Kim Min-jae, Receiving Acclaim as the "Brilliant Physician with a Profound Understanding of the Human Psyche" in the Drama "Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist" Series
The drama series titled "Yoo Se-poong" or "Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist" aired its first season on August 1st last year and concluded on the 9th of last month. Following a seasonal format, the show presents a prescription drama featuring Yoo Se-poong, an exceptional doctor who wields his acupuncture needles with expertise and undergoes transformations through reviews. Actor Kim Min-jae, known for his remarkable skills and refined appearance, brilliantly portrays the captivating character of Yoo Se-poong, the chief acupuncturist of the Royal Hospital, who skillfully touches the pulse of the heart while never letting go of his needles.
The drama creates a unique world of "Joseon-style psychiatry" through unexpected events that lead Yoo Se-poong, once a successful official, to become an unwavering acupuncturist. He encounters Seo Eun-woo (played by Kim Hyang-gi), a dreamy and curious individual, as well as his eccentric mentor Gye Ji-han (played by Kim Sang-kyung), who has a knack for making money. This intriguing world captivated the viewers' attention, especially the trio's exploration of the hidden stories of emotionally troubled individuals through the process of diagnosis and treatment, which even uncovers hidden crimes. The drama combines delightful humor with exhilarating moments.
"After the conclusion of season 1, I was constantly preoccupied with thoughts of how to film season 2, without even having a chance to feel regret. After the challenging filming of season 1, we took about two weeks to regroup before starting the next round of filming. It felt like I was already filming as soon as I closed my eyes, and I didn't have proper rest. I spent my time hastily preparing while reading the script for season 2."
During a virtual interview, Kim Min-jae expressed his disbelief that the drama had come to an end, stating, "I lived as Yoo Se-poong for over a year, including the preparation period, so it's hard to believe that the project is finished. Filming seasons 1 and 2 consecutively for a long time, I feel a particular sense of regret." The production of "Yoo Se-poong" was planned with a seasonal format, and all the filming was completed in advance.
"I didn't have a regular commute between home and the set; instead, we traveled to various filming locations like Mungyeong and other regions. As a result, I hardly had any time to spend at home over the past year. After the project ended, it felt strange and empty to be alone at home."
The filming for 'Yoo Se-poong' took place from February to December last year, covering all four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The cast faced particular challenges with historical drama filming, especially with the costumes. The winter season, in particular, was extremely cold, and they had to find techniques to wear the clothes without it being obvious. Kim Min-jae mentioned, "If you compare scenes filmed in spring and winter, you can see a difference in our appearance due to the heavy winter attire."
Scene from "Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist". ©tvN
"In the drama, 'Yoo Se-poong' goes through a transformation after meeting his mentor, 'Gye Ji-han.' In real life, senior actor Kim Sang-kyung created a comfortable atmosphere on set. I not only learned a lot from him in terms of acting but also observed how he led the set and boosted everyone's morale, which taught me a great deal about personal character. I'm truly grateful to him, and I aspire to bring positive energy like him when I work on other sets."
While Kim Min-jae always immerses himself in the characters he portrays and gives his best in other works, he felt a stronger need to live as the character of 'Yoo Se-poong' in order to bring out something more, especially since he was the lead role. On the set of the drama, this feeling of truly 'living' as the character became even more pronounced. As a character who provides comfort and assistance to others, he believed in acting truthfully. Through portraying 'Yoo Se-poong,' he felt his perspective on the world expanding and learned how to better interact with people.
"As an experienced healer who has faced many incidents, in 'Yoo Se-poong 2,' I made an effort to professionally assist more people and showcase that aspect of the character. The situations themselves also contributed to my personal growth, so even without making any specific effort, the character's development naturally unfolded."
While preparing for the role of Yoo Se-poong, the brilliant doctor who has a deep understanding of human emotions, Kim Min-jae dedicated himself to mastering the needle technique used in acupuncture, known as the 'hedgehog' technique. He practiced by inserting a needle into a roll of toilet paper, focusing on the specific acupuncture point called 'He Gu (合谷).' This point, located where the thumb bone and the bone of the second finger meet, has a significant effect on reducing energy. During an interview, he demonstrated the precise location on his hand and explained its significance.
"I practiced this technique more than 50 times on my own hands, and it yielded great results. After that, whenever people around me had an upset stomach, I would practice and assist them. Of course, ideally, it shouldn't be necessary, but I ended up poking my own hands numerous times and even those of my friends. I can't say for sure if it made a difference. (Laugh)"
"Having lived as 'Yoo Se-poong' for the past year or so, I feel a deep connection and synchronization with the character. Instead of letting go of it after the filming ends, I believe it's important to hold on to it in my heart. It's both painful and fulfilling to listen to other people's stories, to witness their struggles and pains, and to share their emotions by crying, getting angry, and empathizing. When my heart is in turmoil, my body feels the same kind of pain. Ironically, it seems that I haven't taken proper care of my own heart. Nevertheless, despite all that, seeing patients improve brings me happiness, pride, and a deeper understanding of my own existence and purpose. It feels as if it was meant to be."
The stories of the victims and patients portrayed in the drama not only depict their suffering but also highlight the challenges faced by individuals in our contemporary era, adding layers of depth. Regardless of the time period, the narrative encourages viewers to reflect on themselves and society as a whole, fostering empathy. The exceptional work of the counselors, who awaken reasons and courage by "listening to their own hearts and valuing themselves," is truly remarkable. The moments of healing that provide solace and warmth to wounded hearts offer viewers gentle comfort and a profound sense of resonance.
"Since taking on the role of Yoo Se-poong in the drama, my approach to interacting with people has changed. In the past, when meeting friends, our conversations would revolve around playful stories. However, now I find myself casually asking, 'Is everything okay?' or 'Is there anything troubling you?' I genuinely care about the emotional well-being of others and make a conscious effort to understand how they are truly doing. As a result, our conversations naturally end on a warm and meaningful note."
In the drama, an unlikely relationship blossoms between Seo Eun-woo, a widow, and Yoo Se-poong, the chief physician from the royal medical clinic. They discover a shared understanding of the suffering of the heart and make a promise not to hide their true feelings anymore. When Seo Eun-woo faces a life-threatening situation, Yoo Se-poong successfully uses acupuncture, showcasing the transformative power of love.
"As an actor who has met many people and performed on stage, I believe my profession easily exposes me to tension. I always strive to manage that tension, but I haven't found a foolproof method that guarantees I won't feel it. While I may not have experienced the 'trauma' related to acupuncture like Yoo Se-poong, I feel there's still tension I haven't been able to alleviate. Just like Yoo Se-poong, I hope there will come a day when I can release that tension. I'm eagerly awaiting that moment."
Continuing from the previous season, 'Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist 2' received an outpouring of love from viewers as a healing drama. Actor Kim Min-jae, who embodied the gentle yet resilient character of Yoo Se-poong, captivated audiences with his remarkable performance. He shared his thoughts on the ending, which depicted the passing of Grandmother (played by Jeon Guk-hyang) and the heartwarming moments between Se-poong and Eun-woo (played by Kim Hyang-gi).
Scene from "Poong, the Joseon Psychiatrist". ©tvN
"While it would have been nice to see everything conclude with a happy ending, showcasing a beautiful parting while continuing to live happily, I believe the writer wanted to depict a realistic aspect of life. In truth, it's a very natural occurrence. I am genuinely satisfied with the ending."
Throughout the drama, a touching love story intertwined with the concept of 'marriage counseling' consistently unfolds. Yeon-woo, who learns about medicine through Se-poong's guidance, is a widow and one of the three members of the 'Shinui' trio at the Kyesu Clinic, where the drama is set. She initially found it challenging to yearn for happiness and was even forbidden from nurturing feelings of longing. However, as the story progresses, they both reveal their sincerity and become sources of healing for each other's emotional wounds.
