K-Drama/K-PopVideo

Reasons to binge-watch Doctor Slump

This well-written story reunites Park Hyung Sik and Park Shin Hye after the iconic The Heirs of 2013

NETIZENS and fans of Park Hyung Sik and Park Shin Hye have kept the torch burning for both actors and hallyu stars, even if their last outing together, as one of a pair of very attractive high school students, in the iconic drama The Heirs, was in 2013.

Individually, the Parks haven’t lost their drawing power. They have appeared in different dramas through the decade, shared billing with other popular actors, but together again now, they ignite the small screen.

It is also matters that the producers of Dr. Slump did not spare any effort to generate interest in the 16 episoder months ahead of its premiere on Netflix last January 27. There were interviews, teasers, and shared comments from their fans across social media.

However, all these efforts would not have counted for much if a drama did not sustain the interest of viewers. Dr. Slump takes along those who follow it from the career highs of both doctors to their abject fall, the nadir in their professions and their personal lives. The series shows the trajectory in the lives of  Nam Ha Neul (Park Shin Hye) and Yeo Jeong Woo (Park Hyung Sik); first as fiercely competitive high school students in Seoul, then years later as doctors literally, in a slump.

In high school in Seoul, Jeong Woo is the star, academically superior to his peers. With his boyish charms, he is also the crush of many  girls. Enter Ha Neul,  the transfer student from Busan. She is  definitely a match to Jeong Woo, a challenge to him in every respect. But, even if the boys like her, she has no time for such attention. She keeps to herself, has developed a routine so as not to waste precious moments she can otherwise use to study. These character sketches of the main leads are  presented by writer  Baek Seon Woo and director Oh Hyun Jong through quick scene changes done in a very engaging way.

The rivalry is serious enough to cause both teeners to collapse in the classroom from stress and lack of sleep. But, leading to this are scenes that are hilarious on the surface while at the same time not glossing over the seriousness and the dangers of how the two students endanger their health just to stay on top of their game.

In the next episodes, Ha Neul and Jeong Woo, now doctors, meet again. Ha Neul, a very competent anaesthesiologist, is suffering from burnout caused by bureaucratic abuse in the top tier hospital where she works. A senior doctor in the workplace has also appropriated her dissertation for himself. Jeong Woo is a well known plastic surgeon with a very successful practice and a huge social media following. All this changes in only a day. His patient, the daughter of a gambling tycoon, dies on his operating table.

The routine procedure turns into a nightmare. Jeong Woo is slapped with a multi-billion won malpractice suit, he is forced to sell his clinics, his house, and his car to defray the cost of the lawsuit. He ends up living in the building owned by Ha Neul’s family, and where she lives with her mother, brother and uncle. The family occupies the second floor; on the first floor, her uncle owns a very popular milmyeon (handmade noodle and dumplings) shop. Jeong Woo becomes the tenant on the rooftop apartment.

Initially, there is palpable antagonism between the two. But that dissipates soon when they realize that they are the only people in their world who understand each other. Quick cuts show Ha Neul and Jeong Woo sharing notes on their predicament, working together to find pieces of evidence to present at the latter’s trial. Ha Neul, a research “fiend” from her school days, unearths obscure but precious precedent cases that could shed light on Jeong Woo’s case. She goes on leave from the hospital and is seeing a psychiatrist for her depression. Her family, used to seeing her at the top of her game, is baffled at first. Then, there is an assortment of nosey aunts and neighbors, customers of the milmyeon shop, who unabashedly ask her mother  questions about Haneul.

Following these episodes closely are scenes showing the two doctors in the doldrums, sharing light moments after harrowing days—his courtroom appearances and her dull days away from work and after visits to her psychiatrist. Writer and director cleverly inject scenes of Ha Neul and Jeong Woo enjoying moments together that offset their dark days. She has never experienced fun out-of-school activities of students in their teens; she never even played hooky. Jeong Woo takes her to the arcade where they play machines in spirited—but very friendly—competition, unmindful of the kids waiting for their turn in the video games. They go to the ubiquitous snack street stall for teoktokbokki  and sundae, common fare she has never tried.

Adults, doctors at that, spending time together like overaged teenagers, are not a common sight in K-drama. This has, in fact, led some netizens to comment that these are unrealistic scenes—that their friendship and eventual closeness that leads to romance is a bit corny. What these critics don’t realize is that the writer explained this by showing how, in earlier episodes, Ha Neul never experienced the life of a typical teenager.

The disparity in the backgrounds of the two is also well presented in flashbacks. Ha Neul comes from a working class family  that dotes on her but can be intrusive at times. Her being an overachiever was fueled, inadvertently as the later episodes show, by a mother who constantly boasts about her intelligent daughter, a successful doctor in a big hospital. Jeong Woo, raised in Seoul, the only offspring of prominent physicians, is a lonely guy. His parents don’t care about his life; all they want is for him to follow in their footsteps and do them proud. So when he is hauled to court, his world crumbles. Thus begins his life’s second chapter and his second encounter with his old rival Ha Neul. Here, he also experiences the love and attention from a typical family, ironically Ha Neul’s.

What critics and viewers say about Dr. Slump:

§ The series has kicked off impressively. Skip it or stream it? Stream it. – romdecider.com, January 31, 2024

§ I’ve just finished watching the first episode and I honestly think this is the K-Drama that is going to bring me out of the slump… The plot is great. The storyline seems promising and it will get you hooked right from the first 10 minutes. – KonikaLonial  m.imdb.com  on February 19

§ Sadly heading into a slump. I really enjoyed this until episode 8. (Note: ratings dipped slightly that weekend)… But, on the plus side, the two leads are very good. – Dillydaydream  m.imdb.com on February 19

§ Two shining stars light up the screen. Romcom at its best… Depression and burnout tackled in a serious yet healing way. —  hyunsiksikangels  PhDtravel  m.imdb.com

§ It’s funny because it is the most heartwarming ending to just about any show over the past few years, maybe as perfect as you’d get, and everyone gets a good, no, GREAT ending. Even the worst character (NOTE: Jeong Woo’s tutor and best friend from his high school days, the same doctor who later steals Ha Neul’s dissertation and claims it for himself) gets a moment of grace. And, you feel so good, but then you realize it’s over and you might not even get this feeling again for a long time. – attaboy_stampy  r/KDRAMA Reddit.com

My two-cents’ verdict:

Do take the time to watch Dr. Slump. Binge-watch it this Holy Week break or better yet, savor it two or four episodes each time and watch the transformation of two erstwhile fierce competitors who eventually find comfort in each other and see the sun rises anew in their personal and professional lives.

Also, take time to relish the story of the second lead couple. Both doctors, divorced and with an offspring each, are best friends of the main leads. On their own  they  find common ground where they take a second chance at love.

The other characters are also well delineated by a strong cast of familiar actors.

BEST OF ALL, there are no cliffhangers to leave viewers gnashing their teeth. Even those responsible for the sabotage that led to the death in Jeong Woo’s clinic meet their end, albeit in a most tragic way.

About author

Articles

After saying goodbye to daily deadlines in 2009, WINNIE DOROTHEO VELASQUEZ worked from home editing manuscripts and writing on subjects close to her heart. She discovered the world of K-Drama in the early 2000s. Today, she cooks, does some gardening, and is training Cookie, da mutt-with-the-mostest.

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