Every girl I'm sure has crushed on a bad boy whether, in real life or on-screen, there is just something smoldering about the danger that comes attached with being a bad guy in a female fantasy. Korean dramas for sure have a great number of bad boys in them, however, there is a difference between a bad boy that is dangerous but deep inside is a sweetheart and a bad boy who is just an all-around natural jerk. This list focuses on the former, the men who stole our hearts and who we loved to hate on the Korean small screen.
~Warning, this article contains spoilers~
Mr. Sunshine's Gu Dong Mae is the ultimate BADDIE! To be honest, I've watched a lot of Korean dramas and none of them had the equal amount of scary bad that Go Dong Mae had mixed in with how much of an attractive human being he is. I want to note that while the drama aired there was a controversy over allowing him a good ending as it would romanticize the colonial loyalist and members of the Japanese gang he was a part of, which was responsible for bringing terror to Korean citizens in real life.
Go Dong Mae is a jerk and that is 100% uncontestable, the guy does things on his own accord and does not take the thoughts of other people into consideration. He lives by his own rules in a society and time period that is all about rules. The fact that Go Dong Mae betrayed his country to join hands with the Japanese colonialists is a huge red sign that makes him a bad guy and he wears that sign proudly. He is rebellious even to the Japanese too and I am not sure why exactly that is attractive but it is. As a child, his country failed him so he grew up loyal to one that was stronger and he armored himself with power so as to not be looked down on again in his lifetime.
He is not all bad, as showcased by his bromance triangle with the Eugine and the Kim Hui Sung. He is antagonistic towards them but even in that antagonism is some appreciation for their company even if he would rather die than admit it.
The simple reason that GDM is in love with someone who is in love with one and engaged to the other clearly is not strong enough to maintain his hatred of them. Usually, I find the obsessive love that a second male lead has for a woman who does not reciprocate frustrating. However, in his case, it is quite heartbreaking. His one fault is that he does not know how to love properly but love he truly does.
Scarlet heart's Wang So is such a heartbreaking character to me who deserved so much love and affection. He is not so much a bad guy but more of a victim smeared with false rumors to make him into a monster. Wang So is a lone wolf who and once he feels the warmth of the female lead you can truly see that he is a teddy bear inside. His only fault really is that he has monsters for parents and the rest of his family also has some horrible people.
In hopes of gaining acceptance from his family and not being the only outcast, Wang So makes some ruthless decisions, including attempting to kill the female lead. Luckily he sees her true nature and begins to fall in love with her.
The drama does not show Wang So as a bad guy but instead allows the audience to be neutral observers of how people around him look at him as cursed and ostracize him including his own mother. I personally failed to see how people who have never met him would judge him sorely based on rumors and the scar on his eye and determine him to be evil.
Wang So is part of the royal family so naturally, a battle between him and his royal brothers for the throne is inevitable. When one is embroiled in the battle for the throne and as fierce as that battle becomes it is inevitable that they must change. An emperor must harden his heart and as the old saying goes it's lonely at the top. That certainly is true for Wang So. Still, he remained largely misunderstood by everyone and that leaves makes me team Wang so all day.
Six flying dragons' Lee Bang Won is a complicated fellow in the fact that we root for him from the beginning and thus are prone to be biassed towards his decisions and point of view even when his actions are morally skewed. Bang Won is not a bad person but in fact, grows up as a good child who is inspired by the vision of a different country than the one he lives in. He looks up and idolizes Sambong, a scholar the mastermind of that vision, and wishes to be a part of it more than anything else in the world.
His father becomes King by successfully overthrowing the Goryeo dynasty and beginning the Joseon dynasty as part of Sambong’s vision. Lee Ban Won, however, finds himself an outsider from the family he is a part of due to his willingness to get his hands dirty to achieve their ultimate goal.
Partially because he sees the danger in Lee Bang’s willingness to do whatever is necessary for the new Joseon he strips all royal princes of the ability to practice politics (Lee Bang Won’s Passion). The ambitious prince is hurt by this betrayal and takes whose dream was to actively participate in the new Joseon with his father and mentor.
Those whom he loves and looks up to and their actions to distance him however only drive him more towards taking drastic actions. His actions are without doubt cruel, murderous, and morally wrong especially for a country-inspired by great philosophers whose fundamental beliefs they hold onto tightly.
I can't help but sympathize with Bang Won as murderous as he turns out to be. In a royal family, a battle for the throne is nearly guaranteed, and as Hova said it “No one wins when a family feuds.
The last empress' Lee Hyuk is honestly a complicated fellow, to say the least. In the first half of the drama, I held genuine hatred for the man, and even when my opinion of him changed, a large chunk of that hatred remained. Lee Hyuk is manipulative and has no regard for human life, to some extent I could even say he is a sociopath and or a psychopath. He puts himself first and expects those loyal to him to do things that are ethically and morally wrong for his benefit.
It doesn't help that Lee Hyuk is handsome and charming even with his bat s##t crazy personality. He uses these features to manipulate not just his own people and the media but also our naive unsuspecting female lead. Of course, as the story progresses we see unrealistic character development from Lee Hyuk whose antics and need for love and attention become very cute, almost aiding us in forgetting all the horrid things he has done to people in the past
Not completely though.
Again as someone who is raised in the royal family, Lee Hyuk grows up in a lonely life with a mother who is as cold as ice can be. He is an embodiment of how parents are majorly responsible for how their children grow up to be as a result of their parenting. Lee Hyuk has so much potential in him but who needs enemies with a mother like the empress dowager and her greed for power?
