The Horrible Disease Known As Second-Lead Syndrome!

Everyone who follows dramaland has had Second-Lead Syndrome (SLS) at least once. I have to first admit that I rarely have SLS because I rarely watch dramas with lead characters that I am not interested in. And once I start watching a drama, I am rarely swayed by second leads. This article is going to be about my personal experiences with SLS, first starting with dramas that I had SLS and later the dramas that are popular for SLS where SLS was not the case for me.

Warning: This article might contain spoilers for Warrior Baek Dong SooWho Are You: School 2015, and Reply 1988

Let's first start with: 

Dramas that gave me SLS

1.  Warrior Baek Dong Soo, Second Lead: Yeo Woon


I knew Ji Chang Wook was the male lead in this drama but I watched it because of Yoo Seung Ho and the plot. So, unsurprisingly, I had SLS with this drama. I loved Yeo Woon (Yoo Seung Ho) so much in this drama – the way he tried to protect people he loved and his emotional struggles and his sad eyes. And Yoo Seung Ho was visual perfection. He is one of the actors who looks very nice with historical costume and hairstyle.  No offense to Ji Chang Wook,  but I didn’t really care about his titular character but rather I was concerned for Yeo Woon. One disappointment with this drama was the female lead, who had no chemistry with either of the male leads and her acting was really boring.


He was a very beautiful assassin. 

So in remembrance of Yeo Woon,

2. Who Are You: School 2015, Second Lead: Gong Tae Kwang


When I first started watching it, I had no expectations of the leads, except for Kim So Hyun. I watched it because it was one of the School series and the plot was very interesting, and because of Kim So Hyun. I have watched her in child roles and loved her since then and this drama was her first lead role, so I was excited for her. The drama indeed became one of my favorites of the year and I also came to love Yook Sung Jae, who was playing the second lead Gong Tae Kwang. He played a spoiled rich boy with deep trauma because of his parents’ relationship. Sung Jae’s performance was spectacular, considering his lack of experience. I found no interest in the first lead character, Yi An, played by Nam Joo Hyuk. The chemistry between Kim So Hyun and Sung Jae was so much better than with Nam Joo Hyuk. So, in this way, I got SLS with this drama.


I still miss his quirky funny scenes. 

The fact that they won the Best Couple award at the KBS Drama Awards is the proof:


P.S. I am so looking forward to the upcoming historical drama of Yoo Seung Ho and Kim So Hyun, Ruler: Master of the Mask.

3. Reply 1988, Second Lead: Jung Hwan


This is clearly one of the dramas with a popular SLS. Everyone was either shipping Deok Sun with Jung Hwan or Choi Taek and I was on Team Jung Hwan. Jung Hwan’s character was so relatable in many of the scenes, like when he was one step late to go to Deok Sun at a very important moment, or when he confessed and made it seem like a joke (people who watched it would understand how sad it was!!), and Ryu Joon Yeol made this character alive. Despite being a rookie, his acting was on point. I am looking forward to his future works. This drama definitely was the SLS syndrome that hit me most in my entire drama life.


Serious feels there...

Some special moments between Jung Hwan and Deok Sun:

Special Mentions:

Missing You: I rushed through this drama because it was too melodramatic for me. However, Yoo Seung Ho's character, Kang Hyun Joon, has remained in a special place in my heart because he had such a conflicting character – at times he was a cute puppy, and at times he was very cruel and manipulative.

Kill Me, Heal Me: I am not sure Oh Ri On (Park Seo Joon) could be considered the second lead or not. But, I loved him as a brother who wanted to protect his sister in every way.

Dramas that are popular for SLS

Hana Yori Dango/Boys over Flowers: A typical case where the first lead is a “bad boy” character with the second lead being a “gentleman” character. I usually root for the “bad boy” in such cases.

Hwarang: A drama that recently finished airing. Park Hyung Shik's King Jin Heung character got a lot of love from the audience as the second lead. But, as a fan of Park Seo Joon, I rooted for his character Sun Woo from the beginning to the end.

She Was Pretty: Another drama of Park Seo Joon. This time, the second lead was played by Super Junior’s Choi Shi Won. Although I rooted for the main couple, I quite liked this character because of the fact that he was very understanding and open-minded, and he didn't really try to ruin the main leads’ relationship.

