There are all kinds of leading male characters in Korean dramas, but the ones who charm us with their combination of sometimes bumbling eagerness that can suddenly turn into intensity are some of our favorites. This is what the fangirls at Dramas with a Side of Kimchi refers to as “Puppy Smolder.” Come join us as we chat about our favorite Khottie puppies.
How do you define puppy smolder?
Kdrama Jen: Puppy smolder is certainly an art. Some of the fan girls recently pontificated on this very topic during our recent podcast (Podcast Link). We came to the conclusion that there may be a few different kinds of puppies that can smolder. There are the sweet and playful puppies who suddenly become intense and then there are the wounded puppies who make you just want to scoop them up, take them home, and then suddenly…bam!
Karie the Maknae: Ah, puppy smolder! The only thing that kept me invested in Strong Woman Do Bong Soon after the poop wine was introduced. (GAG.) Sorry. Yes. Back to the point: Puppies who smolder — young actors who are cute and a bit bumbling, but have a great talent for focused intensity at just the right moment. My reaction morphs from “Aw, I wanna pinch your cheek!” to “I’m just gonna stand over here and NOT get in your way. You go, you amazing bit of awesomeness, you,” possibly while punching the air.
Telzeytalks: Puppies are cute young men usually in their twenties who are put into a drama as eye-candy, whether they can act or not. Smoldering is more complicated but can be defined as Mr. Darcy on a bad day. I say a bad day because smoldering usually happens when the character wants something badly (usually a girl) and can’t get it. His emotion pours out of his eyes and catches the scenery and the audience on fire. This takes energy and skill as an actor. We can say that the character has to be vulnerable, but not too innocent or he wouldn’t be smoldering.
Clkytta: Ah puppy smolder, that moment when you feel butterflies in your stomach for someone who suddenly went from the boy next door to heartthrob. You know the one, the guy who was easy going and carefree, and then suddenly he sets his sights on the leading lady and BAM! Puppy smolder.
Drama Geek: For me puppy smolder is when a character is sweet and puppy like then all the sudden they flip a switch and light the screen on fire (and usually the leading lady).
Kmuse: I think my co-bloggers have already covered it all. Gotta love the smoldering puppies.
Our favorite smoldering puppy
TelzeyTalks: Lee Joon Ho and his hot longing looks in Just Between Lovers. Go Kyung Pyo treated us to a slightly gentler version in Jealousy Incarnate and Chicago Typewriter.
Kmuse: I still say that Seo In Guk can do an awesome puppy smolder (although I do agree he is often more smolder than puppy.) My 2nd choice would be Park Bo Gum. Anyone who watched Moonlight Drawn By Clouds knows the power of his puppy smolder.
Clkytta: I have to say that Ji Soo is my favorite smoldering puppy. We all know I have a soft spot for Ji Soo, right? He’s got that perfect blend of boyish charm and manly charisma that makes him one of my favorite up and coming actors.
Kdrama Jen: Junho is definitely my top pick right now. This is followed closely by Park Bo-gum and Yoo Seung Ho. I think these three actors have nailed puppy smolder.
Drama Geek: Taehyung (V) is perfect at dong this, whether he’s in drama or on stage performing, that boys know exactly when to turn on the smolder. I also have to vote for Ji Soo. He built his career on it. The last one is currently acting in Go Go Waikiki. Kim Jung Hyun was he perfect puppy in Jealousy Incarnate and then he was all smolder in Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People. He was able to combine those in School 2017. I’m looking forward to see what he brings in Waikiki. So far it’s just silly laughs.
Karie the Maknae: You mean I have to pick just one puppy? (I’m seeing how Drama Geek managed to sneak in three….) I say it all the time, but I’ll say it again — Park Hyungsik FTW. He handles his characters’ uncertainties with a laid-back panache, but in both Hwarang and Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, once he has a focused objective, he becomes amazing and I *believe* it. He pulls off the transition very well. Whether he’s taking the throne, training a superhero, or tracking down potential assassins, I trust that he’s going to do it well.
Our favorite puppy smolder drama?
Telzeytalks: Sometimes smoldering comes from another kind of frustration, and we can even feel for the bad guy if he has a good smolder. Yoon Kyun Sang, who played the older brother in Pinocchio, certainly treated us to some intense moodiness and his character just popped. Yeon Woo-jin who was the creepy rich son in Arang and the Magistrate really got us with his eyes. That character would have been nothing without the smolder. And then there was Park Bo-gum in I Remember You aka Hello Monster. You believed they were the villains and yet you couldn’t. But we can safely say that if a secondary character smolders well enough, he will sooner or later turn up as the main lead, and they will give him something more fun to smolder at.
Clkytta: I can safely say that my favorite puppy smolder drama is Ho Goo’s Love/Fool’s Love. Choi Woo Shik as Ho Goo, nails it perfectly. He’s sweet and goofy, but when he decides to go after the girl, he turns on the smolder. Every scene of him looking longingly at Do Do Hee makes me smile like an idiot and hope that he gets the girl. Seriously, I need a Ho Goo in my life to look at me like I’m his everything.
Kmuse: Ugh. This is so hard to choose just one. I think I am going to agree with Clkytta and say Ho Goo’s Love. Sure, most of his smolder was accidental or in his head, but I love this puppy’s charisma and character.
Drama Geek: Even though Hwarang wasn’t the best drama, it really excelled in the puppy smolder. Almost the entire cast could be classified that way.
Karie the Maknae: I second Hwarang. All those boys had facets of the puppy smolder going on (is Park Seo Joon getting too old to be considered a puppy? Inquiring minds want to know) and made the drama worth watching, for me. Same with Strong Woman Do Bong Soon. And I Am Not a Robot –Yoo Seung Hoo is the current poster boy for puppy smolder.
I can see potential for puppy smolder in some other actors, like Ok Taecyeon (Let’s Fight, Ghost) and Kwak Jung Wook (Oh Jung Ho in School 2013 and Jung Ma Ro in Shut Up Flower Boy Band). Taecyeon needs to work on his intensity, and Kwak Jung Wook just needs the opportunity, in my opinion.
Which smoldering puppy would you want to spend Valentines Day with if we were not married and way older than all of them?
Clkytta: I didn’t have to think very long on this one, absolutely Yoo Seung Ho. I’ve loved him in everything he’s been in, but after watching I’m Not a Robot I think he’s the bee’s knees and I could just stare at him for hours. He wouldn’t even have to talk, he could just sit here and smile at me and I’d be perfectly content.
Kmuse: Is it any shock that I choose Seo In Guk. Although, I am going to clarify that I want the character that Seo In Guk played in High School King of Savvy. That character was so sweet and romantic. It was impossible to not fall in love with him.
Kdrama Jen: I really cannot get enough of Junho lately, and since Clkytta will be enjoying that day with Yoo Seung Ho, I will spend Valentine’s Day with Junho and then go pick up Yoo Seung Ho, Park Bo Gum, Ji Soo on the 15th. Actually, if I fly to Korea for the 14th, I could grab the rest of them and fly back to the United States (Hawaii would do) and spend the 14th again with the next group.
Drama Geek: So… I think I might need to lock Kdrama Jen in a closet for Valentine’s Day so I can steal Junho. Okay, so maybe we can share, but then we can also invite Park Bo Gum and see if he’ll bring one of his besties Taehyung. Then he would invite his drama bro Hyungsik who will then see if Park Seo Joon is free.
Thanks for joining us for our Valentine’s Day fangirling! Be sure to check out our other Drama Roundtables as well as our Romantic Kpop post.
Til next time,
Dramas With a Side of Kimchi