Heirs' Choi Young Do is a high schooler with a high IQ who also happens to be the rebellious heir of Zeus hotel and frenemy of male lead Kim Tan. Choi Do Young is a school bully and there automatically finding himself a spot on the list, much of his anger towards probably everyone in the world seems to stem from the disappearance of his mother. Despite his rebellious nature Choi Yeon Do participates in rigorous training as the heir of his hotel including washing dishes at the hotel regularly and looking sexy doing so. He also seems to have a genuine friendship with Park Hyun Sik's character and some warm moments with his former friend Kim Tan, as well as the female lead he finds himself to have fallen for.
Yeon Do initially approaches Cha Eun Sang as part of his plan to annoy and get inside Kim Tan's head. If the things he did were not so evil I would find his attempt to gain Kim Tan's attention to be cute. Slowly though he finds himself to begin falling for Eun Sang who is from a different world than he but lives well and is the only one amongst his peers that does not tolerate his volatile behavior. Through his interactions with her, we begin to see some character development from him and when he begins to let his guard down we see that inside the pack of cold ice is some soft marshmallows.
I find The Smile Has Left Your Eyes' Kim Moo Young to be the least likable bad boy in this list even if he is still very much attractive. Moo Young is highly manipulative, calculating, and gas lights a few unsuspecting characters on a scary level. Granted he too also has a tragic story and childhood where he is failed by many adults in his life. My heart literally hurts as I reflect on what this poor child had to endure and If I could jump inside my screen I would give them all a piece of my mind.
His childhood explains why he grew up the way he did but that still doesn’t help me like him and the things he does to people. He is someone with a master plan to reveal and uncover the truth of his past and get back the person he has lost. He is not shy to manipulate and gaslight a few people along the way in doing so and one of those people is the female lead, her brother, her best friend, and her best friend's boyfriend.
I would like to point out that Moo Young has a positive character progression from his interactions with the female lead, a clear theme of this list. He even improves his relationship with her brother despite things getting bloody between the two and he does truly change for the better by cutting ties with those trying to use him and the dark part of him.
Angry Mom's Go Bok Dong is a school bully and Like Choi Do Young he comes from a broken and poor home as his only family is an imprisoned older brother. Bok Dong must now rely on the protection and guidance of a real sleazy thug who forces him to do his bidding which includes bullying other people. He is a product of his environment for he has to harden himself to survive the cruel world without family and all the emotional, psychological and physical abuse he has to endure by the only adult guiding him.
It’s only when he begins to interact with some positive influences and receive the love and warmth he is missing that he brings to melt his hard exterior. When he meets Jo Bang Wool our female lead, a mother who disguises herself as a student, his protective instincts kick in as he feels the need to protect her from the cruel world he knows all too well (even though most of what he think she is going through stems from misunderstandings). Another influence that becomes a source of Bok Dong’s character development is his Teacher Park Noh Ah who shelters him when he discovers the abuse that Bok Dong suffers from an adult. Park Noh Ah is a kind-hearted and naive softie who showers his students with love and concern and is just the perfect influence Bok Dong needs to see that the world is not awful but it’s the people that had been in his world that were.
Innocent Man’s Kang Ma Roo is a medical student who takes the fall for a crime his girlfriend commits. He loses everything as a result and only discovers that the crime he takes the fall for was part of a conspiracy created by his girlfriend to protect a rich older man she marries.
With revenge on his mind, Kang Ma Roo devises a plan to take down his ex-girlfriend by using her new step-daughter, our female lead Seo Eun Ki who believes that Ma Roo is genuinely interested in her.
Ma Roo is actually a very nice guy and only hardens his heart when he is wronged and decides to manipulate an unsuspecting and innocent person for his own goals. When Ki finds out the truth things don’t end so well between the two of them. It was actually a little difficult to take Song Joong Ki seriously as a bad boy as this was before he enlisted and he was so cute and adorable even when he was mad.
Gu Family Book's Gu Wol Ryung is a mystical spirit and protector of a forest as well as a Gumiho (fox) who falls in love with a human he saves after finding her unconscious. This human is a former noble girl Seo Hwa whose father is framed and killed by the very man she is running away from. He decides to become a human to be with her forever however she discovers his true form while trying to save her from bad guys and leaves him and shortly after meets his ends. Seo Hwa later finds out later that she was pregnant with his child who was not at all a monster and regrets her decision once it is too late. Woo Ryung returns however even hotter than before as a soul-sucking baddie who can only be killed by the child Seo Hwa had given birth to.
His return as a baddie comes without memories of how he became one, nor his love for Seo Hwa. He kills people in the forests making a bad guy to his son and Woo Ryung’s main purpose and drive are to find and kill someone called Seo Hwa even when he doesn't know why he wants/needs to kill her.
I remember when this drama aired there was a lot of fanfare over Woo Ryung fever making Choi Jin Hyuk an overnight sensation and I have been obsessed with him ever since. As Woo Ryung he wasn’t just a sexy demon, he was a sexy daddy demon as the child he and Seo Hwa give birth to is the character played by Lee Seung Gi.
Park Bo Gum plays a serial killer in Hello Monster who also happens to be a lawyer Jung Sun Ho and the main character’s lost little brother Min. As a young boy Min showed signs of sociopathic disorder a secret kept between him and his brother. When his brother spills the secrets to one of his father’s patience, however, the man turns out to be a serial killer who kidnaps Min and therefore the boy also becomes a killer.
Min is a lovable little brother who craves affection from his older brother and seeks his attention. He also dislikes Cha Ji Ahn, his brother’s romantic interest, for he wants him all to himself lol. It’s weird that I would find a Killer to be cute but to be fair Min redeems himself after interacting with the two leads and turns himself in for his crimes.