The HeirsKim Woo Bin as the typical rich arrogant character Choi Young Do won the hearts of many in this drama. This drama was not my favorite and none of the ships really made it for me but I indeed rooted for Kim Woo Bin’s character. Honorable mention would Kim Ji Won as Rachel Yoo. She definitely stole the scene in this drama. 

My Girl: In fact, I didn’t watch this drama but it was really popular in my country back then. I am sure many was rooting for Lee Joon Gi’s second lead character.

All in all, like I said in the beginning, I've rarely suffered SLS but once I have it, it is usually quite serious for me. Please do share your own experiences of having SLS. 

Thanks for reading! 

Comments (96)

  • Login or Register to post comments
  • Reply
    Pau Mar 24, 2017 - edited

    I feel you! especially w/ gong taek kwang I like the scene at the play ground when eun bi's about to leave then he told her that he's going to take care of his feelings for her, and Jung Hwan!! gosh seriously I am crying while he's confessing though he made it seem like a joke but you will still feel the sincerity, this is the reason why I watched Lucky Romance so that I can get over w/ my SLS :D

  • Reply
    Sarang Mar 17, 2017
    Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    Chavs Mar 15, 2017

    2. Who Are You: School 2015, Second Lead: Gong Tae Kwang
    3. Reply 1988, Second Lead: Jung Hwan

    the most heartbreaking second lead for me was Reply 1988: Jung Hwan i cried so much at the confession scene.. that was hurtful and painful still bitter about it

  • Reply
    maychowsky Mar 15, 2017 - edited

    I like Junghwan but I love Taek more. I think that Junghwan is the male lead, and Taek is the second lead because he didnt have screentime as much as Junghwan. For me, Junghwan is boyfriend type, meanwhile Taek is husband type lmao

    • Reply
      Jenny Mar 15, 2017

      same I've always regarded junghwan as the male lead while taek was second because we focused on junghwan so much. The drama instead gave me hope seeing a second lead get the girl especially cuz going into the last episodes I had no idea who the husband would be!

  • Reply
    All Mar 14, 2017

    I'm also team jung hwan. It's such a heartbreaking scene when he confessed. Baek in ho in cheese in trap also got me a SLS

  • Reply
    Otps4Life Mar 14, 2017

    The Heirs AKA Young Do 4ever:D

  • Reply
    nad Mar 14, 2017 - edited

    I really fell for yoo seung ho when he played harry borrison in the drama Missing you. He is such a amazing actor. Am also expecting ruler: master of the mask so much

  • Reply
    blacklatina Mar 14, 2017

    I was never a victim of the SLS, until " Hwarang"...My heart cried everytime King Maek Jong was rejected by the female lead(with by the way she has a very stron couple chemistry,unlike the male lead)...

  • Reply
    tar Mar 14, 2017

    I cried a lot for Siwon's act in She Was Pretty. Damn, he doesn't deserve to be sls.

  • Reply
    Dukbokki Mar 14, 2017

    Totally agree with Reply 1988. Im forever Team Jung Hwan.:)

  • Reply
    Mirasama Mar 14, 2017


  • Reply
    Jazzelm Mar 13, 2017

    i agree with all of these but urgh warrior baek dong soo was one of my first cases of SLS..ive always loved the main couple even in BOF while i liked ji hoo more i was happy with the jandi-junpyo couple

    Back to SLS was so bad i refused to watch the last episode. Those who have seen it should understand why ㅠ.ㅠ

    Reply 1994 and 1988 were also really bad cases as was she was pretty and school 2015...

  • Reply
    Nisap Mar 13, 2017 - edited

    REPLY 1988!!! I seriously dropped it after Jung Hwan's confessed. But I forced myself to finish it 3 weeks later

    • Reply
      Chavs Mar 15, 2017

      that was painful

    • Reply
      mz4jun Mar 31, 2017

      same here, i wasn't ready to watch the last few episodes.

  • Reply
    mahgikkow23 Mar 13, 2017

    I feel bad for not watching Who are You but I just don't plan on watching it :/

    AND feels!!!!!! for reply 1988!!! T^T I was sad that Jung Hwan ended up being the second lead! You were great Ryu Jun Yeol!!!

  • Reply
    Shay Mar 13, 2017

    "This drama definitely was the SLS syndrome that hit me most in my entire drama life." Agreed I will never not be bitter about Reply 1988 and the SLS is the reason why I didn't give it a 10

  • 0Articles
  • 0Likes
  • 0Follows

mz4jun's most recent articles...

Newest Articles

Most Popular Articles