Let’s try an experiment, shall we? Let’s follow the drama’s lead and begin this recap backwards, from the end of Episode 2 rather than the start of Episode 1. Let’s start with a scene to make your hair stand on end.
Your jaw drops, your eyes bulge (which is de rigueur in this drama); you can’t believe what you are seeing. This isn’t real, you whine to no one in particular, not realizing that the lizards in your room are watching the same scene with you and feeling just as stupefied.
Look carefully. What’s wrong with the picture below?
The above image shows you two of my most-loved characters in Jejoongwon.
One of them should be instantly familiar to many of you; the other you might not have seen before, because he’s newly arrived in Korea and this is his first time on Korean TV. Together they form part of what is undeniably one of the best kdrama ensembles of the year.
This ensemble is huge, given the drama’s length and scope, so let’s take a look at just twenty of the supporting actors and their roles. Whether they kindle in you love or loathing, you will not soon forget them.
[Related posts: Part 1 and Part 2]
As I explained in Part 1 of this review, Jejoongwon recreates events in the late Joseon dynasty which led to the founding of the country’s first Western-style hospital. Many of its characters are based on people who lived through those events, whose names remain unchanged in the drama.
Despite sticking fairly close to the annals, Jejoongwon never feels dry or documentary-like. As you watch, you will find yourself immersed in the stories that it paints, transported to an era that feels foreign and yet intimately familiar, ancient and yet newly modern. You may even become curious about the hospital and desire to learn more about its history. Such is the power and poignancy of its storytelling.
For now, let us meet the three leads of the drama. Without giving away major spoilers, I would like to offer you a glimpse into their individual stories and show you how their shared destinies began. I will devote Part 3 to the supporting cast and characters.
“If I had a thousand lives to give, Korea should have them all.”
Tears stung my eyes when I read the above epitaph. I had just finished another episode of Jejoongwon (SBS 2010) and was poking around the Internet, gobbling up every bit of information I could find on the historical facts behind the drama. Those words, even though they are inscribed on the tombstone of Ruby Rachel Kendrick, who is not a character in Jejoongwon, are nevertheless so true of the foreigners whose lives are reenacted in the drama.
Horace Allen. John Heron. Lilias Horton.
These names now roll off my tongue as if they are old friends. All of them were doctors. All of them were fiercely devoted to a foreign country called Joseon. This drama is about them and the hospital they established. But above all it is about one man’s journey, from an outcaste clan to an operating theater, from being a despised butcher to becoming one of Korea’s first surgeons.
Here is Part 2 of our Favorite Female Roles poll. (Part 1 is here. Please check out the Favorite Male Roles poll as well: Parts 1 and 2.)
I really like this second part because it allows me to pay tribute to one of the brightest lights in the Korean film industry. She has left us (a fact that still brings me to tears), but in my heart she is always here, illuminating our days with her sweetness, her grace, her strength, and the immense power of her acting.
We love you, Jang Jin-young.