Beginning its 21 episode run with a 9.5% national viewer rating and ending at an amazing 27.6%, Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim is a 20016 Kdrama must see. Whether you enjoy medical shows or not, the plot/storyline is original, it sports realistic characters, and shares tidbits of wisdom throughout the entire thing which makes this a superb Kdrama.
While Kang Won-Young is lying in a Goedae Hospital emergency room bed his teenage son, Kang Dong-Joo, is desperately screaming, “Please help us! My father was here first! That man came later! My father was here first!” A little while later, Dong-Joo is stunned as a doctor pronounces his father dead, at the same time overhearing another doctor tell a woman her husband’s surgery was a success and he will be fine. Anger and grief take hold and Dong-Joo lunges at the doctor screaming, “My father was here first! Before that person! My father was here first! (That man) wasn’t supposed to have been first!” With barely a glance at Dong-Joo, the doctor walks away, ignoring the sobbing young man. But that’s just the beginning of Dong-Joo’s anger. Days later he returns with a bat and begins wildly swinging at anything in his way but he is stopped, thrown to the floor, and sedated by a passing physician. Once Dong-Joo is calm, and lying on a hospital bed, the doctor treats his injuries while giving him some advice… “Just because you’ve caused a ruckus, doesn’t mean you’ve gotten your revenge. Even if you wield the baseball bat for 100 days, those people won’t even remember your face. If you really want to get revenge, become a better person than them. Pay them back with your skills, not with rage. If you don’t change, nothing will change.” With those words echoing through his head, Kang Dong-Joo decides his career path… he’ll be a doctor at Goedae Hospital.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg, just the first few minutes of the show. There’s so much more to the story, so many people who become a part of Doctor Dong-Joo’s life…
Teacher Kim is the head surgeon at Doldam hospital. The audience finds out everything we need to know about him when he says, “I only care about one thing. Saving the patient! Saving the patient, no matter what. And screw everything else.” Later, Dong-Joo tells Seo-Jung, “I heard that he’s Doctor Bu Yong-Joo. The only triple-board certified doctor in the country with a 97% success rate when it comes to surgeries. ‘The Hand of God.’ A legend among legends amidst surgeons.”
The woman Dong-Joo falls in love with is Yoon Seo-Jung. She is an amazing surgeon who works quite a bit in the E.R. After an accident she disappears without a trace and shows up many years later in a very unlikely place.
Goedae Hospital’s administrator, Do Yoon-Wan, is a villain of epic proportions. He has always put himself first, using whomever he can to further his ambitions. He abhors Teacher Kim and plots his downfall, for the second time.
Doctor Do In-Bum is a general surgeon who happens to be Do Yoon-Wan’s son. He and Dong-Joo went to the same school but are in no way close. Secretly, he feels his medical skills are inferior to Dong-Joo’s but acts like he is a much better doctor.
The owner of Jungsun Casino also happens to be the Chairman of Goedae Hospital, Chairman Shin. He’s in his 70s, has an artificial heart, and is not in good health.
The head nurse at Doldam Hospital is Oh Myeong-Shim. The woman is very talented and is quite level-headed. She works well under pressure in the E.R., is a highly skilled surgical nurse, and she’s the only one who dares to stand up to Teacher Kim.
The title role of Teacher Kim is played by handsome, 52 year old Han Suk-Kyu. He began his career in the entertainment industry in 1990, taking some time off in 1999 due to a disc problem. He golfs, fishes, loves to read, and is known as a family man. He is a Studio Ghibli animation collector and would love to be a voice actor for one of their films some day. (Yeah, Studio Ghibli.) He is the founder of the Makdong Script Festival with the idea behind it being to launch directing careers based on the winners’ scripts. He personally provides the two cash prizes. Among several younger generation actors who have mentioned Han Suk-Kyu as having had an influence on them is Rain and Lee Jin-Wook (the second happens to be on my favorite actors list). Han Suk-Kyu received the Grand Prize and the Top 10 Stars Awards for his portrayal of Teacher Kim!
While in his junior year in high school Yoo Yeon-Seok decided he wanted to become an actor. He happened to get his first acting job because a friend who was part of the costume staff of director Park Chan-Wook remembered he looked like the actor Yoo Ji-Tae and the script called for someone to be the younger version of Yoo Ji-Tae’s character. His friend told him about the audition and, boom, he got the part and his career in the entertainment field began. I liked him in Jeju Island Gatsby but Doctor Kang Dong-Joo is a role he was really able to sink his teeth into. He’s just perfect in this story, so perfect in fact, that he was given the Excellence Award, Actor in a Genre Drama Award, the Best Couple and the Idol Academy Award – Best Kiss Award along with Seo Hyun-Jin.
