Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim Episode 6: Motivation

After focusing on Dong-joo for quite a few episodes, our focus this episode is on Seo-Jung as we witness her growth in making decisions and taking actions to save lives.

Seo-Jung’s sincerity has never been in question. Being a doctor is her passion and it consumes her entire being in a good way. When treating a patient, her eyes light up and she becomes fully engaged, doing everything she can for her patients. Unlike Dong-joo whose journey is really about getting his motivations right, Seo-Jung’s motivations have never been in doubt. For her, the journey was about gaining confidence and assertiveness. While I do appreciate her humility and respect towards Master Kim, I did feel that she’s too subservient to him, allowing him to put her down continually. In this episode, she looks Master Kim in the eye and defends her choice to let Do In-bum operate even though that’s clearly a violation of the rules. It’s a moment of courage that we haven’t seen from her and I like that Master Kim withholds any outright affirmation because he’s not one for kind words. She finds her own affirmation when she sees the wife of the patient she saved, hugging him in gratitude and tears.

We also get explanation of why she looked at Im-bum with such a stunned look at the end of the previous episode as it is revealed that she is President Do’s daughter. While I found this a little too neat, I hope it suggests that we can eliminate Do In-bum as a love rival for her because the last thing I want to see on this show is a love triangle. Her backstory is used to reinforce her growth. When recounting her first meeting with In-bum as a child, she tells us that her dream was not to be a good doctor, but to be acknowledged by President Do. This is followed by a scene of him walking down the stairs, expressing his disappointment in her. She looks shaken by his words. When she finally sees the patient she’s treated and says “It’s okay. That’s enough. I did the right thing. I did”, she’s responding to both Master Kim and President Do’s comments about her over the day. She’s now gained the confidence to judge when she’s done a good job, without needing the acknowledgement of others. Seo Hyun-Jin really shines in this episode as she portrays the emotional journey of Seo-jung so subtly yet powerfully through all her facial expressions.

On the note of President Do, I continue to be unconvinced by the simplistic portrayal of him as an evil villain who mercilessly pursues profits and self-gain. And worse of all, he’s also a terrible father, giving his son a slap without recognising that his son saved someone’s life. Because of this, I’m also less invested in the ongoing battle between him and Master Kim, which he was already evidently losing even before this episode. I really hope we get more humanising moments, so that the character of President Do is more believable.

Related to the tussle between the two characters, I found the portrayal of Master Kim in this episode to be rather jarring and I’m not sure where his character is really heading. I get that Master Kim is not a clear cut good guy and that he’s ruthlessly pursuing vengeance for what was done to him. However, I’ve always thought that he was meant to celebrate the heart of what medicine, which is about saving lives, and that Doldam Hospital was supposed to represent a return to that simplicity of treating patients through the skillfulness of the doctor’s hands, rather than relying on protocol and modern technology. As such, Master Kim’s continual manipulation of CEO Shin by requesting for modern equipment, almost at the expense of CEO Shin’s life, seemed to be rather inconsistent with his message about putting patients’ lives first. I was equally concerned by the ending, where we see Dr Song and his team coming to join Doldam Hospital and Master Kim smiling. It seems as if Master Kim is trying to convert Doldam Hospital into a mini-version of Geodae Hospital, with all its protocol and modern technology.

Part of me is also concerned because I did appreciate the tight focus we had on our three protagonists at Doldam Hospital for the past few episodes and there’s so much more potential to further explore their journeys and their relationships. With even more characters being thrown into the mix, it may dilute the focus on the core relationships of the show which have been steadily unfolding. Master Kim’s relationship with both Seo-Jung and Dong-joo has been largely well-handled thus far and I appreciate that we don’t get an overflow of heart-warming, touching scenes between them, but really quiet moments of affirmation which come only after hard-fought battles are done and the dust is settled. We finally see Master Kim express some affirmation for both Dong-joo and Seo-jung. For Dong-Joo, it happens quietly without fanfare, as Master Kim tells him matter of factly that he will now check if Dong-joo is around before he heads off and that things were simpler when he was the only surgeon. It’s an acknowledgement that Master Kim now sees Dong-joo as an important part of Doldam’s workings and that he needs to coordinate his efforts with Dong-joo. As for Seo-jung, Master Kim expresses his affirmation through a nice scene between him, Dr. Nam and Nurse Oh at the end, where he recounts how she spoke up to him with a hint of a smile on his face.

