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Doctor Stranger: Episode 1

There’s a new doctor in the house with Doctor Stranger, whose solid and compelling premiere still makes my heart race. And no, I’m not just talking about Lee Jong-seok’s abs, which I admit is a pretty big draw. I’m speaking to the great visuals, a gripping story, and characters who tug your emotions from the very first hug to the very last minute.

I should probably warn you that this show isn’t for the squeamish, as the medical aspect of this show doesn’t hold out. The show also maneuvers the meaty topic of North-South relations rather well, and while the overall tone is serious, there are notable shifts which suggests the show doesn’t always take itself too seriously. Yet I find that the show keeps my attention glued to the screen for the full hour. Always a good sign, methinks.

Ratings-wise, the Monday-Tuesday dramas between the Big Three all hit the 8% range on Monday. Leading the pack was MBC’s Triangle (8.9%), then Doctor Stranger (8.6%), and finally KBS’s Big Man (8.0%).

SONG OF THE DAY

100% – “심장이 뛴다 (Beat)” [ Download ]

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EPISODE 1 RECAP

1994, Seoul. A young boy changes the channel from a newscast about the heightened North-South tension surrounding the North’s withdrawal to the Non-proliferation Treaty, along with North Korean leader Kim Il-sung’s recent lack of public appearances, in favor of a kid’s show. We can go ahead and identify him as our hero, PARK HOON (later portrayed by Lee Jong-seok).

A document lying on the table piques his curiosity, but when Hoon asks his father what a “lawsuit” is, Dad silently snatches it out of his hands. He pouts, but tries to get Dad’s attention again before he heads off to school. Judging from his dejected sigh, he’s used to being ignored.

A man at the door asks for Doctor Park Chul (Kim Sang-joong), who is none other than the boy’s father. Their guest, JANG SUK-JOO (Chun Ho-jin) is an assemblyman who works for the National Defense Committee, which prompts the doctor to remark that he didn’t think the National Assembly would try to stop a petty medical malpractice suit.

But he’s told that trial has been postponed for a more pressing matter of national importance: their latest intel suggests that the U.S. is preparing for an attack on the North, specifically the Yongbyon nuclear facility. Should that happen, the North would likely retaliate, which would lead to war.

Asked why the government would disclose such highly classified information to a thoracic surgeon at Myungwoo Hospital, Assemblyman Jang replies, “Because you can stop this war.”

Despite the frenzied response outside, young Hoon is still too wee to comprehend the gravity of the present situation. He marvels at the military tanks and helicopters passing by and offers a lollipop to the bodyguard standing outside the house.

He grows excited at the possibility of having lunch with Dad, but when he’s told to fend for himself tonight, he points towards their practically empty fridge. It’s sad how that also shows how much time Dad actually spends at home.

Watching the customers’ hysteria over the threat of war on the news, Hoon asks if they can’t go to the States if war does break out—that way, he could see Mom, too. Aw, kid. Dad says wars don’t happen that easily, but his expression darkens to see a political debate on the topic on TV.

Somewhere off the coast, a pair of soldiers gapes from their lookout to see a seaplane barge (the same one Assemblyman Jang mentioned that would be used in an attack on the North) roll along the sea.

Later that evening, Dad informs Assemblyman Jang that the x-ray indicates that the patient won’t last a month. At the mention that saving the heart in question will halt the threat of war, Dad proposes bringing the patient to the hospital. Problem is, the patient is in the North. Oh, it’s Kim Il-sung’s heart, isn’t it?

It is, which means that Dad would have to travel there to treat the patient. It’s imperative that they save the North Korean leader lest his death throws the country into a tizzy, which is also when the U.S. plans to strike.

Back at home, Hoon hesitantly picks up the phone to call Mom, only to overhear his parents arguing over who should look after him. Mom refuses, saying that she’s getting re-married soon and that she already cut ties with her past. Dad hears another click after she hangs up, letting him know that his son was listening in.

The following morning, Dad tells his son that someone will look after him and Mom will come for him then. But Hoon says he wants to be with his father. A tear falls from his eyes as he adds that Mom doesn’t want him anyway.

Hoon follows his father out to the car, and when it’s clear that Dad won’t say goodbye, Hoon says it for the both of them, saying in a breaking voice, “I’m off to school,” and walks away.

And while Dad might be distanced, he isn’t cold-hearted because the next thing we know, he runs back to embrace his son. Aww, daddy-child relationships make me go weak in the knees.

Dad secretly travels to the North via a silent exchange that takes place late at night somewhere in sea. Assemblyman Jang briefs the South Korean officials on current events, and the men balk at the one-man mission to prevent an all-out war.

In the event that Kim Il-sung passes away, the U.S. will take the opportunity to strike the North, who will retaliate with a counter-attack on both the U.S. military and more importantly, a South Korean nuclear facility. Even if war were to break out, the resulting radiation levels from the nuclear attack alone would render one-third of the nation unlivable for the next 200 years.

Up in the North, Dad prepares for surgery. Nothing like a firing squad at the ready to remind him (and us) that this life-or-death scenario isn’t just about the one lying on the operating table.

Then all the phones in the South Korean war room start ringing at once. Uh oh, that can’t be good news. It isn’t—the U.S. has signed off on a strike against the North.

Back in the operating room, we see the patient go into cardiac arrest, and Dad immediately starts CPR. One of the officers standing by sends a signal, and then Dad’s eyes widen to see little Hoon led into the room. With a gun pointed at his head. Holy crap.

But despite the tense situation, Dad keeps his cool as he proceeds, reaching inside the patient to massage the heart manually. Before he does, he takes one more look at his son, who gives him an assured nod.

The announcement of an imminent strike causes an uproar among the political leaders and the public, as the latter protests in front of the U.S. Embassy. Assemblyman Jang breaks through the crowd and marches into the building to confront the ambassador about the countless lives at stake.

Assemblyman Jang is interrupted so that the ambassador can finish his call, then they’re told that the operation has stopped, to their confusion…

…and then we see the heart start to beat on its own again. Ohthankgod. Dad prepares to wrap up the surgery, and fearless Hoon looks on with a proud smile.

Assemblyman Jang watches the newscast about the U.S. and North Korean armistice with amazement at how one man saved the entire world. The South Korean officials praise him for his efforts, and Jang’s bodyguard discovers the lollipop still in his pocket.

Turning to the TV, the bodyguard spots a pair of children. The boy on screen is none other than Hoon, who we see fiddle with a few loose strands to mimic the stitches his father performed in surgery.

He affirms to the little girl sitting with him that he’d like to become a doctor when he grows up because he finds saving lives is a magnificent idea. He’s initially taken aback by her beauty (aw), and she introduces herself as SONG JAE-HEE (later Jin Se-yeon).

Dad comes to collect him, and Hoon stops to wrap the stitched red bracelet around her wrist. “My name is Park Hoon,” he tells her.

In the car, Hoon notices that they’re being followed, and they soon find themselves surrounded by a firing squad. While entering a country might have been easy, leaving it is an entirely different matter, and Hoon asks if they aren’t going home. Dad replies, “I don’t think we can.”

Dad hold him close and covers his son’s eyes before shutting his own. They brace themselves for the inevitable, and the firing squad shoots.

Then we see Assemblyman Jang give a little smirk before stepping out to greet the media: “There’s no need for another hero in South Korea other than me, Jang Suk-joo.”

But in the cheering crowd of supporters, a woman demands to know what happened to her son. It’s Mom, who’s briskly pulled away, and the assemblyman drinks in the praise.

And then we cut back to the abandoned farmhouse, where Dad and Hoon find themselves unscathed, to their surprise. The same military officer from the operating room appears to tsk over how cruel the South Koreans are to abandon their own.

From this moment on, their South Korean identities have died and are henceforth North Korean, referring to Dad as “comrade.” Then the officer starts to applaud in what I think is a hearty welcome.

Some years later, an older Hoon (Lee Jong-seok) entertains a group of students by dancing to the Wonder Girls’ “Tell Me.” Pfft, is your deal going around and selling bootlegged Kpop tapes? Now I have the image of Lee Jong-seok dancing to a girl group forever etched in my memory.

He has to hastily pack up shop when he’s alerted that the teachers are coming (though he seems more amused than annoyed, hee) and runs through campus to avoid his pursuers.

He drops his goods before trying to escape into the gymnasium, only to find the door locked. To his luck, someone pulls him inside: Jae-hee (Jin Se-yeon). Holding her hand, he brings his face close to hers, and smiles. Aww.