In 2001 Seo Hyun-Jin debuted as the lead vocalist in the girl group M.I.L.K. but the group wasn’t together long, completely disbanding in 2003. Because she sincerely desired a career in music, she then enrolled at Dongduk Women’s University majoring in applied musicology. She sang some solos for a few soundtracks but when she got the chance to perform in her first musical, The Sound of Music, she saw it as a chance to begin an acting career. If you happen to think Doctor Yoon Seo-Jung looks familiar it might be from seeing Seo Hyun-Jin in the recently aired Another Oh Hae-Young. That’s what I recognized her from. Along with the couple awards she won with Yoo Yeon-Seok, she also took home the Top 10 Stars Award and the Excellence Award, Actress in a Genre Drama Award for her role as Yoon Seo-Jung.
If you’re expecting 21 hours of romance because of the title, Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, there are some great kisses between Doctor Yoon Seo-Jung and Doctor Kang Dong-Joo but the closest Teacher Kim comes to romance is when a woman lays her head on his shoulder. No, the word romantic isn’t used the way we would normally use it. Here’s a couple quotes from one scene that may explain the title somewhat…
“Look at you, acting all high and mighty again.” – Doctor Kang
“The specialized term for that is ‘putting on airs’. A nicer way to say it is ‘being romantic’.” – Teacher Kim
The director, Yoo In-Shik, goes a little overboard with background lighting in this drama. It’s not just three or four times, but over and over again there’s light coming from varied sources behind the characters that seems to steal the scene more than enhance it. Does anyone remember the cola kissing scene in Lie to Me? The director has the kissing couple standing in front of a window where the morning sunlight is pouring through, barely shinning between the embracing lovers. It serves a purpose in showing how close these two people are – quite sexy. However, the background lighting in this show became irritating. Instead of adding warmth to the scene it quite often got in the way. I wanted to put my hand up to shield the light so I could see the scene more clearly. What’s that old saying? “Too much of a good thing is still too much.” And while I’m on the subject of lighting… why would those big flood lights in an operating room be left on all the time? How realistic is that, people? There are a few times when one of the surgeons would walk into an empty operating room, just to think or be alone, and those big spotlights would already be on. Maybe that’s why medical bills are so high – we patients have to pay the hospital electric bills and they always leave lights on! But really folks, how difficult would it have been for a character to walk into a dark operating room and turn on a light? Come to think of it, do doctors just get to hang out in the operating rooms whenever they feel like it? That whole thing just isn’t realistic.
Three cheers for the outstanding writing skills of screenwriter Kang Eun-Kyung. Aside from just plain old wonderful entertainment she provides the viewing audience with many things to ponder. Things such as…
“Living life means going down new roads every day. It means facing the realities that come at you everyday, whether you want to or not.”
“The human greed is such that, we can all go on and on with excuses until, we come to a rational conclusion that convinces so us totally, that we had no other choice. There were no other ways than the path I chose.”
I love shows that make me think.
Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim was originally meant to have 20 episodes but a special one was added that gives us a little more background to Teacher Kim. I don’t think it was necessary but it sets things up nicely for a sequel, which I would really like to see as long as it’s written by the same person and the characters are played by the same actors/actresses.
The soundtrack has two instrumental songs that are just beautiful – Hope of Hospital and Western Humanism. Haebin, a member of the brand new girl group Gugudan, performs the pretty ballad Forever Love. In Place is a lovely song sung by Young Man. His voice is almost a whisper accompanied mostly by a quiet acoustic guitar with some other instruments softly mixed in closer to the end of the song. It’s so pretty. There’s only one song I didn’t like, Walk On, and that was only because I didn’t care for the singer’s voice. Jeon In-Kwon, lead singer in the folk group Deulgookhwa, is the artist for that particular song and his gravelly voice just isn’t my cup of tea.
The main focus, as far as scenery is concerned, is Doldam Hospital. It’s an older country hospital that has a special kind of charm. Instead of the cold, bright atmosphere of a big city hospital, like Geodae, Doldam has a lot of wood inside which makes the hospital somewhat cozy and warm. I saw it as a representation of the warm hearts of the doctors that work there. Smart idea.
Out of all the medical Kdramas I’ve seen, Romantic Doctor, Teacher Kim is probably my favorite (with Good Doctor an extremely close second). It’s 21 entertaining hours that I, personally, hope will have a sequel not too far away in the future.
Set up for a sequel
Beautiful setting (Doldam Hospital)
Good operating scenes
Great, romantic kisses
Irritating background lighting