With ratings going up, there is evidently growing attention on this series and I would argue that it’s not the medical aspects that are drawing people to the show, but really the characters. My greatest wish for subsequent episodes is that we get more clarity on where exactly the character of Master Kim is heading, because he is really the core of the show. In doing so, I hope the show also sheds more light on what the “Romantic Doctor” in the title means.

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Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim: Episode 5

This episode was rather uneven, with parts that worked, but others that didn’t work. I’ll start off with what worked.

I’m enjoying the developing relationship between Master Kim and Dong-Joo and how it overturns our expectations. The moment Dong-Joo realises that Master Kim is Boo Yong-Joo, his impression of him completely changes. He decides to stay on in Doldam Hospital and even tells Master Kim he wants to do a surgery together with him. He then starts to look upon Master Kim in a “romanticised” manner, admiring all his efforts to save the patients and even thanking Dr Song for leading him to a great teacher. Later on during surgery, Master Kim is hard on Dong-Joo, cutting off the phone line after telling him to stitch up the patient if he’s decided to give up. However, he does appear at the last minute to assist him through the surgery. When the surgery is finally over, Dong-joo sits down, exhausted (he seems to do that a lot, doesn’t he?) and tries to talk to Master Kim, and that’s where Master Kim completely shatters that “romantic” image that Dong-joo has of him.

Master Kim tells him the brutal truth that he would have done nothing if Dong-joo had decided to give up on the patient, because he would be the one who’d have to live with regret all of his life. Dong-joo was under the impression that Master Kim wanted him to stay in Doldam, but Master Kim responds harshly with “Why would I want to keep you?”. He then goes on to call Dong-joo a fool for not running a CT scan on the patient and by trying to give up his own principles so as to mimic Master Kim’s style. He rubs it in, that Dong-joo almost caused a patient’s death in trying to follow him and calls him out for all his excuses. He ends off by telling him,

“It’s up to you to stay or go. Do what you like. However, if you’re expecting something from me, you should stop dreaming. To a guy who bends his rules according to the situation, I have nothing to give, other than neglecting, mocking, despising and swearing at you.”
(Master Kim)

It’s scathing, cruel and heartless, and I love it! Master Kim has such a strong personality and is so different from the stereotypical tender-hearted, caring teacher that he’s really refreshing. His treatment of Seo-Jung is no better, cruelly rubbing into it that she’s now an orderly, but she takes it with humility because she knows there’s much to learn from him. I’m starting to appreciate Dong-joo for his willingness to question and even talk back to Master Kim, because he’s not one who will just take Master Kim’s scoldings. Even though he may be a coward, I like that Dong-joo is able to stand up for himself, defend his own actions and even question Master Kim. In that aspect, I think he’s a notch above Seo-Jung, because it’s only through his insistent questioning of Master Kim that he’s able to glean out more learning points for himself.

On a related note, I also liked that the show provided us insights into Master Kim’s past very quickly, where we learn that a third year medical student died under the hands of a younger Doctor Song and President Do attempted to pin the blame completely on Master Kim. While I appreciated that we found out more about Master Kim’s past, I did find the portrayal of President Do very unrealistic and unbelievable. Perhaps it’s the idealistic side of me in relation to the medical profession, but I find it difficult to imagine that a President in a hospital can rise up the ranks by being so conniving, cruel and vengeful. Right now, his motivation seems to be largely for power, which makes him even more unrelatable. I understand that the show is trying to portray a world that’s hierarchical and status-driven, but I would appreciate more humanising of the medical profession, that we do not have straight-out “villains” whose motivations are so unrelatable. Chief Surgeon, Dr. Song, also comes off equally bad as he’s so spineless and cowardly, cowering in his car when he sees Master Song walk by. Overall, the simplistic portrayal of President Do and Dr Song did not sit well with me. Somehow I would be more forgiving if we painted businessmen as villains, but where it comes to the medical profession, I do feel there needs to be more sensitivity in portraying them.

I also found the introduction of Do Im-bum, President Do’s son, rather awkward and we’re not exactly sure what he’s doing there. My guess is that he’s going to be introduced as a love-rival to Dong-Joo, which I also groan at. I found the final scene with Soo-yeon looking so surprised when Dong-joo introduces Im-bum very strange and bewildering. Why would she be so stunned upon that revelation?  I can understand the tension between Dong-joo and Im-bum, but I cannot understand Seo-jung’s reaction, which was also rather long-drawn.