Jae-hee tells him to keep quiet until his pursuers are gone, but Hoon says he can feel her pulse. Drawing his face near hers again, Hoon tells her that a person’s heartbeat is individually different, just like how people’s faces differs from one another. Then he pulls her into an embrace, letting her hear his: “Listen, but see how ours is the same.”

They stand there like that for a few lingering moments until Hoon pulls away and says that’s why they’re destined for each other. “I’ve decided something,” he starts, but Jae-hee drags him away by the ear. LOL.

Hoon asks if she’s really going to treat her destined match this way, to which she scoffs, amused. But then he scoops her into his arms and takes her up to the roof, where he proposes with a ring.

Hoon tells her that he understands that her parents don’t approve of him, but they’re destined for one another. “Will you marry me?”

He freely admits that he went around illegally selling pop music to get the money to buy the ring, and Jae-hee balks at the idea of him constantly putting his neck on the line like that. She initially stalks off (just to mess with him, ha), then doubles back for the ring.

He says that means she said yes, and she concedes, “I’ll marry you I suppose… in a hundred years.” HA.

As they chase each other inside, they run into Dad, who chides his son for skipping rounds. Dad watches on as the loving couple is all smiles over Jae-hee’s new engagement ring, but when Hoon stretches his arms out for a hug, Jae-hee pushes him, all, Your dad’s watching, doofus.

The newly betrothed couple go out for a bike ride, and Jae-hee asks what Hoon will do if she ever disappeared. “What do you mean? I’d search the entire world to find you,” he answers. Hoon breaks into a smile to hear that her father wants to meet him, not at all perturbed to hear that he’s a scary man. Then he does this adorable victory pump when she’s not looking.

He suits up at home, but frowns when Dad says they’re scheduled to medically treat the local community. As they ride over, Hoon hopes there won’t be that many patients like last time.

Cut to: an endlessly long line out the barnhouse door. HA. Turns out Dad and Hoon volunteer their time as a father-son doctor team. At one point, Dad hands his son the syringe, and when Hoon speaks up that inserting the needle incorrectly could be problematic, Dad encourages him to go by touch and imagine the area in his head.

So Hoon does as he’s told, and successfully draws out the build-up like a pro. After they send the patient away, Dad hands him a bouquet of flowers and sends Hoon off to go and meet his potential father-in-law while he’ll handle the other patients. Aw, these two.

But when Hoon gets to Jae-hee’s place, the light flickers and the door is unlocked. He walks in to find the place completely ransacked. Oh no.

Hoon runs outside, following her voice, and if this couldn’t get any worse, it just did because it starts to thunder and rain. Suddenly someone comes running up to him—it’s Jae-hee, who cries that she’s scared.

He holds her tight, asking her what’s wrong, but that’s when they see a group of soldiers approach. Realizing that she’s running out of time, Jae-hee gets up on her toes and kisses him.

They’re broken apart, and as Jae-hee is dragged away by the guards, she cries that he can’t forget about her. Hoon tries to resist the soldiers holding him back, but gets knocked over the head by the rifle’s butt.

Hoon eventually comes to at home, where he learns that Jae-hee’s father was convicted for a political crime, and as such, the entire family was also subject to punishment. Dad holds his son back from taking off to save Jae-hee, because doing so will only endanger himself.

Hoon marches off anyway, but there are men waiting outside to take him away. He’s led to the Kumsusun Palace of the Sun (otherwise known as Kim Il-sung’s official palatial residence) kicking and yelling the entire way there.

Another man is dragged and shot in front of Hoon. Bad timing or a reminder of who’s in charge? The military officer wielding the gun recognizes our hero—ah, he’s the same man who saved Dad and Hoon all those years ago, otherwise known as Agent CHA JIN-SOO.

Agent Cha gives Hoon and the group a guided tour around the medical research facility, which serves to protect Leader Kim’s health. Upon entrance, one can never leave, lest one wishes to face capital punishment. Neither is their entry their own personal choice—the government decides that.

When one person asks if there’s a chance they could serve as Leader Kim’s personal doctor one day, they’re told that they can either become that prestigious doctor… or end up as one of his research subjects. Eeek.

And then to illustrate the horrible reality of that statement, Hoon’s eyes widen at the frightening sight of sick medical personnel, a pool of blood leading to a darkened operating room that looks like it came straight out from a horror movie. Welcome to hell, indeed.

Five Years Later. Hoon is now a thoracic surgeon at the research facility and gets scolded for leaving the premises without permission again, though the dangling threat of being shot to death hardly scares him. He’s surprised to see Dad, who already knows that his son has been sneaking out at night.

Hoon doesn’t deny it, explaining that he’s been searching through each and every detention camp in hopes to find Jae-hee. Moreover, he couldn’t care less about endangering himself if it meant finding the love of his life.

Agent Cha leads a group through the facility to observe Hoon’s coronary bypass surgery, which faces a hiccup when the power suddenly goes out. Hoon is ordered to stop, arguing that he can’t even see in the darkness, but Hoon is confident in his abilities, and all but rolls his eyes saying that he’s done this procedure countless times before.

We see Hoon tap into his geeenniiuuss ability to picture the problem area, then expertly suture the heart with apparent ease. He jokes with Agent Cha about how the DPRK’s finest research facility could experience a blackout, and I’ll be honest—his breezy tone makes me uneasy for his safety, genius doctor or not.

Agent Cha presents Hoon with another case: the male patient hails from a secret concentration camp, and the order is to take a viable organ from the daughter to save his life.

Hoon refuses, astounded at the idea of killing one person to save the other, but Agent Cha counters that showing off that “big nose” of his to their foreign guests will lead to more funding.

When Hoon still refuses, Agent Cha pins him against the wall, telling him to get off his moral high horse, especially when he’s done much worse here. But Hoon stands by his decision.

He walks past the patients being wheeled in, but something makes him turn back… then a hand drops from the gurney and he sees the red bracelet on her wrist. Oh crap, it’s Jae-hee. He staggers in shock.

It takes all of Hoon’s willpower to hold back his tears looking at Jae-hee’s bruised and battered state lying on the hospital bed. He turns when a hand reaches out to him, and Jae-hee’s father desperately pleads, “Please, please save my Jae-hee.”

Dad notes that the daughter is in worse shape, but there lies some hope to save the father. Hoon asks what might happen if they transplant the father’s kidney to the daughter, only to be told that they’d both die.

Hoon is determined to save the daughter’s life, but Dad reminds him that that isn’t what a doctor does. Hoon tosses the question back at his father, describing the terrifying things he had to do these past five years. What’s the point in being a doctor when he can’t save someone who’s dying?

Then Hoon finally breaks, hollering that it’s his Jae-hee who’s dying right now. In a world where doctor kills people, what’s so wrong about his desire to save his girl?

We see Hoon come out of another surgery in his bloodied scrubs with a jaded expression. Holy crap, did you actually take Jae-hee’s father’s kidney? He lets out a horrified scream in the shower (and I know this is a heart-wrenching scene, but abs!) and then preps for his next surgery. Oh, so you ARE going to try to give Jae-hee his kidney!

But before he can make the first incision, Agent Cha comes to crash the party, and Dad swoops in to say that their foreign guests have agreed to provide research funding. There’s a condition, though: their guests wish to display Hoon’s remarkable skills to the world.

However Hoon refuses to go to Budapest just to make the research facility happy. He then checks in on Jae-hee lying in bed, and promises, “Don’t worry, I won’t lose you again.”

The research facility’s power goes out again, and Hoon returns to his room to find his father waiting for him. Hoon tries to usher Dad out before he’s caught, but Dad urges him to go to Hungary—he has a contact there, and it’ll be Hoon’s last opportunity to escape.

Hoon apologizes, saying that he can’t leave Jae-hee behind. But Dad says that she’ll be going with him; he knows how much his son cares for her. Sending his best wishes for the couple to live happily, he adds that this will be the last time they see each other.

Hoon follows his father to the hallway and says he still won’t go. He won’t leave his father behind, and he’ll figure out a way to protect Jae-hee. He points out the secret passageway he frequently uses to his father, who urges him to reconsider.

Momentarily placing a hand over his father’s, Hoon bids goodbye to Dad and walks off. But then the power comes back on, and Hoon doubles back. Sure enough, we see Dad standing in the courtyard as the spotlights swerve around him. Oh god, did he lock the gate to protect Hoon, too?

Hoon screams repeatedly for his father, who turns back towards his son and sends him a warm smile. And one brief yet excruciating moment later, a shot rings out and Dad falls to the ground, breathing his final few breaths.

