Top 10 Types of Characters in Kdramas

There are certain types of characters that seem to show up a lot in K-dramas. Some are scary and others are kind, but they always catch your attention and keep you waiting for more. A few of these will be more common than others but all of them, in my opinion, are great characters.

(Note: I've given myself the liberty of allowing shows, characters, and actors to show up more than once on the list. I couldn't help myself.)


10) The Supporting Character

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(ex: The HeirsHyo Shin, Descendants of the Sun- Gi Beom)

These are the characters that you absolutely adore, and yet the writer has forsaken them- they’re the supporting characters. These folks are forever in the background, walking in the leads’ shadows. They’re usually quite interesting, and might even be able to carry a story of their own, but alas, they weren’t written to be the stars. Despite their lack of screen time, the viewer can’t help but fall in love with them. 

In The Heirs, Hyo Shin was one of the characters that kept me watching the show long after I’d grown tired of the leads.

I fell head-over-heels for Descendants of the Sun, leads and all, but little baby Gi Beom grew on me particularly strongly. He’s like a little kid, and I was always excited to see more of his story unfold as he went from a petty thief to a mature young man.

9) Quirky Older Folks

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(ex: Descendants of the Sun- Song Sang Hyun and Ha Ja Ae)

Most of the time, older folks on K-dramas are evil mothers, depressed pushovers, or parents terrible at managing a family (à la Boys Over FlowersBad Guys, and Coffee Prince respectively). Sometimes though, writers will include characters 40+ that act like normal people. They might be a little immature, but at the end of the day, they’re in their glory days and loving every second of it. 

Song Sang Hyun and Ha Ja Ae from Descendants of the Sun are a perfect example of “quirky older folks”. Sang Hyun is desperately in love and follows Ja Ae like a puppy. They don’t exactly act their age, but they enjoy themselves and feel like actual characters, instead of being the immovable sticks in the mud older folks usually are in dramas.

8) Nerdy Sidekicks

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(Kill Me, Heal Me- Oh Ri On, Hyde, Jekyll, Me- Young Chan)

The lead’s teammate and best friend forever, who always comforts and helps the lead, and charms the viewer while they’re at it. They might be funny, or shy, or adorably incapable, but they tend to tear your emotions up the most as they reveal how deep they really are. 

Oh Ri On from Kill Me, Heal Me fits this description like a glove. He starts out seeming as though he’ll only be the main character’s brother, but he slowly shows the viewers that he’s someone scarred and much more mature than we initially think. 

Young Chan doesn’t end up becoming too deep, but he is charming, and certainly the cutest secretary I’ve ever seen. He ended up being my favorite character out of Hyde, Jekyll, Me.

(And I have to say, isn't it the only the most flattering picture of Park Seo Joon?)

7) The Scary Softie

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(ex: 38 Task Force- Baek Sung Il, Kill Me, Heal Me- Shin Se Gi)

They look like they could eat you alive. They might be model-like, or beefy and gruff. They would make the perfect bad guy, if only they were actually bad. Often nerdy in reality or just misunderstood, these folks are just a little bit terrifying until you get to know them. 

Shin Se Gi, while violent and threatening (he made me quite uncomfortable on more than one occasion), is someone who only wanted Ri Jin’s love, and went as far as impersonating Do Hyun (who he strongly disliked) at her request, and turned especially sweet when Ri Jin gave him all her attention. (Sadly, as cute as he could be, that certainly doesn't excuse all the almost-murders he inflicted. That wasn't cute at all.)

When I started 38 Task Force, I expected Ma Dong Seok to play a character like he did in Bad Guys- a tough, scary gangster. While Baek Sung Il is beefy and might look threatening, he’s the biggest weenie in the world, with zero confidence and a lot of love for his friends and family.

6) The Vampire

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(ex: Scholar Who Walks the Night- Kim Sung Yeol, Vampire Detective- Yoon Sung)

Pale, fanged, and charming as hell, vampire characters always seem to win my heart. Forever unattainable (except for their leading lady), vampires are mysterious and intriguing, and so much fun to watch. 

Kim Sung Yeol is the definition of a perfect vampire- he’s powerful, he’s threatening, he’s angsty, and he’s gorgeous (all thanks to Lee Joon Gi, of course).

Yoon San is a different kind of vampire, but he’s just as cool. He’s super strong, and at the scent of blood, he can see the moments before a victim’s death. He has creepy, glowing, yellow eyes and a blood inhaler to keep him sated.

5) The Second Lead

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(The Heirs- Choi Young Do, To The Beautiful You- Cha Eun Gyeol, Boys Over Flowers- Yoon Jihu)

From these characters spawned the deadliest affliction in K-drama Land- Second Lead Syndrome. Even though you know as a viewer that the leading lady would probably be in better hands with the second lead, they always lose. From the start, we all know it’s not meant to be, and yet we find ourselves attached to these characters, rooting for them, crying for them when things don’t work out like we want them to (which is  the case most of the time, unfortunately). If only the first leads were as high quality as the folks playing second fiddle to them (especially in Jihu's case *wink*).

