Ready for a fun, new twist on a medical Kdrama? Imagine you’re sick and live on a small, out of the way island that has no medical facility. Wouldn’t you look forward to the arrival of the doctors aboard the Hospital Ship? Too sick to make it to the harbor? No need to worry. These physicians make good old fashioned house calls.
The hospital ship is a floating medical clinic that offers its services free of charge to people on remote South Korean islands. Kwak Hyun, Kim Jae-Geol, and Cha Joon-Young are doctors who were assigned to the hospital ship as part of their mandatory military service. Although it’s the last place they wanted to be sent, they are dedicated doctors who genuinely care about the people they serve. Song Eun-Jae is a surgeon who came to the ship when the hospital she was working at let her go. Together, the trials and triumphs this team of doctors go through help them learn to love their ship “family”, their patients, and even the little hospital ship itself.
Although Song Eun-Jae specialized as a hepatopancreaticobiliary surgeon there really isn’t anything she can’t do. She is focused, driven, serious, and a perfectionist in every way. One of her colleagues claims “she’s as scary as a warrior.” She set her sights on leading a surgical team at a prestigious hospital in Seoul but when she follows her conscience and goes against her mentor, she ends up on the hospital ship instead. However, she is determined it will not be her final destination. She intends to go back to the hospital that fired her, no matter what it takes.
The doctor of internal medicine onboard the hospital ship is Kwak Hyun. Although he doesn’t match Doctor Song’s medical skills he far exceeds her when it comes to having a kind, sympathetic, and caring heart. He is intelligent and takes his job as a doctor seriously. Unfortunately, a traumatic event left him doubting whether or not he even has the right to be a physician. His father was once a famous surgeon but now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
Kim Jae-Geol is a doctor that practices alternative medicine. He comes from a very well to do family but doesn’t flaunt that fact. He has had a distant relationship with his father ever since he was a young boy, always taking a back seat to his older brother. Things became even more strained between father and son as Jae-Geol got older. Even though Jae-Geol is a well respected doctor, his father, who is the director of the hospital on Geojedo Island, refuses to acknowledge him as such because he chose to study Oriental Medicine.
Doctor Cha Joon-Young is the hospital ship’s dentist. He hated the thought of being assigned there but comes to love his job even though he often gets sea sick. Sometimes he helps out when Doctor Song performs surgery.
Ha Ji-Won always wanted to be an actress and admitted that she had over 100 auditions before finally receiving her debut role. Born Jeon Hae-Rim, she chose the name Ha Ji-Won (which is the name of her previous manager’s first love) because she thought it was “pretty and bold.” She made her TV debut in the 1996 teen drama New Generation Report: Adults Don’t Understand Us and went on to become one of the most sought after and highest paid actresses in South Korea. Her acting is quite versatile which has brought her roles in several different genres such as comedy, horror, sports, drama, and action. The lucky gal has worked with several of my favorite actors – Kim Rae-Won, Ji Sung, Hyun Bin, Jo In-Sung, and Lee Jin-Wook! She sings, has authored books, designed her own “Secret Jeans” line of clothing, established her own one-person talent agency, has had nine ambassadorships, is regularly involved in charity work, and has won as many awards as she is old (39)! In 21 years of acting, Song Eun-Jae is her first doctor/medical role. However, in my opinion, Gil Ra-Im in Secret Garden is her acting masterpiece.
Kang Min-Hyuk began his entertainment career in 2009 as the drummer in the rock band CNBlue. (I love CNBlue!) A year later he went on to act in an omnibus film entitled Acoustic along with Lee Jong-Hyun, a fellow CNBlue band member. He’s been in several Kdramas over the years. I haven’t watched everything he’s done but there are four (not counting Hospital Ship) I have seen. Although I don’t remember him all that well from his role in Heartstrings, The Heirs, and School 2017 (of which he was only in the first episode) I definitely do remember him in his supporting role in Entertainer. As for Hospital Ship, I think he was well cast as kind Doctor Kwak Hyun, which happens to be his first starring role. His acting in this drama, I’m sure, nailed it for future starring roles. He earned a place on my favorite actors list with this performance and I can’t wait to see him in many, many more things to come.