Nonetheless, on the note of budding romance, this episode did a better job than many of the earlier episodes and we do get some nice moments between them, especially when Dong-joo tells Seo-jung that romance can be as simple as sharing a meal together. He hasn’t lost the directness that characterised him when he was an intern, yet it has become more muted. I still don’t really see the chemistry between the two of them, perhaps it’s because Yoo Yeon-Seok plays Dong-joo with in such a stern, straight-faced and serious manner. I wish that Yoo Yeon-Seok would add a touch of softness and gentleness to the way he portrays Dong-joo. This came through in the early sequence with Mr Jang when he questions him about Master Kim, where we saw a playfulness and ease in Dong-joo that we rarely see. I hope we get to see more of that, so that we can connect better to Dong-joo and also the romance.

The past two episodes have been rather heavy on Dong Joo’s journey and Seo-jung’s character has been rather sidelined. I’m hoping the subsequent episodes build on her journey, rather than use her mostly as a foil for Dong-joo’s. As always, I’m keen to find out more about Master Kim’s past because there are still gaps regarding the student who died, what happened after that confrontation and what he’s doing lurking around casinos at night.

Personal Reflections

A few weeks ago, I read an article on TIME about bibliotherapy, where instead of diagnosing patients with medication, there are bibliotherapists who suggest certain books to patients to help them with issues they are facing.

When reading that article, the first thought that came to mind that certainly there could be ‘drama-therapy’ too, where therapists diagnose their patients to watch certain dramas with similar ends in mind. I’ve certainly found this to be a strength of k-dramas, which generally have a positive view of the world and are geared towards celebrating the good in life. While I generally take a more objective perspective in my reviews, this entry will be more personal and reflective. The dramas I’ve been following lately have provoked much thought on certain issues:

Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim

As the storyline develops, it’s clear that the series is keen to portray Dong Joo as a medical professional who’s done well in his examinations and is in all senses a good doctor. However, the way he treats his patients is largely professional and distant. He is chided by Master Kim, an experienced doctor, as being “insincere”, which we also clearly see being played out as his focus is on building his specialisation, career advancement and seeing each patient as a case, rather than relating to them as a life to be saved.

Viewing Dong-Joo led me to also think about my own professional role as an educator, where I may also have committed similar “errors” as Dong-Joo in being overly distant and “professional” in discharging of my duties. Instead of imbuing more humanity in my role, I’ve seen every situation faced in terms of issues to be resolved and the best way to do things. I’ve thought about educators which I looked up to and I realise that one thing that characterises them is their heart for education and students, not so much their intellect. This also reminded me of what I read from Parker Palmer years ago, that teaching is the only job that demands so much from within us, from our inner selves. I’ve thus been thinking about how I can be a more ‘human’ professional when I return.

The K2

Viewing the storyline of Yoo Jin’s downfall is a good reminder of the importance of decisions and choices. When she speaks of her decision to ignore Anna’s mum’s plea for help, she says she “obeyed the commands of the devil within me”. Her choice at that moment led to her descent into evil for the rest of her life, a choice that bothered her all the way till death.

Cliched as it may sound, we are constantly making choices to obey certain “voices”, whether it’s that of our conscience, or that of what the world demands of us. As a Christian, it’s a choice between God’s word and the devil. While we may not have faced as pivotal decisions as Yoojin that pertain to murder, we do make choices everyday about whether to listen to God or to the devil. It may be a choice of whether to bless someone or stay in our comfort zone, or whether to share the gospel with others or to stay silent. As these choices ultimately determine whether a person comes to believe in Christ, we can say these are “life or death” choices as well. Yoo Jin’s downfall also revealed that we should never downplay any decision that we make, no matter how small they are. The wrong path is often a result not just of one huge, bad decision, but a series of small, wrong decisions.

My Wife is Having an Affair This week

This has to be the most powerful drama I’ve watched in a while and the forums certainly reflect this. While k-drama forums are usually platforms for fangirling or criticism of the plot or characterisation, the forums discussing this show have been intensely personal, with forum users sharing their personal stories of marriage, adultery, forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s been a very different experience as forum users debate over the possibility of marriage after an affair and the challenges of marriage.

Viewing the marriage of Hyun-Woo and Soo-Yeon makes it clear that their marriage was afflicted by communication issues, even before Soo-Yeon cheated on her husband. The affair itself wasn’t the problem of the marriage; the problem was the marriage itself which had suffered from neglect over the years.

