This review may contain spoilers**Note: this review contains minor spoilers. **
There are dramas that you watch and shortly forget about. There are dramas that you occasionally recall, but are not too memorable. Then, there are dramas that remain with you for a long time and immediately come to mind when asked about good dramas in general. Jejoongwon undoubtedly belongs to the last group. It has a “complete package” that is sure to please its viewers.
Jejoongwon tells the true story of the first western medical hospital in Joseon era Korea. There are three central stories to Jejoongwon: the so called “rags-to-riches” story, the rivalry between two very competent people story, and the love story. All of these sub-stories are told in a very different manner than most k-dramas, and provide something for everyone to enjoy.
The “rags-to-riches” part presents a man, Hwang Jung, belonging to the lowest class in the Korean caste system, the butchers (who were considered so low in status, they weren’t even allowed to have family names and were referred to by nicknames given to each other), who defies all obstacles (and there are many!) to become one of the first physicians of Korea.
The rivalry is between Hwang Jung and Beak Do Yang, the son of a nobleman with a keen interest in western medicine. The two have a natural affinity to medicine and are both outstanding at what they do, but one will always be better. The progression is unlike what many would expect, and doesn’t overpower the larger story at hand.
The main romance is between Hwang Jung and Yu Seok Ran, the daughter of an interpreter. Their romance is very gentle and gradual, but very fervent and touching nonetheless. Yu Seok Ran is a very unique k-drama heroine. She is ahead of her time, intelligent, kind, and self-assured. She also has a wonderful relationship with her father that is very moving and hard to come by.
At its core, Jejoongwon depicts the lives of three very different people who all see a similar future for Korea. They recognize that times are changing, and aid in the modernization of Korea through medicine.
The story is extremely well written. Taking historical events and rewriting them into a drama must be a difficult task, but it was executed very well. The characters were well developed and scene transitions were especially done well.
The acting was exceptional also. The casting of roles was very fitting for the characters. The role of Hwang Jung was played to perfection by Park Yong Woo. Hwang Jung is a man that has had to be invisible when facing member of the other classes for all of his life. He was not allowed to look at them directly, and needed to stick to the butcher’s neighborhood as much as possible or else be beaten and spit on. This causes confusion for someone who was instilled with these ideas since childhood and now has to live among people of the upper classes. Everything from Park Yong Woo’s facial expressions to body language expressed exactly what Hwang Jung was feeling throughout the story, a feature that is hard to find in many actors. Han Hye Jin has a great screen presence and brought Yu Seok Ran to life beautifully. Yun Jung Hoon also did a good job as Beak Do Yang, though not great.
Jejoongwon has one of the best OST’s I’ve heard in a while. The music fit the story well and increased emotional reactions to the scenes at hand.
The cinematography was not outstanding, but there were a few shots that were admirably filmed. I do wish there were more of those shots, but I was satisfied with everything else being done well.
In short, this was a very well produced drama that has sadly been overlooked, but deserves its recognition. A great story, excellent acting, plus a good OST to intensify the viewing experience, I recommend to this to everyone who has not had the chance to watch it.
**I have tried to make this review as objective as possible, but it is very hard to do with something that has moved me this much.**
Was this review helpful to you?
This drama is set in the decline of the Joseon era and perfectly portrays the changes within Joseon at the time. The Joseon Dynasty was closed off from the rest of the world but was forced to modernize, and later became occupied by Japan.
The story is about 3 youngsters who struggle with their modern ideas in their beloved country. We watch them grow in character here are the 3 main protagonists:
Hwang Jung/Little dog
A smart man within the butcher's class. Butcher at the time were seen as less then beggars and thieves, they weren't even allowed to have a name. Little dog commits the worst crime to get money for the surgery of his mother: Illegal Slaughtering. He becomes an outcast for the butchers and is being followed by the authorities. He steals clothes from a nobleman and still gets caught and shot with a gun. He is then saved by Yu Seok Ran (the woman he loves) and gets treated by a western doctor (doctor Allen) he then becomes intrigued with medicine and his story begins.