The final episode of the drama portrayed a deeply moving scene as Se-poong and Yeon-woo exchanged vows in their wedding ceremony. They endured challenging crises together, and Se-poong overcame his fear of needle insertion, symbolizing personal growth. The wedding transcended social barriers, showcasing their extraordinary bond. With a smile on his face, Se-poong promised an eternal prescription, declaring, "I will take care of your heart," while revealing the first page of their shared "Diary of Storm and Rain." This heartfelt moment filled everyone with profound emotions and beautifully concluded the series.
"When I was young, I had this unexplained desire to get married at the age of thirty-two. Perhaps it was because my parents got married at that age. Now, I realize that thirty-two is still quite young. If I meet someone and feel that I want to spend my life with them, age won't matter. I simply want to create a harmonious family. It's one of the most important goals in life. Besides, I genuinely love children and hope to have my own someday."
In his leisure time, Kim Min-jae indulges in various hobbies. He shared, "Lately, I've been really enjoying snowboarding, but I also like fishing, soccer, futsal, badminton, and traveling. I try to engage in as many activities as possible. Having multiple hobbies gives me energy and motivation." Kim Min-jae, who possesses ambition not only in his hobbies but also in his work, expressed his ideal partner by stating, "I hope to meet someone who is passionate about their work and shares similar interests, so we can enjoy them together."
Scene from "Dr. Romantic Season 3". ©SBS
Currently, Kim Min-jae is filming for "Dr. Romantic 3," and official stills have been released. This new drama on SBS, airing on Fridays and Saturdays, tells the story of "real doctors" working in a modest provincial hospital. The first and second seasons, aired in 2016 and 2020 respectively, achieved impressive viewership ratings, surpassing 27% and earning a reputation as "life-changing dramas" for many. Kim Min-jae described the set as a "home-like place" and spoke about the positive atmosphere among the cast and crew.
"When I was twenty years old, I had the opportunity to film 'Dr. Romantic' Season 1. Now, at the age of twenty-eight, I realize that no matter how much I explore the world, learn, and gain experience, there is always something new to learn on set. It's exciting to be able to showcase how much I've grown as an actor. Especially when working with fellow actors of the same generation, I can witness their development in acting and have meaningful discussions about our craft. The entire cast is incredibly kind and friendly, creating a joyful filming environment."
Kim Min-jae's name gained recognition through his appearance in 'Dr. Romantic' Season 1, during his third year since his debut. As he enters his eighth year in the industry, he has gradually made a name for himself in both terrestrial and cable dramas, establishing himself as a leading actor. In the 'Yoo Se-poong' series, he has risen to the level of a top actor. However, as a leading actor, there is a burden when the production team assigns a significant role or narrative, unlike in the previous season. This is why supporting or minor roles often undergo changes in seasonal dramas.
"Even the mere presence of characters with intentions at the stone wall hospital holds great significance in the drama. That's why the character Eun-tak is absolutely necessary. I made the decision to participate in 'Dr. Romantic 3' to give the drama a deeper meaning. While the drama may convey romantic messages that some viewers might perceive as light, I come to work every day to contribute even a little strength to the message and portrayal of 'there are still people who embrace romance.' I hope you watch it while considering the significance of the characters."
Kim Min-jae continues to bring warmth to the role of Park Eun-tak, the dedicated nurse and guardian of Doldam Hospital, appearing in all three seasons of "Dr. Romantic." "Dr. Romantic 3" follows the story after Doldam Hospital becomes independent from Geosan and establishes the Doldam Medical Foundation in Season 2. Three years have passed, and the growth of the hospital and its doctors is depicted, along with captivating stories and incidents that will captivate viewers. The drama premiered on April 28th at 10 p.m., following "Taxi Driver 2."
Interview by Glenda Park, Editor-in-Chief at Avec G.
*This article is simultaneously published in Seoul Wire's 'Glenda Park's Blue Ocean'.
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