This is an important truth that all married couples need to take note of, especially as kids come along. The interactions between Hyun-Woo and Soo-Yeon had been reduced to discussions over picking up the kid and child-care arrangements. We don’t get a single conversation between them about their days, their feelings and their challenges. It’s a marriage that has grown cold over the years. It’s led me to reflect on my own marriage, that even in the midst of tending to two kids, it’s important to focus on my relationship with my wife and never to let the marriage grow cold.

This drama would certainly be one worth using for ‘drama-therapy’, to help couples facing difficulties reflect on their marriage. Of course, there would need to be someone to help focus on the key issues but that’s no different from a book, which is also subject to different interpretations. Who knows, perhaps “drama-therapy” would one day be an established field of treatment as well? 🙂

Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim: Episode 4

Image result for romantic doctor teacher kim episode 4

This was an episode with less happening and more actual interaction between our characters. I appreciated that very much as we begin to observe more clearly the strengths and vulnerabilities of our protagonists.

Within the first few minutes of the episode, we see what happened three hours before Master Kim appears with the burnt victims. He’s been lurking in the casino, where he once again saves someone from a stroke and is called in by Chairman Sin to be his doctor. Just as they are talking, a fire breaks out in the kitchen and Master Kim goes to the rescue, trying to put out the flames and reduce the burns before sending the victims to the hospital. Back in the hospital, we see his decisiveness, efficiency and precision at work as he administers the necessary treatment, delegates follow-up action and monitors the situation. Han Seok-kyu imbues the role of Master Kim with a strong sense of humanity and compassion; when Master Kim helps his patients, it’s not out of duty or a distant sense of professionalism, but it’s because he’s genuinely concerned for them. That compassion is written in his eyes as he speaks to the Head Chef and as he watches the chopper take off. Unlike in the hospital where doctors celebrate with feasts after successful surgeries, Master Kim sits down, pensive and exhausted after the dust has settled, without a hint of pride or self-exaltation. While others may see his actions as heroic, Master Kim has no sense of bravado; he’s just doing what needs to be done as a human being to save a life.

This is in stark contrast to Dong Joo, whom Master Kim scolds for thinking of himself as a hero. When Master Kim scolds Dong Joo for being a coward and accuses him of being insincere, it offends Dong Joo so much because he knows deep down it’s true. Underlying Master Kim’s scathing words is a strong message to Dong Joo that he needs to man up and take full responsibility and ownership of the lives under his hands. He scolds Dong Joo for fighting so hard to be top student, yet not being able to let go of the name of Geodae Hospital. Geodae Hospital is a comfort zone for Dong Joo, because it’s where he built his reputation. It’s where he feels safe because of all the protocols established, the clear specialisation and hierarchy as well as the modern medical equipment. As much as Dong Joo blames the system for making him a coward, he relies on the system to validate his own competency as a doctor. His decision to resign reflects this exact cowardice as he tells the Director that he’s not the right person for the hospital, putting the blame on the hospital rather than on himself.

Just as he walks off, Mr Jang tries to ask him to stop but Seo-Jung delivers yet another blow to Dong Joo’s pride by questioning his motivations. Dong Joo is unashamed that he is motivated by promotion because he does not want to remain forever in a hospital like Doldam Hospital. She questions him on why he chooses not to focus on the right things (i.e. the patients) with all his competencies, instead of seeking the approval of higher ups and playing the victim card. Once again, all these words ring true because this was exactly what caused him to end up at Doldam Hospital when he was tricked by the “higher-ups” to take on the surgery of the VIP, rather than tend to the patient that he originally wanted to treat. In a subsequent conversation, Seo-Jung tells Dong Joo that success and career advancement is good, but never forget that:

We’re only doctors, but we’re still doctors. Don’t forget that. – Seo-Jung

Seo-Jung serves as a good contrast to Dong Joo. She’s humble and eager to learn and improve her craft. When Master Kim asks her for three reasons to stay, she repeats three times her desire to learn from him. She’s genuinely interested to improve and serve the needs of patients, which is nicely contrasted to Dong Joo’s three reasons, which are that he hates Master Kim, the hospital and he can’t see his future. There’s a real glimmer in Seo-Jung’s eyes and an energy in her entire being when she’s treating patients, even from the sidelines. However, Dong Joo treats his patience with such cold, stone-faced precision. He wants to be the best doctor, not just a good doctor, implying a sense of competitiveness.

