Underdog Dramas: Jejoongwon, S.Korea, 2010

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  • Genre: Medical, Historical
  • Episodes: 36
  • Broadcast Network:SBS

    “Times are changing” is a suitable tagline for this drama.
    The story is slow but once it ends, it leaves the viewer with a feeling of great satisfaction and completeness. There is a sense of having experienced a change; it’s also a very consistent drama in terms of pace, development and balancing some things out; it’s a steady story but I felt butterflies and knots on my belly when things got to a particulary meaningful or touching moment.

    In short? It’s a heart-warming and heart-wrenching (but the two are balanced quite enough) drama about changes and progress, about great difficulties and political changes and a hopeful drama about good people struggling to be happy and help others, to bring about a change; it is also a drama about some immature douchebags growing and becoming better humans.

    Story: The story is very interesting because it deals with how Korean society has to adjust to new, Western ways in a very particular area: medicine, where so many folk beliefs, supersitions misconceptions and class preudcices are especially noticeable. There is a lot of symbolism here related to belonging to a class and rejecting a class into which one is born. The sheer need for that is significant for the drama and enhances its general mood. Woven into it is a story focused on three main characters who undertake training to be doctors (the show does have a few medicine details and can be a bit graphic since they do show a bit of operating practices, so be forewarned, if you are asily made queasy and/or disgusted, you may want to skip some parts) and we have here a great sense of development. There is a growing and very gentle love story full of respect, true partnership, and a bit of a love triangle on the side, but the female protagonist is never swayed in her feelings and I never really had a sense that the “third wheel” or second male lead in this particular triagnle was ever really interested in her; he was far more focused on the competition and becoming better than Hwang Jung. The focus on medicine is, aside from personal and societal dimensions, also embedded in its political contexts, especially given problematic Korean-Japanese relationships, which is to be especially felt in the later part of the story. The story is therefore very mature, rich and multi-layered, there is a sense of depth stemming from its gradual development. The progress is very satisfying, the love story subtle- it’s the kind of drama where every gesture, every look are meanigful and heart-warming or heartbreaking, where respect is still a form of showing affection; it is a story of a true love and professional partnership, a very deep bond and also a very deep committment to helping people. The process of learning is greatly enhanced by numerous personal tragedies that befall our likeable heroes.

    Acting and Characters: The cast is just splendid! Park Young Woo brings out in his character, the Butcher littleDog who later becomes Hwang Jung (a sort of transition from lowborn to a freeborn, again in this time of Korea in transition) a great sense of deep humility and quiet fervour; he is predestined to be partnered in many ways than one with the female Yu Seok Ran, acted out by Han Hye Jin, a lovely and devoted lady whose parents, especially her father, are very progressive for the period. This is also what I liked about this drama: that they for once show parets in a period drama who rather than insisting on tradition, support their child and her good heart even though they know she may be in for a difficult task : being a woman doctor. Hwang jung’s father is the more traditional sort, who is inclined to neglect his healing just because he is low-born, a proud man.

    Then there is the Baek Do Yan noble who is very immature throughout most of the drama and his immaturity is deeply felt by the viewer to the point of being annoyed but it later comes together nicely. There are the wonderful characters of Dr Allen (the first director of the eponymous hospital) and Dr Horton (female),. Dr Allen is such a nice guy and has nice English too.

    There are also the successive hospital directors who are also quite likeable but given the great partk dr Allen has in the story and development, he is one of athe very memorable characters. All cast does excellent job but park Yong Woo was captivating at creating his characters- a deeply humane person, a quick learner who has a lot of pride too.

    All in all, as long as you won’t be discouraged by slow pace and a bit of graphic portryal of operating and even dissecting at the beginning, it;s a thoroughly interesting and beautiful drama and the characters really memorable, the love story gentle and fragile and subdued; and a rivarly… Definitely worth a watch! I thought  this drama is quite underrated, it sort of went under the radar when it was released and received no awards in its time.  Park Young Woo conveyed a sort of humble man who had to conquer a lot of himself, most of all and the things he was born into with class rejudices reigning  in order to stop being the poor lowborn and become a good and respected doctor; the drama shows how difficult the process was;

    the drama, in those societal changes, aside from political dimensions and development of medcine I mentioned and of abolishing class prejudcies and clash differences, also dealt with the theme of treating women and women abuse, weaving it into a story of the three doctors in training – but not in any too graphic wa; the graphic elements come a bit from showing them operating on people.

    Themes:

    • medical
    • development of medicine
    • becoming a doctor
    • clash between western methods and traditional Korea
    • changes
    • transition
    • social and class prejudices; nobility vs low-borns and emergence of new “classes” – the freeborn
    • rejecting the class one was born into
    • relationship
    • love story (v. subtle and steady)
    • commitment to helping people
    • wife abuse
    • partnership
    • women doctors
    • father-son
    • mother-son
    • father-daughter
    • mother-daughter
    • friendship
    • going through great difficulties
    • being grateful and humbleyes it is an important theme for Hwang Jung especially; we can see it in the way he treats Yu Seok Rang bt also others; it;s partly his kind heart but partly – the way he has been brought up.
    • pride
    • treating others with respect
    • Korea vs Japan
    • rivalry
    • English used
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