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Prescription for Melodramatized TV

2007/01/15 Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

If you suffer from an "imbalance" because of watching the same-old soaps with same-old love triangles and affairs, dramas about medical doctors may be just the prescription you need.

This year, four new medical dramas will air, attracting viewers who want to see something new and unconventional.

They are "Hayan Kotab" ("White Tower"), "Oegwauisa Bong Dang-hui" ("Surgeon Bong Dal-hee"), "Ibalsadul" ("Barbers") and "Chonghappyongwon 2" ("General Hospital 2").

These dramas are not the first to center on lives of doctors at hospitals. In the mid-1990s, "Chonghappyongwon" (General Hospital), "Haebaragi" ("Sunflower - drama") and "Uigahyongje" ("Doctor Brothers") were huge successes.

Although they were set in hospitals, their main stories dealt with romance between doctors. But the emphasis of these new dramas is on portraying the work and the lives of doctors as realistically as possible.

These dramas have whopping production budgets, an average of 3 billion won, and special sets that were exclusively created for the show and feature operation rooms, emergency rooms and expensive medical equipment.

"White Tower" has been on air on MBC since Jan. 6. It started with a viewer rating of 11 percent on its first weekend and increased to 17 percent last weekend.

The Saturday-Sunday mini series is a remake version of a popular Japanese drama of the same title. Set in a general hospital, the drama deals with the hierarchy in the doctors' world and doctors' struggle for success.

Program director Ahn Pan-seok introduced his drama as a "political drama set in a hospital".

"It's not just about doctors taking care of patients, but rather about a big hospital as a place where people fight for promotion and compete for hegemony", Ahn said during a news conference early this month.

Another medical drama "Surgeon Bong Dal-hee", which will air on SBS from Jan. 17 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, is a story about how novices go through tough trials to become real surgeons.

To appeal to broader audiences, the drama is less serious than "White Tower" and includes romance between doctors.

But it also aims for a realistic depiction of the lives of doctors complete with scenes of operations and emergency situations at hospital. One series is expected to carry at least three or four operation scenes.

"Ibalsadul" and "General Hospital 2" are now in pre-production.

"Ibalsadul" ("Barbers") is slated for a May airing on SBS, and its director Lee Jae-gyoo is famous for popular soap operas such as "Damo" and "Fashion '70s".

The drama takes its cue from medical doctors' and barbers' similar white gowns, and it tells a story about doctors who are alienated but show superb skills.

"General Hospital 2", is written by Choi Wan-gyu, who wrote the script for "Jumong", a popular epic drama that currently airs on MBC.

It is a sequel to "General Hospital", which starred top actor Jang Dong-gun when he was an emerging star. It was a huge success, dealing with friendship and love between resident and intern doctors.

Critics attribute the boom in the production of medical dramas to the influence of popular blockbuster American medical dramas such as "Grey's Anatomy", "E.R". and "House" which air on cable channels, along with the thirst for a new genre.

"It's an valuable effort to try a new genre", pop culture critic Kim Heoun-sic, said. "But it is questionable whether the four new dramas can appeal to local viewers who have enjoyed such well-made American medical dramas through cable channels".

"The key to success may lie in how the Korean dramas can differentiate themselves with unique Korean touches in the relationship between doctors and doctors and patients".

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