When Master Kim comes in to see him later, Dong Joo asks the same question to him that Nurse Oh asks him, “Are you a good doctor or the best doctor?”. Master Kim responds that the patient does not need the best doctor, but an orthopaedic surgeon who can also treat fractures – which is why he is playing all his cards to be the right doctor for him. He then gives Dong Joo the most nurturing piece of advice thus far, which is to be a doctor who serves and “as long as [he] [doesn’t] change, nothing will change”. This is such a cliched line, but once again Han Seok-Kyu delivers it with such gravity and sincerity that it hits home hard. That also triggers Dong Joo’s memory of the childhood incident and he suddenly identifies that Master Kim is Boo Yong-Joo and their exchange ends with him Master Kim denying it, which opens up a whole realm of story-telling which certainly is fascinating.

This was certainly the best episode of the series for me, with many solid character moments, including hilarious interjections by Nurse Oh and Mr Jang. Jin Kyung certainly plays the role of Nurse Oh so well and it’s amazing how much she conveys with just her eyes, especially in the meeting with Dr Yeo where we mostly got scenes of her sipping tea. The show is shaping up better and I am looking forward to more solid, character-focused story-telling.

Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 3

When watching this episode, I was reminded of a simple phrase that regarding writing: “Sometimes, less is more.” What this means is that instead of trying to fill your essay with too many ideas, it is often better to focus on a few key ideas to create more impact. That would be my exact advice to the writer of this series too.

Let’s recap what’s happened to our main protagonists from the premiere till this point.

Dong-joo and Seo-jung first met in Episode 1, had several unpleasant encounters together but were eventually united when he stood by her to save a patient. They then share an intense kiss, which caused Seo-jung to turn down her boyfriend’s proposal. Just then, a large truck crashes into them, resulting in them both being rushed to hospital, where her boyfriend suddenly collapses and dies. Shaken by that incident, she decides to go on a hike where she falls down and injures her ankle.

When we next see our characters in Episode 2, five years have passed and we get very little hint of what exactly transpired into those five years. From being someone who was willing to break the rules to save lives, Dong-joo has become a slave to protocol and rules and decides he needs to prove himself by operating on a VIP, whom he later realises only has 5% chance of survival. The patient dies in his hands and he ends up being sent to Doldam hospital. He almost decides to resign, but is brought back after an incident with Master Kim at the casino. Once he decides to stay on, he realises Seo-jung has been there for five years. Seeing Dong-joo brings back traumatic memories for Seo-jung and her PTSD is triggered, causing her to slit herself.

In this episode, we begin with an intense surgery between Dong-joo and Master Kim, which is followed by a showdown between the two of them. While Master Kim disappears for most of the episode, our two protagonists are again flooded with a barrage of intense incidents.

Dong-joo is swamped by a multitude of medical emergencies, including a huge family that has been hit by food poisoning, two accident victims who keep fighting each other, a man who drinks pesticide and is brought in by his parents who are hard of hearing.  In the meantime, he’s also faced a huge dilemma as Dr. Song, the chief surgeon at his previous hospital, has asked him to join in a specially arranged dinner with Dr. Do so that he can return to his previous hospital.  He misses his dinner in an attempt to save the man who drinks pesticide, but ultimately he can’t save him and ends up having to shout the news to his parents. He eventually breaks down and cries to his mum. When it finally seems like we can get some breathing space, a set of burn victims get sent in and he needs to treat them, without having had any prior experience treating burns.

Seo-jung is similarly hit by a wave of big incidents. She is first sacked by Master Kim because a doctor who harms herself is unable to treat other patients, which is in itself already a huge blow. When she finally decides to beg for her position back, she enters the hospital and sees a mentally unsound woman walk up to a patient and strangle him. She manages to pull the woman off, and just when she thinks she can get some rest, the burn victims are sent in and she jumps into action to help Dong-joo.

When watching this show, it feels as if someone is constantly stepping on the plot-accelerator, and there’s no opportunity for the characters or for the viewers to process anything that’s happening before we move on to the next big event. All the events happening above are huge and we should be feeling more for our protagonists, but we can’t because we’re just barraged by the incidents one after the other. I, for one, would have liked to get more insight into what happened to both Dong-joo and Seo-jung in the five years that we missed out on. Towards the end of the episode, Dong-joo tells Seo-jung that he has always been a straightforward guy, playing by the rules but we know that isn’t true based on the premiere. So what happened?  The rapid piling on of tragic incidents on our protagonists reflects a certain anxiety by the writer to quickly ensure viewers empathise or sympathise with them, which works only to a certain extent.

