PICK: 6 Second Male Leads That Still Have Us Swooning in 2023 So far

second male lead kdrama 2023

Edited by Seo Hayne
Translated by Yu Jin Kim


Picture love like a sunflower – a steadfast kind that stands tall in the toughest storms. This year, K-drama’s male second leads brought the heat, keeping our hearts racing. Discover the standout secondary main characters who stole the spotlight and hearts in 2023.

The Secret Romantic Guesthouse – Kang Hoon 

The Secret Romantic Guesthouse is a historical romance drama that unfolds the tales of those residing in the Ihwawon guesthouse. The narrative revolves around Yoon Dan Oh (played by Shin Ye Eun), the owner, and the lodgers harboring their own secrets. Kang Hoon takes on the role of Kim Si Yeol, who disguises himself as a wanderer to conceal his true identity as the secret watchman of the Crown Prince’s hidden son. Unlike other lodgers who express interest in Dan Oh, he finds himself drawn to her older sister, Hong Joo (Jo Hye Joo). She goes on dates with Si Yeol, dressing up as a man for safety, and one of the standout scenes in the drama takes place beneath picturesque autumn trees, where the two confirm their feelings for each other. Kang Hoon skillfully portrays both the carefree “wanderer Kim Si Yeol” and the “watchman Kim Si Yeol” burdened by guilt from the lives lost under his watch. Following The Secret Romantic Guesthouse, Kang Hoon captivates audiences with his portrayal of the romantic second lead as Jung In Kyu in A Time Called You.

Joseon Attorney – Cha Hak Yeon

Joseon Attorney follows a lawyer (Woo Do Hwan) in the Joseon era who seeks revenge for the death of his parents. Cha Hak Yeon takes on the role of Yoo Ji Sun, the third-generation heir of a prestigious family and the top-ranking government official with significant power. Although he stands up for justice in front of his big-shot dad, the country’s top dog (Chun Ho Jin), he turns into a regular guy when he’s with his longtime crush Lee Yeon Joo (Kim Ji Yeon). He spills his guts, saying, “Just use me. Let me be your shield and buy you time to keep yourself safe,” in a poignant love confession to Yeon Joo that left many swooning. Cha Hak Yeon impeccably embodied his character’s flawless upbringing, rocking those slick hanboks, robes, and gat. And he’s also doing his thing in Castaway Diva, playing the charming second lead character.

Behind Your Touch – Suho

Behind Your Touch dives into the team investigation between Bong Ye Bun (Han Ji Min), a vet with psychometric powers that enable her to read the memories of both animals and humans she touches, and Moon Jang Yeol (Lee Min Gi), a detective fueled by passion. Suho takes on the role of Kim Sun Woo, a mysterious guy who suddenly appears in the village. Despite catching attention with his good looks and manners, he becomes a prime suspect in a series of murders due to his peculiar behaviors. However, Suho’s enigmatic identity is unveiled towards the end of the series in a heart-wrenching plot twist. Throughout the story, Suho captures the subtle peculiarity of his character, keeping viewers hooked on the show.
Oasis – Choo Young Woo

Oasis unfolds the tale of spirited youths fiercely navigating the challenges of protecting their dreams, friendships, and love during the turbulent 1980s to 1990s. Choo Young Woo takes on the role of Choi Chul Woong, a student infamous as the “traitor” among his activist schoolmates. He gives up his dreams of becoming a prosecutor due to his ties to the activist group and decides to become a lawyer instead. He has a dear friend, Lee Do Hak (Jang Dong Yoon), who shadows him like a brother. However, their bond is tested by their affection for Oh Jung Shin (Sul In Ah). While Choi Chul Woong’s jealousy adds a layer of relatability to the second lead, his intense fixation on the girl might have raised a few eyebrows among viewers. Choo Young Woo skillfully captures the nuances of his character—a charismatic and cheerful young man yet shrouded in darkness due to the secrets surrounding his birth.

The Forbidden Marriage – Kim Woo Seok

The Forbidden Marriage portrays the story of King Lee Heon (Kim Young Dae), who imposes a marriage ban following the loss of his dear wife. The narrative unfolds when he encounters a scammer named So Rang (Park Ju Hyun), who claims she has the ability to channel the spirit of the deceased into her own body. Kim Woo Suk plays the role of Lee Shin Won, a detective who broke up with his lover due to the new marriage law. Struggling to move on from his past relationship, he senses echoes of his former love in the woman he arrested, leading to form a love triangle with the king. Kim Woo Suk showcases his sharp side as a police detective and a tender aspect as a man grappling with unrequited love as the connection between the king and So Rang deepens.

Doctor Cha – Min Woo Hyuk

Doctor Cha depicts the story of Cha Jung Sook (played by Uhm Jung Hwa), a housewife of 20 years who gave up her dream for her family as she embarks on a new challenge to become a doctor. Roy Kim (Min Woo Hyuk), is a successful surgeon who impulsively returns to Korea from New York. As a doctor with more experience and colleague, he provides helpful advice to the first-year resident Cha Jung Sook while warning his colleague, Dr. Seo In Ho (Kim Byung Chul), about his extramarital affair. Roy Kim, gradually falling for Cha Jung Sook, captivated the audience with his sweet and gentle charm. Min Woo Hyuk, known for his background as a baseball player turned musical actor, gained widespread popularity through his role in Doctor Cha.

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Editor Seo Hayne: I like actors as they faithfully lead through their long running-time. I also like idols who accomplish everything on stage within 3 minutes.

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