MBC’s 2017 medical drama Hospital Ship (병원선) is a surprisingly character-driven slice of life procedural. Being able to balance a steady stream of patients and emergencies of the week with deep dives into the lives and backstories of the main characters, Hospital Ship manages to be both exciting and emotionally engaging.
Hospital Ship follows the lives of the doctors, nurses and crew of the titular vessel that provide medical care to the residents of rural islands (many of them elderly) along the southern coast of South Korea.
Though initially the ship provided routine medical care, the arrival of talented surgeon Song Eun Jae (Ha Ji Won) from Seoul ushers in the ability for the ship to handle more serious emergencies. But Dr. Song’s cold, emotionless demeanor runs opposite of kind hearted and caring internal medicine doctor Kwak Hyun (Kang Min Hyuk) while also disapproving of the use of traditional Korean medicine by Dr. Kim Jae Gol (Lee Seo Won).
The contrasting personalities, along with the rest of the staff and crew of the ship, must come together to help provide necessary medical care and work to save lives while also dealing with their own personal baggage.
Hospital Ship‘s solid focus on each our main characters include familiar soapy stories of love, family and friendships. But focusing on the lives of the good doctors, nurses and ship crew help add an extra bit of heft to the stories of the patients they strive to help every day.
The series is an excellent look at the often emotionally and physically exhausting work of these everyday heroes. Putting a face and a character to doctors and nurses sort of bring the profession into a relatable light. Being able to understand what they may go through as they do life-saving work day in and day out is a fascinating experience.
Medical dramas are obviously nothing new. But Hospital Ship‘s great balance allows it to be a little more accessible than other, similarly-themed series might be.
The series is unexpectedly quite an easy watch. The patients and emergencies the ship encounters are unique and work well with the also unique setting. Filmed in and around the islands of Geoje City, the series makes full use of the uncommon location. This doesn’t take place in some glistening modern hospital in the middle of Seoul. And the patients aren’t rich, corporate suits.
Instead, there is a touch of nostalgia and down-to-earth sentiment that matches well with the legitimately tense life-and-death situations. You come to care about the patients of the week just as much as the hospital ship crew we follow from the very beginning.
The ensemble cast is also a major plus. Ha Ji Won is able to take Dr. Song through a realistic and emotional character journey as she learns how to become more compassionate both in her work and in her personal life. Ha Ji Won’s experience is on full display as she effortlessly takes on the challenge of this multi-dimensional character.
Kang Min Hyuk and Lee Seo Won are strong, charismatic male leads. And both shine with the solid material given to them. Veteran character actors Jung Kyung Soon, Kim Kwang Kyu and Lee Han Wi help to lead a talented young cast including Kim In Sik and Kwon Mina who all fulfill the ship’s needed functions as well as the series’ well-rounded story.
Overall, Hospital Ship is a balanced slice of life medical drama. Focusing equally on the hospital staff and crew as well as the lives of the people they help care for, the series offers a wide range of excitement and emotion. A beautifully unique setting, a strong ensemble cast. Hospital Ship is definitely a worthwhile viewing experience.