Also, there seems to be a deliberate “de-skilling” of Dong-joo in this episode in order to make him more tragic. In episode 1, Dong-joo exercised such precision with Seo-jung, providing her with the instruments she needed even without her asking for it. How is it that he was able to do that as an intern, yet after 5 years of experience, he seems even less competent? While it’s acceptable that he lost his values and moral compass along the way, how can it be that he also lost his skills? There seems to be a deliberate attempt in this episode to play up his failures, because we do eventually hear Nurse Oh attribute the success of the night to Dong-joo. However, we do not get to see any of it, because that would not contribute to the “downfall of Dong-joo” storyline.

All this plot acceleration would be more acceptable if we knew where exactly we are heading to, but it’s still rather hazy at this point what the writer wants to do. I’m guessing it has to do with Master Kim and how he eventually saves the two of them from all their tragic circumstances. Unlike Dong-joo and Seo-jung, the show is really taking its time to build up Master Kim’s story, which is unfortunate because I really wanted to know more about his backstory. It seems like we get more of it in episode 4, so I’m looking forward to that.

To close on a more positive note, I am really appreciating the cinematography of the show, especially the opening sequence with Seo-jung’s wrist surgery. While there has been no shortage of bloody, gory scenes in medical shows, I’ve rarely seen such a precise and visceral surgery scene, where we see each stitch being sewn and appreciate the deft, skilful hands of the surgeon. There’s such an artfulness to it that portrays surgery with a beauty that I haven’t seen before. I also love how the show continually plays with light, especially with natural light that almost floods all the day-time conversations between our protagonists.

On a final note, it’s unfortunate that all the medical terminology that’s being explained throughout the series is not subtitled, because I would be very keen to see what’s being said. There was even an explanatory note for “traffic accident”, which was surprising because I would never have seen it as a medical term. I also find the structuring of the show as chapters very intriguing, because it almost makes the show seem like a medical textbook or encyclopedia – or could it also be a biography? Amidst the very intense and tragic drama, there’s a playfulness in the way the series is structured, which makes you also wonder who this “book” is for. The chapter names are also rather fascinating, with this chapter named “Friday of Thirteen People”.

Three episodes in and the show still feels like it’s finding its ground. Let’s hope it finds it soon, because somewhere deep inside, it seems like there’s a good story to be discovered.

Romantic Teacher, Doctor Kim: Episode 2

I decided to watch the 2nd episode, since the first episode hadn’t introduced our main character, Doctor Kim. And I must say, I’m intrigued as the main premise of the show gets fleshed out.

For one thing, it looks like this show is going to move away from the typical big hospital setting to focus on a rural hospital, interestingly named “Doldam Hospital” in Jung Sun (doldam meaning ‘stone wall’ in Korean), where the focus is really on saving lives without the complications of power struggles, protocols and politicking. The artifice of Geosan University Hospital is emphasised through all the amplified surgical lights and the setting up of the operating room like a theatre, with a viewing gallery above. In contrast, Doldam Hospital is humble and all the scenes there are lit in natural lighting.

The contrast between the two hospitals is also established through the first case we witness at the hospital where the patient comes literally crashing in on his own, and not via an ambulance. Doon Joo keeps insisting on following safety protocols and codes of conduct, requesting to send the patient to a bigger hospital. He’s gradually surprised at the sufficiency of this small hospital. The staff at Doldam may not work in sterile, clean settings with the latest medical technologies, but they have everything essential and are quick to respond to patient’s needs. As opposed to the surgery scenes in Geosan University Hospital which focus on the machines and tools used, the surgery scene in Doldam Hospital focuses on Dr Kim’s hands and his precise cuttings and deft stitching.

Later on, we get a scene in Dr Kim’s office where he asks Doon Joo how many patients have died under his knife since his specialisation. Doon Joo confidently declares that only one patient has died, thinking that the small number is proof of his expertise. However, Dr Kim’s dismisses him, telling him to add ten to that and kill more people before coming to talk to him. Han Suk-Kyu plays Teacher Kim with such charisma and relaxed confidence. He’s a back-to-basics man, who listens to Madonna on a cassette tape. He’s certainly a refreshing character and I look forward to understanding him further.

