In the first half of 2024, K-dramas gave us winsome men who came bearing oodles of charm. Their dashing good-looks apart, they were smart and steadfast, gallantly wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They were willing to take a bullet for love and defy all odds to protect the people they cared about. They romanced with the same ease with which they fought, laughed, and didn’t shy away from showing their tears.

Here are five K-drama male leads who had many smitten as they made hearts skip several beats. 

Byeon Woo Seok in “Lovely Runner

There is no denying that Byeon Woo Seok’s Ryu Sun Jae in “Lovely Runner” is the current King of Hearts. When a bedridden Im Sol (Kim Hye Yoon) is told by budding singer Sun Jae of Eclipse during a radio call that he is glad she is alive, Sol’s world is transformed. She becomes a hopelessly devoted fangirl. Years later, when Sun Jae dies in an accident, Im Sol travels back in time to save him and change his destiny. And she even works to change hers.

Byeon Woo Seok’s endearing portrayal of Sun Jae had many go weak in the knees. He was an outstanding achiever who had no qualms in showing his vulnerable side. Even as Im Sol tries hard to protect Sun Jae across timelines, he is clear that he would happily sacrifice himself for love. Byeon Woo Seok not only got the beats of his character right, but he has made Sun  Jae an iconic character of all time. His innocence as he fumbles to confess his feelings, or the hopelessness as he struggles with himself, or the passionate way he expresses himself had viewers captivated.

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Kim Soo Hyun in “Queen of Tears”

Baek Hyun Woo (Kim Soo Hyun) is an astute lawyer who can get himself out of the stickiest of legal situations. But when it comes to his wife Hong Hae In (Kim Ji Won), he has met his biggest match. Hyun Woo is married to the rich heiress Hae In, and though they make the perfect couple, their marriage is far from it. Lack of communication, ego issues, and misunderstandings have driven a wedge between the two. Hyun Woo wants out, but when Hae In receives a life-threatening diagnosis, he decides to bide his time. When sparks are reignited, old feelings resurface, but there are too many factors that keep the two apart. When Hyun Woo’s suspicions are confirmed that Yoon Eun Sung (Park Sung Hoon) not only has feelings for his wife but is also the biggest threat to her family, he puts himself in the line of fire.

“Queen of Tears” came with its own set of plot twists and tropes, but what scored was the electrifying chemistry between Kim Soo Hyun and Kim Ji Won. Kim Soo Hyun portrayed a man who leaves no stone unturned in protecting the woman he loves and mends their fractured relationship. The complex yet endearing relationship between the two characters was brought out perfectly by the leads.

Park Hyung Sik in “Doctor Slump”

Yeo Jung Woo (Park Hyung Sik) has always been an ace student and is now a star plastic surgeon. But he hits rock bottom after a surgery goes wrong in his clinic. Within days, he loses everything that he built and is also facing a lawsuit for medical negligence. He meets his former classmate and nemesis, his arch-rival Nam Ha Neul (Park Shin Hye). Ha Neul is a doctor, but is battling mental health issues and burn out. As these two find their way around each other, they not only support but also heal each other, and love is just incidental on the way.

Park Hyung Sik’s Jung Woo is endearing. Despite the magnanimity of the situation he’s in, he is cheerful and encouraging toward Ha Neul. A committed doctor who is battling his own trauma and neglected childhood, he is a giving and compassionate man towards others. Though “Doctor Slump” did meander a bit, Park Hyung Sik gets an A+ for his adorable antics.

Wi Ha Joon in “The Midnight Romance in Hagwon

Lee Joon Ho (Wi Ha Joon) is a man who knows what he wants, and he will not stop until he gets it. Joon Ho was the star student in Seo Hye Jin’s (Jung Ryeo Won’s) class seven years ago. But Joon Ho wants to quit his corporate job and become a lecturer in the academy he had graduated from. He jokingly tells Hye Jin that he would make a pretty penny at the academy rather than slaving behind a desk at a nine to five. His motives are far from monetary as Joon Ho has been in love with Hye Jin for the past seven years. He is confident about his feelings for Hye Jin, who calls him “her pride” as her one-time student. As the two transition from a former teacher-student relationship to colleagues and later to lovers, we get a delightful romance. Even though Hye Jin is hesitant given their seven-year age gap, Joon Ho is not the one to get bogged by these issues. Instead, he becomes her strongest shield against the world.

After his stints in the action genre, we finally get to see Wi Ha Joon play a full blown romantic lead, and he does not disappoint at all. As he takes the initiative and woos Hye Jin, his flirtatiousness adds to what’s brewing up to be one hot romance. Wi Ha Joon as Joon Ho cracks the formula of love.

Start watching “The Midnight Romance in Hagwon”:

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Ji Chang Wook in “Welcome to Samdalri”

Jo Sam Dal (Shin Hye Sun) had hoped never to return home to Samdalri. But her career as a fashion photographer is in tatters, and her pride is badly bruised after being wrongly accused of bullying her assistant. What makes getting home even more tough is the thought of running into her ex-boyfriend Jo Yong Pil (Ji Chang Wook). Sam Dal had broken his heart and left for Seoul. It’s been over a decade, and Yong Pil, a weather forecaster, has never moved away from Samdalri. He is the town’s favorite boy and keeps an eye out for Sam Dal’s mother as well. When these two are brought together, the hurt of the past comes to the surface, but it seems Yong Pil has never harbored any ill-will against Sam Dal. As he pursues her, he also gives her the confidence she so needs in getting her life back on track. He is the safety net and the anchor her meandering soul seeks.

Ji Chang Wook as Jo Yong Pil is the greenest green flag all the way. He is resilient, patient, and understanding. “Welcome to Samdalri” is a feel-good watch, and the chemistry between Shin Hye Sun and Ji Chang Wook is endearing to say the least.

Hey Soompiers, which one of these is your favorite K-drama male lead? Let us know in the comments below!

Puja Talwar is a Soompi writer with a strong Yang Yang and Lee Junho bias. A long time K-drama fan, she loves devising alternate scenarios to the narratives. She has interviewed Lee Min HoGong YooCha Eun Woo, and Ji Chang Wook to name a few. You can follow her on @puja_talwar7 on Instagram.

Currently watching: “The Atypical Family”