Layout By Juliana Polancos
Layout By Juliana Polancos.

Join “Doctor Slump” in quenching your burnout

Who knew that former academic rivals may turn into lovers through late-night arcades, munching tteokbokki, and blasting karaoke; all while their careers are on the brink of downfall?

By Nathan Orseo | Thursday, 11 April 2024

After 11 years since starring together in The Heirs (2013), Park Hyung-sik and Park Shin-hye are back as the lead couple in Doctor Slump. As the last episode aired on Mar. 18 on Netflix Philippines, the limited series consistently received commendation from viewers throughout its two-month run—in a year considered to be a slow start for Korean dramas.


After a medical accident causing the death of a patient and an unethical removal from a research paper, plastic surgeon Yeo Jeong-woo (Park Hyung-Sik) and anesthesiologist Nam Ha-neul (Park Shin-hye), who were once cut-throat academic rivals turned successful doctors, found themselves intertwined at a time when their careers suddenly flipped from its peak. 


From nostalgic flashbacks during their high school days to rediscovering missed childhood hobbies, the series takes its audience on a journey full of healing and day-to-day moments of escape.


Healing depression one episode at a time

Compared to other Korean medical dramas, the edge of Doctor Slump is its serious portrayal of mental illness, especially depression, which both protagonists acquired due to the suffocating circumstance of receiving unwanted attention and defamation from their crumbling careers. In fact, the majority of the plot revolves around the characters navigating their mental health from the obstacles impeding their used-to-be steady careers.


What makes the drama healing to watch is it dismantles the stigma of immediately seeking a solution to eliminate a mental illness; instead, it depicts the idea of stepping back in order to breathe—without any pressure. From having ice cream at midnight to dancing vigorously at Pump It Up, a dance machine, the former academic rivals discovered solace in silly activities that their present and childhood selves missed out on due to the tension of succeeding in life.


The timeless veteran chemistry

Even before the series premiere, the drama was highly anticipated globally due to the return of sought-after actor Park Hyung-sik, who notably got attention from Strong Girl Bong-soon (2017) due to his youthful and comedic delivery; as well as Park Shin-hye, known for her heartwarming role in Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013), who was also recently on a two-year hiatus due to pregnancy.


As the series progressed, both actors skillfully displayed their acting chops in a balanced blend of dramatic and comedic dialogue, reminiscent of their previous dramas. Despite the heaviness of the conditions both characters faced, the swoon-worthy chemistry of the lead couple did not fail to suit the academic rivals-to-lovers trope of the drama. Perhaps, having worked together previously in The Heirs (2013) may have proven to be advantageous in their relaxed connection.


Known for his exaggerated and silly facial expressions, Park Hyung-sik was on point with his comedic timing, which elevated what would’ve been dull scenes into memorable ones. However, what was unexpected is Park Shin-hye, who rarely stars in romantic comedies, yet perfectly complimented her co-star with her purposefully blunt yet amusing delivery.


Although the series is unforgettable enough to be binged over and over again, when set against dramas that employed similar plot devices, it does not hold enough impact. Compared to Our Beloved Summer (2021), a series that masterfully used gut-wrenching flashbacks with the same romance trope, Doctor Slump simply falls short in showcasing more high school moments of the characters. 


Nevertheless, the series did highlight its plot uniquely to center on a rising trend amongst young adults—to heal one’s inner child. In a society where aiming for stable careers is deemed as too much pressure, the drama normalizes moving forward in life in one’s ideal time. It teaches audiences to reconnect and take pleasure in the little things that may seem silly and small, yet are in fact moments worth cherishing.


Having topped the Netflix Philippines charts throughout its entire run is a testimony of the drama’s relatability in bouncing back from hardships and trusting for better days ahead.


Add Doctor Slump to your Korean drama watch list on Netflix Philippines.