Let’s address the slightly touchy, but totally obvious elephant in the room first. Ha Ji Won is 39 and Kang Min Hyuk is 26. Is there really going to be a believable romance between these two? I admit the age difference put me off, but I decided to give Hospital Ship a chance since Ha Ji Won has more than one drama example of awesomeness on her resume. So was it worth it?
Let’s look at your chart
Ha Ji Won plays superstar surgeon Song Eun Jae who is on the fast track to being top dog at her fancy Seoul hospital. She prefers to think of her patients as sub-human while she operates, leaving her emotions out of the equation. Eun Jae has no time for friendship or family, and she repeatedly rebuffs her mother’s attempts to be part of her life. Something derails her upward climb on the success ladder and she finds herself on a creaky hospital ship with a hot, younger doctor of internal medicine played by Kang Min Hyuk. Dr. Hottie has his own parental problems and some sort of professional trauma that leaves his hands shaking when he tries to assist Eun Jae during a medical emergency. Can these two pull it together both professionally and personally?
The Love Boat this is not. I hope no one thinks I’m hating on Ha Ji Won. The woman is beautiful and she starred in my all-time, top of the list, favorite drama – The King 2 Hearts. There was a sizable gap in age between her and her co-star Lee Seung Gi of about 8 1/2 years and that bothered me not one iota. Their chemistry sizzled right off the screen. Anybody else remember the Refrigerator Kiss? Those were good times. Maybe it’s because Min Hyuk has such a baby face. To me, he still looks like a freshman college student. It would help if he stopped carrying a backpack. So far, the romance factor is not happening for me. The one cute and believable moment was when her mom tried to set him up on a blind date with her daughter’s picture and he seemed interested. But when they are in the same room, it’s slow sailing.
The doctor will see you now
The romance may be spread thin, but are you the medical drama type? Then this might be the story for you. Much of the show is spent on surgeries and diagnosing illnesses. There’s lots of blood spurting, squishy sound effects, and digging around in body cavities. (The whole ER/Grey’s Anatomy craze passed me by, so I can’t relate.) Surprisingly, not much of this medical mayhem happens on the hospital ship. They spend very little time on the boat, even though this is one of the most unique aspects of the plot. Maybe this will change as the show progresses.
With a dash of mystery
So why did a hotshot surgeon end up on a no name boat helping people in the Korean boondocks? That’s the twenty-four dollar question. Lots of references are made to an “incident” that happened at the Seoul hospital, and her new co-workers waste a lot of energy speculating what it could be. My guess is that it has something to do with the entitled, chaebol heir in episode 1 that kept making a play for her. Maybe she rejected him one too many times and he called in a favor. I don’t know if I’ll stick around long enough to find out.
Somebody forgot to pay the electric bill
What’s with the dark feel of the show? This director loves the artistic illumination with faces highlighted by computer screens. But it’s more than just the moody lighting. The whole feel of Hospital Ship screams MELODRAMA. There’s too much shadow. I need more humor to make the dramatic moments shine in contrast. When it’s all shocked expressions and screams of agony, it starts to feel manufactured and cheesy.
There’s comedy gold to be mined
Symptoms of the funny leave me wishing for what could be. The flower boy doctors on the hospital ship (technically, one’s a dentist) have their moments of comedy. I liked when Flower Boy Dentist commented that Ha Ji Won was just his type – nice body and pretty face. Hey, genius. Isn’t that every guy’s type? And when Kang Min Hyuk first meets Eun Jae, he knows she looks familiar and wonders if she joined the crew because of him. Pfffft. If only they had pursued this narcissistic story line a little longer. I feel that the show would be more balanced if they added more scenes like this.
So what’s the diagnosis? This drama suffers from melodramatic malaise. Everything is soooooo serious without the necessary build-up to make us care. This is not the drama I would show my friends if I were trying to win them over to the K-world. There is something very over-the-top and almost soap opera about it. But if that’s your cup of tea, then be sure to check it out.
Dramas with a side of kimchi