 
COMMENTS

A fantastic start for Doctor Stranger with an emotionally driven and narratively strong premiere. Even in its first ten minutes, I was still apprehensive about the show, given how North-South relations is no easy subject matter, especially in a turbulent time in history (I suppose history is a spoiler that tells us Kim Il-sung passed away in 1994).

In that sense, I feel that Doctor has exceed my expectations in doing a fairly solid job of setting the tone of the political tension between the two Koreas in its opening hour. I could feel the pressure of leaving the fate of the world to one surgeon’s hands on a visceral level—how one wrong move could annihilate the Korean peninsula. Furthermore, I appreciated how the premiere spent a majority of its time exploring what life would look like in the world’s most isolated nation, giving us a full spectrum of both the good and the bad without being overt about any of it. We see it in giving medical treatment to the poor, the Kpop tapes, the frequent blackouts, the looming threat of death, and so on. It’s the execution of this particular element I’m most impressed about, since it would only be too easy to resort to displaying negative stereotypes.

And yet, the story already seems to favor our characters more than the politics (which I’m sure we’ll see more of in this show), something I’m happy to see. I love how the show draws out the emotional tension between its characters at any given moment, be it in the war room or operating room. Already we see the corrupt politician in Assemblyman Jang, who would gamble the lives of his fellow citizens to receive prestige and praise. I wouldn’t call him necessarily evil or villainous at this point, but he isn’t an upstanding pillar of morality either. Then there’s the wonderful father-son relationship, which honestly brought me to tears at times. I suppose you shouldn’t expect any less when you cast someone fantastic as Kim Sang-joong who brings such depth and makes a short appearance so memorable.

I wasn’t altogether sold on the geniiiuuus doctor hero introduction before the show premiered, since it’s an archetype we’ve seen in practically every medical drama ever. So it was up to both the writers and Lee Jong-seok to sell me on our hero, and I can say that I’m relieved and pleased by Hoon’s journey already. Hoon is fearless, rebellious, and even a little cocky because he knows just how good he is. Like I said before, there are times where I’m torn between being impressed and fearful to watch him defy authority even if he’s managed to survive a Frankenstein-y research facility for five years. But we also see that Hoon is also incredibly loyal because he wouldn’t take the chance to escape while leaving his loved ones behind.

Which leads us to the epic romance between Hoon and Jae-hee, whose adorable and loving relationship sometimes reminded me of The King 2 Hearts aka that other recent-ish drama with lovers crossing the 38th parallel. We can see just how in love he is and how much they care for each other, which helps us understand his desperation to save her.

On a different note, I was a bit confused on our timeline starting from when we made our initial time jump. There were historical markers that helped ground us back in 1994, but then two fast-forwards made the years in-between practically arbitrary. I don’t always expect a show to anchor us in a certain year, but when you’re also dealing with bits of history, having those markers is quite helpful. Even with a gennniiuuuss doctor, this is the kind of medical drama I love: the ones with heart (hur) and an emotionally steady beat. Fingers crossed that this one doesn’t flatline anytime soon.

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Will probably give this a try. Sounds interesting

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Did anyone else read the intro and skimmed the screencaps to find choco abs before actually reading the recap?

(sorry for hijacking your post Jill)

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Then I'll hijack yours Acquatic Ape. :)

LJS picks such good projects I think, I mean, he is a great actor, we all know that but it really helps that he picks compelling characters and he makes them come to life. He's excellent.

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*spoiler=y

The strongest scene by far in the pilot/premiere was when he was shouting at his dad about what being a doctor really means. Is it saving a life? Is he not allowed to kill? The raw and visceral emotion LJS portrayed (and i'm not even a huge fan of him + i'm a dude so the hot factor doesn't apply) gave me goosebumps. Guy is a damn good actor.

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I did!

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Anyone thinks he looks like Michael Jackson in this show?

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Here we go again, sweetie are you the same person commenting in every article about Jong suk's nose ??

seriously get over it ..it is "Doctor Stranger " Recap if you have nothing to say about the drama then zip it....

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Really. If I could get over talking about that woman's neck mole in 'Three Days,' other people should be able to get over this guy's nose.

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Lol! :-)

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I don't see the similarities but michael jackson nose or not the guy is a hottie, i'm really satisfied with the 1st episode, it did a really good job of setting up the story, i'm just waiting for LJS to reach South Korea, he was very good and his love story with JSY was very cute to say the least, also the father-son story was touching.

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No

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With all the other pretty on display, you were looking at his nose?

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You're creepy!

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again?

What is with the fixation on his nose, anyway? Yes, he had an unnecessary nose job but that's hardly unique in South Korea and he's talented enough to make me look past it.

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I thought it was funny when LJS seemingly broke the fourth wall with his 'big nose' comment. It'll be cool if he was genuinely sport about it.

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just dont watch or read anything related to lee jong suk if his nose bothers you that much.
why did you have to click this post and write such a comment? just go away.

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Ok just to shut this persistent seeming multi-account poster I looked up LJS's school day pictures. Here it is and no, it does not seem to be any different from what he has now. Some make-up and shading definitely helps but nose job? You can't convince me.

http://static.askkpop.com/images/celebs/Korea/26189/Lee_Jong_Suk_258.jpg

In contrast, a certain spammer on the other threads who also has been targeting LJS and hailing Lee Min Ho as natural, here it is:

http://surgerybeforeafter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Lee-Min-Ho-Plastic-Surgery-Before-After.jpg

Sorry Lee Min Ho fans, but if you read the other threads you'll know why I have to link this.

I'm not against PS, but get some more evidence before hurling insults.

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I thought exactly the same thing!

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Okay, now I have to watch it to figure out how the United States somehow gets the blame for initiating whatever international crisis the writer is flashing back to in 1994. And what a "seaplane barge" is, although I'm pretty sure we are referring to an aircraft carrier.

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Blame US for Everything was an idea in South Korea that peaked with the Nobel Laureate President Kim and his Sunshine Policy. It is now hopelessly discredited, of course, as the subsequent events all but bankrupted it (most notably by North Korea itself).

A derivative strain of Blame US, of more recent origin, idolizes North Korea. This one is still running its course.

The reality circa 1994 was that the US was ever worried about getting dragged into a full-scale war by either Korea.

Now, I am not sure. On one hand, the status quo on the Korean Peninsula has become untenable for all. On the other hand, no one sees a good way out.

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Right. When I discuss it with Americans, they tend to be puzzled by the whole thing. But American public policy has not really changed in sixty years: avoid a real war and wait the North Koreans out.

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That has been the US policy for at least 50 years, and the US has never seriously considered doing a first attack on North Korea. If they had wanted an excuse to do so, then the USS Pueblo would have been all that the US needed.

I think this writer really needs a history lesson.

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If you watched more Korean dramas you would know that many historical events are portrayed inaccurately for purposes of dramatization and plot device and the United States doesn't get any special treatment in this regard.

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Having seen around 400 Korean dramas and movies, I am fully aware of that - but I seldom see them go THIS far off the track, where actual easy to check historical facts are so easy to check.

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Windsun, the writers and drama makers are a big part of "idolize North Korea, blame US" movement. Just like Hollywood.

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@ Marina - you have a point. There must be hundreds of US movies that start with the idea that some evil military general is going to kill the president, or start a war, or other such anti-plots.

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On the other hand, I've got friends in military service and I have GOT to tell them about the two billion dollar "Seaplane Barges" we've got in the 7th Fleet!

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If US would stop inserting their big nose into everyone's business may be someday this Trend of "Blame US for everything" will die off ?
I mean since they show up every where, in every world affair, one can't help but always wonder, you know.

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Supporting global allies is by definition "your business." Sheesh.

Is it an accident that S. Korea has reached it's potential over the past 60 years? Or might it have to do with the fact that having a strong ally has helped keep it's wealth in-country - instead of being carried off by it's neighbors?

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If you wan´t to call yourself an ally, there has to be some kind of relationship beforehand. And in the beginning as far as I Know there were non of that between US and Korea. I think the problem is that US always has to involving themselves in other country, like Iraq, Vietnam. The attitude US is giving is that they are the big brother that has the power to interfere. I think that there is no harm in being modest.

