Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim: Episode 8
Doing the right thing can be painful, as our romantic doctors come to learn while navigating their way through heartbreaking ethical dilemmas this episode. With the show seemingly building up to a face-off between Teacher Kim and Dr. Do, our doctors also come to learn that it’s not just about their practice anymore—it’s about politics and power.
CHAPTER 8: “Expression of Humanism”
The door bursts open with the man in black (Lee Chul-min) holding a sickle to Seo-jung’s throat. Dong-joo’s eyes widen with fear, and he tries to get the man to let her go. Dr. Nam surreptitiously calls 911 and gives them the necessary information for the police to find them while the man in black tells them to stop the surgery immediately and step away from the operating table.
Ki-tae, who has already done a thorough sweep on the rest of the hospital, tells the police who arrive that their concern is unnecessary. When they receive a radio message that a hostage has been taken in the OR, Ki-tae realizes that he forgot to check on that wing of the hospital.
The man threatens Seo-jung’s life once again and tells the surgeons to stop operating on the patient. Frantic at this point, Dong-joo tries to get them all to acquiesce to the kidnapper’s demands. Nurse Assistant Park takes a small step back when Teacher Kim demands that they keep to their places. Dong-joo asks whether he wants all of them to die, but Teacher Kim ignores him and informs Seo-jung that he has no intention of stopping his surgery. Seo-jung says she understands.
When Teacher Kim holds out his hand for his scalpel to proceed with the surgery, the man in black asks if they know who the patient on their operating table is. He informs them that the patient is a rapist, and he begins telling his heart-rending story.
Near tears, the man says that when he was out, the patient now on their operating table had broken into his home and raped his pregnant wife and eleven-year-old daughter. Afterward, he adds tearfully, his wife miscarried, and now his daughter has to live with a catheter permanently strapped to her (presumably because of the severe damage caused by the sexual assault).
He breaks down in front of them as he denounces the justice system that decided on a mere three year sentence for the patient because it was his first offense. To make matters worse, he was a model prisoner, and so he was released a year early on parole.
“So,” Teacher Kim says, “You want to serve out justice yourself?” The man replies that someone has to if the corrupt system hasn’t served its purpose. He knows that although he’s a poor, powerless father, he needs to pursue justice for his family.
Teacher Kim tells the man that he understands, but he will not give up the surgery. Furthermore, he says that he is not a lawyer or a judge, but a doctor – so whatever the man wants to do with the patient, he should do it after the surgery is done. Dong-joo takes issue with that.
Despite sweating, Teacher Kim stays resolute in his decision. The man in black asks the doctor if he is really ready to trade the life of his student for the rapist on the table. Teacher Kim just demands for his surgical tools again. Nurse Oh looks at Teacher Kim, and says that she hopes his judgement is correct as she hands over a scalpel. Dong-joo secretly grabs a scalpel in his hand just in case things take a turn for the worst.
At that moment, the man yells for them to stop, and all hell breaks loose. Ki-tae has been listening in to the kidnapper’s conversation, while Dr. Song is apprised of the situation by his spy, Deputy Nurse Ji. Director Yeo starts taking steps to ensure the safety of the rest of his hospital.
The man begs for the doctors to stop with the surgery, but Teacher Kim continues on as though he hasn’t heard him. Finally, the man tells them he’ll give them thirty minutes, to which Teacher Kim replies that it’s not that simple of a surgery, and that he’ll need two hours at least. Dong-joo, seeing the situation turn, drops his hidden scalpel.
Teacher Kim asks a nurse to turn on some music. “Hey Jude” by The Beatles fills the OR, masking the sounds of the SWAT team coming in to take their place just outside. Inside, the surgery continues smoothly, until Teacher Kim hesitates for a moment with a strange glint in his eyes. Nurse Oh asks what’s wrong, but Teacher Kim says it’s nothing.
They receive a call from Ki-tae, but it’s actually the police, who notify the man in black that his family is outside and worried for him. The man hears the voice of his daughter, who tells him to come outside quickly because she’s afraid.