Eun Gyeol ends up doing a little soul-searching through the series as he realizes he's in love with Jae Hee and thinks he might be gay (in a very Coffee Prince-esque fashion).

I admit, Young Do isn't really that nice, but in a show like The Heirs, anything is better than Kim Tan.

Jihu really isn't that nice either, but he's certainly better than Poodle Hair Joonpyo (though I admit, Woobin was probably the best out of all of those maniacs.)

(Also, I literally could not find a picture of Young Do smiling. It just goes to show the kind of guy he is, I guess.)

4) The Psychopath

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(ex: Gap Dong- Ryu Tae Oh, Bad Guys- Lee Jung Moon)

We always praise the actors that can display real, heartfelt emotion on screen, but for me, it’s even more impressive to see one that can play someone completely devoid of emotion. These are the people that can hurt and even kill without thinking twice. No remorse. No regret. 

Lee Jung Moon was strange and fascinating. Unsure of if he’s ever killed or not, he’s empty and broken. Still, he can be volatile, and while I felt bad for him, I of course had a healthy dose of fear of him as well. 

Ryu Tae Oh is another story. I haven’t finished Gap Dong as of now, but already, Ryu Tae Oh has all my attention (and is the only reason I haven’t dropped the show). He’s a manipulator, who’s incredibly talented at pretending he has emotions, when in reality, it’s all just a trick to get closer to his victims.

3) The Bros

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(Descendants of the Sun- Yoo Si Jin & Seo Dae Young, Vampire Detective- San & Goo Hyung)

How they met doesn’t matter- they’re together now. These best friends, always have each other’s backs. It’s only natural they spend most of their time trying to tease and embarrass one another, but at the end of the day, they would be willing to protect each other with their lives. 

San and Goo Hyung are special. Goo Hyung always makes sure that San dresses his best (or, how he would like his friend to dress), and is always there to make sure San’s vampire secret stays secret. 

Si Jin and Dae Young are a match made in heaven. Si Jin exists to tease and get under Dae Young’s skin with clever jokes and endless attempts at throwing Dae Young under the bus. Dae Young, while being the shyer of the two, is also smarter, and can usually find some way to turn Si Jin’s tom-foolery against him. They are K-drama Land’s true Dumb and Dumber.

2) The Irresistible Villain

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(Scholar Who Walks the Night- Gwi, Kill Me, Heal Me- Shin Se Gi)

These characters are so bad they’re good. They’re charming, good-looking, and downright despicable. I admit, I have quite the soft-spot for these kinds of characters. No matter the terrible things they do, they’re just so cool. You always feel a little bad when they’re defeated, because whether you’re willing to acknowledge it or not, you were rooting for them. 

Shin Se Gi, though not really a villain in the traditional sense, is definitely an antagonist at some capacity. He’s violent and unpredictable, but at the same time would do anything for his first and only love. (And his eyeliner is on point.)

Gwi is a murderer, to put it simply. Hungry for power. He slowly spirals down into madness. Everything about him is cold and empty, and yet he finds himself falling in love. When I watched Scholar Who Walks the Night, I remember really looking forward to Gwi’s scenes because it was fun to watch his story unfold.

Also, Lee Soo Hyuk was the absolute best person possible to have cast in the role of Gwi. He's gorgeous. His voice gives me shivers. I love him.

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(Sorry.)

1) The Sweetheart

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(ex: Descendants of the Sun- Si Jin, Kill Me, Heal Me- Do Hyun, Because It’s the First Time- Song Yi)

These are the folks that are so nice, so sugary sweet you couldn’t help but yell a little when they found someone they truly loved. They never tried to hurt the one they love (at least not on purpose), and they always looked out for them and showed them the most love they could manage. These characters are a joy to have on screen. 

Song Yi was one of the first female leads I actually liked (imagine that). She was kind and held her own, and refused to pretend that Tae Oh’s behavior around her was excusable, and she did it all with a smile.

Plenty of folks would love to have a significant other as caring as Yoo Si Jin. With all the joking, he’d be tons of fun to have around. He could probably protect his loved one better than anyone else, too.

Do Hyun is the definition of a sweetheart. Awkward, adorable, and kind, Do Hyun ended up being one of the best male leads I’ve ever seen. He deeply cared for Ri Jin and her family, always cleaned up after his other personalities, and was just so great. He's my absolute favorite drama character.

(If I could have found a hight quality screencap of that part where Ri Jin is rubbing Do Hyun's head, cooing at him and he's pouting like the puppy he is, I would have used it. All I have is a low quality one.)

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Being that this is a personal list (as in, these are my favorite types of characters), there are ones that aren't included. Also, I can't exactly vouch for all of these dramas being good, but I certainly liked these particular characters. If you plan to attempt to watch these dramas, be warned. Gap Dong, The Heirs, Boys Over Flowers, To The Beautiful You, and Hyde, Jekyll, Me aren't really that great. The rest though are some of my favorite dramas.

