One male lead; maybe two; sometimes even three, they’re absolutely indispensable. With decades of K-Dramas, there have also been a variety of male leads that have graced our screens and even our dreams. While it is always refreshing to see male leads defy stereotypes, these are the predominant male lead types in Korean dramas.
The one that loves himself (Narcissist)
Everyone can take lessons in self-confidence and self-love from these characters. However, despite their apparent narcissism, they hold a deeply sensitive heart. Oftentimes, this narcissism is a defense mechanism and the discovery of that fact makes them all the more lovable. Jung Joon Hyung from ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo,’ Park Se Gun from ‘Queen of the Ring,’ Shi Woo from ‘My Lovely Girl’ and Kim Tan from ‘The Heirs’ are some of the perfect examples of this type.
The mean one
They’re mean because they’re too nervous to be themselves around you. Lee Min Ho quite possibly created the blueprint for the mean male lead with his revolutionary role as Gu Jun Pyo in ‘Boys Over Flowers.’ This was further mastered by Kim Woo Bin as Choi Young Do in ‘The Heirs,’ Jang Keun Suk as Hwang Tae Kyung in ‘You’re Beautiful,’ Kim Hyun Joong as Baek Seung Jo in ‘Playful Kiss’ and so on and so forth.
The submissive one
These men love you and will do as you say, sometimes on their own volition and oftentimes out of fear. There are perhaps no better examples for this type than Jung Joon Hyung from ‘Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo’ and Ahn Min Hyuk from ‘Strong Girl Do Bong Soon.’ Some others who would much rather let their significant others take the lead include Louis from ‘Shopping King Louis,’ Choi Taek from ‘Reply 1988’ and Cha Dae Woong in ‘My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.’
The one playing hard to get
Two can play at that game and usually, the male lead gives in first. If there was ever a poster child for male leads acting tough on the outside and melting on the inside, Gong Yoo’s Goblin would be the one. However, a new contender has emerged with Kim Soo Hyun’s Moon Kang Tae in ‘It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.’
The tsundere/cold, distant type
The cold, distant type has long been one of the most popular male lead tropes in all forms of entertainment like dramas and even anime. The mysterious aura, the quiet devotion, and undeniable loyalty are what make these leads that much more desirable. Park Sae Ro Yi from ‘Itaewon Class,’ Do Kyung Seok from ‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty,’ Kim Jung Hwan from ‘Reply 1988’, Joo Joong Won from ‘Master’s Sun,’ Ri Jung Hyuk from ‘Crash Landing on You’ are some of the best examples of the tsundere type.
The jealous/protective type
A classic side effect of love is jealousy and the most obvious solution is protectiveness. Ji Chang Wook can be considered an expert of this character type as he’s acted as quite the jealous male lead in dramas like ‘Suspicious Partner,’ ‘Healer’ and ‘Backstreet Rookie.’ Park Seo Joon, too, has almost always been protective over his female leads, as Lee Young Joon in ‘What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim’ and Ko Dong Man in ‘Fight For My Way.’ Another perfect example would be SF9's Rowoon as Haru in 'Extraordinary You.'
The one that has always loved her
K-Dramas are filled with tropes and one of the most classic ones is that of fated love. Kim Young Ho from ‘Oh My Venus,’ Kang Ji Woon from ‘Cinderella With Four Knights,’ Seo Jang Hoo from ‘Healer,’ Louis from ‘Shopping King Louis’ and of course, Lee Young Joon from ‘What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?” are some of the most touching cases of love that transcended time.