Han Ji Pyeong, Choi Young Do, Kim Jung Hwan: Are Korean drama second lead syndromes overrated?

We've all experienced the second lead syndrome but is it getting too overrated?
Han Ji Pyeong, Choi Young Do, Kim Jung Hwan: Are Korean drama second lead syndromes overrated?
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One of the most commonly used tropes in Korean dramas is that of a love triangle. 9 out of 10 K-Dramas feature a male lead, a female lead, a second male lead and sometimes even a second female lead. However, the second female lead is oftentimes relegated to an antagonistic role whereas the second male lead is a poor lover boy who has to let go of the love of his life because he’s not the one who makes her happy.

Most of the time, even before a K-Drama airs, the production house releases the positions of the characters that the actors will be playing. For example, even before Start Up aired, it was common knowledge that Nam Do San, played by Nam Joo Hyuk is the male lead protagonist, Seo Dal Mi, played by Bae Suzy is the female lead protagonist and Han Ji Pyeong, played by Kim Seon Ho is the supporting second male lead. There is no doubt about the level of his character’s importance. However, it is also a certain fact that no matter how the narrative flows, Han Ji Pyeong was not going to get to be with Seo Dal Mi.

Similarly, in She Was Pretty, audiences were incredibly split between Park Seo Joon and Choi Siwon, with a majority of the viewers wanting the female lead played by Hwang Jung Eum to end up with the second lead. However, no matter how sincere the second lead is, “fate” inevitably brings the male lead and the female lead together. As such, the second lead syndrome is as good as useless because no matter how strongly viewers feel that the second lead deserves the female lead, that is just not how the story will unravel.

While love triangles are always entertaining to watch, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that they’re getting a little overrated. Even if it is essential to the plot, the least that production houses can do is not disclose which character is the male lead and which one is the second lead, essentially giving away a critical portion of the plot entirely! One of the main reasons why the Reply series gained immense traction in the global K-drama community is because the drama keeps those details under wraps. Of course, there are some Korean dramas where the second lead actually gets the girl but those are few and far between and are still severely underrated. Examples include Nail Shop Paris, Dream High, Surplus Mermaid and Bread, Love and Dreams. Despite being entertaining and original, these dramas are not as popular worldwide. Therefore, in order to cater to the majority, K-Dramas followed and continue to follow the tried and tested formula of the love triangle with a male lead, a female lead and a second male lead. Following the outpour of viewers wanting Han Ji Pyeong to end up with Seo Dal Mi, it is safe to say that the audience wants more mainstream dramas to take the road less travelled because simply suffering from the second lead syndrome is way too overrated.

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What do you think about the infamous second lead syndrome? Share your thoughts with Pinkvilla in the comments section below!