There are many different patients and medical emergencies this team of doctors confronts – a premature baby is delivered, a mob boss who is shot receives life saving surgery, the mother of one of the doctors and the father of another are treated for life threatening illnesses, a child receives an appendectomy, bus accident victims are treated… the list is quite varied and goes on and on with every medical case being interesting and unique.
I’m sorry to say this drama is a little too good. Although bad things definitely happen, in the end they are always settled, things are always fixed, and people are always happy. Unfortunately, life just isn’t like that. Bad things happen to good people and not everything ends happily ever after. I love a happy ending as much as the next guy, but why not have one or two of the difficulties turn out a bit more realistically? It would have been interesting to see how those characters handled failure.
I absolutely loved Kang Min-Hyuk’s character. He made Kwak Hyun into the most lovable, tender hearted person I can recall on a Kdrama. There is no guile whatsoever in that man. He’s just perfect! On the other hand, I found it very difficult to like Song Eun-Jae. Her standoffish, abrasive, clinically cold attitude made it impossible for me to like her. I would definitely want her as my physician but probably find it very hard to be her friend. These two doctors are proof opposites do, indeed, attract.
The drama does have a couple mistakes. The first one is when an older woman throws up blood and it gets on her shirt. The blood mysteriously disappears from off that shirt, however, when the woman leaves the hospital and boards a bus for home. The other is when a woman gives birth and the doctors mention the baby is a girl but it mysteriously turns into a boy later on. Did the translators make a mistake or did the writers? How could no one catch that giant, glaring mistake?
I remember mentioning in my The Time That I Loved You, 7,000 Days review how annoyed I was at all the hair pushing that went on in that show. Well, Hospital Ship proves it isn’t the character that so often pulls her hair back, it is the actress, because she does it again in this show. It must be a nervous habit, although I don’t remember her doing it in Secret Garden. Maybe her hair was just too short to play around with in that show. The one thing I am sure about is it’s just plain old irritating.
Don’t let its 40 episodes stop you from turning on Hospital Ship. Each one is only half an hour so it’s really like watching a 20 hour drama. Several shows have done that lately. Stations are doing it so they can fit in commercials. In South Korea you can’t interrupt a show with commercials so they’ve gotten around that by making the dramas have two half hour episodes back to back instead of one hour length episode. I think I like the shorter episodes better.
As far as the soundtrack goes Rainz sings a fun, up beat song called Let it Go, Let it Be. Soyeon, from the girl group LABOUM, sings the ballad I Feel Love. It’s not sung in English but from reading the translation the words are very romantic. On the other hand, Melody Day’s Chahee sings a song called Stain that sounds good but the English translation is pretty silly. Ma Eun-Jin performs a very nice song entitled Strange Day. The music is lovely but there’s one spot in the chorus that just didn’t sound right to me. My brain wanted the note to go up but her voice didn’t do that. I know it’s stupid but it bothered me. Oh well.
Filmed on location on Geojedo Island, Hospital Ship is a beautiful drama. High cliffs overlook crystal blue water and the foliage is lovely. There are tiny, out-of-the-way, rustic homes in little villages, a smaller hospital on the island and a prestigious grand one in Seoul, the dorm where the ship “family” sleeps when they are on the island, and of course the wonderful hospital ship.
All things considered, I liked Hospital Ship. It’s certainly not perfect but it is good. With all the talk about the cost of health care going on here in America I can’t help but end this review with a quote from Surgeon Song Eun-Jae…
“As soon as we buy health with money we’re putting a price on human life.”
What do you think?
Kang Min-Hyuk’s acting and character
Operations seemed real
A directorial mistake
Possible writing mistake
Things always ended well / not realistic enough