Teacher Kim finishes the surgery and tells the man in black to do whatever he wants. But he also lets him know that while the patient survived, his spine was severely injured, and he will probably live as a helpless paraplegic for the rest of his life.
Teacher Kim goes on to say that if the man wants to become a murderer because of a piece of garbage like the patient, he won’t stop him. “However,” Teacher Kim tells the man, “you will face the consequences. You will never see your daughter going to high school, to college, or see her get married to some unworthy fellow.”
The man desperately asks if Teacher Kim thinks it’s even possible for his daughter to get married at this point, and Teacher Kim replies that the man should protect his family so that they can make that future possible together.
Then, Teacher Kim tells everyone to get out. Teacher Kim also tells Seo-jung to leave with the others, but looks to the man to see whether he’ll let her. The man does, and she collapses onto Teacher Kim. Dong-joo takes her out, and in his final words before leaving the OR, Teacher Kim wishes that the man will not lose his family regardless of what decision he makes.
In the OR, a cry sounds out, but the kidnapper cannot bring himself to strike the patient with his weapon. Instead, he starts weeping in front of him while the police surround him.
He’s led outside in handcuffs, where he sees his daughter and wife. He attempts a wide grin to comfort his puzzled child and turns to leave, but his family runs up to him to hug him one last time before he’s taken away. He tells them that he’s sorry for everything, and that he’ll be back soon.
Just as he’s about to get into the police van, Seo-jung runs up to him and tends to the wound on his hand. The man apologizes to Seo-jung for causing her distress and pain before Dong-joo comes up to Seo-jung to ask whether she’s okay.
She replies that she’s fine, and adds that she’s amazed that Teacher Kim was able to bring the situation to a peaceful conclusion. Dong-joo replies that it’s because Teacher Kim is either a complete psychopath, or because he’s a doctor to the core.
Dr. Song fervently presents his concerns about Teacher Kim’s handling of the situation at a meeting in Director Yeo’s room. Dr. Nam defends Teacher Kim, saying that his insight into the man in black led to a safe outcome. Ki-tae, Director Yeo, and Teacher Kim all stay silent and listen until Dr. Song says that this could mean the closure of Doldam Hospital. Suddenly, the atmosphere changes, and Teacher Kim tells Dr. Song not to make something out of nothing.
Later, Ki-tae is at the nurse’s station telling Nurse Oh that he was extremely worried about her during the hostage situation. (Do I smell romance?) When she brushes off his concerns, he frustratedly tells her that she doesn’t know his heart. Nurse Oh asks why he got married and subsequently divorced if that’s so.
He calls her by her first name, Myung-shim, and she fiercely snaps at him to not do that in the workplace. When she addresses him by his former title, he reminds her that he’s moved up in the world, and he is now Section Chief Jang. Tiredly, Nurse Oh dismisses him by saying that she’s going to go rest. His eyes linger on her, and he comments that she’s a cruel woman to her retreating back.
Outside Teacher Kim’s office, Seo-jung asks her mentor if he’s all right when he arrives, apologizing for her OR intrusion with the man in black. When Teacher Kim asks why she’s asking about his welfare when she was in the most danger from the situation, she asks whether he’s actually worrying about her. Teacher Kim can only sigh in exasperation at her cluelessness.
He then gently reprimands her, saying that she better not let her PTSD control her again because of this incident. At the end of the exchange, Teacher Kim tells her that she did a good job enduring everything in the OR. It’s only when he shuts the door on her that Seo-jung realizes he just complimented her. But around the corner, Dr. Song’s spy-nurse has heard everything, including that Seo-jung has PTSD.
Meanwhile, in their secret restaurant hideout, Dr. Nam and Nurse Oh discuss the eventful surgery at the end of a long day. She says that Teacher Kim did not repair the neural dura in the patient’s spine as he should have. Dr. Nam replies that it’s probably because they didn’t have time, but Nurse Oh ponders whether it might be because Teacher Kim also suffered from a moral dilemma due to the patient being a child rapist. In his own office, In-bum is thinking the same thoughts, as he wonders why Teacher Kim hesitated during the surgery.
