There are many types of Korean dramas, and one sub-genre to look out for is medical dramas. Each takes different approaches — from being serious or a rom-com — and has scenes outside of hospitals. While they do tend to have blood and medical terms thrown in, the shows are built in the mind of viewers. Most medical dramas focus on the characters and storyline as opposed to being gory. If you’re new to medical K-dramas, here are some that are favored by many!
- A Poem A Day (tvN, 2018)
(Starring: Lee Joon-hyuk, Jang Dong-yoon, Lee Yu-bi, and Lee Chae-young)
A Poem A Day focuses on physical and rehabilitation therapists as well as radiographers, nurses, and medical trainees in a hospital. It’s sixteen episodes with each being an hour long. Lee Joon Hyuk (Are You Human?) is the physical therapy professor, Ye Jae-wook, Jang Dong-yoon (School 2017) is the physical therapy trainee Shin Min-ho, Lee Yu-bi (Pinocchio) is three-year physical therapist Woo Bo-young, who dreams of a job with poetry; and Lee Chae-young (The Grand Heist) is a rehabilitation therapist called Kim Yoon-joo who likes the professor. Rather than a typical K-drama, A Poem A Day gives variation by focusing on people in different areas of medicine, and is perfect for those interested in diverse characters and storylines.
- Doctor John (SBS, 2019)
(Starring: Ji Sung, Lee Se-young, Lee Kyu-hyung)
Doctor John is thirty-two episodes, each episode running for thirty-five minutes. It’s based on a Japanese novel called On Hand of God by Yo Kusakabe. This medical drama goes around Cha Yo-han, played by Ji Sung (Entertainer), who is an expert on anesthesiology and self-absorbed. Kang Shi-young, played by Lee Se-young (The Vampire Detective), is a resident in the same workplace and is kind to patients. Both will have to treat patients and find out where their pain comes from to treat them. Doctor John stands out as being intense and dramatic.
- Dr. Romantic 2 (SBS, 2020)
(Starring: Han Suk-kyu, Ahn Hyo-seop and Lee Sung-kyung)
Doctor Romantic was very successful as it reached over 20% in viewership ratings in 2016. Its second season, Dr. Romantic 2, revolves around Kim Sa-bu (played again by Han Suk-yu), a talented surgeon that goes to Geosan University to seek a young general surgeon for Doldam Hospital. Seo Woo-jin, played by Ahn Hyo-seop (Abyss), is newly hired at Geosan University but is an outcast because of a whistleblowing incident. Cha Eun-jae (Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo‘s Lee Sung-kyung) is a doctor that has issues in the operation room. Woo-jin and Eun-jae know each other from medical school and see each other for the first time in years, both eventually finding their way to Doldam Hospital. Will the doctors be able to keep their jobs and learn from Doctor Kim Sa-bu? Dr. Romantic 2 has characters who have faced struggles, focusing on the power struggles behind the scenes.
- Doctor Stranger (SBS, 2014)
Doctor Stranger starts off in a serious atmosphere as much of it takes place in North Korea with the main character. Park Hoon (Lee Jong-suk) is trained by his father to become a cardiothoracic surgeon, and ends up falling in love with a woman named Song Jae-hee (Jin See-yeon). However, when they try to escape, following the death of Doctor Park, both lose contact. Hoon successfully going to South Korea and finds work at a hospital, surprisingly meeting Doctor Han Seung-hee, who looks nearly identical to his lover Song Jae-hee. When his past comes back to haunt him, will he be able to escape safely again and discover the mystery? While Doctor Stranger has a complicated background, the story becomes lighter and comedic. Doctor Stranger is twenty episodes long with each episode being around an hour.
- Emergency Couple (tvN, 2014)
(Starring: Choi Jin-hyuk and Song Ji-hyo)
Originally scheduled for twenty hour-long episodes, Emergency Couple ran for twenty-one episodes because of its popularity among viewers. The comedic drama centers on a divorced couple played by Choi Jin-hyuk (The Last Empress) and Song Ji-hyo (Running Man). Chang-min and Jin-hee faced trouble due to Chang-min’s rich family opposing their marriage. When the family cuts him off, he pushes away being a doctor to earn money while his wife suffers from feeling inferior. Eventually, the fighting becomes too much for the couple and they don’t meet again until they both restart their path to medicine. The pair has to intern in an emergency room and work out their differences. Despite being in the hospital and handling emergencies, the co-stars make the drama lighthearted at many moments!
- Kill Me Heal Me (MBC, 2015)
(Starring: Hwang Jung-eum, Ji Sung, and Park Seo-joon)
There are also K-dramas that focus on mental health, such as Kill Me Heal Me. The main actors of this drama, Ji Sung (Entertainer) and Hwang Jung-eum (She Was Pretty), costarred in Secret Love in 2013. The rich Cha Do Hyun suffers from dissociative identity disorder, rooting from child abuse. With seven personalities interrupting his daily life, he seeks psychiatric resident Oh Rin Jin to help him. At the same time, her brother Ri On, played by Park Seo-joon (Itaewon Class) targets him as well. Kill Me Heal Me stands out from other medical dramas as it involves many personalities and a doctor caring for the mental aspects of the body.
- Yong-pal (SBS, 2015)
(Starring: Joo Won and Kim Tae-hee)
Yong-pal is made up of eighteen hour-long episodes, which was extended from sixteen due to its success. Co-stars Joo Won (Good Doctor) and Kim Tae-hee (My Princess) act alongside each other again after 2004’s Forbidden Love. The drama focuses on a skilled surgeon named Kim Tae Hyun who goes under the name Yong-pal when his sister needs money for an operation. Under the pseudonym, he must criminals in need of medical attention. The name Yong-pal is noted in relation to him being called a “quack doctor” and a fraud with no skills. Tae Hyun goes against his corrupt bosses and wakes Han Yeo Jin from a coma, resulting in many targets put on his head. Tae Hyun and Han Yeo Jin must find a safe escape from newfound danger. Yong-pal is one of the most action-filled dramas as its main characters face many enemies, but the romance that forms matches well.
Medical dramas are not limited to settings or restrictions and can have different moods. They might not be for everyone, but should definitely be checked out! These dramas tend to pay attention to morality and fighting against unjust corruption. Most of the shows on this list have a fair amount of action, romance, and comedy to keep viewers entertained.
Are you going to check any of these dramas out or have seen some already? Comment below on your view of medical dramas!
Cover Image: Doctor Romantic 2 (SBS)
Written by Monica Park