Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Doctor Slump’ on Netflix, A Charming Korean Series Where Job Dramas Lead Two Longtime Rivals Toward Romance

In Doctor Slump, a new romantic dramedy that will stream through March on Netflix, two people who were once top of their class high school hot shots meet again as adult professionals. Back then, everyone believed Ha-Neul (Park Shin-hye) and Jeong-woo (Park Hyung-sik) would be the best. And though they’ve proven their mettle as adults, a series of unexpected setbacks derail Ha-Neul’s and Jeong-woo’s respective career paths. Even more unexpected? That these unlikely circumstances would lead to their meeting again, and maybe becoming the person each of them needed at exactly the right time.  

DOCTOR SLUMP: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT? 

Opening Shot: “All it took for my everyday life to fall apart was three minutes,” Dr. Nam Ha-neul (Park Shin-hye) tells us in a voiceover as she collapses in the middle of a busy street. Meanwhile, cosmetic surgeon Yeo Jeong-woo (Park Hyung-sik) has problems of his own. 

The Gist: We’re introduced to Ha-neul and Jeong-woo in the present, when the professional lives to which they’ve dedicated every resource are suddenly plunged into uncertainty. But Doctor Slump quickly flashes back, too, to 2009 and the journeys of two brilliant students whose lives and ambitions find their way to an intersection. In Busan, Ha-neul is recognized as the top student in the country, to the pride of her mother (Jang Hye-jin) and good-natured uncle (Hyun Bong-sik). Ha-naul has built efficiencies into her daily schedule – running or hula-hooping while studying, meticulously sorting the clothes in her closet, and consuming coffee beans dry so she won’t waste time peeing. And in Seoul, Jeong-woo’s academy recognizes him as their top student. Which is why it’s a jolt when Ha-neul suddenly arrives as a transfer, bringing her superhuman study habits with her. 

Back then, the two brainiacs were instant rivals – “Thus, the war began,” Jeong-woo says in his voiceover – but in the present, their hard work has paid off in different ways. Jeong-woo has become a successful, media-savvy cosmetic surgeon with millions of followers on social media, a chain of clinics, and a jealous fellow surgeon in former university classmate Dr. Bin Dae-yeong (Yoon Park). But Ha-neul, though she’s recognized by her peers as a brilliant anaesthesiologist and is always willing to lead surgeries and studies, no matter how exhausted she becomes, is still scolded mercilessly by her department chief.

Then the death of a patient in Jeong-woo’s care and irregularities in her treatment that he can’t explain sends his personal and professional life into a tailspin. Malpractice. Courtroom dramas. Massive debt. And Ha-naeul’s collapse in the street was due to an inflamed gallbladder, an incident which only compounds the diagnosis that she is clinically depressed. Two people facing the biggest crises of their lives, whose historic rivalry is suddenly relevant again, because Jeong-woo unexpectedly becomes Ha-neul’s new neighbor.    

DOCTOR SLUMP NETFLIX
Photo: Netflix

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? With Doctor Slump, Park Shin-hye’s corner of Netflix is growing – she starred in the swoony teen drama Inheritors, as well as K-horror films The Call and #Alive. And Netflix also features Welcome to Samdal-ri, another Korean comedy with themes of life’s disruption and unexpected romance.  

Our Take: Doctor Slump plays loose with tone, and lays on the melodrama thick. And yet, we’re curious. In the flashback sequences, as Jeong-woo and Ha-neul meet and become instant arch rivals, the music cues are lighthearted and even zany. (A literal slide whistle sound effect accompanies the loss of a shoe, and as students, Jeong-woo and Ha-neul physically leap over each other to finish first.) But in the present, a whiplash effect ensues as Jeong-woo’s burgeoning empire of cosmetic surgery clinics crashes into a malpractice lawsuit and the suggestion that someone is framing him out of revenge. While the antics of Ha-neul’s bickering mom and brother offer some humor, the emotional abuse heaped on her at the hospital is pretty harrowing stuff. It makes us miss the slide whistle. While we knew that these two were bound to meet again, we hope that the few clues dropped to a romance yet to come lead to something tangible, because Park Hyung-sik and Park Shin-hye look great together, and their characters could really use a win right now. That Doctor Slump can’t quite land on the tone it wants to convey is more than forgivable if the promise of a delightful meet-cute is fulfilled.  

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: Their competing voiceovers are pinging again. Jeong-woo: “The girl I hated back then.” Ha-neul: “The boy I wanted to grab by the collar back then.” “Right when I was hanging off the edge, at world’s end…” They’ve met again during the lowest point of their lives, and can’t stop pointing at each other incredulously.

Sleeper Star: While we get a quick download on why Yoon Park’s Bin Dae-yeong is so jealous of Yeo Jeong-woo, there’s definitely more to Jeong-woo’s professional rival’s story, and Yoon plays him with an intriguing mix of arrogance and vulnerability. 

Most Pilot-y Line: “She’s not my first love. She’s my biggest nemesis.” Various versions of this line are said in Ha-neul and Jeong-woo’s competing voiceovers, and we see their competitive nature play out across two timelines. But what we can anticipate is the love side steadily overtaking the nemesis side.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Attractive people in trouble! With Park Shin-hye and Park Hyung-sik leading the way, Doctor Slump has us curious about how their characters’ lifelong rivalry will evolve into romance, and whether they’ll guide each other back to good standing in the medical community.

Johnny Loftus (@glennganges) is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift.