In the midst of the pandemic and the paranoia that we are all facing, there will always be a silver lining that will help ease the worries within. Sometimes it doesn’t come in forms that overwhelm us but in trivial things such as finding inspiration from the fictional characters of K-dramas.
I am writing this review in the comfort of my own home. The government-imposed community quarantine is giving me time to work on my pending articles. To stay relevant is equally important and even in fangirling, I will try to make it happen.
The genre of medical dramas is something that I am not very familiar with. Rom-coms are better for me. After all, watching K-dramas is my escape away from the rush of everyday life. It is a sure way to relieve stress. There are even times when I don’t watch melodramas if I am feeling under the weather. With stories that involve emergencies, blood, and sometimes tragedy, my choice will be to step back from watching it.
However, things took a 360-turn for me when I encountered Kim Sabu.
Doctor Romantic is a two-season medical drama produced by SBS with actor Han Suk Kyu taking the lead role of Master Kim. The first season was aired in 2016 with Yoo Yeon Seok and Seo Hyun Jin as the second leads. Due to its commercial success, a second season was filmed in 2020 with all the original supporting cast on board but with the introduction of two new doctor characters played by Ahn Hyo Seop and Lee Sung Kyung.
This drama tells the story of Boo Yong Joo (Han Suk Kyu). He is a smart and triple-board certified surgeon, who used to work at Geosan University, a top hospital/medical school in Seoul. Known for his unrivaled skills as a doctor, he was tagged as someone with the “Hands Of God” by many of his patients and even colleagues in the medical field. A miracle worker for many but only sees himself as nothing but a regular doctor. After the tragic incident that took place in the main hospital, he was pressed to leave Geosan and was forced to turn his back on the profession that once glorified him. He deserted himself and decided to live away from the cut-throat world of medicine. Or at least that was what his colleagues and arch-enemy thought.
Unknown to many, he continues his practice of being a surgeon in a small hospital named Doldam. This trauma center became the birthplace of Kim Sabu, a name he adopted for himself. This is also where his story of service, mentorship, and leadership came into play.
In Season 1, Kim Sabu encounters doctors who are top-notchers in their field but with wounded pasts. Viewers are introduced to the intelligent but narcissistic Dr. Kang Dong-joo (Yoo Yeon-Seok) whose bout with poverty became his driving force to succeed. Things seemed to be doing well for him until an unsuccessful surgery held his dream back. Dr. Yoon Seo-jeong (Seo Hyun-jin), on the other hand, is a cardiothoracic surgeon who is suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). She strives hard to be recognized but her mental condition keeps her from practicing her skills as a doctor. She found refuge in Doldam and a father-figure in Kim Sabu.
The younger, more driven doctors are the highlight of Season 2. We came to know Dr. Seo Woo-jin (Ahn Hyo Seop), a second-year general surgery fellow who survived the murder-suicide attempt of his father to their family. Growing up, he struggled to make ends meet. With no one to support his medical studies and with his family leaving a huge pile of debt on his shoulders, he is constantly being threatened and harassed by loan sharks. His skills are said to be similar to Kim Sabu. However, the odds seem to be not always in his favor. He was fired from two hospitals, first for being labeled as a whistleblower against the malpractice of his mentor. And second, when false rumors about his part-time jobs were used against him. Seeing his potential, Kim Sabu offered him a job in Doldam. In desperate need of money, he eventually accepts Kim Sabu’s offer but vowed to himself that he will go back to the main hospital and not let himself rot in the old walls of Doldam.
Lee Sung Kyung plays the role of Dr. Cha Eun-jae in the drama. A second-year cardiothoracic surgery fellow who is a top student in medical school and a close competition of Woo-jin during their pre-med days. Their complicated love-hate relationship continued even when they started practicing as doctors. She knows by heart the theories of medicine but finds it difficult to do surgery without collapsing in the ER upon the mere sight of a patient in the operating table. A doctor with a low tolerance in doing actual surgeries is the greatest irony in the story. Having this concern, she was reassigned to Doldam where she encountered Kim Sabu.
Both seasons introduce imperfect characters but with a strong heart for service. What makes this medical drama stand out is its realistic portrayal of everyday life in the ER and on how doctors play a vital role in saving lives. They prove that even in the most difficult circumstances, humanity must be respected at all costs.
More focus is given on the story of those who enter the halls of Doldam Hospital, its patients. I can’t count the number of times I was moved to tears by the lives of those whose survival is at the mercy of Kim Sabu and his team of doctors and nursing aides. Being a medical practitioner indeed requires a strong sense of duty and responsibility. I had a deeper appreciation for those in the medical industry after seeing Doctor Romantic.
The seamless play in character development as the episodes progress, the weight of putting an effective balance between the antagonists, Chairman Do (Choi Jin Ho) and Doctor Park Min Gook (Kim Joo-hun) and the introduction of perfectly flawed characters seemed to be the success story of this drama.
Revealing the truth behind Project Oddball gave a good ending to this one-of-a-kind series. Staying true to Kim Sabu’s leadership principles until the very end, Doctor Romantic leaves a strong message about the good of being unconventional. And that learning is more effective when tried and tested ways are continuously being challenged.
“They are not losers; only people with scars.”- Kim Sabu
These sum up what this medical drama is all about. Get to know more about these oddballs in Doctor Romantic Seasons 1 & 2.
In these trying times, may we all find inspiration from Kim Sabu.
- A pursuer of passion with the heart for service.
- Pro-humanity and not money.
- A leader that works for the common good of everybody.
*This review is dedicated to all the real-life Kim Sabu’s who are fighting this crisis for us in the frontlines. Thank you for your dedication to serve despite putting your lives at risk. You are our modern heroes. We will be forever grateful to each and every one of you. –Hey Noona