Watching from a different perspective: “D-Day” Episodes 1-8

Living in earthquake prone SoCal, I thought it might be interesting to tune into “D-Day”. The premise of this show: a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hits Seoul, and an idealistic doctor (and firefighters) have to fight both TPTB and Mother Nature to save the wounded.

I’ve lived through a number of large earthquakes of this magnitude here in SoCal. The 1971 Sylmar quake, 1987 Whittier quake and the 1994 Northridge quake are the three I remember best. Interestingly, the only one where I actually experienced any damage was the Northridge quake. Even though we lived 50 miles from the epicenter, our trailer house had the water heater rip right out of the metal straps (which were supposed to secure it in the event of an earthquake) causing a gas and a water leak, and the concrete foundation under the house cracked. 

We had earthquake insurance which paid for everything to be repaired/replaced, so it was a short term hassle, but really not a big deal. Back in 1987, I lived about 10 miles from the epicenter of the Whittier quake, but for whatever reason there was no damage to our house–just a good scare like the Sylmar quake when I was a kid. The Northridge quake magnitude (6.7) and the destruction (especially the roadways) looks very similar in “D-Day”–but would be undoubtedly worse because Seoul is much more densely populated, and the building codes are not as stringent.

I wondered how a drama like this would play out in light of last year’s RL Sewol Ferry Disaster, and other disasters like the mall roof collapse twenty years ago. Would the public be able to watch something like this? Would any meaningful changes be prompted by issues raised in this show? Before I even watched the first episode, I guessed that there are going to be multiple corrupt characters, greed, power and control issues will run rampant, and the less affluent and downtrodden masses will get the shaft once again with minor symbolic wins against TPTB.

I also expected plenty of medical melodrama, which I secretly love to pick apart and critique with my limited medical knowledge and researching capabilities. I was also interested to see how JTBC handles the special effects. How much of a CGI budget did they have, and how accurate would it be?

The cast was an unknown to me, except for Kim Young Kwang who I remember as the nicest Chaebol son in “Pinocchio”. Could he pull off the lead in a show? He’s a young guy. Heh–no issues here. He is pretty much carrying this entire show on his (broad) shoulders right now, and is acting circles around his sunbae-nims. I know that he is supposedly 6’2″, but if I had to guess his height based on US standards, he looks like he’s 6’8″ because of the way he towers over everyone else. I also like his curly mop of hair–perfect for the rebellious (for Korea) character he portrays. He would probably not register on the rebel-o-meter around here, even with that motocross bike. The wheelies–totally stupid. Give me a break! *headdesk*

I can assure you after 8 episodes, JTBC, the writer and PD-nim have gone all-in for a thorough skewering of anyone in charge, especially the corrupt bureaucrats who are clueless and holed up in relative safety. There is endless red tape to deal with besides the earthquake damage, and paralyzing bureaucratic policies. I can’t decide if I am enraged or sad or disappointed at the slavish adherence to the doctrine of CYA by the hospital director aka Supreme Jackass Park Gun, the head robo-doc guy Han Woo Jin (good gracious, he’s such an a-hole!) or the other doc on staff Yoo Myung Hyun (an amazingly irritating bastard). Right now, enraged is winning. Director Park is at the top of my list of hated characters in this show. Sleazy politician Goo Ja Hyuk who has the notion that he’s hit the lottery in terms of potentially profiting off the rebuild effort is also high on that list. If the (fictional) good citizens of Seoul don’t rise up with pitchforks, tar and feathers after this disaster and make some sweeping changes, there’s probably no hope.

I try to remember that some of the goofy stuff I see the characters do during the earthquake/aftershock scenes are because these people have never had preparedness drilled into them from Day 1 like what happens here in SoCal. The Hospital Chief of Staff Kang Joo Ran is in a supermarket parking lot, trying to drive while the earthquake is going on. Bad move. She’s got heels on too, but I’d bet dollars to donuts she doesn’t have a pair of sneakers in the trunk just in case. I mean, if you didn’t hear things all the time like keep sturdy shoes with you in case of an earthquake, why would you? (Answer: Yes, I have sneakers, blanket, and water stowed in the back of my car!) I watch as the characters don’t get away from windows, and don’t take cover under sturdy desks and tables. Sigh. The candles in the hospital are pretty darn scary too–gas leaks and open flame candles don’t mix well. Candles and oxygen tanks don’t get along well either.

