33

[Best Friends Forever] When work friends are best friends and family

By Ally

I am always amazed with how K-dramas are able to take almost any mundane relationship and somehow manage to give it depth, emotional gravitas, and heart. You would, of course, expect this to happen with friendships that have lasted entire lifetimes, from childhood on through adulthood. K-dramas certainly have an infatuation with first loves and first friendships, which are endearing, no doubt. But what about us who don’t have friends forever, have moved or have been mobile all our lives, maybe spending just a couple of years in one place?

My own friends from childhood are scattered to the four corners of the world, and serial friends throughout my life have moved on, and I’ll admit I don’t keep up with people from my past as I should. But I do make strong connections where I am, and therefore, where I am determines who my friends are. And this may be sad, but most all my friends are from a couple decades of work and training. There are several K-dramas that speak to those of us who are workaholics in addition to our K-drama addiction. The one that uncannily mirrored my own experiences was Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim.

There’s something about stress that either tears people apart or binds them closer together. In the rundown, understaffed, underfunded, underdog hospital in the middle of nowhere, the Doldam staff of Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim must rely on each other to keep not just their patients alive, but their staff members too. Although our employment may not face life and death situations on a daily basis, sometimes just surviving our day amounts to living another, and if we have those who are enduring the same plight right there with us, how much sweeter would that be?

Here we find Nurse Oh, the nurse manager of the hospital, who lends a sympathetic ear and gives firm advice to her subordinates and newbie physicians. (I surprised you by mentioning her first, didn’t I?) We may have low-key shipped her with the eccentric Teacher Kim (played by the always charismatic Han Seok-kyu), the extremely talented and righteously arrogant lead physician-surgeon there, but it was because she was his best friend, the one who knew his history, supported his decisions, but also put him in his place when needed. And they had great chemistry! But I could also see her as his confidant with a purely platonic connection.

But then you have the new doctors, who are so driven, ambitious, and have no time to foster friendships and take for granted the relationships they do have (Dr. Kang’s mother got to me because I’ve treated my mother the same way). They are immaturely concerned with success, being competent physicians, and competitive to a fault (as there is no way to do this job well if you aren’t at least a little zealous about your work).

Even they are taken into the fold, forced to spend enough time with each other that they must find common ground, and due to the nature of their work, must find ways to trust each other and respect their different skillsets, because it is a matter of morbidity at the least and mortality at the worst. It’s impossible not to feel fondness and consider that these are people you would want to build relationships with when you start to respect them as individuals.

When Do In-bum actually performed that laparoscopic surgery (and it was awesome), I had a completely different view of him as did the rest of the hospital, but he still had a lot of honing of his personality to go, and he was a tough nut to crack—but he does crack, beautifully. (Yang Se-jong, you did well with that delayed but very sincere smile.)

Medicine, and physician training in particular, is grueling, and without a strong support system, nearly impossible to complete. Without emotional pillars, physicians experience burnout, depression, and even suicide, which was sympathetically portrayed by Seo Hyun-jin as Seo-jung. What I liked about this show was that the mentor, Teacher Kim, became one of these pillars for the younger physicians, even as he was scolding and molding these doctors.

I also don’t want to minimize the roles of the nurses, ancillary staff, and administrators in this provincial hospital. From the hospital administrator who lends a helping hand to Dong-joo’s efforts in finding the perfect gift to show his affection to Dr. Yoon, to the medical assistant/big teddy bear/security muscle Mr. Goo whom we saw save the day on several occasions. Then there was young assistant male Nurse Park, the cutie who befriends a mysterious patient who ends up part of our team as well. A mutual respect finally emerges between the young In-bum and Dong-joo, which came together when they had to put aside their pride and were forced to depend on each other solely when there were two concurrent surgeries required.

What made this story so compelling was this ensemble cast. The strong performances of every person made me pull for the underdogs who spent time together outside the hospital as well as inside (and who didn’t feel elated seeing this squad strut into Geodae Hospital to confront corruption at its source?). They eat and drink together, and as any K-drama fan worth their salt will know, that’s where friendships are fostered. Now, you would think that this wouldn’t happen in real life, but it does. For those in the workforce, we spend the most time with our associates, training together, eating lunch together, going to happy hour (if we’re lucky), and even vacation together (if we’re extremely lucky).

This hit home for me personally this weekend, when I was away from my own family and life threw a curveball. Fortuitously, I was with a former work colleague and mentor, who previously trained me (my sunbae!), who understands me better than almost anyone because she’s known me at my worst, most incompetent times and who has seen me at my best, when we were restructuring an entire physician training program. In the present, she dropped what she was doing and met me, cried with me, and held me when I needed someone the most.

Later on, after meeting up with our former fellows (hoobaes!), I saw how important these relationships actually are as one of them remembered the one evening we all spent together several years ago that ended up making such an impact in his life. And another who told me personally that before he even knew what he was going to specialize in, I encouraged him to join my subspecialty, and what I told him made him decide to take me up on that advice. And over beers and Japanese whiskey, we reminisced about those days in our past that shaped where we are now, far away from each other, but still connected.