Yu Seok Ran
A sweet and smart woman within the middle class of the Joseon Dynasty. She is the daughter of a trader/translator. Making her extremely good in the English Language. Her biggest struggle is the equality of men and woman at the time. She wants to become a doctor too but the only woman who worked at the time where giseangs. She saves Little dog and her story begins.
Baek Do Yang
An arrogant and cunning man from the noble class. His father is a minister of the palace and he himself a medicine student. But he founds out the effectiveness of western medicine and he wants to study it. His father is against this. After his father's death he joins doctor Allen in order to become a doctor.
The story was amazing. I love medical dramas an this is one of the most if not the best I've watched. But the story goes a lot deeper and its also about family, love, friendship, patriotism, war, historical its almost everything and yet is still great in every one of them. The only bad thing about the story is the Japanese side, the were portrait extremely evil and dumb.
I loved each and everyone of the cast. Doctor Goh with his accent and Ji Gwak with his humor and Ran Ran with her cuteness. Doctor Allen who I found weird at first (He is a Korean acting an American) but loved while I watched more Episodes. Director Heron was cold at first and became much better. The giseangs who became nurses was funny at first but then they became real nurses.
Really great Ost, I still listen to songs from this drama on youtube they got the whole soundtrack there :)
A real gem this drama, I'm so glad I watched it. A really underrated drama that should be watched by a lot more people. Really give it a change if you are interested in the Josean Dynasty and its decline. A masterpiece!
Was this review helpful to you?
One of the things that I loved most about this drama is how much I learned from it--all of the historical events were incorporated very well into the story. I'm sure the show took liberties with some details, but the majority of the characters and events were real (based on my research while watching it). It gave a wonderful insight into the introduction of Western medicine, Joseon era social classes, and the international relations of Korea at the time.
The story's progression felt very natural throughout and moved at a good pace. All of the main characters had intriguing stories that converged in their efforts to become doctors. Hwang Jung struggled with hiding that he was born into the "untouchable" class of butchers, Yoo Seok Ran struggled with sexism and the limitations of being a woman in 19th century Korea, and Baek Do Yang struggled mostly with himself.
Near the end of the drama the focus started to turn more and more to events with Japan, and less on medicine. This is the main thing I didn't like so much about the drama--I wish they had kept the politics a secondary theme through to the end. Because of this I became a little disenchanted with the final episodes and while I wouldn't say the last episode ended with a whimper, it certainly didn't end with a bang either. The most climactic events in my opinion came some episodes earlier.
Acting + Characters: 10/10
Quality acting all around in my opinion, Park Yong-woo in particular. In the beginning episodes I wasn't a huge fan of how Baek's character was done (so much sneering!), but that quickly changed and he ended up being my favorite character.
One thing I have to say I really appreciated was that they found white people who could act well, since that seems to be a rarity in Korean dramas. Dr. Allen in particular was a very memorable character. While I found it a bit odd that a man born in Ohio in the 1850s looked clearly half Asian, I still find that preferable to white actors with little acting ability.
While Hwang and Yoo were interesting for their stories, the characters themselves were more straightforward: they were both good-hearted, strong-willed, and progressively minded. Baek, on the other hand, I found to be a much more complex and interesting character, not to mention the one that undergoes the most development on a personal level.
At times I hated him, and at other times I loved him. Baek was a character that took a long time to figure out, and once you think you understand him, he does something to turn that upside down. He's driven by jealousy and rivalry, but at the same time he's driven by a desire to save people through medicine and to modernize his country. He struggles with his feelings of inadequacy and jealousy when he's constantly sidelined as "second best". His ruling class status more than once proves to be an obstacle during his medical training, which causes him to be conflicted between maintaining his superior position in society and fulfilling his ultimate goal of becoming the best doctor in Korea. He is enigmatic and unpredictable, and in my opinion it's his character that doesn't make Jejoongwon simply a good drama, but rather an outstanding drama.
Jejoongwon has its faults, but the rest of it is so well done that I can happily ignore the imperfections. It's a superb drama that deserves far more recognition than it ever got.
Was this review helpful to you?