HOW TO SAVE A LIFE
Yoo Hye Jung (Park Shin Hye) is a high school delinquent with a serious chip on her shoulder due to the family trauma’s she’s had to endure. She keeps her heart shut away from other people but her life changes when she meets an optimistic teacher, Hong Ji Hong (Kim Rae Won). When Hye Jung is unable to accept the death of her grandmother, who dies during a simple surgery, and rumors about Ji Hong’s unprofessional relationship with her surface at school, the two go their separate ways.
Thirteen years later, the two are reunited again as colleagues in the Neurosurgery department of Gookil Hospital. However, Hye Jung is determined to uncover the truth behind her grandmother’s death and hold that person responsible. As for Ji Hong, he returns to the hospital in order to maintain the integrity of his father’s legacy as the head of the hospital administration.
The origin of this drama came from 2010 SBS contents submission contest in which the original story was only 3 episodes long. The original title of the submission was Female Delinquent Hye Jung. I think what I liked about Hye Jung’s character is that she had deck stacked against her. Korea tends to be a society that’s not forgiving of your past as rumors can go a long way. However, I liked that after she meets Ji Hong, she changes her life and finds success under her own terms.
So it’s quite special to see the relationship between Hye Jung and Ji Hong form and evolve. Although I’ve been known to become critical when a teacher/student relationships evolves into something more than platonic, I am comfortable with the fact that their relationship didn’t cross a line. While their relationship was always something special, they don’t recognize their feelings until they are adults and I think that’s essential in how these characters grow and evolve over the course of the drama.
Jung Yeop – 그 애 (愛) (That Affection)
My friend once brought up how she disliked how all the characters, with the exception of a few, loved Hye Jung for her bold personality and her smarts. She found it unbelievable that Hye Jung was so popular with almost all of the characters, especially with many of the men.
I can understand where my friend is coming from and I’m sure Jin Seo Woo (Lee Sung Kyung) can relate as well. It’s a commonly used K-Drama trope and it’s up to the drama’s scripts and the actress to have the main character uniqueness and brilliance shine through. I certainly don’t think Park Shin Hye’s portrayal of Hye Jung wowed me but I was interested in seeing Hye Jung struggle between solving her problems with logic and riding her emotions. Her popularity factor by the other supporting characters was not a big issue for me.
Speaking of the supporting cast, they all bring their own drama, comedy and in general, a slice of life to the drama. Out of all the supporting cast members, I was most moved by Kim Min Suk’s performance as Choi Kang Soo. With every new project I’ve seen him in for the last year or so, I just keep falling in love with him more and more for the fact that he brings the lighthearted scenes alive while also managing to bringing depth to his characters. His multi-layered performances is always a treat to watch.
What is not a treat to watch is the hospital politics that is often depicted in medical K-Dramas. The story is always the same. Greed, corruption and betrayal followed up by either redemption or retribution. I’ve got to believe that medical K-Drama stories can be told without these elements or presenting it in a new light, such as in D-Day.
The other thing I wasn’t so fond of in the drama was the medical jargon. Or rather the explanation of the procedures. I don’t care what it’ll mean if a doctor makes a certain cut and how that’s gonna affect the operation on a step-by-step basis. That’s not what the viewing room above the O.R. is there for. It’s not what’s important in order to tell the story. I care about the characters. The only conversations we should be getting is whether the rising or falling of the patient’s heartrate puts them at risk or what utensils the surgeon needs in order to get the job done. My mom has accepted the fact that I’m not gonna be a doctor. The drama should get on board with that, too.
I think where the drama excels is the episode to episode storylines. The drama had so many guest appearances by great actors that made their stories so compelling from helping a professional archer (Im Ji Yeon), to the patient who was unable to speak for herself (Han Hye Jin), to the single dad (Nam Goong Min) who is trying to raise his two sons and deal with all the medical bills, to the fiancé (Lee Sang Yeob) who has to grieve the loss of his wife-to-be while keeping her alive so their baby can survive ‘til term. Those are the stories that had me coming back week-to-week.
In some ways, it feels like Doctors was trying to emulate American medical dramas such as Grey’s Anatomy. In that way, while the drama isn’t a runaway hit for me, I still found it enjoyable. The downside to medical K-Dramas is that the broadcasting system doesn’t foster for this long term storytelling. So the characters evolve up until the end of its run. The drama can’t play with different types of storytelling the way it can with series that comes back season after season. It has to have an ultimate story which arcs throughout the entire drama and provide a conclusion. And so, I think Korean medical dramas are always going to be limited in some way.