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
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
(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 Flowers, Bad 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
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
(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
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
(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
(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
(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
(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.
1) The Sweetheart
(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.)
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!