What I like about internet is that it is showing that the world is getting closer in a peaceful way. Like here where we are talking about kdrama. Friends are bounding beyond borders. even when there are culture difference, we are all humans whit the same humans instinct, like; hunger, love, pride. I think we sometime are forgetting that.
(sorry for my bad english, it is not my mother language)

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Lama: while I can certainly see your point on the fiascos in Vietnam and Iraq--and a few other distant places--the United States got involved in Korea because of the war with Japan and Stalin's empire-building after that war. The Korean War, on the other hand, was started by Kim-Il-Sung and no one else. The records released with the end of the Cold War verified that Josef Stalin and Mao Tse Tung both thought it was a bad idea, the South Korean government had no idea what it was doing, and the American government was clueless and ill-prepared, having disbanded the larger part of its army and air force. Eventually, everyone involved just sort of got stuck in place. Stalin, per the Soviet records, kept his support for the North low key. He was the only national leader involved who understood that the conflict was likely to become a stalemate.

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@ Lama:

Several times in the past the US has proposed turning over control of all defense forces - including US forces - to Korean control, and South Korea has rejected it.

While I am sure that in the long run South Korea alone could kick North Korea's butt, the fact that US forces are there as a trigger puts North Korea on notice that it would be a huge mistake to actually attack.

While Iraq II was founded on some pretty shaky intel, I am sure that North Korea took note of the hundreds of precision cruise missiles raining down on Baghdad and pretty much destroying anything they wanted to at will.

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I've heard some South Korean POVs on North Korea and the situation with the tensions that exist and, being American, I've heard American/Western POVs on North Korea and the tensions that exist. Let's just say the S. Korean POVs don't see N. Korea in the same kind of light as the American POVs (the people I've heard from don't speak for all S. Koreans), and they don't see N. Korea as being nearly as prone to war as America does.

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The US is in the position of damned if they do and damned if they don't. S. Korea wouldn't be S. Korea if the US didn't get involved in their business. It would be one Korea under Kim Jong Un. It's an irony that Vietnam and Japan like the US while S. Korea doesn't. And I thought the country that gets help would appreciate the one who helps them but here the ones got bombed appreciate them more.

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I don't think it's as universal as it seems. Among those I know, the children of people who lived through the war realize the difference between the war's participants. And they are VERY grateful for the friendship S Korea shares with the US.

I think what we may perceive as lack of appreciation is actually the drum beat of politically motivated 'talking points' being interjected into the news and entertainment sectors. The aim is 're-education', in the most applicable [regional] sense of the word.

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I think Bera is correct. While it is sometimes politically popular to rail at the US, a couple of times in the past when the US actually considered pulling out or reducing it's forces in Korea, there was a TON of fast backtracking.

The Philippines went through that "get America out" phase so the US closed all of it's bases there. And now a few years later, we have this: "(Reuters) - Up to five Philippine military bases will be made available for U.S. forces to rotate aircraft, ships, equipment and troops, Manila's chief negotiator of a new security pact said on Friday, as the Philippines looks to counter China's rising power in the region."

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I don't know for 1994, but you definitely need to check out what happened between Bush and SK/NK in 2001/2002, which totally influenced today's relationship between NK and the rest of the world.

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That part about the US on the verge of bombing North Korea back to (or up to?) the stone age was totally stupid on the writers part.

But the ".. the resulting radiation levels from the nuclear attack alone would render one-third of the nation unlivable for the next 200 years..." was even stupider.

I find it bothersome that I know more about that time in Korean history than a Korean writer does, or perhaps the writer is counting on memories of what happened 20 years ago to be pretty fuzzy.

And despite the apparent success of the operation, there is this minor glitch from the North Korea timeline: "July 9, 1994: North Korean President Kim Il Sung dies and is succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il."

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Not everything the US gov. do behind the closed walls and deplomatic tables the American public know. Those incidents portrayed in episode 1 about 1994 are the historical facts. US was having issues with N. Korea having the nuclear weapons and its facilities in YoungPyun. Hec! North's nuclear ability is on going conflicts between US, North, South, and possibly Japan since many decades ago and even today.

Kim Il-Sung did have a period of no public appearance due to his illness and one time in 1994 there was a rumor that he had died already but North are hiding and that his successor Kim Jung-Il is a crazy monster that he would probably attack South or US etc.

And because of these unfounded crazy rumors were so rampan people were buying and stacking unparishable food (like ramen) and water and etc. and some people who had applied for visa went to US embassy trying get the passport (as showed in the drama - they were not attacking US embassy. they were screaming for visa and passport)

Of course, the US gov. informed S. Korea that if KIS's death is confirmed they will attack YP nuclear facility before KJI takes over power and had ordered to move their battleship near Korean peninsula.

China, Russia and Japan and S. Koran also had their own objections to the plan and the drama didn't go into it but there were quite a tension between all these powers and deplomatic talks behind the scenes.

Then of course KIS appeared public and show that he is still well and alive, and Jimmy Carter formal president who has been playing the peace ambassuder for many years since his retired presidency offered to go to North to ahve a talk with KIS to clear war cloud.

The scene where Park Hoon and Song Jae Hee first met was the scene on the TV that Candy Kim sees Hoon giving flower and get a pack on the chick from Mrs. Carter and JH giving flower to formal pres. Carter.

Of course KIS died shortly after that. Some of these facts you maybe able to google it or if you read some of the books regarding political reminescents of US policies and deplomatic accounts for or against Korea or Eastern Asia may give you some ideas.

Just because they weren't public knowledge to ordinary Americans, doesn't mean they didn't exist. No govnm in the world are all good or all evil. Every country works for their own interests and start or stop the war. America is not exception to that.

Korea and US are allies sure. and US do provide military and other support but not soley for Korea's benefit. It is part of their containment policy towards Russia, China and Japan. Korea is geopolitically very important place in Asia for US against those three world powers.

The recount of the drama also didn't blame US for anything. They just portrayed how the Korean govnmt (of course fictional level) reacted to US's decision to distroy YP nuclear facility during N Korea's turmoil created by KIS's death and to eliminate decade long headach once and for all...

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[continue]

i read so many bashing comments about writers them being wrong about historical facts and make US look bad or blame everything bad for US etc, and being so very defensive about US and its policies. I just want to point out that they are the facts.

You may not get all the facts Koreans or other countymens have regarding their countries relationship with US because there is a limit to how much the public gets to know about delicate deplomatic issues within white house or in the pentagon.

Many Koreans who are old enough at the time remember that year because it was covered by news medias daily and so many politicians and intellectuals have debated on and off the air and the people were in fear if the war would broke out any time soon or something.

And I don't remember the exact year it happened but the kidnapping of a reknown surgeon by the north was also a fact. It did happen. Of course in dr. Stranger it was voluntary visit tricked by corrupted S. Korean politician.

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Okay...My next drama after 3days ended..looks super intense..surely will check this one^^

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Out of the three new M/T dramas, I've been waiting for this the most. Not because of LJS, but because of the PD.

I liked the first episode though I had some flashbacks of City Hunter due to the PD and 2/3 of CH's daddies. Was a little disappointed that Kang Sora was not the female lead (hope we get to see her and the 2nd male lead in E02).

Hoping that Oh Joon-sung would provide the BGM as he did with some of this PD's previous dramas.

Thanks for the recaps. The last drama I watched in full was Emergency Couple and I'm happy that there's something I could watch again that I'm confident would have a satisfying ending. Then there's also LSG's new drama on W/Th so that would complete my week for the next 3 months.

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ah, the small reunion of city hunter's casts: bad daddy and the president. Love both ahjusshi. All in all, it looks promising and I'm waiting for Park Hae Jin's character. ^_^

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Poor Bad Daddy. Any time he's involved with something North-Korea related, he gets screwed by the same guy.

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Exactly my thought !
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Hahaha, my thoughts exactly! But City Hunter Daddy is one fine ahjussi! And that voice, OMG.

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Lol, speaking of which, let's hope Congressman Jang doesn't have any kids of his own. Every time he has a (drama) son, they get kidnapped at an early age and turned into a highly trained assassin, and usually at some point are sent after him.

Calling it now - the main or some male side character will have some birth secret related to Jang. :D

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Lol, maybe park hae jin is the secret son.

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Actually, I'd put my money on Agent Cha. This guy (Jang)'s sons don't just get kidnapped early on, they get kidnapped to ANOTHER COUNTRY, where they get trained to become badass killers before ending up back in South Korea. I'd say Agent Cha could fit that bill, but I will LOL hard if something like this does end up playing out in this drama.

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And episode 2 has that evil minister (the one played by the secretary from MS) and Ahjussi! :D
It really is a CH reunion, haha.

