K-drama Ghost Doctor: Rain and Kim Beom star in easy-going medical comedy-drama with a supernatural twist

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Jirisan, Hospital Playlist, Hi Bye, Mama!

K-pop superstar Rain is back on screens after a three-year hiatus in the fantasy comedy-drama Ghost Doctor. The Korean Wave icon co-stars with Kim Beom (Law School) in this bright and easy-going drama that beefs up its familiar medical drama tropes with a playful supernatural twist.

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Rain (also known as Jung Ji-hoon) plays arrogant thoracic surgeon Cha Young-min, who struts through the halls of Eunsang University Medical Centre in designer suits and gets to pick and choose his patients.

He can afford to be picky, since he is known for his “god hands” that have given him a 100 per cent success rate in the operating theatre.

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Young-min rules the roost at Eunsang, but his dominance comes under threat with the arrival of the equally arrogant new resident doctor Go Seung-tak (Kim Beom), who is being groomed to take over Eunsang, which is run by his family.

Sensing the threat, Young-min tries to put Seung-tak through the wringer, but the perpetually smiling new resident turns out to have an intimidating medical knowledge, in addition to his silver spoon.

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Young-min quickly cottons on to Seung-tak’s one major weakness, however – he is cartoonishly squeamish when it comes to blood and anatomy.

Meanwhile, Young-min is called on to operate on VIP patient Jang Kwang-deok (Lee Moon-soo), the chairman of a powerful corporation, but he’s faced with a moral dilemma: proceed with a dangerous operation or allow the chairman to live for another year in relative comfort.

Further complicating matters is Kwang-deok’s slimy son Min-ho (Lee Tae-sung), who is clearly trying to wrest control of his father’s company, and daughter Se-jin (Uee), who is Young-min’s ex-girlfriend.

One evening Young-min is mysteriously called away and is involved in a car accident. He steps out of his vehicle in a daze and attempts to go to the aid of another victim, but discovers that no one can see or hear him. Then he turns around to discover his comatose self in the car.

Young-min’s body is brought to Eunsang and he needs open-heart surgery. But this late at night, the only person who can step into surgery robes is the on-duty doctor – Seung-tak.

With his book smarts, Seung-tak quickly identifies the problem, but performing the procedure is another matter. Young-min’s spirit is beside himself with worry in the operating theatre – and then something unexpected happens. When he lays a hand on Seung-tak’s wrist, his consciousness is transferred to the younger doctor.

As later explained by longtime ghost Tess – an avuncular supporting turn by Sung Dong-il (Jirisan) – Young-min has become a “coma ghost”. While his body teeters on the edge of life and death, Young-min is doomed to stalk the halls of Eunsang, but he’s unable to travel any further from his body.

No one can see or hear him, save for a mysterious cleaner who can commune with the dead, and a few other coma ghosts in the hospital.

Jirisan, Hospital Playlist, Hi Bye, Mama!

Kim Beom in a still from Ghost Doctor.

However, Young-min differs from other coma ghosts since he is able to take over Seung-tak’s body to help him perform complex procedures, and “punch” himself out at will. Seung-tak is the only person he can inhabit, and this technique even affords him an opportunity to go beyond the hospital walls.

Medical dramas have become extremely popular in the Korean market over the past few years, and while Ghost Doctor lacks the emotional anchors and character interplay of a series such as Hospital Playlist, it provides another comforting escape into the world of handsome and brilliant doctors.

What Ghost Doctor lacks in depth it makes up for by combining the medical drama setting with another popular K-drama trope, the supernatural comedy. Incidentally, one of the last major ghost comedy-dramas was the popular Hi Bye, Mama!, in which the displaced spirit was played by none other than Rain’s better half, Kim Tae-hee.

Jirisan, Hospital Playlist, Hi Bye, Mama!

Rain (left) and Sung Dong-il in a still from Ghost Doctor.

While a shady corporation succession scheme and the rekindling of an old romance go on in the background to give the show a storyline, the real selling point of Ghost Doctor is the interactions between Young-min and Seung-tak, or rather the manifold instances of Young-min taking over Seung-tak’s body and the shenanigans that ensue.

The characters are billed as diametrical opposites but this isn’t strictly true, and the lack of contrast limits the potential of the comedy. Given how cocksure and brilliant Young-min and Seung-tak both are, the possession sequences aren’t quite as fun as they could be.

Seung-tak is a brighter personality compared to the stuffy and reserved Young-min, but when Kim Beom acts as Young-min in Seung-tak’s body, the difference isn’t very pronounced.

When Young-min takes hold, Seung-tak loses his smile and most of the gags come from the use of honorifics – as a junior doctor, Seung-tak should be using polite speech with other characters, but Young-min’s spirit talks down to everyone.

Jirisan, Hospital Playlist, Hi Bye, Mama!

Rain (left) and Kim Beom in a still from Ghost Doctor.

Yet four episodes in, the supernatural rules within the show are already starting to change, which hopefully will give it some fresher avenues for comedy and the opportunity for Rain and Kim Beom to interact with one another directly.

Ghost Doctor is streaming on Viu.

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