If you’re heartbroken and frustrated from watching different romance, fantasy, crime, and thriller series and cannot move on from the endings, no worries. Medical dramas are here to heal your wounded, fanatic hearts.
2016 is probably the year of many successful medical drama series, including the renowned Descendants of the Sun starring the former Song-Song couple. If you’re up for the challenges of the medical world, below are eight of the most popular and highly recommended medical K-dramas that will cure your K-drama hangovers.
It’s Okay, That’s Love (2014)
Medical and romantic comedy genres combine in this heartwarming melodrama that probably set the bar for the rom-com genre. Not to mention, It’s Okay That’s Love tackles mental illness, which remains timely and relevant in many generations. Starring Jo In-sung (That Winter, the Wind Blows), Gong Hyo-jin (When the Camellia Blooms), Lee Kwang-soo (Live), Sung Dong-il (The Cursed), and Do Kyung-soo (100 Days My Prince), the drama centers on the odd relationship between a best-selling author and radio DJ with an obsessive-compulsive disorder and a psychiatrist with a negative perception of love and relationships. Because of their opposite personalities, both characters often clash and refuse to yield to each other. Both the show’s director and screenwriter said that while they aimed to explore the characters using a rom-com viewpoint, they also aimed to create awareness on the social stigma of people who have mental health issues.
Good Doctor (2013)
Good Doctor highlights the medical journey of an autistic doctor, played by Joo Won (My Sassy Girl), with a genius-level memory and impressive spatial skills. He soon applies to the pediatric surgery center as a resident doctor, where he has six months to prove himself. However, because of his mental and emotional condition, he often gets into trouble with his peers and colleagues and has to always overcome daily challenges and doubts about him. Starring alongside with him are actors Moon Chae-won (Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter), Kim Min-seo (Witch at Court), Joo Sang-wook (Touch), Kwak Do-won (Phantom), Chun Ho-jin (Once Again), and Ko Chang-seok (Memorist). The show received awards and recognition for creating awareness and shedding light to people with special needs and their potential contribution to the society. The drama received the plaque of recognition from the Korea Association of the Welfare Institutes for the Disabled and an award from the Disability Awareness Campaign Headquarters. The series also had remakes from three countries: US, Turkey, and Japan.
Hospital Playlist (2020)
Starring Jo Jung-suk (Nokdu Flower), Yoo Yeon-seok (Mr. Sunshine), Kim Dae-myung (The Sound of Your Heart), Jung Kyung-ho (When the Devil Calls Your Name), and Jeon Mi-do (Mother), Hospital Playlist is the second installment of the Wise Life series after Prison Playbook. The series follows the daily lives of five medical doctors who have been friends since their days in medical school. Light-hearted and with almost no conflict side plots, the drama exudes a similar vibe to the shows Reply 1988 and Prison Playbook, which is likely because both the director and screenwriter of the show have previously worked on these two shows. Because of the warm acceptance and support from viewers, the series was renewed for another season, which will air next year.
Dr. Romantic Season 1 (2016–2017)
Starring Han Suk-kyu (WATCHER), Yoo Yeon-seok (Hospital Playlist), and Seo Hyun-jin (Black Dog: Being a Teacher), the drama was considered a commercial hit and received positive audience feedback for its well-written plot and the actors’ performances. Due to its success, the franchise was renewed for a second season, which aired earlier this year. Dr. Romantic tells the story of a triple board-certified surgeon at the top of his field who works at the best hospital in Seoul. But because of a tragic incident, he disappears and acquires a new identity. He relocates to a small hospital where he mentors two skilled doctors with great desires for recognition and success and teaches them to prioritize patients, fighting against the abuse of power and money.
Beautiful Mind (2016)
Inspired by the gothic novel “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, Beautiful Mind follows the story of a world-renowned neurosurgeon unable to feel empathy. He has impressive observational, logical, and deductive skills that he uses to come up with quick and accurate decisions, and he gets tangled up with a series of mysterious deaths in the hospital where he works. The show stars Jang Hyuk (Tell Me What You Saw), Park So-dam (Cinderella with Four Knights), Park Se-young (Special Labor Inspector), and Yoon Hyun-min (My Holo Love). Viewers were quick to point out that the characters’ chemistry and even the performance of the supporting characters were commendable. However, despite being lauded for its heartwarming plot and the character development, the show experienced consistent decline in its viewership ratings, leading to a cut from its original 16 episodes down to 14. Still, the series is highly recommended with its progressive story line and romance.
Doctors centers on a high school delinquent who became a successful neurosurgeon, played by Park Shin-hye (Memories of the Alhambra). She leads a transformed life thanks to the influence of her charming mentor, played by Kim Rae-won (Black Knight: The Man Who Guards Me). Because of childhood scars, she is closed off to other people and maintains a cold facade. Tensions arise when Yoon Kyun Sang‘s (Class of Lies) and Lee Sung Kyung‘s (Dr. Romantic 2) characters get involved with the main couple as potential love interests. The viewers rooted for the main female character’s determination towards her new path as a medical doctor. The drama hit an average of 18.4% in viewership ratings and won several prestigious awards, including the Best New Actor for TV for Kim Min-seok (Drama Special: Almost Touching) during the 53rd Baeksang Arts Awards in 2017. It was also aired in several countries inside and outside of Asia.
Descendants of the Sun (2016)
Set in the fictional country of Uruk that is plagued with war and diseases, the international hit series of 2016 follows the love story between a captain of the South Korean Special Forces unit and a medical doctor. It also revolves around all the risks and sacrifices they have to go through. Starring Song Joong-ki (Arthdal Chronicles), Song Hye-kyo (Encounter), Kim Ji-won (Arthdal Chronicles), and Jin Goo (Legal High), Descendants of the Sun went on to become a huge success, eventually boosting Korea’s tourism, reaching a peak audience rating of 38.8%. It was also massively popular outside of Korea and had local adaptations from several Asian countries. This is Song Joong-ki’s comeback drama after his discharge from his mandatory military enlistment. The success of the series was said to have revived the Hallyu wave, which was consistently declining over the years. It also had an economic and cultural impact, contributing to the rise of overseas exports sales, rise of tourists, increase in employment opportunities, restorations of filming locations, and a surge in the number of men enlisting to join the South Korean special forces units for their mandated military service. Not to mention, the series brought home a total of 45 awards, including the Grand Prize (Daesang) at the 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards. It was also recognized as the Most Popular Show of the Year by the Korea Broadcasting Advertising Corporation.
Yong-pal is an alias used by a skilled neurosurgeon, played by Joo Won (My Sassy Girl), who offers underground services to sketchy individuals such as criminals and corrupt tycoons, so he can pay for his sister’s exorbitant medical bills and the growing pile of debts. During this service, he joins a group of corrupt doctors to treat a chaebol heiress, played by Kim Tae-hee (Hi Bye Mama!) who has been under a medically induced coma for three years. This leads to all sorts of dangerous consequences. The action-packed medical drama also highlights romance in between the revengeful twists. Due to its high audience ratings, even reaching the 20% mark with its sixth episode, the series was extended by two more episodes from its initial 16. It went on to win several prestigious awards and was aired in six Asian countries.