There are some stunningly accurate moments in this show. The water pipes bursting after the aftershock–totally believable. It could have happened right after the earthquake too. No water to fight fires–that definitely would happen. The lack of communication due to cell phone towers being down, and landlines and radio equipment destruction is the real deal. Roads torn up and cracked or blocked with debris hinder the rescue crews. The scene at the gas station where the owner is asking for the equivalent of $10/liter for gas–spot on. No electricity=no way to get the gas up from the underground storage tanks. No electricity means no ATM and no debit card/credit card transactions either. People are sleeping outdoors in the street because the building are unsafe to enter–especially when the aftershocks roll through.There is a scene in Episode 4 at a press conference, and I swear the writer must have gotten a hold of the 9/11 disaster hearing transcripts where the words “Failure of Imagination” were used. I liked that. I also like how everyone is the drama is waiting for the government to come in and save them. It’s so sadly accurate. The fact that the hospital director goes to great lengths to save a VIP patient at the expense of everyone else is disgusting–but would assuredly happen in RL.

My biggest criticism of this show is that it doesn’t go far enough in portraying a disaster like this in a very densely populated city like Seoul. It would be unwatchable if they went for total realism, but the producers need to get a lot more hard-core. First of all, the time of the earthquake–8am on a Saturday–is the best possible time for an earthquake to hit. Kids would not be in school, workers wouldn’t be in subways or high-rise buildings, families would be close to home. Want a worst-case scenario? How about a weekday morning or evening rush hour…kids at after school activities, everyone out and about, in subways, on bridges. (That was the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in San Francisco, televised live during a World Series game at 5 in the afternoon. The time of the game and the fact that two local teams were participating made for less traffic than usual. Talk about lucky!) Or how about the middle of the night–and everything is total darkness already before the electricity is wiped out. If the quake happens mid-summer or mid-winter, there are weather issues on top of everything else to contend with. The lack of running and drinkable water would happen immediately. No flushing toilets either, it’s a guarantee the sewage system would take a hit. The subsequent contamination of the water supply would be a huge problem. Hundreds of thousands of people would storm the hospitals. The lack of electricity means life support and  dialysis patients are in big trouble right away. Medication–especially local anesthetic–would be used up quickly, and replacement would be non-existent. The chaos that “D-Day” portrays is only the tip of the iceberg IMHO. It would be so much worse in RL. Here in SoCal, an earthquake like this would also mean the looting would start immediately. (Insert appropriate SoCal riot/looting musical interlude here.)

I don’t think this is a show I could heartily recommend–it’s a specialized watch. If you like disaster flicks, medical melo, a predictable plot, and some wooden acting (except for KYK) then it’s great. If you are a KYK fan, you’re in heaven right now–especially after the hilarious fan service moment in Episode 7 where intern Jung Ddol Mi pokes at Doctor Lee’s substantial pectoral muscles and blatantly admires his washboard abs (6 pack? He’s so tall, he’s got a 12 pack!) before stitching him up as he lays shirtless on the table. Heh, I bet they made him shave off his happy trail for that scene! But if you want a read into the current viewpoint of how TPTB would handle a disaster in Korea, and the lack of common sense they possess, as well as how people might react in a disaster situation, it’s kind of an interesting watch. There’s a lot to pick apart in this show, but I like seeing what they get right as much as what they get wrong. The bonus of KYK acting his socks off adds to the reasons I keep watching this show.

Bottom line–whatever the disaster your area might be vulnerable to–earthquake, hurricane, tornado…don’t wait for TPTB to save you. They will take care of their own first. My goal is to have the ability to survive at least 3 days with no gas, electricity, sewer, or running water; hopefully by then help will arrive. Thanks, “D-Day” for reminding me to keep on my toes and make sure we have our preparations in place around Shamrockmom’s House!

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2 thoughts on “Watching from a different perspective: “D-Day” Episodes 1-8

  1. Pingback: D-DAY. JTBC. | IKurate

  2. I watched this drama too and the best part about it was the visuals. The cinematography was really beautiful. Some things were also portrayed quite realistically. To address the dense population in Seoul they would probably need more time to edit the filmed scenes, but it’s true they didn’t choose extremely crowded places like the subway station etc. I agree with you, one point down there.

    Liked by 1 person

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