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Yeah, I see City Hunter's daddies 2 and 3 as well as targets 4 and 5. Since this is on SBS and is being directed by the City Hunter PD, want to bet that more familiar faces will be showing up as cameos or side roles?

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please recap the big man tooo

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Every time she gets engaged she dies ...... If her other character dies..... I'm done ........

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I'm actually half-hoping she dies. ;)

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Tryna come for Kim Nam Gil's crown.

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canxi ~

If Kim Nam Gil and Jin Se-yeon were engaged in a drama, what would happen?

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Great first episode! This show is really engaging, right from the start. The PD clearly knows what he is doing and I found the episode largely superior to the pilots of Big Man and Triangle.

Now we just have to pray that the transition from thriller drama to medical drama goes smoothly. What will make or break this show will be finding the right balance between the two sides of this drama (and let's not forget the romance side). That's very similar to what FOX tried to do on american television last year with The Mob Doctor (which as you may guess is part about mob stuff and part about doctor stuff), but the show never found its footing and was a rating disaster.

Now going back to the first episode, I was wondering about how little Hoon got into North Korea. We don't see him on the boat with his dad, so how did that happen?
Was he given by Assemblyman Jang? Did the North Koreans kidnap him? But if that's the case why didn't they kidnap his dad too while they were at it instead of negociating with the assemblyman?

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Maybe sending the doctor over was a diplomatic move, but Hoon was taken over as insurance. You know, 'Do a good job or we kill your son.'
And at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theory nut, maybe the assemblyman had Hoon taken to the North so there wouldn't be anyone left behind to ask questions when his father didn't return.

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The first half of the first episode left me with serious doubts about this writer. The actual history and events were so distorted that they bear no relationship to reality at that time. And if the operation was so successful, why did Kim Il Sung die anyway (in real history)?

The 2nd half was better, I think the writer did a fairly good job of portraying just how brutal and evil North Korea is (though the medical experimentation part is a bit flaky, some of that did in fact happen).

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In this altered history, he probably died of infection. As soon as I saw those soldiers barge in with their germ infested guns in the operating room, all I could think about was post surgery infections.

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I would say the first episode left an impact. It was really packed and things just happened one after another. I'm loving the pacing of it, and the one hour passed too quickly.

But I felt that they were probably slightly too ambitious, and were trying to set up too many things in one single episode, causing a lack of development in some parts. Some things were also unaccounted for - the 5 years where Hoon was kept in the research lab, how Jaehee managed to leave such a big impact in Hoon's life. I don't quite feel for Parkhoon/Jaehee. yes, Parkhoon/Jaehee were cute, but that's about it.

That aside, let's just take a moment to appreciate LJS's acting. He was impressive. I particularly loved the Park Hoon and daddy scenes because it was just so beautiful to watch, the interactions and chemistry and all.

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I guess it doesn't need to be shown why Jae Hee had such an impact on Park Hoon. From the beginning, where they first talked he was attracted to her very big and friendly smile. From that moment I knew that if somebody later asked him what it was that made him like her so much, he would answer her happy smile. I think partly that's why they casted JSY, because she really has a great smile. I love hers.
Besides, they grew up together. They met when they were really young and probably spent most of their times together, so I don't think it was really necessary to show even more of the "why?" because it was obvious.

BUT, knowing how the drama plays out now, everything went downhill after the flash forward. The plot had so much holes and JSY character swayed the whole time and made like no sense. She had nothing of the Jae Hee that we met before (while I get that she changed because of what happened to her, but she was like 100% another person), because the producers really wanted to make us believe that she was in fact not Jae Hee. But that went totally downhill.

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The plot of Dr. Stranger is really good. Many viewers know that. Triangle is rather ordinary.

The chemistry of Lee Jong Suk and Jin Se Yeon is so good you feel a real connection between the characters. I love it and the father and son relationship. "I miss my father a lot" because of this show.

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My first impression of Triangle is that I only made through 60% of the first episode. I think that is a new record for me. Personally I think it totally sucks.

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I'm also working at the hospital but it works out for me.

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i think because i'm working in medical field i found very boring with this kind drama/movie but let see i think i will watch this for the romance

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Awwww same kid who played little LJS in I Hear Your Voice.

Waiting for Park Hae Jin

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First thing i noticed was the kid playing the young version of Jong Seok -- he was young Soo Ha, too, right? So cute <3 so will he be playing young Jong Seok forever?! Hahaha...

Thanks for the recap! Super excited to watch this show ^^

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As a medical student who's older than Lee Jongsuk, I just can't help rolling my eyes at the fact that Lee Jongsuk's playing a doctor who's done a lot of coronary bypass surgeries for 5 years. Please. Genius my ass.

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I know it is unrealistic but it's just a drama for god's sake not a real life documentary. Anything is possible in the world of dramaland.

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Duh. Of course, I know that. It doesn't mean I can't scoff at it, though.

He looks nice in scrubs and in the white coat. :)

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I am a med student too ^^ and i just recently got over my allergy for medical related dramas because they never failed to make me scoff, roll my eyes, and try to pull off my hair xp.... anyhoo best thing to do is: don't think rationally about it, just accept it as it is ...
By the way... am I the only one who wishes that he doesn't end up with his first love?? I don't know why exactly, but apparently, i am allergic to the lead actress too xs xs

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The only med k-drama I've seen and liked so far is Third Hospital. Probably 'cause the premise of modern medicine vs. oriental medicine really interested me. And 'cause Oh Jiho is so damn fine. <3

And for other med shows, only House, ER, and Scrubs do it for me. Just NO to Grey's Anatomy.

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Yeah, even "seaplane barges" :P

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In the old time, I guess a man/boy who had a potential to be a doctor could start practicing when he was relatively young while nowadays in the modern countries, one has to go to a med school/univ and takes a longer years to complete his foundation study of medicine then finally learns to master surgeries. I guess because this was in N. Korea(not one of those modern countries), they can go straight to learn surgeries without many years of medical education??? That is what I thought.

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It just occurred to me that there was a 12 years old surgeon in India (must be older now) who performed his first surgery when he was 7 yrs old... and many such geniuses all over the world. Also as a genius Doctor in North Korea, I guess he got learn about surgery much earlier aiding his father.
Also my cousin (not really a genius but probably a smartie) finished her MSc in Microbiology and she is 17 years old. She is now preparing for her MPhil.

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Well, he probably got to practice a lot on all those healthy hearts.

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The genius part is stupid. I think KDramas are obsessed with the idea of genius. Their protagonists are either born with a silver spoon or have some incredible talent (from birth). Sounds screwed up to me.

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Well if they are successful in getting ratings with those kind of stories i don't see a reason for them to change it.

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Agree. :) It's always the guys though, arent' they? The female leads are forever trapped into a Candy esque personality, in a few dramas over the last months there was a change in them but I think it was just a small wave and it's going away now. We're back in Candyland.

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So true. Talk about a gender bias.

Tho Medical Top Team is the only show I've seen so far that had a geeeenius female doctor with Jung Ryeo Won's character. Every other drama it's always a dude.

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well, there was Goddess of Fire, with the geeenius female potter but she kind of had to be female there since the character was an actual historical personality.

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Oh yea...I wiped that drama from my memory to save my sanity. I guess we can include her. lol

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@ravens_nest - I don't blame you, I've done pretty much the same ha!

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yeah, we had some great female characters in dramas in the latter half of 2013 - Jang Hye-sung, Tae Gong-shil, Oh Ji-young and Chun Song-yi were particular bright spots I remember with great fondness. And I wish the success of three of those dramas actually did lead to writers realising audiences like non-Candy characters too.

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Fearless forecast Jae-hee will die like most of Jin Se-yeon's roles refer to Gaksital and Inspiring Generation. Did she die in Five Fingers?

Her bliss will not be for long...:(

Too many new dramas... still wondering whether I'll pick this.

Thanks for the recap!

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No she didn't die in Five Fingers.
Perhaps she won't die in modern dramas, hahaha

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Hehe I lost the whole plot during the abs part (with link! how generous!) so had to start reading again, not that I'm complaining!

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Who's the lead female, seriously??? KANG SORA or JIN SEYEON????

I don't say that i don't like Jin Seyeon, or hate her (watching her in Gaksital and Inspiring Generation, yeah, not bad). but i root for Sora - Jongsuk here. LOL. (ikr this drama just started).