Teacher Kim, on the other hand, is in the ICU looking in on his rapist patient. He remembers his encounter with the man in black’s family, where we see that he promised the little daughter that he would do everything in his power to treat her wounds, and he’d do it for free.
There’s a sweet moment when Dong-joo is on the phone with his mother, who’s sent over some dumplings. He grouses that she shouldn’t have gone to the trouble, but she tells him not to worry about it.
At Director Yeo’s house, Ki-tae introduces In-bum to his future living quarters just when Seo-jung comes out of the shower. Dong-joo isn’t present, since he has opted to stay at the hospital tonight.
Teacher Kim treats a patient with a banged up knee (cameo by 2PM’s Chansung) in the ER. He banters back and forth with the cowardly patient as he stitches up the wound quickly and efficiently.
Looking at him, Dong-joo wonders about the man who constantly makes him feel smaller as a doctor. He goes up to Teacher Kim and asks how he could have stayed so calm in a situation where Seo-jung could have been hurt, but Teacher Kim tells Dong-joo that he was not calm at all. He adds that all he did was try his best to secure the best possible outcome. Continuing, he says he was being idealistic (romantic) about the situation.
Dong-joo scoffs and says there’s not one romantic bone in Teacher Kim’s body. Blowing his non-existent bangs in a flippant manner, Teacher Kim rebuffs this statement, saying that he’d be a corpse without his romantic ideals. But, he adds sarcastically, maybe to the smart, ambitious, and logical Dr. Kang Dong-joo, romantic ideals wouldn’t be apparent.
Dong-joo asks whether he’s being insulted again, and Teacher Kim admits it isn’t a compliment as he adds that he still finds Dong-joo’s inferiority complex and his cowardice repulsive. Half-inured to these comments after having heard them repeatedly, Dong-joo replies that he was just trying his best in his sphere of influence. Then, Teacher Kim poses a question: “You know how to work, but not why. How is that meaningful as a doctor?”
Teacher Kim ambles to an empty ER bed to take a nap until he is needed. Remembering Seo-jung’s words that Teacher Kim rarely absents himself from the hospital, Dong-joo takes pity on him when another emergency patient comes in. Dong-joo tells the nurse that he’ll take the patient so that Teacher Kim can continue sleeping. Tucking in under the blue hospital blankets, Teacher Kim has heard everything, and is pleased by Dong-joo’s consideration.
The next day, Seo-jung gathers her courage to knock on In-bum’s door so that they can leave for work together. The door opens just as she’s about to knock on it, and he brushes past her. But on their walk to Doldam Hospital, she explains that he should stop drawing up a makjang drama in his head, because they are definitely not related. In-bum doesn’t believe her.
She clarifies that her mother was the object of his father’s puppy love crush, but it wasn’t reciprocated. Although she did receive generous financial support from his father, she says it probably had more to do with his positive feelings for her mother than for any other reason. When he insists on a DNA test, she happily says she’ll comply — but only if he pays for it.
At Doldam Hospital, another situation is unfolding. The son from the gallbladder patient has Dong-joo by the collar. This time, it’s about the expensive hospital fees for his father’s CT exam and operation. He calls Dong-joo and all other doctors scam artists who only want to rip off more money from poor patients.
Dong-joo says that everything was done under hospital procedure with the guardian’s approval. The son asks who signed the papers, and his sister steps up to say that she did. Their mother stays silent. Her son demands that the hospital immediately stop any treatment for his father, threatening to sue them all for medical over-prescription.
At this, Seo-jung comes forward and tells the family that there’s still hope for their comatose father according to his brain scans. However, the son isn’t having it, and says that that kind of talk is only for rich people who have the money to pay for hospital fees. He asks who will be stuck paying the bills if his father were to just die without waking up.
Suddenly, his mother slaps him and rebukes him for being an unfilial son, crying that their father spent his entire life devoted to his children and doesn’t deserve this at the end of his life. The son walks out on the family, leaving his sister to comfort their mother.
