Rain and Kim Bum are irresistibly charming and endearing in the tvN fantasy medical drama Ghost Doctor (고스트 닥터). You’ll get a lot of familiar K-drama themes from clashing of personalities, workplace politics and shady dealings to sweet romance, sincere friendships and a good helping of character growth. And it’s all wrapped up in a fun, whimsical package with the exciting and hectic backdrop of a bustling hospital in the middle of Seoul. On the surface it may seem like a paint by the numbers medical procedural. But at its heart (and in a way that only Korean dramas can do), it is an emotional and uplifting character-driven look at humanity and the bonds and connections that are forged in the most unexpected places.
Ghost Doctor revolves around two very different doctors at one of the best hospitals in the country. Cha Young Min (Rain) is a 38 year old cardiothoracic surgeon. Though widely regarded as a genius and the best in the field, he is also arrogant and selfish. Go Seung Tak (Kim Bum) is a 28 year old first year thoracic surgery resident and grandson of the hospital’s founder. While he excels at medical theory and knowledge, he fumbles in practice due to a secret fear and continues in the field only at the urging of his mother.
After a suspicious accident on the road, Young Min falls into a coma. He soon finds himself out of body and learns he is a “coma ghost,” able to walk freely around the hospital even as his physical body lies unconscious. He meets a few other ghosts who roam the halls of the hospital, including three of his own comatose patients and the mysterious Tes (Sung Dong Il).
It is an immediate clash of personalities when Young Min and Seung Tak first meet. But the accident brings them together in the most unexpected way when Young Min unwittingly finds himself able to possess Seung Tak’s body.
*minor spoilers ahead*
Initially, Young Min believes he can go in and out of Seung Tak’s body undetected. And in doing so, is able to physically treat and even operate on patients, much to the surprise of the rest of the medical staff who now view first year resident Seung Tak as a genius as well. Not knowing it is actually Dr. Cha in control.
But it turns out Seung Tak has the ability to see and thus communicate with ghosts.
*minor spoilers end*
And when the two come together, they work to find answers to their unique situation while also working to save lives and grow as individuals.
Young Min and Seung Tak are very much the focus of Ghost Doctor. The extraordinary situation is the catalyst for them to be able to work out their own personal issues, reflect on how they’ve lived their lives and learn how to appreciate life itself. Especially as they work to save the lives of patients, the two doctors help each other gain new perspectives on life all while also working on their strange and unique relationship.
Romance is definitely a big part of the story. Young Min’s ex-girlfriend Jang Se Jin (Uee) is a genius neurosurgeon who returns to Korea to care for her father and later the comatose Young Min himself. Oh Soo Jeong (Son Na Eun), meanwhile, is a talented emergency room intern and Seung Tak’s longtime friend.
The series starts off a bit lighthearted, but as it progresses, we get to know all the characters much more and go deeper with their personal stories. The series becomes more emotional and the investment into each character’s story pays off with satisfying results.
But everything always circles back to the relationship between Young Min and Seung Tak. Even as the series tells the stories of the patients they work to help including a young boy named Oh Seung Jo (Lee Chun Moo) and the trio of Young Min’s comatose patients Guk Chan (Han Seung Hyun), Hoon Gil (Ciipher’s Tan) and Bo Mi (Yoon So Hee). Or when the series delves into the shady dealings of Seung Tak’s ambitious cousin Han Seung Won (Tae In Ho). It is the relationship of the two doctors that help frame each of those stories in a way that makes them accessible and have an added depth.
With every patient and every surgery, Young Min and Seung Tak learn more and more about themselves and the profession they’ve both embarked on. And it’s that journey that ends up being the most appealing and captivating aspect of the series.
Rain and Kim Bum lead a wonderful, ensemble cast. From doctors to patients, the large ensemble does a great job each making their respective characters be fully developed and tangible parts of the story.
Uee and Son Na Eun may be the love interests to our two leading men, but both have their own stories away from any of the romance aspect of the series. Both deliver performances that allow them to take their respective characters and have them stand tall on their own, while also having the sweet chemistry with their romantic partners.
Veteran character actor Sung Dong Il is a great authoritative figure as Tes who himself has some secrets he keeps close to the vest as well. Tae In Ho has also proven himself as both an antagonist and in far less villainous roles. And he is able to take Seung Won into a place that is intriguingly ambiguous enough to keep you guessing especially as the series’ main source of conflict.
But it really is all about Rain and Kim Bum. Individually, they effortlessly bring their characters to life. Rain has no problem carefully showing Young Min as the cocky, selfish doctor, but leaving that door open to finding out more about him as a person and of course seeing him grow over the course of the series. Kim Bum, meanwhile, similarly juggles the cheerful and playful side of Seung Tak with the more pensive and vulnerable side in such an engaging way.
And it’s when the two come together where their chemistry really is a highlight of the series. Being able to play off each other while having to sometimes act like each other as well is a big ask of any actor. But both Rain and Kim Bum have no problems and is a major reason Ghost Doctor ends up being a successful series.
Whether it is finding meaning in or being able to make the most of life, Ghost Doctor is all about embracing both the joys and the hardships and everything in between. The series is very relatable and very sincere in the way they are able to touch upon some serious and even difficult topics. But at its core, the series is about appreciating life and the connections and bonds we find in many different places. With its great cast, fun and affecting story, Ghost Doctor is easily an enjoyable and emotionally satisfying series.