This post will follow the same logic as the last post I uploaded. I took all the male characters that I think were treated as first or second leads from all the dramas I’ve watched and narrowed them down to my top ten. The ranking is based on the age of the actor when he played the part, with the youngest as number one, so don’t put emphasis on that. Also, no major spoilers in this post but if you want to remain completely unspoiled I’d recommend to only read about the characters from the dramas you’ve watched.
1. Ha Min Jae (The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry)
Dating a very serious professional woman in her early-mid thirties when you’re a indie rocker with no distinct plans for the future and ten years her junior is not easy. But Min Jae pulled through with respect, complete devotion and ultimately, love, as his guiding lights. The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry is so far the only drama I’ve seen which heavily features a noona romance (two actually, now that I think about it) and there’s no one who’s a better noona killer than Kim Bum as Ha Min Jae.
2. Go Nam Soon (School 2013)
I think the reason why I hang onto Nam Soon is because he’s so easy to root for. Yeah, he messed up real bad in the past, but in the present, all he does is try to make things right and help his friends. He’s willing to go way too far for the people he loves, and will always take the fall for them if he can. Lee Jong Suk played him with such great emotional intensity, and Go Nam Soon played with my heart so much that I’ll never forget him.
3. Lee Yoon Sung (City Hunter)
City Hunter is really like a superhero origin story, and Lee Yoon Sung is a perfect superhero candidate. All he wants to do, all he tries to do, is the right thing. Sometimes that path is not clear, but once he finds it, he does not stray from it. He wants to do the right thing, and he wants to experience the love and tender affection that he never felt like he got from his ”father”. Lee Yoon Sung is mentally and physically strong and trained to perfection, but emotionally he’s like a little boy, desperately trying to please. It turns him into a fairly sad character, but clearly; he comes out on top.
4. Choi Kang Chi (Gu Family Book)
I’m a big sucker for fantasy, and the kid who doesn’t know they’re actually not all human is a classic trope. And Kang Chi did it well. He went through the denial, the despair, the anger and finally the accepting of his nature. And while being part demon fox is really badass, it was Kang Chi’s human side that made me really like him. While watching the show I saw loads of kdrama cliches coming and groaned in advance due to the bad choice I was sure he was going to make. And then he completely did the logical thing and threw me for a loop. It happened several times, and each time made me like him more.
5. Gu Wol Ryung (Gu Family Book)
Yup, two guys from the same show in a row. Gu Family Book was the only drama that managed to get two characters onto this list, which I guess is some sort of testament to how much I really enjoyed it. You could definitely argue that Gu Wol Ryung was not a lead in this drama, but to that I would say: he was most certainly the male lead in the first two episodes, and Kang Chi wasn’t even in them! Or well, adult him wasn’t. So that makes Wol Ryung an official lead, and that’s that. To be honest, after having watched the prologue; I was fantasizing about Wol Ryung pretty hard. He was a super noble and romantic demon fox. How could I ever have resisted him?
6. Choi Han Kyul (Coffee Prince)
There are few, if any, male leads that I have fawned over as much as this guy. When I see pictures of him I don’t find him that amazing, I never have, but in the drama he was everything the perfect male lead should be. Yes, he had a major freakout when he thought he was gay, but what I found more character-defining was how he came to accept it. He said ”Okay, I love this person. If that makes me gay, or whatever, then that’s fine. Because I love him.” and isn’t that the only reasonable conclusion to come to? Of course, since this is a kdrama, that dude turned out to be a girl, but that doesn’t make Han Kyul’s struggle and eventual acceptance any less character-defining.
7. Kim Joo Won (Secret Garden)
Secret Garden was the first drama I ever watched, and to me Joo Won will always be the go-to male lead in my mind. And he did quite a good job of introducing me to some kdrama staples. Emotionally scarred and kind of jerk-ish chaebols are featured in what feels like at least every other drama, and Joo Won is all that. I found his transformation into a more decent person more believable than some others I’ve seen (cough*gu jun pyo*cough) and his love for his leading lady was something I never ever doubted.
8. Kang Do Young (Liar Game)
Kang Do Young was actually the villain of this show, and since he was completely demented I of course couldn’t really root for him. But that’s not to say that I didn’t. I loved every scene he was in and just kept wanting more and more. Shin Sung Rok is mostly a theater and musical actor, and he brings such a sense of drama and intensity to every little movement that I just could not look away. Actually, after having finished this drama I decided that if I ever have a baby in need of a Korean name, that name will be Do Young. And hopefully he’ll be a sociopathic game master as well. His mama will be so proud.
9. Park Hae Young (My Princess)
Out of all the characters on this list, and all the other male leads that were considered for it, Park Hae Young is the funniest. He is so full of himself it’s absurd. I mean, he’s the kind of guy that would tattoo in his own face and not see why that’s weird. But that doesn’t at all make him unattractive, almost the other way around. He’s also very capable as a diplomat and really quite clever, which I like in my men. And really, he’s dreamy. She might be the princess, but he is for sure a prince charming.
10. Seo Jae Woo (Glorious Day)
Jae Woo is a quite a mellow character. He doesn’t have a whole lot of angst and his emotional state is never that complicated. He’s an honest to god nice guy, always trying his best. He’s a bit slow when it comes to decisions, but once he’s made one he’s the most devoted guy you’ll ever find. To be honest, if I married Jae Woo I’m sure I’d be happy. I think anyone would be happy with him.
I feel like I had better reasons for why I like the female leads that I like than for why I like these dudes… I think that’s because my taste in girls is very different from what is most often portrayed in kdramas, so my interest in female characters is very rarely sexual or romantic, while with male characters it’s very common for that to be an undertone. When it comes to male characters, my judgment is compromised.