In Director Yeo’s office, a different problem has arisen. The hospital board has taken issue with Teacher Kim handling of the rapist’s surgery yesterday. In addition, they’ve found out (from Dr. Song, the rat) that Seo-jung has PTSD, so they’ve brought a psychiatrist to exam her. Teacher Kim asks what the real reason behind their visit is, wondering whether Dr. Do wants him or the hospital. That’s when he realizes that Dr. Do wants both.
Knowing the futility of arguing with Geodae’s top lawyers, he tells them to try to their best and opts to walk out without answering their questions. When he is at the door, the lawyer stands up and places a suspension on all of Teacher Kim’s medical activities.
Dong-joo bursts into Dr. Song’s room, asking whether he’s using Seo-jung to expel Teacher Kim from the hospital. Dr. Song only tells him to worry about himself first. Frustrated with the interview, Dong-joo stomps out and catches Ki-tae at the nurse’s station.
In the break room, Seo-jung is interrogated by the psychiatrist. She furtively pulls up the shirt sleeve that hides her recent self-inflicted wrist injury as he asks about the car accident with Dr. Moon. When he does so, she starts experiencing auditory hallucinations again.
Unbeknownst to her, the mental psychiatrist has strict orders from Dr. Do to break her. In a flashback, the psychiatrist asked Dr. Do if that would be okay, given that Dr. Do is her guardian. Relentless, Dr. Do gave him permission to do anything, including removing her medical license, if he deemed it necessary to get her to confess.
In the present, the psychiatrist asks Seo-jung about her slit wrist, explaining that her answer will be recorded and may be used against her. Seo-jung answers truthfully that she accidentally took too many antidepressants, which led to the injury. She says she understands the consequences, but adds that she cannot lie because she is a doctor.
Dr. Song gloats when he sees Teacher Kim’s dejected face as he walks down the hallway. Teacher Kim clenches his fist to hit his smug colleague, only to be interrupted when Dong-joo announces the arrival of a guest: CEO Shin, rolling in on his wheelchair. Mightily pleased with his own craftiness, Dong-joo claims that he has done as Teacher Kim asked (he didn’t), and brought CEO Shin to be hospitalized before his operation. The tables have now turned.
Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim is one of those dramas where you come for the great actors, but stay for the intriguing questions it raises. In this episode, the highlighted dilemma was whether an evil person should be saved. According to the Hippocratic Oath, doctors are obligated to treat the sick. Out in the real world, many physicians, such as those in Doctors Without Borders, risk their lives to save patients on the battlefield regardless of which side they came from.
However, when confronted with a broken man whose elementary school daughter was brutally raped, any human would feel sympathy. Doctors are no different, but Teacher Kim stuck to his guns and finished the rapist’s surgery successfully. In this case, Teacher Kim stayed true to his principles, but he also stayed true to his heart by promising the girl that he would cure her in the future.
Likewise, Seo-jung has not wavered from her core principles from the beginning, and she showed great bravery even with a sickle held to her throat. Even at Geodae Hospital, her first concern was the patients, and that hasn’t changed. Her motivation to become a true doctor is admirable, especially since she now faces potential medical expulsion. The fact that Dr. Do was willing to throw her under the bus like that after twenty-odd years of support just shows how evil or desperate he really is to get the better of Teacher Kim. I like that they did avoid the whole birth secret trope when it comes to her and Dr. Do, though. It makes the In-bum and Seo-jung dynamic cuter, with a (very) slight potential of romance.
On the other hand, Dong-joo obviously feels smaller in Teacher Kim’s presence, but he also seems to be progressing. In this episode at least, he didn’t throw a temper tantrum when being insulted, or when things didn’t go his way. His only outburst was out of sincere worry for Seo-jung. In addition, it’s nice to see Dong-joo do a gradual shift rather than a sudden 180. He still retains his former political savviness, but now he’s using it for the greater good by bringing CEO Shin into the fray. It gave me hope that perhaps Dong-joo can change after all.