The Good Doctor: The Original Korean Drama and the American Remake — What’s the Same and What’s Different?

The Good Doctor: The Original Korean Drama and the American Remake — What’s the Same and What’s Different?

Plenty of fans love the American Medical Drama The Good Doctor, but not everyone knows its Korean origins — here are the differences and similarities between the original Asian version and the 2017 American remake.

Starring Freddie Highmore as our protagonist, Doctor Shaun Murphy, the American medical drama revolves around his experiences at the esteemed San Jose St. Bonaventure hospital as a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome.

Premiered in 2017, The Good Doctor has been applauded for powerful performances from Highmore, its treatment and portrayal of an autistic character, and its moving, authentic plot points.  Due to the crucial element of having an autistic lead, the series also has an autism consultant on board behind the scenes, thus creating a more whole and representative depiction of Shaun Murphy. 

Now on its second season, the show has been received well by fans and critics alike, amassing millions of viewers across the globe. However, what plenty might not know is that this beloved series is actually based on an award-winning South Korean series whose rights were bought by popular actor, Daniel Dae Kim. After pushing for the show’s American adaptation, Kim eventually partnered with Sony Pictures Television to adapt the series, bringing onboard House M.D creator, David Shore.

So what things did they keep and what things did they change from the original Korean drama? Here are some similarities and differences between the two shows 

What’s the same?

1. The pilot
Director David Shore who adapted the American version shares with TV Guide that "The pilot owes a lot to [the original] and certainly these characters to a great extent were there. The original] laid that the foundation.”

Because of this, Shore went to lengths to make sure that the pilot followed its Korean counterpart, almost beat-by-beat, including the word for word speech that Doctor Shaun Murphy gives. 

Even the names of the characters in the American adaptation were designed so that they would resemble the originals as closely as possible — the protagonist in the Korean version is called Shi-on, so they named the American lead Shaun.

2. The backstory
A large and crucial part of Shi-on’s life is his family background, specifically the abuse he experienced at the hands of his father due to his condition and the closeness he has with his brother. In fact, it’s the brother who first gifts Shi-on with a toy scalpel, and his death inspires Shi-on to become a doctor. This backstory, although not completely the same (in the American adaptation, Shaun’s brother in younger than him instead of older,) is kept in the US version and its impact on the young doctor is still very much felt. 

3. The mentor and the obstacles
The hospital environment and colleagues that surround Doctor Shaun Murphy are still similar to the Korean original. The board of directors is still skeptical about Murphy’s skill and ability as a doctor, especially given his autism. His mentor, Doctor Glassman, however still sides with him and fights for his career — even putting his job on the line in order to keep Murphy as a doctor. 

What’s different?

1. The hospital
The hospital backdrop behind Doctor Shaun Murphy is slightly different from the original Korean drama — Shi-on works in a pediatric hospital, whereas Shaun Murphy works in a general teaching hospital, allowing him to meet and encounter a wider variety of patients and cases.

2. The pacing
The American adaptation includes small tweaks here and there that ultimately create a faster paced story. These are elements such as more frenzied surgery procedure, more active cuts and edits, and quicker shots in a shorter timeframe compared to the hour-long Korean episodes. This gives the American version a greater sense of urgency and snappiness, whereas the original Asian version keeps a more steady, restrained pace, which is lends itself more to the usual K-Drama mood and tone. 

3. Everything after the pilot
While the pilot’s plot stays the same, the American storyline almost completely departs from the Korean version right after the first episode. 

“There were things [from the Korean pilot] I owe a great debt to but there were things I changed," Director David Shore tells TV Guide. "The issues we're touching seemed very universal to me. It was more, how do I make this mine? How do I make the most of what I love about it? And the things I didn't love about it, how do I turn that into things I would love?"

Major plot point changes include the show’s openness to sex, politics, tension regarding autism, and even the relationship between Shaun and his female colleague. It’s also important to note that the Korean original only lasted 20 episodes, while the American version is still ongoing, so there’s definitely still a lot of room to explore and see where the US adaption takes this hit show.

Watch all season one episodes of The Good Doctor, and season 2 on the same day as the U.S. on FOX+!

Jason Ho Head of Marketing Communications & PR, Fox Networks Group Asia Pacific Limited
About FOX+

FOX+ is the only video-streaming service in Asia that combines TV series, movies and live sports, in one place, accessible from any device, at any time and in HD. With a combination of first-run Hollywood blockbusters and hit Chinese series and movies, FOX+ is the ultimate destination for entertainment. More than 11,000 hours of programming across multiple genres are available, comprising of the most popular content from global movie studios and television channels, as well as original FOX programming and FOX+ exclusive content. 

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