10 Things You May Not Know About “Descendants of the Sun”


There are some facts about “Descendants of the Sun” (DOTS) that are rather hard to miss.

For one, it’s not unknown that it has emerged as the biggest K-Drama hit of 2016 so far, making its mark as the most successful TV serial in four years to cross the 30 percent viewership rating in Korea – a record that the 2012 period hit “The Moon Embracing the Sun” also holds.

It is, too, the show that gave actor Song Joong-Ki a smashing comeback after completing South Korea’s mandatory 21-month military service, starring as the easy-going and charismatic Captain Yoo Shi-jin, captivating hearts across the world in the process with his pair Song Hye-kyo, who plays the role of Kang Mo-yeon, a feisty surgeon in the story.

After the DOTS fever swept the world, there’s probably nothing about the show that we don’t already know, but trust us when we say that you’ve probably still missed some bits and pieces about Korea’s most talked-about show.

Here are 10 lesser-known facts about Descendants of the Sun that will feed your undying love for the series. You’re welcome.


The 2015 MERS-CoV outbreak in South Korea heavily delayed the show’s filming schedule


DOTS fans know well enough that Song Joong-Ki suffered from multiple injuries while filming one of the show’s many scenes (we’re talking about a fractured wrist and a damaged ligament here!), affecting the show’s schedule. But that was just one of the toughest obstacles the makers of DOTS had to face.

Another challenge they had to deal with was catching up with filming after putting production on hold for a month due to the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreak in South Korea last year, which resulted in 33 deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO).


Descendants of the Sun wasn’t originally written as a love story between a soldier and a doctor


Believe it or not, the drama was initially planned to be based on an award-winning short story by Kim Won-Seok called “Medecins Sans Frontieres” (Doctors Without Borders). Inspired by the non-government organization the title was lifted from, the story was supposed to be about a male emergency responder who dedicated his life to humanitarian work. But when screenwriter Kim Eun Sook (“Heirs”, “Secret Garden”) was roped in for the project, she rewrote the story, ultimately changing the male lead’s character and adding more romance to stir audiences.

We don’t know but we can’t imagine DOTS without Yoo Shi-jin and Kang Mo-yeon.


South Korean brands featured on the show enjoyed a massive sales boom


If there’s one thing the car Captain Yoo Shi-jin drove in the show, the lipstick Dr. Kang Mo-yeon used briefly in a scene, and the red ginseng tonic everyone in the series seemed to be downing have in common, it’s that all three products experienced a significant rise in in sales – all thanks to DOTS.

The Straits Times reported that the sales of Hyundai’s Tucson rose to 10 percent in the local market. Cosmetics company AmorePacific confirmed that the Laneige Two-Tone Lip Bar – which is now tagged as the “Song Hye-Kyo Lipstick” – became their best-selling product in March, and had even sold out in some stores. The sales of Cheong Kwan Jang Red Ginseng Extract Everytime also rocketed, growing 176 percent from a year ago.

Now, we’d like to know… did choco pie manufacturers enjoy the same money boost? Hmmm…


China’s Ministry of Public Security issued a warning about the series


If we could give the ultimate fan award to a country, it would most likely go to China.

The DOTS fever hit the hottest temperatures in the country that a lot of viewers there became so addicted to the show, a number of oddities linked to the series were reported, including a rumor about a woman who binge-watched the show and triggered acute glaucoma after her 18-hour marathon and a story about a young man, who – jealous of his wife’s obsession with Song Joong-ki – drunkenly stormed into a photography studio and demanded that the shop owner take pictures “to make him look like Song” – an incident China’s Ministry of Public Security highlighted in a post on its Weibo social media page last March.

These two of many events prompted China’s Ministry of Public Security to issue a warning saying, “When chasing male or female stars, do not become too infatuated with them. Because sometimes your casual words could end up hurting those who really care for you,” the BBC reported.


To learn complicated medical terms, Song Hye-kyo was coached by real-life doctors


TV shows always strive for authenticity, and what better way to make Kang Mo-yeon’s character more realistic than having real doctors coach Song Hye-kyo for the role?

In an interview with VIU TV, the actress, who was provided with experts’ help to ease herself into her character, admitted her struggle in learning medical terms in English. “There were a lot of professional words and I didn’t know them. But the doctors instructed me a lot,” she recalled.


It is the first KBS drama to complete filming prior to its airing


Unlike the other dramas of KBS, which were filmed during the airing of the series (to enable the writers to play with the show’s reception and the audience’s reactions), DOTS adopted “early filming” and wrapped up way before it was released, making it easier to be reviewed in China, where foreign shows are being regulated before airing.


Song Joong-ki had to improvise some of his English lines


For a wider audience reach, the drama incorporated a lot of English lines in the script. This became a true challenge for the actors of the show, who were non-native English speakers.

“There were some English conversations that I didn’t speak fluently, so I had to improvise,” Song Joong-ki was quoted saying in an interview with VIU TV.  He added that he hoped the viewers would still enjoy the parts in which he spoke English despite his difficulty with the language.

(Oh, you were adorable, Song Joong-ki oppa!)


Onew was supposed to appear in the pilot episode


On his surprise appearance on the May 17 broadcast of KBS2’s “Cool Kiz On The Block”, SHINee’s leader Onew spilled that his part in the pilot episode of DOTS got cut. “There were scenes which were edited. During the first episode, I was anticipating the scene where I would appear, but it didn’t come and I was sad,” he admitted.

Playing the role of Lee Chi-hoon, a bright and bubbly resident doctor and father-to-be, is the first solid TV acting gig under the K-Pop idol’s belt and he was pretty disappointed about his part getting edited out.

Song Joong-ki – like the hero that he is in the show – was quick to comfort the 26-year-old singer. Onew revealed, “Before the episode was even finished, Song Joong-ki called, ‘It happened to me, too. Lessen the burden on your mind a little and let’s relax and watch it pleasantly as viewers. From now on, it will get better,’ he said, and encouraged me. This senior’s careful consideration touched me.”


Cho Tae Kwan a.k.a. Daniel thought he was being pranked when he got a call from the makers of DOTS


The “Superstar K” alum may not have made it to the competition’s top ten – let alone bag the grand prize – but he sure did hit jackpot with Descendants of the Sun. Rookie actor Cho Tae Kwan, who goes by the name Japer Cho, almost didn’t make his debut in DOTS as the handsome Dr. Daniel Spencer, thinking the call from the show’s makers was merely a prank. He was relieved to find out that the offer was real when he reached out to the contact. (Whew!)


For Jin Goo, joining the cast of DOTS was signing up for “trouble”


…In a good way, though!

While the actor who plays the stern yet soft-hearted Sergeant Seo Dae-young has been in the biz for 14 years now, he gushed in the March 26 episode of KBS2’s “Entertainment Weekly” that he has never received such love in his career the way he did in DOTS. He then added, “I thought I was in trouble the moment I took the script. I could tell Kim Ji Won and I as a couple would receive a lot of love.”

And, just like how he predicted, they did receive a lot of love! So much love that a second season of DOTS is in the works and will be focusing on Seo Dae-young and Yoon Myeong-joo’s rocky romance. Brace your feels; 2017 will surely turn us yet again into emotional wrecks!


***Descendants of the Sun will be aired on GMA 7 on the second half of 2016.


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