Syndrome 신드롬 jtbc (2012) 20 Episodes
Medical Melodrama, Thriller, Grade: B+
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
I had never even heard
of this 2012 K-drama called Syndrome until they
added it to Instant Netflix in 2015, so I decided to
take a plunge and watch it. I'm glad I did because it
was probably the most addictive medical drama in the
K-drama world that I have ever seen: not just an
emphasis on medicine, but on lots of corporate intrigue
within the hospital that the characters all work at, and
interesting, obsessive love triangles to keep the
romantics out there interested in the plot. As usual,
you have the good characters, the bad characters, and
the ones who are undecided as to which side of the fence
they should stand alongside. All the actors were
excellent and the writing was cohesive and exciting too.
If you're looking for a perfect Dr. Kildare or Dr. Welby
story you won't find it here!
The medical emphasis in this one is
mainly in the field of neurology, a difficult branch of
medicine where just one wrong move by a doctor surgeon
can inflict permanent nerve and/or brain damage on the
patient. You have to possess your own nerves of steel to
be a successful neurologist, and especially you have to
be strong if you happen to hire an evil
egotistical one, like the main male character in this
drama, played chillingly well by Jo Jae Hyun (Snowman,
who sneakily and deliberately harms his wife, also a
doctor, during her difficult and risky brain surgery,
simply so he can get her out of the way so that he can
become the CEO in the hospital, which her family company
happens to own and run.
All this while having an exotic lover
on the side who likes to take bubble baths with him and
help him plan his wife's destruction. Whoa, Ahjussi Jo,
I'm used to watching you play good guys: watching
you play an all-out sociopath was very disturbing to me.
I kept saying to my kids while watching Syndrome,
"I'm going to have to re-watch Snowman
after this is over; when he played a good cop he
was much more sympathetic!" A sociopath is incapable of
true love, they can only mimic what they see others do.
This doctor is malevolent inside, but a fake nurturer on
the outside, so he is adept at fooling a lot of people.
The Story: Dr.
Oh Eun Hee (attractive Kim Sung Ryung from Heirs,Padam
Beautiful, the film The Fatal
Encounter) is CEO of her family's hospital, but
married unhappily to top neurosurgeon Dr. Cha Tae Jin (Jo Jae Hyun). In fact in
twenty-eight years of marriage they have never slept
together, although publicly they put on a show of
civility at the hospital. It is assumed the marriage
was a step up the social ladder for him, and for her
to achieve a sense of stability with a top surgeon on
Then tragedy strikes and Eun Hee is
diagnosed with a rare, extremely risky brain tumor, in
fact the odds of her surviving the surgery are
extremely low. At a board meeting her medical
condition is discussed publicly with everyone and Eun
Hee asks her "husband" pointedly in front of everyone
to perform the operation -- while she is awake! She
had read that the chances of survival are higher with
this type of surgery if general anesthesia is not
used. Tae Jin agrees to perform the surgery on his
wife under a mild local anesthetic only.
Unbeknownst to Eun Hee, her wonderful
"husband" has an exotic mistress Kim Yi Joon (Yun Ji
Min) on the side, and while they spend private time
together having "fun", they arrange the details of how
to permanently disable Eun Hee so that she would have
to retire from her CEO position, and afterward name
her husband as CEO instead. They're jumping the gun a
little bit, as it turns out, but such is their
Dr. Tae Jin knows how
to damage just the right nerve during surgery that
controls the human brain's ability to recognize human
faces. This will cause a syndrome called prosopagnosia
(yes, even the Windows Spellchecker thinks it's
not a word! LOL!).
When the surgery is finished it seems to be a
success, the CT scans are clear of cancer, but
then Eun Hee's adult son (from another man before
she was married to Tae Jin), first year
resident internCha Yeo Wook (Song Chang
Hui from Dr.
Frost) walks into her hospital room
... and she doesn't know who he is! Only by
reading his ID pin on his medical coat pocket can
she identify him. Then in another shock in walks
her "husband" and she asks, "Who are you?" She has
to look down at HIS ID pin to identify him, too.
She starts screaming and crying hysterically --
and the sick, twisted Tae Jin smiles secretly to
himself. He has accomplished what he had set out
to do, disable his wife. Or so he thinks ....
it remains to be seen whether Eun Hee will decide
to "retire" from her CEO position because of the
syndrome she is stuck with now. She seems to be
quite the fighter (good girl!) and she almost
immediately suspects her "husband" deliberately
did this to her, though he pretends to be sad and
apologetic, saying it was an "accident". She has
encounters with the mistress in the hospital
hallways and suspects her of evil intents.
Eun Hee's son Yeo Wook becomes involved with a new
female intern named Lee Hae Jo (Han Hye Jin) and,
as typical for Korean dramas, they don't get along
all too well in the beginning but since she has a
photographic memory which helps her in her work he
begrudgingly begins to admire her, because even
though he went to a more prestigious medical
school, Hae Jo is more determined to succeed in
neurology, whereas Yeo Wook only chose medicine as
a field to impress the man he thinks is his real
father, Tae Jin.
A rivalry begins between Yeo Wook and a doctor
administrator named Kang
Eun Hyun (actor Park Gun Hyung, who starred
opposite Geun Young Moon in the 2005 dance film Innocent
Steps). He is super nice to Hae Jo, and
starts to carry a secret torch for her above and
beyond the call of duty, whereas Yeo Wook keeps
giving her a hard time.
Part of that longing in Eun Hyun could be
attributed to the fact he's been alone a long
time, since his wife is in a mental institution
after trying to commit suicide several times. He's
too good a man to divorce her (Edward Rochester,
anyone?), so he has been living for his medical
career and seeing his wife once a week out of
duty. Intern Hae Jo starts to suspect both men are
in love with her, but who does she really have the
strongest feelings for? She likes them both! (I
had big Second Male Leaditis Syndrome
myself in this drama, the way actor Park Gun Hyung
stared at her could melt anybody!).
Love Triangles Are Pretty Set To Music, Aren't They?
Dr. Eun Hee decides very practically that she cannot
continue her career because of her disability. The
evil husband Tae Jin thinks he's won now and
will get the coveted CEO position in the hospital.
However, the man who is the father of Eun Hee's son, Dr. Min Sung Joon (Kim Yu-Seok),
re-enters her life, professionally first and then
personally later; he is a famous neurosurgeon,
an author, and even more famous than her wicked
husband, and so she speaks before the board and
nominates him to the CEO position instead of her
husband. The board members have heard that he saved a
woman with only a 1% chance of survival during a brain
hemorrhage and that achievement helps them decide in
his favor. Tae Jin is furious and vows revenge.
Sparks are flying now between TWO groups of triangle
love - power struggle relationships! How will it ever
end? Will Tae Jin finally get what's coming to him? I
must admit I was living for that moment since episode
one! I also couldn't wait to find out if intern Yeo
Wook would ever learn the identity of his biological
father, and the reality of the dead marriage of the
two people he considered his family for years.