In the first, when the drama not yet aired, i think the lead female is Kang Sora because i ever read some article about "Kang Sora to be Caught in Love Triangle with Lee Jongsuk and Park Hae Jin". And now, after watching the ep 1, i got so many questions. lol. Will Jongsuk fall in love with Sora? End up with Sora? Or just keep thinking that his love is Seyeon?

The description of Jin Seyeon's role is "Park Hoon's first love from North Korea) / Han Seung-hee (an anesthesiologist with secret identity and mission".

BTW, Jin Seyeon. I hope you're not dead anymore. In Gaksital, you die. In Inspiring Generation, you die. With description "secret identity and mission" in this drama, I'm worried you're gonna die (again).

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I'm secretly shipping Sora and Jongsuk too ;)

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some epic first love stories i like but i have not warmed to this one. and as of now, it doesn't look like i will so i'm glad you two put it out there first. hahahaha. i'm thinking the same thing already, unless sora's character turns out to be horrible then i might just hope for singledom and bromance between he and rival doctor park hae jin instead. :)

btw, does anyone else think lee jong suk needs to work on his kissing skills? say...he needs to work it a little more like gong yoo (tingles just thinking about gong yoo...) seeing the image of the kiss in the recap reminded me of lee jong suk kissing lee bo young in i hear your voice and i was not impressed. :P (i mean, i'd love to volunteer as a practice partner)

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What do you mean his kissing skill? He wasn't kissing. She did and he is all confused standing there trying to digest what is going on and saw the soldies with guns approaching. I doubt he even has mind to realize what she was doing bc his attention is focused on the soldiers who are after JH. zees

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It's okay, this is not a pre-modern drama, there is hope for her to live ! haha
I think the lead is JSY though.

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I root for Kang Sora too. I don't know why but I don't like Jin Seyeon.
I'm giving it a try because I adore LJS and first episode looked really well, but I have to make an effort, haha!!
Let's see how it goes :D

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I think i'll give this drama a try... after I finish my finals in mid-June.

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It was surprisingly a really captivating and solid episode. I enjoyed it right from the start. I wasn't hooked by the teasers and the idea of a 'genius' doctor but somehow they managed to make it work. That father/son relationship and the cute moments between Hoon and Jae Hee! I hope the show continues to be this good and I can't wait until we move to South Korea.

But seriously though, why do all the good dads always die?!?!

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Maybe I will watch this. Not really a fan of anyone involved (as in I don't follow their filmography very closely) but I like a good North/South Korea story and medical dramas with heart.

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i don't care about the couple actually
i care about his father
such a lovely character

i cry twice for him
1. when he comes back for his son
2. for sacrificing his life so that his son can escape from north Korea

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There is a First Love epidemic in kdramas lately...

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Not lately, really. It's ALWAYS been a thing.

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It's not an epidemic, it is a persistent chronic disease.

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Lee Jong-Seok's abs?
Okayyy, I'm in.

He's also an amazing actor though! :P

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This was really good!
I love your recaps gummimochi :)

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This was really good!
I love your recaps gummimochi!

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Thanks for the rapid recap, Gummimochi!

I loved this premiere - the pacing and overall ambiance really gave off first ep City Hunter vibes, alumni reunion notwithstanding...

Had to laugh at the geeeenius doctor take - at least they alluded to it when little Hoon visualized the method of stitching up a heart and replicated it using ribbons.

The only thing I find jarring here is as an American citizen watching (and loving!) Kdramas, I find it very difficult to see any depiction of North Korea in anything other than what we know is really happening there. It's too difficult to separate the lighthearted scenes from the reality. Students buying bootleg kpop in kdramaland aren't hunted down and murdered as they are in real life.

One final question. I watched this at Viki and the subs there described the father/daughter surgery combo as needing new kidneys, not a heart. Which was it?

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Ack, you know what happened there? I confused heart shimjang (심장) with something-like-but-not-necessarily kidney shinjang (신장). Thanks for the catch!

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I too was rather disappointed at how light and frivolous they made the k-pop tape scene look, when in fact it is something that people end up in gulags for. Perhaps it was a way of showing just how totally naïve he was at that time about the situation he was in.

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Let me just say that I know that dramaland uses the whole genius thing too often and that while it is artistic genius is more believable than say... a 20-something medical genius.
... let's take a look at his circumstances.
His father is a talented surgeon (the government recruited him: evidence enough), genetics do help. If you watch documentaries about N Korea you may know that they really do nurture the talents of their youth specifically for the use of their leader; and the program is usually VERY thorough and extensive (we're not talking about our normal high school and college learning curve here - note even by S Korean standards). Also he has been forced to complete experimental surgeries; horrific yes, but still they do provide a lot of scope for learning by trial and error. Also these surgeries were not performed in normal hospital conditions, were a doctor may only perform 1 or 2 in a heart surgeries in a given week. No, people were being constantly brought to him to be operated on.

So yes, him being a genius surgeon at his age is a stretch, but given the circumstances I'll like to think of it as a tall hill rather than a daunting mount Everest.

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True. But working against that...

It's assumed they're recruiting the top doctors to work at the house of horrors. But if the rules are to either become the best or become the experiment: isn't the state systematically either killing off or psychologically destroying it's best and brightest?

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Exactly, I thought it was stupid to kill off the father because he was an asset , being a talented surgeon and all.

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I thought it was stupid to kill the Dad given that he is "useful" but I wondered whether they were not just shooting indiscriminately without checking who it actually was since to the shooters it might have simply been a person trespassing where no one should have been... (Which is stupid, but I could see that happen in autocratic nation.)

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Oh my! Just reading the recap, I am all tears... I don't think I will be able to watch it for the shear amount of pain it is going to give me... maybe I'll wait for few more episode to really decide. Awwww..... :/

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This looks solid, like most of the PD's other efforts - I really appreciated the stylishness and gorgeous visuals of City Hunter and Master's Sun, and given a young actor as solid as Lee Jong-seok (who really is a terrible dancer, in the most adorable/intentional way - now I see why he got booted from idol training, ha) it should be good. Can't wait to get to Park Hae-jin and Kang Sora, now.

This new Mon-Tues race is really tight, Big Man isn't looking nearly as stupid as its premise would suggest and Triangle has a really slender lead, let's see how it all shakes down.

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Thank you for the recaps! :)
I just finished watching this first episode and I must say that it was SOLID for me.
Before it aired, I knew the director wouldn't let me down and I must say that he exceeded my expectations.
No wonder I loved The Master's Sun when it aired back in 2013.
Actually, the director brought me here and the other one I'm looking forward to is Kang Sora.
To the cast and to the coming episodes, hwaiting! :)

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Interesting, the comparison between this show and K2H. The feel of this show almost kind of gives me the feel of the way K2H was filmed in terms of tone -- epic love, comedy, thriller, and drama, and a whole bunch of foreigners with awkward acting (though now i just have to accept it).

There were some moments that maybe i could not take seriously, and ended up chuckling a bit. And that was mainly because of that one overwrought BGM that makes the scene veer into overly dramatic territory (the one played during the scene where they're torn apart in the rain). As well as the parts that were milked to accommodate the "genius" aspect (again, now i just have to accept it despite rolling my eyes at it).

What really intrigues me the most about this show is Hoon-Ah and his days trapped in that facility, forced to do experimental surgeries. Not too fond of medical procedures in k-dramas, but i find that aspect is one of the things that makes hoon-ah a complex character and is what'll set him apart from other doctors and adds the "stranger" in doctor stranger.

Let us all take a moment to praise kim sang joon's cameo (why has no one mentioned him yet in beanut gallery?!). His voice is captivating. His presence demands your attention. Overall, in all of his scenes he is able to exude a mysterious complexity about his character. Given the circumstances father and son are in, his noble sacrifice rang truer than most.

Some minor quibbles but overall it had my attention with the mix up of genres not seemingly so hodgepodgy (which is my favorite kind to watch).

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Among the premiering dramas for the Monday-Tuesday slot, I was most concerned with this one and admittedly I was more invested and interested with Big Man, and chose to defer if not completely pass on Triangle. Most of my reservations sprung from its highly ambitious melding of genres that just came of as plain egregious. Then came the trailers—the confusing tonal shifts and the hilarious BGM—I have conditioned myself and my expectations that this one will be truly messy. With that in mind, I dove into the first episode very cautiously; as the first scene starts rolling and introducing us with the initial premise: the life of one man and the entire Korean peninsula suddenly hangs on a balance, and is literally on one cardiothoracic surgeon’s hands, then—BAM accompanied by the glaring epic orchestra score, the introduction could not have been any more cheesy. I was laughing. I thought my fears were already confirmed, but there was more to the drama than the wacky, if not intended, tonal shift.

