Say goodbye to the bad boy male lead concept, here are five K-drama green flags male leads

Say bye to bad boy male leads. And hello to unproblematic K-drama characters as HallyuSG introduces five green flags male leads.

Esther Low

| August 5, 2023
Hong Du-sik (Kim Seon-ho) in a drama still from Hometown Cha Cha Cha Photo: Netflix

K-dramas have evolved over the past decade or so. And they are now enjoying global widespread popularity.

Over the years, there has been a clear change in the way K-drama characters, as well as the dramas themselves, have been presented. It’s time to bid the bad boy male lead concept farewell.

And hello to healthy, unproblematic male fictional characters. They are what many would deem the opposite of a red flag. HallyuSG walks you through five green flags male leads.

1. Hong Du-sik (Hometown Cha Cha Cha) / Kim Seon-ho

A friendly and familiar face in Gongjin Village, villagers know Hong Du-sik (Kim Seon-ho) affectionately as Hong Banjang. He’s the jack-of-all-trades who charges only the minimum wage for the work he does.

Yoon Hye-jin (Shin Min-a) is a dentist. A city girl at heart, she had to set up her clinic here due to issues she faced with her clinic in Seoul. Hong meets Yoon through an unexpected encounter and gradually develops feelings for each other in this slice-of-life K-drama.

Throughout the drama, Hong Du-sik has proven to be a walking green flag in more ways than one.

From providing relationship advice to his special bond with the Gongjin grandmas, he has demonstrated various qualities worthy of the green flag label.

My favourite green flag moment? The scene after Hong and Yoon started dating. Yoon believes in rewarding herself for hard work and she wanted to treat herself to a luxury bag she had been eyeing on. And Hong attentively listened to her rationale, respected her decision and supported her in pampering herself.

2. Lee Jun-ho (Extraordinary Attorney Woo) / Kang Tae-oh

Lee Jun-ho is probably actor Kang Tae-oh’s breakout role. Lee’s warmhearted, understanding and patient personality shines through in the drama, particularly so when he is with attorney Woo Young Woo (Park Eun-bin).

Woo is a brilliant lawyer with a rare case of autism, the Savant Syndrome. The 16-part K-drama attempts to break stereotypes by presenting Woo as a person who is different but no less capable than everyone else.

Lee is almost too real and good to be true in our crazy world. He treats Young-woo with kindness, listens to her whale stories, and would gladly be her safe space. And he speaks up for Woo whenever someone is dismissive of her or condescending.

Green flags
Lee Jun-ho (Kang Tae-oh) and attorney Woo Young-woo (Park Eun-bin) in a drama still for Extraordinary Attorney Woo. Photo: Netflix

The law firm employee has feelings for Woo. But he’s aware that she has her boundaries and needs time to open up.

3. Jung Yi-hyun (Happiness) / Park Hyung-sik

Jung is a detective who has been in love with his high school friend, Yoon Sae-bom (Han Hyo-joo) for a long time. They then decide to get married in order to own a place in the K-drama.

In this 12-part apocalyptic drama, Jung is caring and soft-spoken. He shows his ferocious loyalty and unwavering love for Yoon and is ready to take on anyone who threatens or harms her. Despite his protectiveness, he does not undermine her ability to defend herself and put up a good fight.

He allows her to be independent when she wants to, but at the same time is always around if she ever needs backup.

4. Hwang Yong-sik (When the Camellia Blooms) / Kang Ha-neul

A male lead who wears his heart on his sleeves and is unabashed in expressing his affections is always a green flag.

While leading men in K-drama are often portrayed to wear an aloof facade masking their warm hearts, Hwang Yong-sik (Kang Ha-neul) is a “what you see is what you get” type of character.

Hwang Yong-sik (Kang Ha-neul) in a drama still for When the Camellia Blooms. Photo: Netflix

His expressions betray his emotions, he is genuine and does not hesitate to profess his love and loyalty for the female lead Oh Dong-baek (Gong Hyo-jin).

Infatuated with Oh, Hwang asks for permission to be her friend and suitor. He is a refreshingly progressive character, unbothered by the stereotypes others have of Oh, a single mum, and understands the obstacles she faces but remains steadfast in his feelings.

Loyal like a puppy, he brings her flowers every day and earnestly declares his love. Hwang not only makes Oh feel worthy but also lets her see her self-worth.

5. Kim Rae-wan (You Drive Me Crazy!) / Kim Seon-ho

His sweet, witty, and tender personality is what makes him a walking green flag in this short four-episode friends-to-lovers drama.

They might have their differences and bicker like friends do, but Kim Rae-wan (Kim Seon-ho) always comes through. Kim has many attractive qualities, and among them are what I find to be his green flag traits – active listening, moral support and quiet soothing whenever Han Eun-Sang (Lee Yoo-young) needs it.

He is the type of lover who’s both a friend and a partner, and his cooking and make-up skills make him even more charming.


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