In the same way, the Doldam squad know each other at their weakest and they see each other at their strongest. They influence each other and break down when they see inequality, then they pick each other up, lending shoulders to cry on, and together face their next tragedy. These experiences connect them, stronger than blood bonds. And over beers and soju, they also reminisce and celebrate these friendships. By the end of the drama, I saw them not just as acquaintances, colleagues, or even friends, but as a family. And while best friends come and go, family is forever.

 
RELATED POSTS

Tags:

33

Required fields are marked *

Kamsahimida! This never gets old! I wrote this while on my annual conference and my own experience there solidified why I love this drama so much! Here’s hoping a season 2 materializes! Thank you, DB staff and minions! FIGHTING!

12
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Great post @ally-le! As someone who has moved many times throughout my childhood and adult life, I completely understand friendship made in the present compared to childhood friends (I have one!). I didn't see Romantic Doctor Kim but that post made me want to check it out.

3
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Please do. It is THE best Korean medical drama in terms of medical accuracy and it had so much heart too, and I didn’t mention the OTP, but they were perfect!

2
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

I totally agree: best korean medical drama ever made! The cast, the characters, the ethical dilemma, the twists, the relationships were fantastic!

0
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

@ally-le @coolgirl I have been binge -watching it for the past three days and it's so gooooood! Thanks for the recommendation!

2
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yay! So glad you’re enjoying it!

1

Thanks for a great essay, @ally-le! It's interesting to hear from a physician just how true to life the staff friendships depicted in ROMANTIC DOCTOR, TEACHER KIM feel.

2
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

This show was almost perfect for me, and I looked forward to every week.5

2
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Same here. ROMANTIC DOCTOR, TEACHER KIM set the bar very high, which may be one reason why so many dramas in the past year or so have not cut the mustard for me.

Even the performances by minor characters were solid. The OR hostage-taker portrayed by Lee Cheol-min was sympathetically memorable. Since then, I've been tickled to recognize the actor in BLACK, MY ONLY LOVE SONG, and DUEL.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

@ally-le What a lovely read on friendship! I always look forward to strong friendship lines in dramas because they are a little lacking in my life. I haven't seen RTDK, but I read the recaps and liked the story. How awesome that you found a drama that you really enjoyed and relates to your line of work!😀

2
5
reply

Required fields are marked *

I’m the LAST person to enjoy a medical drama, but only watched this as a favor to a Korean friend and was flabbergasted how much it got right—in relationships, the selfishness, the selflessness, and the surgeries. It was just a cool show and deserved the high ratings it garnered.

3
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

I've watched some dramas as a favor to my only kdrama loving friend and I soon learned that we have different tastes😂 so it's awesome that she recommended you a good one😁

1
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

I was apprehensive because she also watched Uncontrollably Fond just prior to this and recommended it to me (which I didn’t watch)! 😂 So I caved.

1
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

That's the on that i had to watch!😂 I only stuck around for Kim Woo-bin though. Now I'm confident enough to say no, lol.

1

That’s too funny! 🤣🤣🤣 I’ve found that I can’t watch a drama for one actor or actress, if the story isn’t worth my time. I was more forgiving when I started these, but no longer. Call it maturity!

1

This is lovely, and so accurate for not just medical workforces, but also for so many others across all types of professions. We often spend more waking time with our coworkers than with our families, and sometimes the friendships and bonds that develop are much stronger than we realize. You experienced this when the curveball hit you and your sunbae was there to pick you up and brush the metaphorical dust off you.

Kdramas do have knack for getting workplace relationships right. Well, when they aren't focusing on corporate takeovers and family inheritance shenanigans. And the intensity of medical dramas (and real life) must make for even more intense relationships.

I hope things with the curveball are better, and thank you for writing this.

5
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you! Yes, life has settled back into a rhythm again, and it’s not the same rhythm, but manageable for now. I’m glad you enjoyed this piece.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Congrats on getting another post published. I've never been a fan of medical dramas(whether Korean or english) probably because the doctors in the dramas make me feel inadequate and I lose my confidence even more. But your article makes me want to check out RDTK(also yang se Jong). Hopefully I'll if I have time.

2
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I enjoyed your piece on Chief Kim as well! So, both Dr. Kim and Chief Kim taught us something on workplace friendships! Yang Sejong was a supporting role here, and no one knew who he was as an actor, but he brought a nuance to this role that I appreciated. And when his facade finally cracked, it was so satisfying.

3
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Doc In-bum's fleeting little smile through the OR door was such a huge step for Doldam's resident tsundere, I could practically hear Beanies shouting "Manseh!" across the interwebs. ;-)

It put Yang Se-jong on my radar. His four performances in DUEL (a pair of clones, one clone impersonating the other, plus their donor) were daebak. The impersonation in particular was nuanced so deftly it knocked my socks off.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Woot! Ally <3.
This is a pleasant surprise. Thank you!
I really miss this cast and this show earned a place on my favorites.
Medical drama is not my favorite genre but there are few really good ones out there and "Romantic Doctor Kim" is one of them.
I miss Han Suk-kyu a lot since he doesn't do dramas very often. Hopefully a 2nd season will bring him back to dramaland and the rest of the Doldam crew.

2
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I know how you enjoyed this and wrote it with all us live-watching Beanies in mind. That was fun. Hopefully, we can all find another drama to watch together again, and even better if it’s a second season! @michykdrama put a possible second season on my radar which I’ve been praying for since this ended! https://mydramalesslife.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/romantic-doctor-teacher-kim-season-2-planned-aka-yes-please-aka-kdrama-news-that-caught-my-eye-4/

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ally, traitor, you wrote a post by yourself without telling me!!!! 😂😂😂😂😂.
Just joking. Great post. Thanks for sharing. 😄
I watched romantic dr. Kim not so long ago and I have to tell the truth, I didn't like the OTP, and I hated the main male lead, his arrogance, his way of getting his so called "revenge". Even until the very end, I couldn't root for him, I couldn't understand him and I didn't like him. There were scenes that I fast forwarded when he was there😂, once i understood I would no like him no matter what. But I LOVED dr. KIM!!!!😍😍😍😍😍 I loved the rest of the staff and I even rooted for Do In-bum to change for the better. 😇
Now, I understand why you saw these people as friends. True everything you said and also, different to other medical dramas, Doldan staff were very unorthodox from what you could expect from a regular hospital. They would do whatever it takes in order to save lives, that is what I loved the most about this show.
But I would have never thought they could make it into the group of "best friend forever" 🙄. I mean, I must not be a workaholic, LOL... I have never seen such deep relationships formed in any place I have worked, but it makes sense it could happen, because as you say, you get to spend more time with people at work than with many of your relatives or friends from the past.
I am glad to remember dr. Kim under this new light. Thank you, Ally.
And tomorrow I will sit down to work in ours. Today I am totally booked up the whole day.

1
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Sorry for betraying you! 😜 This show is one of my favs and made so because of the great cast. I’m sorry the lead was not your cup of tea. For me, he acted like a couple young medical students and residents I’ve met—hyper competitive, selfish, and willing to sacrifice his soul to get ahead, but that revenge plot was all kdrama 🙄— but I really appreciated Yeo Yoon Seok’s portrayal of a deeply maligned youth, affected my his father’s death which he felt was unfair, but then becoming that person that he blamed for so many years. I saw what Dr. Kim saw in him, huge potential, and a soft heart with a mind for perfectionism, in an emotionally immature and impulsive package. In the last episodes when he broke down and yelled at Dr. Kim, bawling his eyes out, he broke me and everytime he cried I did too. I just understood him. But, I can also see how his arrogance was a turn off for you. I’m around these type of people daily, and roll my eyes with the lot of them. But everyone has a story, don’t they? Anyway, looking forward to our joint one!

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hi Ally! Thanks for this great post. I loved what you wrote about friends being scattered, in the opening paras. In many dramas with strong friendships, the characters have all grown up together and continue to stay in the same city - often not even their hometown - as adults. How lucky! Haha

RDTK was a lovely drama. I didn't watch all of it, but what I did watch was a ton of fun. Must go back and complete it now.

1
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I have so many unfinished dramas too! I won’t think any less of you if you don’t get back to it. What happened to the rest of your handle? Are you just “greenfields” now?

1
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hehe thanks for noticing ^^
I was feeling rather peaceful hence no lengthy handlename. But those feelings evaporated rather fast. :p

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Excellent write-up, @ally-le! I'm always a fan of your eloquent accounts. Happy to see RDTK mentioned for this month's theme. ^^

I had been a bit hesitant to start RDTK due to it being a medical genre, but I'm so glad I did. It is my favorite medical drama ever. The ensemble cast was great. Their stories made me laugh & cry and also touched my heart.

1
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you! I’m flattered, as always, that my racing thoughts are featured. This is my third favorite drama of all time and my favorite medical drama, in any language.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

excellent write up and an excellent medical drama! i loved it like you and felt it was very well portrayed. i am a nurse and it felt realistic to me. but then, i love medical dramas unlike others who don't.

1
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I’m cautiously intrepid (I know, ironic) when it comes to k-medical dramas after RTDK, when prior, it was a huge “no thanks.”

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ally!!! Sent it. Thanks for all your help. Now let's wait!!!😀🙋😀

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hi, @Ally. Me again😉. I just wanted to tell you that I read your email, and I loved it!!! Totally.
Sorry I didn't answer you yesterday😅, which means it will be today. I am embarrassed to say I have been watching an oldie and yesterday after work I barely managed to eat a salad (healthy) and shower apart from landing in episode 15 and go to sleep at 11pm. Yes, that is what it means to be a "kdrama-ddict" and live in a cold country where you cannot have many real friends. 🙄🙄🙄Thanks God today is Friday. I only work 5 hours. So today, yes, I will come back to you. Fighting!!!😄

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *