Thoughts on “Yong Pal” So Far: I Like It!

Is “Yong Pal” turning into this year’s hit? It crossed the 20% ratings mark in Episode 6 and it’s been a while since I’ve seen that happen for a weekday short series in a world where single digit ratings have become the norm.

Regardless, I certainly understand why it’s captivating the nation because I’m captivated too! When you drill down to the nitty-gritty, it’s got the elements of your typical, cliche makjang fare but on the surface, I can’t think of a drama about a gangster’s doctor and the woman who’s forced into a coma by her greedy, evil brother.

We’ve got Joo Won doing a phenomenal job as Yong Pal, whose legal name is Kim Tae Hyun. He’s a brilliant surgeon whose life is a series of tragic events. For starters, his father is a man who abandoned them in his kinder moments given that he abused them when he was around. He’s got a sister with lifelong health problems who’s now been given a few months to live, and a mother who died because a VVIP got preferential treatment and took her spot when she was in critical condition.

But somehow, he still has a heart of gold. LOL. When he was introduced as a money grubber, I just knew that he had to be some down-on-his-luck angel who wasn’t spending his money on Gucci toilet paper but for someone else’s benefit. It wouldn’t be a Korean drama if it wasn’t about medical bills. And while his sole motivation is keeping his sister alive, a hero is still a hero thus when he had the opportunity to save only his sister from disaster, he chose instead to save everyone.

We’ve also got Kim Tae Hee as Han Yeo Jin, our Rapunzel, who might be the VVIP his mother was ditched for. I have to say that the Sleeping Beauty act got a little old for me after like three episodes because she is the female lead yet we barely got to see much of her. It’s hard for the audience to care about someone who does nothing but sleep. I was worried because by the end of the second week, both So Hyun and Cynthia Park had more presence but I’m glad that she finally woke up and began to hold her own. She’s smart, spunky and has got a bit of fight in her.

She may be rich and beautiful but life has been no picnic for her either. Her Romeo-and-Juliet-esque romance appropriately ended in tragedy with the death of her lover. Both of her parents are dead and her so-called brother has trapped her in a coma where she’s aware of everything around her but can’t do a thing.

Our leads connect because he agrees to free her from her imprisonment in exchange for $2 million. I quite like their rapport and the friendship they have formed. Their banter is fun to watch and in two short episodes, they shown how these two can easily start trusting each other.

I also like the supporting characters. I enjoyed the loan shark but we haven’t seen much of him lately. I’m loving the gangsters and I hope the gangster boss stays for the duration of the show. Am I the only person whose heart warmed when he rushed over after Tae Hyun got shot?

How cute. He didn’t even know what the fight was about but immediately pledged his allegiance to

Cynthia Park! I love this chica! She’s probably a bigger money bug than Tae Hyun for possibly more selfish reasons. I say “probably” because I won’t be surprised if she’s also in it for more than just money for Chanel purses. She’s gorgeous, smart and very calculating. I think she likes Tae Hyun for his idealism, skills, intelligence and perceived malleability. But she learned the hard way that Tae Hyun, too, has his own agenda and will not be manipulated into doing her bidding if it’s not beneficial to him.

There’s also Yeo Jin’s evil, selfish brother Do Joon who’s pretty one-dimensional at this point. He’s terrifyingly mean; breaking a glass on his assistant’s head, KEEPING HIS SISTER IN A COMA, deciding to kill her etc etc all for power but still one-dimensional. He was so cute in the flashback of Yeo Jin’s accident where he seemed to find her oh-so adorable that I wondered if they weren’t blood-related and he had a little crush on her. But that could just be my imagination. Unless there’s a birth secret, they should have the same father. I really like Jo Hyun Jae so I hope that his character becomes more layered.

He’s married to a smart woman who plays dumb to further her agenda. It’s crazy how all this madness is about a power struggle for a company.

Nurse Hwang. Oh Lord! What a creepy psycho. And “psycho” is the true definition because she’s an obsessed woman whose motivation is not entirely clear. The stabbing scene was awesome! How I wish she could have stabbed Lee too. But she’s so insane that I think she can snap and kill the princess one day. It’s like she thinks she’s her property and wants to be the only one to mess with her.

Yeo Jin is currently caught in the middle of a power struggle between President Go and Do Joon. She inherited the company from her mother and when her dad died and she became the most powerful figure, her brother kept her in a coma to acquire that power.

Since the Korean Air “nut rage” incident, I no longer dismiss bad behavior from characters like Do Joon and his wife as creative license. Instead, I cringe, disgusted that some people really live their lives this way.

As much as I’ve been enjoying the show, I thought it was moving incredibly slowly for a 16-episode drama. While we got some great character development and world-building for Tae Hyun, I felt like the drama couldn’t really begin till Yeo Jin became conscious. Which is why – unlike many others – I was glad to learn that the show’s been extended by four more episodes.

There are other characters like weak Chief Lee. He might have a high position at the hospital but he’s really only a rich man’s bitch, doing whatever he’s told. But could he be told to act better because WTF?

Yeo Jin woke up in time for the climax of the power struggle. A pawn can be both the most powerful and weakest tool in a game and Yeo Jin got to experience both sides. Do Joon needs Yeo Jin to remain unconscious to retain his power while President Go’s side needs her to be awake to use her power. After countless refusals from her brother for an audience with her, the other side gets a court order. His solution is to have Chief Lee kill her as he’d rather see her dead than lose his power.

