Romantic Dr. Kim

Overall Rating: A
Subtitles: The Viki subtitles were great! As always there are a couple grammar issues that arise in translation but everything made perfect sense and was very fluent.
Brief Synopsis: A famous surgeon, a doctor who blames herself for her fiancee’s death, and a young surgeon who is hungry for recognition end up working together in an under-funded, rural hospital and learn from each other what it means to be a doctor and how to Take Responsibility in a harsh world. Watch it on Viki here.

**Full show spoilers below the image. If you do not wish to be spoiled, do not proceed**

Image Source

Ending Type: Happy ending with an odd and unexplained appendix, but still happy.
Characters: Since this is a doctor/hospital show there is a large cast of characters, but our main players are Master Kim (Han Suk Kyu), Doctor Yoon Seo Jung (Seo Hyun Jin), Doctor Kang Dong Joo (Yoo Yeon Seok), Doctor Do In Bum (Yang Se Jong), Head Nurse Oh (Jin Kyung), Director Do (Choi Jin Ho), and Chairman Shin (Joo Hyun).
There are a lot of great side characters but the people who are making decisions and propelling the plot forward are those six. In general all the characters in this drama are well written and well acted–they are internally consistent and their actions makes sense based on what you see of them and understand as their personalities and basic motivations. Master Kim takes the main stage as a formerly famous surgeon who is haunted by the death of his former student and the fallout that occurred among his colleagues which caused him to go into hiding. Perhaps the most skilled surgeon in the country, he makes his home at an underfunded rural hospital and embodies his passion of patient care in everything he does. He was a fascinating mentor character and Han Suk Kyu perfectly captured the balance between a bitter man with some anger issues who resents the general attitude of doctors in Korea and the caring father figure who wants his apprentices to succeed and find happiness. Most of the emotional impact of the show rested on Master Kim and the people around him.
Doctors Yoon and Kang were his main followers and the love interests and I was a huge fan of their story and the interplay between their relationship with each other and with Master Kim. More about that in the relationships section. Overall I thought Yoo Yeon Seok absolutely slayed Dr. Kang’s growth arc from the indignant young surgeon desperately searching for recognition to the doctor who would give anything for his patients even if no one ever recognized him for it. I also really liked Seo Hyun Jun as Dr. Yoon, though I felt this show did suffer a bit of the “women’s careers are secondary” issue. Dr. Yoon, who had recovered from a major wrist injury and gotten a double board certification, spent most of the show injured or unable to practice, and even though we get other people talking about how talented she is and how good she is with her patients we do not often get to see it. That is pretty much my only gripe with this show at all, aside from the rather pointless final episode.
Director Do was a classic villain but he was interesting enough and well written enough that I still enjoyed him as the antagonist. His initial motivation is a power move, but I liked how petty and personal it got for him and how we got to see that unraveling slowly throughout the season and got to watch the reactions of the people around him as he became more and more desperate. His character was both well written and well played.
Nurse Oh was a true delight as the backbone of the whole hospital, gliding seamlessly between her role as a very professional head nurse, a loyal assistant to Master Kim, a mother figure to Dr. Yoon, and the moral compass of the whole operation.
Dr. Do ended up as a dark horse for one of my favorite, and one of the most important, characters of the whole thing. Coming in as the spoiled son of Director Do playing more or less a spy role for the main hospital, he sure seemed like he was going to be a good secondary villain. He was jerky and entitled and obnoxious and I was really impressed by the way his growth arc was written because he kept many of his less than savory qualities even as he figured his shit out and ended up entirely defying his father and pursuing a career at a tiny hospital in the middle of nowhere because he understood the value of having a dream of his own.
Chairman Shin was also a really interesting, chaotic neutral type of character who didn’t have much of a moral compass but also knew how to drop wisdom where it was needed. He was also a shadow hero by accident because basically wanting the best surgeon in the country to operate on him made him end up on the correct side of a lot of feuds and I was about that as a concept. Joo Hyun brought a gravitas to the character that I really appreciated.
Relationships: These reviews are supposed to be brief so I will only do three relationships here, even though I would happily talk about probably 100.
First and foremost we have the relationship between Master Kim and his pupils, which are primarily Dr. Yoon and Dr. Kang, though Dr. Do fits in there as well. To all of them he is a father figure, though this manifests in different ways because of the different needs they have from him. Dr. Yoon has already been his pupil for five years when the show’s main timeline begins, and he was also her life saver. She is very loyal to him and there is clearly affection between them, even if he uses tough-love techniques from time to time. Dr. Kang and Master Kim have a more complicated relationship, with Master Kim initially disliking Dr. Kang for his attitude and motivation to get back to the main hospital and be recognized. As it becomes clear that Dr. Kang shares Master Kim’s passion and Dr. Kang becomes Master Kim’s apprentice for real the relationship shifts to a very fatherly teacher-pupil relationship and the loyalty between the two is really touching. That’s what makes it rough towards the end when our Dr. Kang learns that Master Kim is the surgeon he has blamed for most of of his life for his own father’s death. The way they get through that gave me mixed feelings though–on the one hand Dr. Kang understood the choice Master Kim had made and there was a mature level of understanding there, but on the other hand he did not fully forgive him until he learned of the lengths Master Kim had gone to to be there for him and I wanted that to be something he learned after he’d already forgiven him. I don’t know. Overall their dynamic was wonderful, though.
The romantic relationship was between Dr. Kang and Dr. Yoon and I enjoyed it immensely. This was a very unusual K Drama in that we get a kiss scene in the first episode (I KNOW!!!) and establish that Dr. Kang is really into Dr. Yoon and Dr. Yoon may or may not return these feelings (even if she sure returned the kiss!). But the actual timeline of the show is 5 years later when she feels guilty about the death of her fiance which occurred right after she told him that she might actually have feelings for Dr. Kang so, despite herself, Dr. Yoon tries very hard to avoid Dr. Kang’s attention since it brings back that guilt. But Dr. Kang is relentless in a very sweet way–he is constantly caring and sweet and reminds her frequently that he really likes her and cares about her. Eventually it pays off, and along the way we got lots of very cute flirting scenes and really lovely scenes with the rest of the staff trying to guess what is up with the two of them. 10/10 warm and fuzzy, and boy are their kiss scenes good.
The final kind of relationship is the Doldam Hospital’s staff’s internal family dynamic and there isn’t much to say about it other than it was awesome. They were very close knit and caring, with a little bit of joking and teasing but endless support and constantly having each other’s backs. This was the heart of the show, I think, and it was glorious.
High Points: Pretty much everything, but the characters and relationships were all top notch. The main plot (the Chairman’s surgery) and the way it was woven into each episode was also golden.
Low Points: The final episode, honestly. It’s not like it was a bad episode, and I appreciated that the writers took a stand against HIV stigma, but the season arc came to a conclusion in episode 20 and up until the final 20 seconds when a ~ mysterious woman ~ showed up it sure felt like it was the end of the series. Episode 21 was really just an extra episode added on–there was nothing from the main story that required additional resolution and nothing occurred related it to, we just got a new one episode story that opened and closed independently and it just felt weird and unnecessary. If you decide to watch and stop at the end of episode 20, know you aren’t missing anything.
Final comments: This was my first doctor K Drama and I loved it! It was fascinating to learn about the differences between the Korean and American medical systems and it was really fun to hear how many borrow words exist in Korean medical lingo. I loved the writing and the cast and the overall feel of the show. I definitely recommend. It also wasn’t as gruesome as American doctor dramas which this squeamish girl appreciated.

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