If you’re a K-drama fan, you’re probably all too familiar with the heart-wrenching feeling of second lead syndrome. You know, that moment when you find yourself rooting for the underdog, the guy or girl who’s not the main love interest but still manages to steal your heart. And let’s be honest, it’s not always easy to shake off those feels.
Well, we’ve got you covered with a list of 15 Korean dramas that will give you serious second lead syndrome. From charming and lovable characters to heart-melting moments, these dramas will have you swooning over the second lead and wishing for a different ending.
So, get ready to experience a rollercoaster of emotions as we take you on a journey through some of the most heart-wrenching second lead stories in K-drama history. You might want to keep some tissues handy because things are about to get real.
1. True Beauty
“True Beauty” is a delightful rom-com that follows the story of Lim Ju Gyeong, a high school student who becomes an overnight sensation for her remarkable makeup skills. Despite her popularity, she fears being seen without makeup and goes to great lengths to conceal her natural appearance. However, Lee Su Ho, the only person who has seen her bare face, catches her attention. He is a handsome and enigmatic boy with a troubled past, who unexpectedly becomes her confidante. As they share their secrets and develop feelings for each other, the question arises: can Su Ho help Ju Gyeong embrace her true beauty?
2. Start-Up (2020)
“Start Up” is a tech-themed romantic drama that takes place at Sandbox Company, featuring four unique characters. Seo Dal Mi is a young woman who dreams of managing her own company despite having little to offer except her ambition. Nam Do San is the founder of a start-up named Sam San Tech, but his vague dream and limited ambition lead his company to flounder. Han Ji Pyeong is a pragmatic advisor in the start-up world, and Won In Jae is a capable woman who strives to prove herself in a male-dominated industry. Their paths cross as they pursue their dreams in the tech sector.
3. While You Were Sleeping
Oh Shin-young is a joyful nutritionist in a hospital café, happily married to Yoon Min-joon, a salesperson in a food company. But everything changes when she falls into a coma during childbirth, caused by the hospital’s chief obstetrician and Min-joon’s ex-girlfriend, Go Hyun-sung. Hyun-sung is still in love with Min-joon, despite being married to his boss, Chae Hyuk-jin, the director of a food company. When Hyuk-jin discovers his wife’s infidelity, he seeks revenge. Follow the characters’ intertwined lives as they navigate love, betrayal, and secrets in this emotional drama.
4. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Go Ha Jin time travels back to the start of Korea’s Goryeo Dynasty, waking up in the body of Hae Soo. She befriends several princes, including the ostracized 4th Prince Wang So, and becomes a pawn in the power struggle for the throne. As she navigates palace intrigues, she also finds herself at the center of a love triangle involving the princes. Despite knowing she shouldn’t get involved, she can’t help but become entangled in the drama and politics of the royal court.
5. Love Alarm
Love Alarm is a popular app that rings when someone within 10 meters likes you. Kim Jo Jo, a high school student, has lived with her aunt’s family since her parents died. She hasn’t downloaded the app as her phone isn’t new enough. Hwang Sun Oh is a wealthy and popular student who is not loved by his parents. He notices that his best friend, Lee Hye Yeong, likes Kim Jo Jo, so he kisses her to find out if it’s true. The story follows their love triangle as they navigate their feelings, personal struggles, and the impact of Love Alarm on their lives.
6. Tale of the Nine-Tailed
Lee Yeon is a nine-tailed fox, living in the city for centuries and fighting supernatural beings. He seeks the reincarnation of his first love. Nam Ji Ah, a TV producer, investigates urban myths, including her parents’ disappearance in a car accident. She suspects Lee Yeon may be involved. Lee Yeon’s half-brother, Lee Rang, is half-human and despises people. He deceives humans by promising to grant their wishes in exchange for a heavy price.
7. Extraordinary You
Eun Dan Oh is a 17-year-old high-school student with a heart condition. But when she discovers she’s a character in a Korean webtoon and only a supporting character, she decides to change her fate. With the ability to see the storyboard, she sets out to find true love and take control of her own plot-line, despite the predetermined actions the artist has planned for her. Will she be able to change the course of her story and find happiness?
8. Record of Youth
This drama follows the journey of young individuals who strive to achieve their dreams and find love in a generation where these things are often out of reach. Sa Hye Joon is a popular model with dreams of becoming an actor, but struggles to stand out. Meanwhile, Ahn Jung Ha is a make-up artist who hides her loneliness behind her cheerful exterior and her love for idols. As they navigate the challenges of their careers and personal lives, they learn valuable lessons about perseverance and the importance of genuine connections.
Choi In Ha dreams of becoming a broadcast reporter despite her “Pinocchio syndrome” that causes her to hiccup whenever she lies. She joins the news team alongside fellow rookies Choi Dal Po, whose scruffy appearance belies his sharp mind and impeccable memory, Seo Bum Jo, a privileged heir who has always had everything handed to him, and Yoon Yoo Rae, whose fan knowledge proves useful in covering stories. As they navigate the world of journalism and pursue justice, the young reporters also embark on a journey of self-discovery in this engaging drama.
10. Clean with Passion for Now
Jang Sun Gyeol, a wealthy and handsome CEO, has a crippling fear of germs that makes him obsessed with cleanliness. He owns a cleaning company and lives a life devoid of any human contact. One day, he hires Gil Oh Sol, an untidy and carefree girl, as a new employee. Oh Sol, who has given up on being neat after facing the harsh realities of the world, helps Sun Gyeol overcome his mysophobia and they start to fall in love. This heartwarming romance shows how love can conquer even the strongest of fears.
11. Thirty But Seventeen
“Thirty But Seventeen” is a heartwarming drama about Woo Seo Ri, a young violin prodigy who wakes up from a coma 13 years after a bus accident. Mentally, she is still 17, but physically, she is 30. Gong Woo Jin is a reclusive man who has been traumatized by an event that occurred 13 years ago. As they help each other navigate through life and overcome their past traumas, they begin to fall in love. Will they be able to open the door to happiness that they thought was forever closed?
12. The King: Eternal Monarch
Lee Gon is the beloved emperor of Korea, but his perfect facade masks a painful past. One day, he discovers a portal to a parallel world where he meets detective Jeong Tae Eul. Together, they work to defeat criminals and prevent the worlds from colliding. But as Lee Gon begins to fall in love with Jeong Tae Eul, he must confront his own demons and the responsibility of his royal duties.
13. Radio Romance
Veronica is leading a secret life as a librarian by day and a disc jockey by night. She hosts the popular program “Radio Romance” where she shares her love for music. One day, she receives a love letter from a listener who confesses his love and wants to meet her. Veronica faces a dilemma – should she continue to keep her love life at bay or take a leap of faith and pursue the unknown? Will she finally let go of her insecurities and embrace love?