Korean medical dramas often emphasize the drama in hospitals, where doctors must make life-or-death choices and are often overworked trying to help all the patients that they can. That can’t happen, of course, if you don’t have patients. That is one of the problems that Dr. Park Won-jang (Lee Seo-jin), deals with in Dr. Park’s Clinic. Unlike other medical dramas, Dr. Park’s Clinic humourously dives into what it means to be a doctor at a small clinic.

Dr. Park’s Clinic is based on a webtoon of the same name, and it aired for twelve short episodes on TVing, which is a streaming service currently only available in Korea. The drama is a fast watch, and the drama follows a similar sitcom format as it starts with a cold open, and each episode presents Dr. Park and his friends and family getting involved in antics that are usually resolved by the end of the episode.

The main protagonist is Dr. Park Won-jang, who has just opened his own clinic and expects instant success, only to be faced with the harsh reality of being a small clinic owner. But he persists for his family: his wife, Sa Mo-rim (Ra Mi-ran), and his sons Park Min-gu (Joo Woo-yeon), and Park Dong-gu (Kim Kang-hoon).

At the clinic, he is joined by the scheming nurses Cha Mi-young (Cha Chung-hwa) and Cha Ji-hoon (Seo Bum-june), who also happen to be mother and son, unbeknownst to Dr. Park. In the same building, fellow doctors Dr. Sunwoo Soo-ji (Shin Eun-jung), Dr. Ji Min-ji (Kim Kwang-kyu), and Dr. Choi Hyung-suk (Jung Hyung-suk), run their own clinics but drop by often to help, but more often torment, Dr. Park.

His eclectic fellow doctors provide Dr. Park with a harsh reality check in which he realizes that being a doctor does not guarantee success. His life, as it turns out, is a much different one from the doctors we see on dramas such as Hospital Playlist. Though he desires to be a noble doctor running a friendly neighbourhood clinic, he very quickly learns that he has to strive to stand out and consider patients as customers if he wants to keep his business going.

His struggles are an insight into the lives of doctors; especially the ones running a small, newly opened clinic. At the beginning of the series, Dr. Park is often surprised by what other doctors do to become successful business owners. For example, Min-ji, an obstetrician and gynecologist, changed his name to the more feminine Min-ji in order to better appeal to women, his target clientele. However, as the drama progresses, Dr. Park faces plenty of other doctors who have come to terms with the reality of being a medical professional in Korea. He runs into a former thoracic surgeon-turned-designated driver, which further highlights the point that becoming a doctor does not guarantee prestige and stability. As the former surgeon describes his situation, he breaks the fourth wall to emphasize that his tale is based on real life.

Dr. Park’s Clinic does provide some sober insights into the realities of being a doctor, but the drama maintains its light-hearted tone as sad truths are packaged into funny antics. In one episode, he tries to cut costs at the clinic by limiting the coffee intake of his coworkers, and in another, he tries to gain patients by leaving fake reviews for his clinic.

As the main protagonist, Dr. Park is the butt of most jokes. His holier-than-thou attitude contrasts with his actions, as he gives into silly hijinks to promote his clinic and gain patients. While the drama keeps a tight focus on Dr. Park for the duration of its short episodes, it makes good use of its mockumentary style to incorporate interviews from his family, coworkers, and even passersby to shed some light and humour on Dr. Park’s shenanigans. For example, Dr. Park visits a shaman for some advice and is blown away by her acute assessment of him. An interview reveals that the shaman relies on well-known data and statistics to dole out advice and predictions to her clients.

Despite some of its exaggerated humour, Dr. Park’s Clinic always circles back to reality as it incorporates its webtoon roots. Closing credits feature freeze frames and speech bubbles to pay homage to the formatting of its source material. Plotwise, the last episode has Dr. Park realizing his childhood dream of becoming a webtoon author, and he starts one based on his own experience as a doctor. Indeed, the real-life webtoon author was a doctor themselves before quitting to become a full-time webtoon author.

Dr. Park’s Clinic balances harsh realities with humour to present a different side of what it means to be a doctor. While it might not be the most enthralling drama, Dr. Park’s Clinic is a fast watch and is easily bingeable. The drama wraps up on a satisfying note, but as the webtoon has not yet finished airing and cast members are willing to return, only time will tell if there’s more to come for Dr. Park’s Clinic.

(Hankyoreh, Chosun Ilbo, images via TVing)