Which character archetypes are you particularly fond of? Are there any on your list that aren’t on mine? Make sure to leave a comment below telling me all about your favorite types of characters!

Comments (40)

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  • Reply
    Gulsen Mar 31, 2017

    My two psycho-love just side by side...Lee Joon - Park Hae Jin <3<3<3

  • Reply
    Unnie25 Dec 10, 2016

    Lee Soo Hyuk was so perfect as Gwi! You are spot on with that don't be sorry!

  • Reply
    INFIRES Nov 28, 2016

    I love the bros

  • Reply
    Catt-chan Nov 6, 2016 - edited

    1, 2, 4 and 6.... i don't know why but 4 is always my favorite one.... xaaxxaxaaxa

  • Reply
    SaranghaeOppa Sep 1, 2016 - edited

    I always find myself falling for the second lead lol!

  • Reply
    shainenm1211 Aug 30, 2016

    Kill me, Heal me is one of my favorite :D

  • Reply
    shainenm1211 Aug 30, 2016

    Shin se gi!! <3

  • Reply
    nad Aug 29, 2016 - edited

    Totally agree for the vilain vampire Gwi played by Lee Soo Hyuk, he was just dead gorgeous in this role.

  • Reply
    MisakiRex Aug 28, 2016 - edited

    Oh my god author thank you for this phrase:
    "I admit, Young Do isn't really that nice, but in a show like The Heirs, anything is better than Kim Tan."
    I couldn't bear Kim Tan -.-

    • Reply
      KdramaInspirit Aug 29, 2016

      LOL! Same here. I watched The Heirs not because of the leads, tbh.

  • Reply
    Rouzmary Aug 28, 2016 - edited

    Yup, love all your type of characters, but my fav is The Irresistible Villain - I totally fell for both Shin Se Gi & Gwi. I think those two are still my favorite villains & and part of my fav characters too.

    I'm not really into Second Lead Syndrome, but I'm so hands down for 3rd Lead Syndrome aka that handsome sword wielding bodyguard/best friend for crown prince/king!
    First it was the kings bodyguard/friend in The Moon Embracing the Sun and now it's the bodyguard/friend to Crown Prince in Love in the Moonlight! Those characters are great! Love 'em!

    I also love those male leads who seem to be not that clever and capable at the beginning yet they actually are and it's revealed later on or only to viewers at first ^^
    Not quite like in Healer where he hides his identity and is actually really clever or in Faith where he's kind of lazy yet also clever & capable, maybe more like in King2Hearts where he's all playboy & fooling around at first, but when it actually came to being serious, he did take on the responsibility & excelled at it. Well, smt like those three combined ^^

  • Reply
    Trouble-chan Aug 28, 2016 - edited

    This article was excellent - I have to admit I really liked Do-hyun in Kill Me, Heal Me - BUT I was rooting for Shin Se-gi all the way through; it was clear that, unlike the other personalities, he considered himself a 'person' and one with a right to exist. He certainly was different to the other personalities and gave me the feeling that, if Ri-jin had loved HIM, he would've been different......for her anyway. It's the only time I can ever say I had SLS with the SAME actor in two roles. LOL! However, I also felt for Oh Ri-on; another damaged soul who, in this case, was trying to pretend he was fine. Both characters broke my heart.

    I personally preferred Lee Soo Hyuk in 'High School King of Savvy'; he was the archetypal villian in that; BUT with a scarred and lonely heart. He LOOKED like a beautifully 'suited and booted' vampire and came across like the most broken soul you'd meet (with serious family issues too) and who had decided to merely try and make everyone like him. The moment he realises what he lost, as he looks at the birthday cake with the message card, oh my dear sweet stars - I cried so much for him; terrible though he was, he STILL managed to not only make me feel sorry for him, but cry for him too. Yup, he was THE best (misunderstood) baddie in that drama. :)

  • Reply
    Clemi-chan Aug 28, 2016

    Awesome article!

  • Reply
    KMR Aug 28, 2016

    I love this article!

  • Reply
    yariru Aug 28, 2016

    I love the darker character tropes when they're done right! When they do terrible things but they have a motive you can understand - a believable villain or antihero. Like Jeongshin (Missing Noir M), Hwayi (Hwayi), Hyungjoon (Missing You), Seungha (Mawang), and most of the crew from Bad Guys. Bonus if they're female! I don't remember seeing any except for Jaehee from Innocent Man. I'd love to see some.

    Also, I'm still sad about Hyo Shin. He had so much potential with a good backstory and realistic problems but they were all shoved to the side. Wish he had his own drama. )

  • Reply
    sainasalonika Aug 28, 2016

    There are many Kill me heal me characters here and I am also watching it right now. So I agree with you for all of them.

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