That aside, truly, this show’s premiere wasn’t half-bad at all. It has successfully established the primary premise behind the drama, and as pointed out by gummimochi, it was able to paint a much more realistic NoKor and their relationship with SoKor (not that I’m saying that I’m an authority to dictate the authenticity of it—I’m by no means an expert nor do I have expansive knowledge of how life truly is in NoKor), which wasn’t necessarily over the top as some action shows depicted it like IRIS or romanticized if not downright domesticated like K2H. I like that it has the right balance of showing how life can be both normal (NK youth enjoys K-pop too!) but at the same time frightening in NoKor.

The medical genius part wasn’t even bothering me, as a consequence of me having become desensitized by the overabundance of the trope, I have come to a point that I simply do not need to suspend my disbelief anymore. There were however some logical questions that were raised in my mind, such as the significance of KIS’s death as an incentive for the US to bomb the isolated nation, when they have enough precedence to do so already. To be honest, I don’t see him surviving as a deterrent, if the US chose to do so and annihilates NoKor. These questions were raised as a result of my apparent ignorance of SoKor history, but a quick google did inform me that KIS did in fact die in 1994. So tragedy averted after all?

(1/2)

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(2/2)

Suffice to say, this premiere episode was heavily condensed with the political aspect that made it difficult to judge whether the continuous tonal shifts would eventually become the pitfall of the show. So far, it had been consistent with one serious tone, even when there were some light moments of Hoon selling bootleg K-pop or running around with JH. I expectantly look forward once the show finally situates itself back to SoKor and introduce us to the ‘rom-com’ aspect of it. So far, Hoon doesn’t seem to be “hardcore” or “angtsy” enough to be an oddball genius in SoKor—even when he has lived a significant part of his life in NoKor and most of his youth on a surgery bootcamp, he remains quite upbeat, at least in my perception that is. Episode 2 will be decisive of what kind of character he eventually will become.

Individually, there is little yet for me to say about the respective characters. Both Hoon and Jae Hee are easy on the eyes and their romance, although quite short, seems to be believable enough, while the other half of the lead (or should I say 3/5 of it? Since technically JSY plays 2 characters?) is yet to be seen. Meanwhile, Jae Hee, who is the only other major character introduced in the first episode, comes of slightly generic to me. How I wish that the show could supplant us more of her background, but I guess since she’s intended to be ‘mysterious’, then there will be very little of her. I can only look forward to SH’s interaction with Hoon and remain intrigued with JJ. I’ll hold on to my thoughts for that now, and look forward for tonight’s episode.

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wow, just wow. It is really interesting and ... serious. I was a bit taken aback by the year 2007 (seems so recent that it was hard to believe in horrible things happening), but ... yeah. I just have to see how they will present the "other/same" girl and how it will affect the storyline. So far, so good.

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he's had plastic surgery right? His face is so weird....

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A friend of mine always says "don't argue with the drama". But, I have to say, the show's 'Wile E Coyote' perspective on N. Korean missile deployment capabilities vs US missile defense capabilities did made me giggle:

"In the event that Kim Il-sung passes away, the U.S. will take the opportunity to strike the North, who will retaliate with a counter-attack on both the U.S. military and more importantly, a South Korean nuclear facility. Even if war were to break out, the resulting radiation levels from the nuclear attack alone would render one-third of the nation unlivable for the next 200 years."

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Wow, that's dumb. The whole American take on the passing of Kim Il-sung was based on the feeble hope that he would be followed by someone who wasn't a Stalinist nut-job. Attacking North Korea was never even considered. What would have been the point?

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The really dumb thing about the plot is that he did in fact die just a few weeks or months after this supposedly took place, yet nothing happened except that one King Joffrey was replaced with another.

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I'm totally shocked anyone liked this. Really.

It was awful!!!! I can just see another Level 7 in the works, I love the guy but he just can't save a bad show. Everything was just so absurd.

Do they even worry about making the Americans and North-Koreans look like idiots and monsters? The music was so over the top it made me laugh. In fact I laughed a lot but in all the wrong moments. That ridiculous freak show facility, the genius doctor scenes, the stupid politics.

Their romance was so cliche, from the first encounter as children to the fated re-encounter, it was just bad.

It is a top security place but they don't know their precious doctor is walking around into every "camp" he finds right? His father also has magic powers since he seems to have free access. Then he just figures the way to convince his son to flee is not to escape together or assure him somehow he will go later even if it's a lie, no, it's better and less traumatic to get shot.

I loved when the crazy mom who was in the US, previously yelling how much she wanted nothing to do with her son, suddenly showed up in Seul at a gathering to scream at a politician she wouldn't even know had anything to do with anything.

If I missed some reasonable explanations for any of those absurds, sorry, it was just too crazy.

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Thank you! I thought I was the only one. I laughed a lot throughout this episode and not because they wanted me too. I have to completely disagree with this recap because I think the show takes itself WAY too seriously. And I agree that so much about this setup was absurd especially the music and the overall tone, the hospital of horrors, and that ridiculous moment when the power goes out so LJS has to do surgery in the dark. I mean, come ON. I might give it another episode, but so far I am not impressed. And I'm pretty easy to please honestly. Not to mention that the gratuitous shower scene makes it hard to take any non-comedy seriously when they pull it out in the very first episode.

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You're welcome. :) I disagreed too and it's odd because as long as kdramas go I also consider myself pretty easy to please. I mean, I laughed but I managed to finish Heirs and many other crazy shows! Somehow I get the feeling DS won't be among those. I will give it another chance too but only because of my appreciation for LJS and his strange nose eehehehhe.

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Obviously great minds think alike. I had many of the same problems you did, plus a few more. Though I do have to differ on one point - there really ARE a lot of North Korean monsters, and while perhaps not idiots, I would say that the inmates are running the asylum.

But why does the writer think that the US would unilaterally attack North Korea while only "informing" South Korea that it intends to do so? That part was way over the top.

I will watch a couple more episodes, but having serious doubts about this drama - though it might be one of those that I keep watching just to poke sharp sticks into all the plot holes.

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Hi windsun, I didn't mean there are no monsters or idiots over there but instead that the show seemed to depict them as such in an almost careless way, like the writer couldn't imagine we would judge the character's actions and consider the lack of reason. :)

The complete attack story was one of the biggest holes but since it was a stepping stone to place the father over there, I was totally willing to forget this. I'm way more patient forgiving one huge mistake like that than character personality inconsistency like Hoon's behaviour.

I have done that too, watch shows I don't even like just because I have to know how far the nonsense goes and how does it end. I'm trying to stop though. :)

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Is it just me or did anyone else find that ''operating scene in the dark '' wonky. Because God forbid if it was someone i cared about that was under the knife and he continued with the operation without even the benefit of a torchlight I'm going to sue his ass to the end of the earth and back, what if he forgot something inside the person or mistakenly cut something and causes serious complications, he's sooo dead

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right?! lol. well, i guess he's a genius doctor so it MUST be okay. hahaha

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I just want to say thank you! This thread is enlightening. Honestly, I'm not familiar with the history of Korea, only bits and pieces I got from a Korean symposium I attended at our university. I'm learning a lot from this discussion, so thank you! Might start checking out history books from the library once the sen starts :D

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I can definitely tell you not to get your history from this - the actual events are so much different that this is more like a parody of what actually happened.

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Am I the only one that really really really enjoyed LJS's "tell me" dance? I was laughing so hard my stomach hurt.

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nooooo you are not the only one, it was hilarious/cute/funny ..the 3rd time i watched i was imitating his moves .. crazy girl dancing infront the Laptop :D

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It's been a long time since I've been excited with any drama. The fist episode was so gooood! Thanks for the recap!

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Thank you for the recap, i just lovedddddddd episode 1 can't wait to see ep 2, this drama is really daebak hope it will continue like this

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Failed-state darwinism:

"'When one person asks if there’s a chance they could serve as Leader Kim’s personal doctor one day, they’re told that they can either become that prestigious doctor… or end up as one of his research subjects."

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After 5 years of performing similarly if not more horrific procedures, I found it hard to buy how Hoon refused to do the father/daughter one. How is it that he never had this moral dilemma in 5 years, considering the kind of place this is?

And then I was disappointed in his character when he immediately decides to do the opposite when he finds out it's Jae Hee... We didn't receive much indication that he hesitated to take her father's life. Were we even told if he died?

Idk especially seeing how tragic it was that his father died, there didnt seem to be enough consideration for -her- father.

