All my K-drama brothers, let’s gather around and say a little prayer because, the older male lead finally makes a comeback to a major drama series.
Since Kim Soo-hyun took the world by storm with his role as an uptight alien boyfriend in 2014’s My Love From The Star, the majority of the K-drama realm has been inundated by older women lusting after boys who look like they’ve just hit puberty last week.
And ugh, don’t even get me started on Descendants Of The Sun …
It’s a fetish that no doubt feeds into the fantasy of many hot-blooded ahjummas (Korean for aged woman). But let’s get real folks, that template got stale like 12,456 episodes ago.
Along comes Doctors, a series that sees 35-year-old actor Kim Rae-won returning to the small screens. Seasoned viewers might remember him as that disarmingly handsome and intelligent law student who romances Kim Tae-hee in the campus romance classic Love Story In Harvard.
That was over a decade ago. Fast forward to present day, the veteran thespian is still handsome and – in his current role as an educator turned medical practitioner – yes, still very smart.
Kim plays Hong Ji-hong, a man who lost his parents at a young age and got adopted by a wealthy hospital chairman. He went on to become a doctor. But an accident in the operating room propelled him to quit and work as a biology teacher at a high school. And that’s where he meets the heroine of the show – the spunky and rebellious Yoo Hye-jung (Park Shin-hye).
Let’s digress a bit and say a little prayer once more, because hot damn, Park is all grown up! Granted, the 26-year-old actress still gets typecast as the high school student in the earlier episodes.
But Hye-jung – a former delinquent turned successful neurosurgeon – is a character that oozes so much maturity. And Park does a good job in preventing a typical wayward character from coming across like a caricature, especially in the earlier episodes.
To some extent, that success has much to do with the drama’s meticulous treatment of the female lead’s backstory. Doctors explores Hye-jung’s flawed background over a span of three episodes.
There’s reason to that extravagant exploration of her past. Despite its status as a medical romance drama, Doctors is really the story about a woman’s journey through a convoluted life.
In other words, being invested in Hye-jung is tres important. It’s what that drives this drama. Of course, the other thing that retains attention, is the romance between the leads. I mean, we’re talking about a K-drama after all.
Both Kim and Park are extremely compatible on screen, dishing chemistry that’s so palpable, it’s sizzling. The romance bits were awkward initially, when you factor in the age difference. One particular scene, where Ji-hong prepares to punish Hye-jung in an empty classroom, has Lolita Complex written all over it.
Kudos to writer Ha Myung-hee for treating the touchy subject with much care. It helps that the drama only explores Ji-hong and Hye-jung’s relationship extensively when they are both adults.
The fact that the majority of the plot unveils at a hospital means that there’s no shortage of side characters. You’d probably have to abandon some real world logic though – some of the resident surgeons here look as if they’re just about to enrol in medical school.
But one also has to commend the drama’s extended cast. The list of actors who made a cameo is amazing. We’re talking about the likes of Lim Ji-yeon (Obsessed), Han Hye-jin (Be Strong, Geum-soon!) and Lee Ki-woo (Flower Boy Ramen Shop).
All those A-listers pale in comparison next to the spectacular Kim Young-ae. The 65-year-old actress as Hye-jung’s stern yet doting grandmother, is an acting tour de force. The dynamic between both women adds a heartwarming touch to the drama.
At its core, Doctors is really a simple girl-against-the-world story. The medical aspect, more often than not, takes a back seat next to the extensive development that Hye-jung goes through.
It’s nice to see that female empowerment spin for a change in the K-drama scene. And of course, the hero being an actual oppa (Korean term by women to address older males) is an added bonus.
Doctors airs every Tuesday and Wednesday at 8.10pm on ONE HD (Astro Ch 393).