstrings. That's one way to appease the fans!
2. Lee Hong Ki
Yonghwa wasn't the only one giving people second lead sorrow in You're Beautiful! Hongki's Jeremy won over viewer hearts, paving the way for his leading roles in Bride of the Century and Modern Farmer. No one wants to make Jeremy ride that bus of sadness again!
3. Lee Joon Ki
Nowadays, it's almost impossible to imagine Lee Joon Ki playing second fiddle to anyone, but that wasn't always the case. In the 2005 series My Girl, he cemented his flower boy image as the handsome cousin who loses out to Lee Dong Wook in the battle for Lee Da Hae's heart. Although he's since moved away from pretty boy roles, he's taken the lead in all of his subsequent dramas, including the upcoming Scholar Who Walks the Night.
4. Yoo Yun Suk
After he single-handedly set off some of the most intense shipping wars in K-drama history with his role in Answer Me 1994, many fans were hoping "Chilbongie" would get his chance at love quickly. Not wanting to be typecast only as a "nice guy" (like he was previously seen as a "bad guy" from his movie roles), Yoo decided to go in a different direction with his role as the king in the movie Royal Tailor. Fortunately for fans, he is finally the male lead in the new Hong sisters series Jeju Island Gatsby. I already love that his character isn't the typical K-drama jerk! If you want to know more about this actor, read fun facts about him HERE.
Watch Yoo Yun Suk in Jeju Island Gatsby:
Like Lee Joon Ki, it may seem like Jang Geun Suk has been the romantic lead since the beginning of time, but that's not the case. Hong Gil Dong and Beethoven Virus, both in 2008, gave enough viewers second lead syndrome that it was only natural to make him the lead for You're Beautiful in 2009, and he's never looked back.
6. Yoo Ah In
Yoo Ah In was unforgettable as the gruff-yet-lovable Geol Oh in Sungkyungkwan Scandal, and he followed up the series with emotionally demanding lead roles in Fashion King, Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love, and Secret Love Affair. As much as I appreciate how he tries to stretch himself as an actor, would it be too much to ask to see him in a happy leading role sometime? Pretty please?
7. Lee Joon
From the first episode of Mr. Baek, Lee Joon was giving viewers second lead syndrome as the bad-boy chaebol's son who has to combat his own dad (not as creepy as it sounds!) for the affections of the woman he loves. It's no wonder, then, that the show hadn't been over long before he was headlining the current series Heard It through the Grapevine.
Regardless of your opinions on his current life choices, Kim Hyun Joong caused the first major case of second lead syndrome in a lot of fans as they watched Boys over Flowers (I mean, he was her soulmate, so that's one good reason to root for him). The K-drama world quickly made amends to Ji Hoo/Jan Di shippers by making him the lead in the popular series Playful Kiss.
As the nicer of two princes in Goong, Kim Jeong Hoon had some fans wondering why Chae Kyung didn't just run off with Yul and leave Broody McGrumpypants Shin in the dust. Of course, when Kim Jeong Hoon then became the lead in I Need Romance, he ended up making fans wonder why In Young didn't run off with Choi Jin Hyuk's Sung Hyun, leaving him in the dust. Ah, the neverending cycle of second lead syndrome....
10. Yeon Woo Jin
Okay, so I wasn't actually rooting for Yeon Woo Jin's character in Arang and the Magistrate (because, you know, murder and all that jazz), but I did feel really sorry for his character. It was so refreshing when he got to play a much more upbeat role in Marriage, Not Dating, and his antics on Divorce Lawyer in Love are absolutely hilarious. I wasn't sure about the show for the first few episodes, but he's getting funnier and cuter with every episode!
Watch Yeon Woo Jin's Divorce Lawyer in Love:
Which of these actors were you happy to see in leading roles? Are there others you loved who moved into leading roles? Which second leads do you want to see in starring roles next? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Vivi is an unapologetic Korean drama addict and blogger. She blogs with her K-drama best friend Coco at Kdrama Fighting! In her free time, she likes to bring her commentary to the DramaFever crowd.
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