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This one is easy. He Loves her like crazy and her father asked him to save her. There, no more thinking and moral anguish necessary.

The hard questions are how he never had any moral dilemmas before and how the hell did he remain UPBEAT after being rejected by mom, kidnapped by NK, having girlfriend kidnapped, was kidnapped again and forced to live in a horror circus and performs crazy experiments. I question his sanity let alone his upbeatness. :P

And people are saying this is supposedly a rom-com so he will stay somewhat happy. And they enjoyed it. :P

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I am sure that he had moral dilemmas before (witness his outburst to his father about what he's been forced to do), but when the alternative is to do what he's told or be shot in the head, the choice is pretty clear for most people. I get the sense that he is getting more and more reckless though and if he didn't find Jae Hee at that moment, his acting out would soon reach the 'valuable or not, we are going to kill him' proportions.

Upbeatness strikes me as a coping mechanism. Some people are very good at pushing things down. Sure, it's just as likely he'll be dour-catatonic as a reaction, but the drama writers went with the option that would make it watchable :)

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in one drama you bring Bad Daddy back to life then you kill him in another then rinse repeat. poor guy.

since I just watched a documentary on how people smuggle information to NK and smuggle out secretly filmed material what is really happening there I feel like I have much more context now. all the interviewed in the documentary told about such executions....

but this drama shows north koreans as much wealthier people. the reality is WORSE. it is still too pretty here.

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"..It is still too pretty here.."

A lot of South Korean dramas do that, some to the point as treating North Korea as some big joke, with romances between North Korean elite daughters and South Korean idols. Yeah, that happens a lot.

I have been studying North Korea for some 30 years off and on, and I think most people are pretty oblivious to how bad it really is (especially Dennis Rodman). Hundreds of people die each year just trying to get out, and some travel over 10,000 miles to go the 100 miles between North Korea and Seoul.

I highly recommend the documentary movie "The Defector" by Ann Shin http://youtu.be/Wvan4_N7bwI

It is one of the new PPV channels on YouTube, but well worth the $3.00.

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in the doc I watched they showed orphaned children with an arm or leg cut off by soldiers who ate dog crap from the street

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Another good one is the documentary "A State of Mind"

http://search.yahoo.com/mobile/s?rewrite=72&amp;.tsrc=apple&first=1&p=a+state+of+mind&pintl=en&pcarrier=AT%26T&pmcc=310&pmnc=410&fr=onesearch

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too pretty, too easy...

The writer seems to be oblivious to the rules of living in a totalitarian state. A disobedient geeeenius? Bulls**t. If you don't obey, you lose everything and you put your family in a dangerous situation. There are many people with abilities and enough common sense not to think independently, so nobody would blink an eye before getting rid of such a nuisance.

Searching for somebody in a Labor Camp? You would probably land in one just for asking about a detained person.

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I imagine that he was able to go to labor camps for his experimental surgery activities. I don't like plot holes in stories so I am just trying to make everything work.

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I was bothered by the US comment as a lot of the comment's here seem to have been, but I got past it. I didn't find the lead character's actions believable. He's been made to to do all types of strange experimental surgeries yet he still manages to walk around behaving any way he want's and saying anything he pleases. While the rest of the populace are gunned down, dragged off the prison camps yet he is allowed to say and do as he please. We see his fathered a renowned surgeon gunned down for leaving the facility after hours.

I will watch a couple more episodes before I decide.

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Yup, the plot holes are like Swiss cheese. While some here call him "upbeat", I think he is just in denial or really stupid. Or both.

But even as full of holes as this is, it is still better than "Triangle", which I gave up on in disgust less than 2/3 through the first episode.

Looks like it is going to be a very lean drama season for me.

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Ok, I'm curious. I watched Triangle today and I was somewhat amused, what can I say, I'm rather easy to please! If you read this please let me know what disgusted you so. :) It was kind of silly, I guess I liked how all 3 brothers seemed to be neurotic even if I know kdramas love traumas but never dwell on them or show the realistic causes and consequences. Even then I always love a problematic character. Anyway, nothing seemed offensive enough to disgust anyone so I'm curious. :)

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Actually I think Triangle will become more interesting. There are more people in the world who are gamblers and need anger management than genius-surgeons.

We are so spoilt for choice and can choose whatever drama genres and cast. Despite flaws and grips abt stories, production, directing, idol-actors, actresses (known fact that women are much more demanding about other women), audience are still being drawn to watch k-dramas bcoz many China, Taiwan and HK dramas are simply intolerable. Thank goodness for entertaining k-dramas in my life ! And also thanks to whoever who invented the fast forward function to skip all the irritating cast and angst parts.

I have fun and also gained some knowledge about thoughts from other people, culture and practices from reading most of these comments. Thanks Dramabeans recappers and all contributors/commenters.

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"I think he is just in denial or really stupid". If he were/will be a simple good hero, it would not be interesting to watch.

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The thing is, he was not in a position to be so reckless. The first thing you need to survive in an environment like that is to watch your step and not stick out. Otherwise the interesting/upbeat hero gets detained as the people's enemy and nobody cares whether he's a geeeeeenius or only a genius. You don't question the authorities of a regime more than once...

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wow, that was heck of an intense episode for the first one. it really sent chills by my spine to have a taste of just how bad it is there, it's tragic and heartbreaking and makes me so sad.the romance is sweet but that's all i got for now. promising start for sure.

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Well... I must admit I had lots of doubts whether to watch this drama at all. I thought the usually prettified image of North Korea would be distracting. Yes, I think it is of utter importance to be exact in presenting such a difficult topic as the North-South conflict or the everyday life in NK. I will wait for the second episode, but the first one didn't really convince me. What was supposed to be dramatic and heart-wrenching, often felt naive to me. What would be really shocking, was tackled casually or ignored.

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Hoon's mom can't make up her mind,one moment she's cutting ties from her son and the next she's yelling at the assemblyman asking where her son is. Her random scene really annoyed me. Why is she in Korea btw? ~ Father/son scenes really touched me, it's sad that they have to kill dad. :( I really don't care about Hoon's visualization of human anatomy or his abrupt romance with Jae Hee but epi 1 was much more interesting than Triangle which I watched first, plus performances of LJS and his dad were just amazing.
Anyway, is singing SKorean songs concidered taboo in NK?
Thanks for the recap gummimochi. :)

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"...The regime is trying hard to build breakwaters protecting the nation from the ‘South Joseon Wave’, punishing anyone who watches or rents South Korean videos with labour discipline, labour reformation (imprisonment), and public execution for those who copy or sell the products. However, according to Rep. Yoon such measures are to no avail.

North Korean authorities have made censorship agencies such as the ‘109 Group‘ and ‘Crackdown on Non-Socialism Groups’ to find and censor South Korean pop culture, yet its popularity has not been mitigated..."

From KoreaBang.com

BTW, You might be interested to know that according to DPRK propaganda, Kim Jong Il invented the hamburger.

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"Kim Jong Il invented the hamburger" . . .

So, along with everything else, he's responsible for millions of Americans like me being overweight? That man is the devil!

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ROFL

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Thank you windsun33 for replying.
I can only imagine how tough life is in NK. Not having the liberty to even listen or watch anything you want without being punished. And about that burger, I'm sure millions are cursing whoever invented it for making them fat. I'm not one if them though. ;)

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Aside from the historical/political/societal inaccuracies... Am I the only one who had a problem with the father's sacrifice? I mean, on an emotional level, it's touching, sure, but where's the logic in killing himself so that his son will go to Budapest? I DON'T GET IT. I really don't think he had to go to that far of an extent to get Hoon to leave. Yes, Hoon is stubborn and probably wouldn't have left his father behind, but seriously, is /dying/ the only solution? It's not like Hoon and his father were surrounded by soldiers and his father jumped in front of a bullet for him. His father literally walked into his own death, on purpose. I can buy sad-but-necessary deaths - the circumstances of the father's death were just sadly unnecessary.

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I think it is quite logical:
1. Father wanted Hoon to escape
2. If Hoon goes to Hungary, his father becomes the state's hostage - if the son does something against the wishes of the NK government, father will be held responsible
3. knowing what will happen to his dad if he escaped, Hoon wouldn't dare do it
4. Since his dad decided to die, Hoon doesn't have anything to lose anymore and can undertake an escape

However, there is a second side to Dad's sacrifice. In NK suicide is a crime - the family is punished by detention... Also Hoon normally would bear consequences for his dad's leaving the premises.

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