K-Drama Review: “Doctor John” Touches Hearts With Contemplative Life Lessons

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Doctor John is more than just a medical drama! 

Searching for the cause of their patients’ mysterious pain, Doctor John narrates the stories of doctors specializing in pain management. Portraying patients as victims and the doctors as detectives hunting down what lies beneath unsolved crimes.

Title: Doctor John
Network: SBS
Theme: Medical, Drama, Romance
Length: 32 Episodes
Broadcast Date: 19 July 2019 – 07 Sept 2019
Main Leads: Ji Sung, Lee Se Young, Lee Kyu Hyung
Highlights: Solid Acting, Superb Screenplay
Overall Rating:
Rewatch Value:
Related Dramas: Doctor Romantic, Doctors


READ: K-Drama Premiere: “Doctor John” Prescribes Subtle Valuable Life Lessons On Its First Outing

Quick Plot Roundup

Haunted by her past, Kang Si Young is punishing herself by giving up being a doctor and by running away to another country. As she was waiting for the D-day, she accepted a part-time job to be a temporary prison doctor. Cha Yo Han, a convicted doctor, is in the same penitentiary where Si Young would be a temporary doctor. Meeting Yo Han and his words bring important realizations to Si Young and a hope that she can be an amazing doctor again.

Doctor John

After his service time, Yo Han is hired by Hanse Medical Hospital where he meets Si Young again and the rest of the Pain Management Center team. An ex-convicted doctor may find it hard to get a job and be back on the medical field again, but a former Minister of Health and Welfare, Lee Won Gil recommended Yo Han. A much more deeper and darker secret is behind his recommendation, as he knew Yo Han was convicted due to a case about euthanasia.

Despite Yo Han’s finishing his prison sentence, prosecutor Son Seok Ki and Nurse Cha Eun Jeong keep track on him. It was later revealed that the reason on stalking Yo Han is that a euthanize patient was the murderer who killed their children. Losing their loved ones resulted in getting revenge to the murderer patient by prolonging his suffering. The conflict between these three are resolved as Seok Ki and Eun Jeong saw and experienced Yo Han sincerity not only to his patients but also to them.

Doctor John

The Doctor who understands pain

Later on the series, comes a rare disease called CIPA where a patient can’t feel pain or temperature. As pain is an indication that something is wrong in the body, therefore CIPA patients do not live past the age of 5. It was then revealed to Si Young, that Yo Han is a CIPA patient. Knowing how hard he gets through his daily life to survive, she decided to take care of him and be his guardian. Yo Han’s secret was revealed to everyone and his ability to be a doctor and empathy for his patients were questioned.

Doctor John

Brewing in the show is also the romance between Yo Han and Si Young. Their relationship grows stronger and deeper with support and understanding as its foundation. Their connection is well built that even after years of no communication, they still end up being together.

Doctor John


Superb Screenplay

Despite being a medical drama, Doctor John manages to explain each featured diseases in layman’s term. I was worried that I might not get those deep medical terms, but the series successfully explains these rare diseases that the viewers can easily understand and follow.

Getting me hook on the first episode, I really like how the drama introduced Ji Sung. I love how they captured his doctor’s reflex regardless of his situation and surroundings. And while being described as a lunatic, his alluded psychopathic tendencies really intrigues me of what kind of doctor he really is. 

They also did a great job capturing each character’s misery and how they have overcome it throughout the series. Si Young, being a scarred girl, punished herself painstakingly to get out of the protective bubble she built around her. Inevitably, she slowly reconciled with her mother and sister. Ever since the start of the series, Ji Sung’s character has always been calm, thus, his breakdown scene was a stunning and heartbreaking moment in the series. As he was slowly opening up to Si Young, but then reality slapped him back and woke him from his dream.

Effective Character Portrayals

Each character’s role shows how everyone of us experiences suffering. As pain is not only defined by physical but also mental and emotional pain. 

While each character faces their fears, it shows how pain affects us in reality. From the actors portraying the roles of patients, they really connected with the viewers. They succeeded in showcasing patient’s sufferings and how losing hope overshadowed their will to live. Importantly, the drama also showed how difficult it is also for the patient’s guardian. Supporting our loved ones and seeing them suffer without feeling how it hurts them, really give a harrowing pang in our hearts. 

Moreover, touching the topic of euthanasia, the drama shows different point of views from patients and family regarding this controversial matter. The basis of deciding freely where this subject can be deemed clear viable has always drawn extreme debates in the medical world. As modern medicine is progressively developed, it is quite possible for a doctor to save a dying person and reduce pain easily. But is prolonging life what the patient really wants? Individual arguments under different circumstances from the characters showcase deeper understanding of one’s decision on how they perceive life’s challenges. 


Doctor John leaves viewers a deeper and meaningful message. Also, it is very medically educational. More so, the drama soundtracks were also pleasant and added emotions to the highlighted scenes. Overall, the script together with great actors really conveyed the lessons the show wanted to impart. 

Sufferings are really hard, and the drama shows that no matter how hard we try to avoid it, it is part of our lives. Quoting Doctor Cha Yo Han last lines “Recognizing and sharing someone else’s pain. That is my last prescription for our pain that stays with us as long as we live”, summarized the message of the show.

Pain and death are inevitable, but having our loved ones by our side reduces the pain. They give us strength and courage to face it. They make us live our remaining time to the fullest together with them. Pain and death are scary, but facing it alone is much scarier.

Doctor John can be watched on VIU.

Image Credit: SBS