Another drama that took my soul ended. I always think that there surely can’t be another drama that’ll steal my heart and soul and then something comes out of the blue and holds parts of me prisoner that I never even knew existed. Such was the case with Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim. I first came for Seo Hyunjin, Yoo Yeonseok, and that older actor who was rather impressive in Tree with Deep Roots, Han Seok Kyu. In that order and for those reasons. Only that order and those reasons changed after the first few episodes. He’s over three decades older than me, but I have the biggest crush ever on our Romantic Doctor. His smile, his cheekiness. Perfection. But superficiality aside, that wasn’t (purely) why I loved this show.
(Look at that babe, HOW IS HE 52!!!)
If you’re debating on whether or not to see this, the answer is yes. In fact, please do. It will change something in you. This isn’t just about the titular doctor, or his proteges, but about people, first and foremost. How we grow, evolve and have the capacity to change in ways that may be for the better. It’s a show without perfect characters. The good doctor himself is a world-class grumpypants with a preference for tough love, though he has the smile and heart of an angel. He not only imparts lessons but learns a few himself. And to watch him, and the wonderful people of Doldam Hospital grow and change and love has been my privilege for the past two months.
Longtime followers of my blog will know of my trouble with brevity when it comes to expressing how much and just why I love a show. Here’s my best attempt at breaking it up. Aside from the points above, here’s why you should watch it and why I’m perilously close to tears (and approaching something akin to depression) right now
1. Han Seok Kyu is magnificent.
Whoops, did I mention that above? Well it bears mentioning again. Again, and again. This man is a fantastic actor. He imbues every character he inhabits with such life that you can’t help but believe him as real, the hallmark of a brilliant actor. (Not only that but he’s adorable in real life) Kim Sabu (Teacher Kim) may not receive as much screen time as proud young Dongjoo at first, but you’re never in doubt as to what the enigmatic doctor is thinking and just what he has up his sleeve.
2. The life lessons.
To relate them all would ruin not only the drama, but the sheer beauty of the lessons themselves. I’ll just say that this show will leave you with food for though. Not the most expansive overly obtuse philosophical kind of thing that universities wave about, but the kind that actually matters in reality. The small things, that are still not so small. That matter. I’ll leave it at that.
Oh and the chapter titles that are interspersed throughout the episodes are brilliant.
3. The wonderful host of fleshed out characters.
Dongjoo, Seojung, Inbum, Nurses Oh and Park, Manager Jang, Doctor Nam, Director Yeo, Yeonhwa, Mister Go, Chairman Shin, his secretary how can I put everything you’ve all been through into words. The Doldam Avengers.
Don’t let the title fool you, this is an ensemble drama and every man and woman gets their due. Doldam Hospital is first and foremost a family, and to watch new members to the crew slowly begin to become a part of it (and to become a part of it as a viewer) was a wonderful experience. No character was thrown to the sidelines, and all got their arcs wrapped up. They weren’t vehicles for romance but fully-fledged people with arcs of their own. That’s the hallmark of good writing, that you don’t have character who purely exist to highlight the virtues of one character or push/impede the romance.
Not only that, you’ll find no poor actors here. EVERYONE, from the supporting actors, to the main actors to the patients at Doldam threw their heart and soul into acting. You won’t find any weak links here, so rest easy.
4. The medicine/surgery is on point.
Never mind the ER squabbles that arise at times, these people know what they’re doing. You’re not going to find poor medical practices here, or Kim Sabu’s going to yell the ER down. The cast and crew stayed as true to reality as possible, resulting in incredible amounts of medical dialogue and surgery scenes, which contributed a further sense of realism often lacking in medical dramas (I’m looking at you Doctors)
5. The painful real-life situations the drama deals with.
This show does not shy away from sensitive topics. Abuse in the military, sexual abuse, lack of money for medical care, whether or not to resuscitate, lack of hospital equipment, the risks doctors expose themselves to on the job, these examples barely scratch the surface of what the show addresses. And it does so in powerful ways that’ll hurt but heal, heal but hurt.
6. The romanticism
Not the romance, though that is there and is sweet without overwhelming the series (it really isn’t the main focus at all, but is still wonderful). Kim Sabu’s romanticism pervades the series, his sense of justice isn’t one that he imposes on others. It’s a beautiful, almost hopeful way of looking at the world. Of knowing that some awful things just are, but choosing to go forward anyway. Of knowing you can’t change the world, but trying to change just a few lives anyway. It’s an indescribable worldview that is easier to experience than explain. It’s looking at reality, facing it, while daring to push beyond it, to change it.
These are but a few of the reasons honestly. There are more (steamy smooches, the humour, the wondrous warmth) but they are better seen than spoken. I know the prequel episode that tells us of Kim Sabu’s first love (*squeeeeal* though I was shipping him with Nurse Oh) is set to air tomorrow (which I also find clever because extending the drama for the sake of an extension can ruin quality) and I’m hoping and praying that they might tack on a little epilogue for the characters we all know and love, but today did feel like the end. And as with any drama that captures a part of you, it hurts because it’s the end of a chapter. And it always hurts when a story ends, when people you’ve grown to care about go where you can’t see them anymore. And these ‘characters’ were people in every sense of the word. I cannot properly put into words how much this show has moved me, changed me, and come along at a time in life when I needed it most. And so to those who stumble across my tiny space of the Internet, do watch it. You won’t regret it. I only wish I could go back in time and do it all over again. I’m reminded of Han Seok Kyu’s wonderful speech at the SBS Drama Awards at the very start of this year (literally fifteen minutes into it in Korea). 1.5 hours before the start of 2017 for me (because Korea is ahead of Canada) I finished translating his speech. I’m reminded now of when he read the writer’s goals in creating such characters and such a drama. The most important of these goals to Han Seok Kyu was: “Why do people love for? What am I living for? For those who have lost their road, I hope for a warm-hearted, warmly-acted drama”
Han Seok Kyu chose this drama for this writer’s goals. And in doing so, he and every one involved created the Doldam Avengers who inspired a whole host of people to perhaps become avengers themselves. Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, all I have to say is thank you. For the love, the lessons, the laughter, but most of all for being you.
(You damn fine man, you <3)
Edit after watching the prequel: This was more of a special episode than a prequel and tied up all loose ends including the matter of Kim Sabu’s first love. And there was a lesson there too because (spoiler!) what you feel for someone can change over time from passionate love to respect and regret. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll take up where you left off. So Nurse Oh-Kim Sabu shippers (like me!) rest easy because our patience is rewarded 😉
So don’t skip the prequel guys! You get to see Kim Sabu smiling and being sexy more than ever.
YES.I’m swooning here.
You’ll see how Kim Sabu does selfies
You’ll see Dongjoo and Seojung being adorable (and their romance gets tied up with a pretty bow)
Nurse Oh and the Doldam Avengers’ arcs will be resolved (for the most part, I see a love triangle coming up!)
AND YOU GET TO SEE KIM SABU IN LEATHER OH MY GOSH ❤ AND NERDY FEISTY NURSE OH MEETING HIM AT A POLICE STATION NO LESS!!
(Yep those are their hands ❤)
I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW!! *makes kissy faces at screen* Trust this show to go out with a bang! ❤
One thought on “An Ode to Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim (and Han Seok Kyu is wonderful)”
Thank you for writing this! Seriously! If I ever need to convince a friend to why they should watch RDTK, I’ll be sure to point them this article, because you manage to summarize everything that’s good about the drama perfectly here.
And oh, I share your sentiment. Han Seok-kyu is so damn fine.