Chief Lee’s bad acting was on full display when he slashed her throat then half-heartedly operated on her. Dude, couldn’t you at least pretend that you wanted her to live? There’s no way the others in the operating room couldn’t tell that he was indirectly killing her.

And this is where Tae Hyun comes in. While it’s true that he must protect Yeo Jin for the $2 million needed for his sister’s treatment, nobody dies on his watch.

This week was about the fight for the company boiling down to who physically had possession of Yeo Jin’s body. Cynthia revealed her ties to President Go and pulled Tae Hyun in on her plan to take Yeo Jin’s body away. Tae Hyun was also in cahoots with Do Joon’s wife who’s technically on the president’s side but doesn’t trust him. He also supposedly works for Do Joon but in reality – like everyone else – is only in it for himself (and to protect Yeo Jin).

Our Yong Pal comes up with a plan to save Yeo Jin which he reveals – in detail – to the head nurse as he needs her help.

I love their relationship. I love that he has someone who sees past his front and knows who he really is.

Lee takes advantage of Yeo Jin’s history of attempted suicide to slash her throat with the intent to kill her on the operating table. But once her body is rolled out of the restricted area, scores of people fight to acquire it. I wonder what they all thought she was suffering from that required her to be covered from head to toe.

Our hero gets shot but unlike in other dramas where that would immediately send him to a room with a humidify, here, he carries on like he was merely gut-punched. It must be a flesh wound.

But the battle is for naught as Chief Lee intelligently has them all fighting for a dummy while he murders Yeo Jin in the operating room. And as Tae Hyun is tied up, the head nurse saves her in his stead. Yay!

Here’s my question: Was Tae Hyun really one step ahead? Did he know of Chief Lee’s plan to switch the bodies? Did he somehow get a hold of Psycho Nurse’s phone? Is that why he indirectly gave the head nurse instructions on how to protect Yeo Jin? Or was it all a fortunate side effect? I find it hard to believe he would have attempted to hand over Yeo Jin’s real body to her brother.  But on the other hand, is it plausible that he knew of Lee’s plan to switch the bodies before he spoke to the nurse? Unless he came up with the idea in the first place. He called Do Joon, right? Which was why the attempted murder was pushed up a day.

He genuinely looked shocked at this reveal, though. Was he acting? I should stop giving myself a headache because we’ll get the answer next week.

My favorite scene this week was Nurse Hwang’s meltdown. Yes, she’s nuts but I loved how she hurt the director and revealed Do Joon’s evil plan to the world. The only problem is that onlookers wouldn’t believe her. I also liked the scene where Yeo Jin scared the hell out of Weak Lee by suddenly waking up and calling him a murderer. But she’s right, though. Wannabe MURDERER!

The scene where Tae Hyun and Yeo Jin agreed to be friends was cute. I liked the age conversation and the reminder that they had no one to rely on but each other.

Cynthia Park turning bad-ass in the fight was also awesome. Is she a spy? Former CIA agent? Girlfriend, who exactly are you?

My only real problem with this drama is the lack of previews. How in the world are they already live shooting? Do they not realize that we need something to tide us over till next week?

I bet we’ll get tons of OTP time now that the princess is “dead.” Where will he hide her? At his place? With the head nurse? With the gangsters? So many questions, absolutely no answers. Why, SBS?

Chae Young is in cahoots with her father but she doesn’t want Yeo Jin dead so I wonder if she will become an ally. I would really like that. And I hope Cynthia respects Yong Pal for playing all sides and becomes a resource for him. Argh, what am I saying? I guess I just want our hero to work with all three bad-ass women. Is that too much to ask?


  • bmore says:

    Thanks for the recap review. I’m enjoying this drama too, but not crazy about it. So far anyway. There are some really good performances in it, some okay, and a lot of predictable scenarios. I was thinking this would spend more time with Yong Pal being Yong Pal and we would see him ‘doing his undercover doctoring’ for a few episodes, with a glimpse of Sleeping Beauty now and then in the background. I’m not sure I’m up for watching 18 more episodes of the ‘fighting for the business against the evil brother’ drama. But we’ll see. Glad and sad for the loss of psycho nurse! WOW! that was one amazing meltdown. She was great! Loving Stephanie Lee. For a virtual first timer, she impresses. The supposed martial arts was cheesy as all get out, but she will improve. She already has some presence. Her looks are a lot of it, but you can see she has charisma to go with it. I hope she holds her own in this.

    I absolutely hate that this thing is a live shoot drama. From what I have been reading, the conditions are pretty awful. My dislike of this aspect of Kdrama filming is so intense it almost makes me want to not watch out of spite.. But that would accomplish nothing but cut off my nose to spite my own face…like anyone would care! Still, this needs to stop before they kill or injure more people. And now to add 4 more episodes to an already long drama?? Not good. And it is so rare that adding episodes does anything other than create filler episodes, so, for me, this is not a positive at all. But, I guess we’ll see if they add more to this story line than just fighting for control of the family business and the back and forth one-upmanship of this brother and sister.

  • heartoppaya says:


    Oh my. I love this drama. Its my current favorite in the mystery slash action genre after I Remember You.

    Clocky, we seem to have the same taste in dramas. Guess we really are sisters. Hee.

  • Beez says:

    I, too, wondered about Kim Tae Hee’s face being covered but then I realized how EXTREMELY rich people go to crazy lengths to hide their identity (think Michael Jackson and his kids’ masks). Remember, nobody in the hospital, but even the majority of the staff on the 12ty floor know her real identity.

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