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Medical dramas thrill local TV audience

2007/01/31 Source

Historical dramas have ruled TV screens since last year with all three major broadcast stations in Korea rushing to produce epic series. But recently, local TV dramas seem to have found a new flavor. Making a big jump from using stories from ancient eras, TV screens have begun to focus on the lives of professionals living in the present, such as medical doctors.

MBC and SBS each began to air medical dramas earlier this month and the two serial dramas are both topping the viewer ratings chart. This is not the first time mainstream TV channels have produced medical dramas. But the latest trend, the so-called "medical drama boom", clearly shows that viewers are now turning their backs on "palpable" and "conventional" triangle love stories.

"Production companies started to address new subjects. This perhaps shows changes in viewers' preferences, leaning toward new subjects because they are fed up with watching melodramatic stories or comic dramas", a TV critic said. The two medical dramas both tell the stories of struggling surgeons and their isolated daily lives in big hospitals.

MBC's weekend drama "Behind the White Tower" portrays doctors' obsessions with power and success by revealing the brutal power games that unfold at a hospital recognized as the best medical institute in the country. The drama focuses on the story of a brilliant surgeon Chang Jun-hyuck who takes every possible opportunity to achieve his goal of becoming chief surgeon of the prestigious hospital.

Kim Myung-min, hero of the smash-hit KBS drama "Immortal Admiral Yi Sun-shin", takes the role of Chang, an ambitious and two-faced doctor who eventually loses his fame when he blindly disregards patients because of his obsessive ambitions.

Produced by renowned Kim Jong-hak Productions, known for filming a number of successful TV series, the drama attempts to depict the doctors' lives in a realistic way. It reportedly made a huge investment in building a set that resembles a real operating room complete with medical instruments.

It seems pointless to compare this drama with the medical drama "Surgeon Bong Dal-hee" aired on SBS, because the two take a different approach to telling the story of doctors.

If "Behind the White Tower" tells of a series of bitter power games at the male-dominated hospital, "Surgeon Bong Dal-hee" entertains viewers with a softer story of a troublesome female doctor.

Bong Dal-hee is a resident doctor, a native of the remote Ulleung Island, who is making slow progress in becoming a surgeon. Bong struggles with other competent resident doctors but it is her compassionate character that wins patients' hearts. Star actress Lee Yo-won takes the role of the pure and innocent doctor on the drama which airs every Wednesday and Thursday night.

What differentiates this drama is that it contains a triangle love story and comedy, while MBC's "Behind the White Tower" takes a very serious look at power games among medical doctors. "Surgeon Bong Dal-hee" seems a bit like a Cinderella story when watching the troublesome resident doctor loved by two rival doctors, Ahn Jung-geun (played by Lee Beom-soo) and Lee Gun-woo (Kim Min-joon).

Thanks to the medical drama boom, other local TV channels also started to air foreign-made medical dramas such as the smash-hit series "Grey's Anatomy" and "E.R"., the original Japanese version of "White Tower (2003)".

The medical drama boom is likely to continue for the rest of the year as "General Hospital 2" is scheduled to air in March. Some filmmakers are also rushing to make films of medical dramas. "Epitaph", a tragic story of doctors in the 1940s when the country was under Japanese colonial rule, featuring versatile actor Kim Tae-woo, is currently in production, sources say.

By Cho Chung-un

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