Before and After: Plastic Surgery Clinic (2008)

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“Plastic surgery cannot be a compromise, it is a choice.” This seems to be the message that this drama wants to convey. With plastic surgery becoming an almost common practice in Korea, people come and go to do surgeries for various reasons. Some want to become more marketable, more competitive in the job market. Some want to look friendlier, less scary for people to see. Some want to do it for someone else, such as a playboy husband or a domineering mother in law. Some other just want to appease their vanity. Any reason is fine as long as it is a conscious choice on the patient’s part.

BA is about the workings of Before and After: Plastic Surgery Clinic, one of the hundreds plastic surgery clinics in the trendy Apgujeong, Seoul. There’s Dr. Han Gunsoo (uber cutie Lee Jinwook) the clinic’s director who inherits it from his deceased father. Unfortunately, along with the clinic, his father also left him a gazillion won worth of debt with the loan sharks. Determined to keep the clinic open, he struggles every month to pay the debt’s interest. Enters Hong Ginam (So Yihyun) the new nurse at the clinic who’s got 4 younger siblings, a sick mother, and a jobless father. With nowhere to live, she ends up living with Gunsoo. And I’m left groaning in frustration, yet another one of these????

Dr. Choi Yongwoo (Kim Sungmin) is the genius plastic surgeon specializing in reconstructive surgery. His moral values make him clash with Gunsoo often because he doesn’t like doing cosmetic surgeries. But behind it, he’s actually addicted to Botox. Yoon Seojin is the tall and gorgeous clinic manager/Chief PR  and is secretely holding a candle for Gunsoo. She rounds up the love rectange here.

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The Bad:

The drama started out fantastic. I had A LOT of fun watching 3/4 of it. However, like many other dramas, it falters towards the end. The moment romance and love rectangle come into equation, the series lost the spark that drew me in from the start. It just descended into doom and gloom and while it didn’t have the time to get repetitive as it only has 12 episodes, BA became boring. I fast forwarded several times in the last 2 episodes and that is a total shame especially because I repeated a lot of scenes in the early episodes. The biggest problem is that not only does it get dramatic with its love lines, the story also takes a sudden left turn.

Suddenly, the clinic is rocked by a fake malpractice lawsuit, designed simply to destroy the establishment. But wait, that’s not all, the hospital goes into a chaos because obviously, someone bertrays the team. But oh wait a minute, that someone is merely acting as a double agent and is not really a traitor. That’s not all, after all is over and done, dear ol’ director single-handedly decides to shut down the hospital. We then jump forward a year (oh dude, I hate it so freaking much), and everything ends in a happy ever after, because the clinic is revived and the old team is back together!! OMGGGGG…

The drama can get ridiculous. Now, I cannot decided if the drama treated the over the top moment as some sort of satire or it was being serious. So I can’t fully categorize it as a bad. But there are things like gangster kidnapping, clinic hijacking, bertrayal/backstabbing, and when a character ‘bursts into song’, it means it literally. They are freaking hilarious, in a ridiculous kind of way.

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*swoons* Hey you, delicious!

The Good:

Despite having their main characters living together, the drama doesn’t make that into significance. We’ve got some quickie scenes about Ginam and Gunsoo eating together and stuff, but they are not made into a big deal. They don’t come to work and go home together and they don’t exactly see each other all the freaking time. It’s like, oh yeah they live together, but oh well. If you’ve had a roomate before, you’d know that you probably barely see each other.

Tho the series failed to hold up the romance until the end, I thought they handled it really really well in the beginning. Right from the get go, Ginam’s got a huge crush on Dr. Choi and tries to impress her, but the no nonsense Dr.Choi doesn’t take notice or return the feeling until much later. This is fine, but I really like that Gunsoo’s feelings for Ginam gradually develops, but this process does not take a center stage. We notice that Gunsoo’s started to like Ginam, but that is not constantly shoved in our faces. It is too bad that later in the series, the overly dramatic romance and how annoying Gunsoo gets are the contributing factors that are ruining the drama.

I also like the episodic angle. Each episode deals with a certain sub-theme and customers who have different motives of doing surgeries. But always, at the end, this drama draws back that core message that plastic surgery is a choice, it’s something you do for yourself, not at the insistence of someone else, not at the pressure from society. Each episode then ties back to that and wraps itself up nicely.

Last but not least. One of my favourite reasons to watch BA. 3 words. Lee. Jin. Wook. Oh man, this guy is SO FINE! He is like super super cute. I remember his short stint in Alone In Love as a stalker hottie then of course, he was the one reason why Air City was at least bearable. I didn’t stick around for Powerful Opponent long enough to see episode 2, but now I’m reconsidering that decision. I like Lee Jinwook a lot, but he barely has projects that have him safe and sound as the male lead and as it is, his projects haven’t really been the ones I necessarily gravitate into.

At the end of the day, there is an impression that this drama is giving that makes me a little uneasy. That Koreans have such an obsession towards outer physical appearance that it could override anything else. In the drama, you have people wanting to look like Song Hyekyo or Han Gain and change their face and body at all cost. There are people wanting to shave their jaw because their right side profile doesn’t match their left side. In order to get a decent job, you need to be fix yourself up to become pretty. In order to secure the love of someone, you need to change yourself, look older or younger.

I am well aware that this is a drama and in no way should be taken as a true portrayal of the real issue and even if it is real or close to being real, I fully respect the drama for telling it like it is. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like this drama for probing into something sensitive like this in a more relaxed but matter of fact manner. I see bit of tendency to gloss over the notion of plastic surgery, but I appreciate that it neither condones nor condemns the idea.

All in all, an enjoyable and entertaining drama but the home-stretch ruined it too much for me. I’d rate this a 7 out of 10.

Hmm, if given the chance and the cash, I wonder which part of me I would change through cosmetic surgery?

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