While the medical drama aspects of this series are looking more hopeful, the romance aspects still feel quite forced. It’s a little too convenient how both of them ended up at Doldam Hospital at the same time and I do wish the writer had spent some effort setting up that premise more convincingly. However, I did like the exchange between Seo-Jung and Dong Joo, where she tells it like it is and calls Dong Joo out for being a coward, full of excuses. Seo-Jung does get some good moments in this episode, where we realise what happened in the first episode has been tormenting her over the past five years. Seo Hyun-Jin portrayed Seo-Jung’s tormented and frenzied state very convincingly and while I found the incidents in Episode 1 very ridiculous, I am keen to see how the show explores the ramifications of it on her psyche. In terms of structuring, I did wonder if it’d be better for the incidents in Episode 1 to be shown as backstory instead and for the series to have start instead from this week’s episode. At least, there would have been an element of intrigue about what exactly happened five years ago to lead to the current state of affairs. Keeping viewers on the edge is always a better thing than making everything obvious.

As for Doon Joo, I still do not find him a compelling character and his character’s trajectory, as of now, is still relatively straightforward and predictable. I do wish the series had played up more greatly the tension and dilemmas faced by Doon Joo, rather than simply giving in to the exact power structures that caused his father’s death. Nonetheless, Doctor Kim remains sufficient reason for me to stay around for a bit longer to see how this series unfolds and explores the heart of medicine and saving lives.

I read that the actors put in great effort to prepare for their roles by visiting hospitals, watching videos and consulting specialists to give convincing surgical performances. I do hope they also spoke to doctors and specialists about the more ‘human’ aspects of their jobs, i.e. the emotions they feel, the ethical conflicts they faced and the lives they encounter, because these human stories are indeed the key ingredients for a quality drama.

Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim: Episode 1

I will admit that I personally do not like medical dramas and was not intending to follow this series. However, after reading some articles about it and seeing the high ratings received on the first episode, I decided to give it a shot and watch the first episode.

I certainly wasn’t impressed and am unlikely to continue watching the series. Nonetheless, I thought I’d capture my thoughts on this episode.

While I usually enjoy shows that move at a fast pace, this premiere tried to accomplish way too much, too quickly. The first half is pretty typical – we get some backstory for our protagonist Kang Dong-Joo, and then we fast forward to present day where he is a medical intern with a surly attitude. His no-nonsense attitude attracts the attention of many, particularly a young surgeon Yeon Seo Jung, who starts to give him a hard time after he tells on her for not giving attention to a patient. What follows is some funny scenes of Dong-Joo being tormented by patients from hell. This is all pretty standard stuff if not rather bland because both Dong Joo and Seo Jung do not have very appealing personalities.

The second half is where things get ridiculous very quickly. After going a successful surgery, Dong Joo confesses that he likes Seo Jung, and out of nowhere, they share a passionate kiss, which was just like “Huh??”. Following that, Seo Jung gets on a car with her boyfriend who proposes to her just before they get into a fatal car accident (the usual random large vehicle that appears out of nowhere). They are rushed to hospital, where the guy seems completely fine and conveniently lives long enough for Dong Joo to spot him talking to another female doctor in the stairway. Seo Jung’s boyfriend then suddenly collapses in the hallway and dies. We then learn through a flashback that after proposing to her, Seo Jung actually tells her boyfriend that she kissed Dong Joo today and felt something – which was another big “Huh” moment.

What we get is our characters telling us that they love or feel for each other, without us actually see any chemistry or relationship developing. The series of melodramatic incidents in the second half also don’t resonate at all emotionally because we do not care for any of these characters. If anything, I actually felt bad for Seo Jung’s boyfriend for being subjected to such a terrible fate by the writers, being killed off within the span of 15 minutes. Such poor writing and characterisation certainly doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series.

In terms of the medical drama aspect, this show fares alright, with an interesting effort to explain the medical terms that come fast and furious. The effect was lost because those terms weren’t subtitled, but nonetheless, a good medical drama shouldn’t require one to be a medical expert to enjoy it. The whole Seo Jung stuffing her hand into the body of the man with a rod through his body to hold onto his artery was so unbelievable. And the whole pulling balls out of anus sequence was really uncomfortable to watch.

At this point, the key character Teacher Kim still has not emerged, so there’s still hope that he might bring in a different dimension to the series. Nonetheless, I won’t be staying on for the ride.