Throwback Series: Kill Me, Heal Me
In an effort to highlight some of the best dramas, we are starting a series on throwback hits from previous years. Bouncing back to 2015 in this round, we’re taking a look at the unique and intriguing storyline of Kill Me, Heal Me and what exactly makes it so remarkable.
An Exploration of D.I.D
The story of Kill Me, Heal Me revolves around main character Cha Dohyun (Jisung), a young heir to the chaebol known as Seungjin Group, though he happens to suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder (otherwise known as Multiple Personality Disorder). As the story progresses, more of his split personalities reveal themselves and the past trauma that caused the disorder begins coming to light. Dohyun has six different personalities, each of which was concocted to deal with some portion of trauma he experienced.
After his most prominent personality, Shin Segi, known for being violent and angry, takes over and brings Dohyun back to Korea from America to face the demons he’d been avoiding, the plot begins to unfold. Dohyun faces pressure from his grandmother and chairwoman of Seungjin Group to keep her in power, while another portion of the family attempts to take over the company. In addition, his mother pressures him to step into a position of power, despite the fact he does not desire to do so. He returns to Korea to take the position of vice president at one of Seungjin Group’s companies under his cousin Cha Kijoon (Oh Minsuk). The two are engaged in a rivalry, especially over Dohyun’s first love Han Chaeyeon (Kim Yoori), who is engaged to Kijoon.
Cha Dohyun has a few chance encounters with twins Oh Rijin (Hwang Jungeum) and Oh Rion (Park Seojoon), who are a psychiatric doctor-in-training and a bestselling author respectively. Rijin and Dohyun’s fates become intertwined when she has a chance run-in with Shin Segi, who declares her to be his first love.
As the story progresses, Rijin begins to meet each of Dohyun’s personalities while learning how to deal with them. In addition to Segi, Dohyun also harbors Perry Park, a middle-aged man with an affinity for fishing and building bombs (yes, you read that right), and teenage twins Ahn Yoseob and Ahn Yona, the male counterpart being a soft-spoken and intelligent artist who also happens to be Dohyun’s “suicidal” personality, while his twin sister is a flamboyant young girl who loves idols. The final two personalities, Nana and Mr. X, are more elusive, recent developments. Together, Dohyun and Rijin learn how to cope with Dohyun’s multiple personalities, all while attempting to rediscover their forgotten pasts. It’s only natural that the two eventually fall in love.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is one of the most difficult mental illnesses to pinpoint, let alone accurately portray within a story. The storyline of Kill Me, Heal Me follows Dohyun’s struggle to gain control over himself and his personalities while learning to adequately cope with his trauma, all while facing pressures of daily life in the chaebol world, in addition to hiding the illness from his family members. The series accurately depicts the emotional toll such a serious illness can take on a person, as the viewer watches and sympathizes with a lonely and distant Dohyun and his struggle to fit in properly in a society that has stigmatized mental illness as a whole.
Shining a Light on the Toxic Chaebol Lifestyle
The major factor in the development of Dohyun’s disorder is his chaebol-centric life, which he attempted to flee from by traveling to America for an extended period of time. Throughout the series, many instances highlight the negative impact of the chaebol lifestyle on families and individuals, including the feud surrounding the ownership of the company and the fight between family members for more power over money.
Without giving away too many spoilers, all we can say is that Dohyun’s disorder was developed over a family secret that involved broken marriages, “illegitimate” children, and childhood abuse. As the story unfolds, so do the Cha family secrets in their desire to maintain power over Seungjin Group at all costs, even going so far as sacrificing the well-being of more than one family member.
In addition to this, viewers are presented with an arranged marriage issue that still seems to factor in Korea today. Children are auctioned off in marriages as a way of solidifying positions of power and ownership over stocks in certain companies, which appears mutually beneficial for both families in this particular drama. An example is the scene in which Dohyun is forced into an arranged date with another chaebol daughter by his own grandmother.
Dohyun’s first love, Chaeyeon, is engaged to Kijoon because he currently holds the highest position of power, but as the series progresses, she waffles between him and Dohyun, and it is initially unclear whether that is due to genuine affection for the lead or the realization that Dohyun is gaining influence within their circle. However, further instances seem to point to the fact that her priorities lie in what is most beneficial for her own status rather than out of genuine love for either of the men. This highlights the toxic mentality that many chaebol children are brought up with, and the somewhat twisted belief that chaebol power must remain in the hands of the super-wealthy, a.k.a no outside marriages.
These major arcs in the show make it incredibly intriguing to watch from start to finish, as the blend of concepts is not only unique, but super informative as well. In addition to all of this drama, Kill Me, Heal Me also manages to have a significant amount of comedy thrown into the story, something that may not seem immediately apparent when discussing a very serious subject like an individual’s multiple personalities. As far as genres go, the drama does a great job of encompassing all of our favorites, and it is excellently multifaceted. If you missed the Kill Me, Heal Me train, this is your signal to hop on. It’s never too late for an amazing story!