Move over, Professor Do Min Joon.
K-drama fans around the world have a new love and he, unlike Prof Do, is no alien from another star. Rather, he is the very human and very hot Captain Yoo Si Jin from the South Korean army, Planet Earth.
Since Descendants Of The Sun - a Korean romance starring Song Joong Ki as Captain Yoo and Song Hye Kyo as the doctor he is wooing - premiered in South Korea, China, Singapore, the United States, Britain, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere last month, it has been fast displacing the 2013 hit drama My Love From The Star in viewers' affections.
Descendants has a total of 16 episodes.
In Seoul, where episodes seven and eight aired last Wednesday and Thursday, Descendants has been reaching ratings above the 30 per cent share of the audience and has long surpassed My Love's highest numbers.
In China, where My Love - which starred Kim Soo Hyun as Prof Do - was a huge hit, the growing popu- larity of Descendants became official when the Chinese Ministry of Public Security issued a tongue- in-cheek warning on Weibo, cautioning against an unhealthy obsession with Song Joong Ki.
But the warning came too late for a 20-year-old Chinese woman, who was reported to have been diag- nosed with acute glaucoma after she binge-watched 16 episodes of the K-drama Cheese In The Trap and two episodes of Descendants.
The Chinese video platform iQiyi is releasing Descendants exclu- sively in the country and at the same time as in South Korea.
In Hong Kong and Singapore, Descendants is the most-watched show on Viu, the K-drama streaming site and app.
It declines to give viewership figures.
The drama also airs in Singapore on KBS World (StarHub TV Channel 815), the international channel of major Korean network KBS.
Singapore viewers are being left breathless by the fast-paced romance between the two Songs and the thrilling action in picturesque Greece, which stands in for a fictional war-torn country called Urk in the series.
Song Joong Ki's Captain Yoo goes to Urk on a peacekeeping mission and his love interest, Dr Kang Mo Yeon, played by Song Hye Kyo, also lands there soon afterwards as a medical volunteer.
Azure skies, pristine beaches and lovely ruins form a backdrop to the will-they-won't-they couple's flirtation and narrow escapes from death.
Self-professed K-drama lover Sylvia Goh, 48, started watching Descendants for the leading lady, but was soon drawn to the boyish leading man.
She says: "I like Song Hye Kyo. I remember watching her in past dramas Autumn In My Heart (2000) and Full House (2004). Song Joong Ki is cute. I'm looking forward to more touching moments between them and if she accepts him."
Undergraduate Lee Meiyan, 23, is unabashed in her appreciation of the actor.
"On top of the interesting plot, he is really charming. Six episodes into the drama and he has already saved the female lead from a car dangling off a cliff. It was really romantic and exciting. After his military service, he has definitely become more man, more mature-looking and muscular."
Male viewer Eugene Quek cannot deny Song Joong Ki's appeal after watching him in the 2012 melodrama The Innocent Man and Descendants.
The 17-year-old polytechnic student says: "The Innocent Man was a big hit in Korea. After Song entered the army, fans have been waiting to watch him again."
Some discerning fans also give screenwriter Kim Eun Sook credit for the swoonworthy Descendants. Kim, who has created hit dramas including The Inheritors (2013), Secret Garden (2010), On Air (2008) and Lovers In Paris (2004), is famous for her buzzy shows and punchy dialogue.
For South Korean housewife Oh Jung Yun, Kim's name alone was enough to draw her attention.
Madam Oh, who is in her 30s and lives in Singapore, says: "Secret Garden showed me the charm of a romantic comedy. The Inheritors was a bit disappointing. Still, hearing Kim's name made me anticipate the drama."
She recalls how Kim's lines lifted a solemn scene in Descendants, where Dr Kang has reservations about dating Captain Yoo because his job might get him killed any time.
The soldier then asks the doctor if she would be more likely to accept him as a boyfriend if he were "an ordinary man from a rich family".
Dr Kang says: "No, it sounds too ordinary to me."
Which is when Captain Yoo wins smiles from her and from viewers when he says: "I know I should have said 'a handsome man from a rich family'."
Publishing coordinator Geraldine Koh, 27, says: "The couple's banter makes the drama lighthearted and fun to watch. They are very direct with each other, sometimes to the point of making viewers blush."
There is no draggy second- guessing in this courtship. From the get-go, Captain Yoo identifies his target, Dr Kang, in the hospital, goes in for the kill and scores a date - all within the first episode.
Administrative service executive Angelina Ong, 25, says: "That's what I find so refreshing about this show - the way they are so straightforward with each other.
"The romance blossoms in the first episode, then they break up in the second episode. It breaks the norm of how K-drama romances usually unfold. So it keeps you wondering if the leads will end up together."
Madam Oh may be in Singapore, but she chats about the drama with her mother in South Korea and her sister in the United States on a daily basis on a text-messaging app. They discuss the latest developments in the show and also debate over which K-drama actor is more charming.
She says: "I asked my mother which K-drama male lead she prefers - Do Min Joon or Yoo Si Jin.
"Her answer is Yoo Si Jin. Because Do Min Joon is from a star, he can't be real in this world.
"Maybe it's possible to find someone like Yoo Si Jin because there are so many soldiers in Korea."
This article was first published on March 20, 2016.
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