Horse Doctor Episode 30

This episode takes place in Qing China where Kwanghyun has been studying with his teacher Dr Saam for several years. And here, in just ONE episode he manages to perform two very unusual operations. Everywhere he goes he manages to bump into someone with a strange illness. It’s starting to be like the Joseon version of the American medical drama House! 

It’s several years later and Dr Saam and his assistant Kayong are in Qing China. They are in town and busy looking for a restaurant. Kayong wants to find a particular restaurant that serves great dumplings where they ate the last time they came here. But she can’t remember where it is. Now we see Kwanghyun. He looks different. More facial hair. Several years in Qing have changed him. (I think he looks better) He’s found the restaurant and they all hurry in. They order several different kinds of dumplings and wait with anticipation. (I want to eat dumplings in China too – there are not many different kinds of dumplings in Korea – and it’s almost impossible to find any that don’t contain pork :( )

But when the food arrives they can’t believe it. It’s bland and totally different to how it tasted before. First they wonder if the chef has changed. They peek in to the kitchen to check. But no, the chef has not changed. He’s the same as before. It’s a mystery. But while Kayong simply complains about the bad taste of the food, Kwanghyun is asking WHY the chef’s cooking has got worse. (I seem to remember that there are similar scenes in Dae Jang geum where characters lose their sense of taste)

Kwanghyun performs an operation on the chef in the kitchen of the dumpling restaurant

Kwanghyun wonders if the chef may be sick. Encouraged by Dr Saam he confidently barges into the kitchen and demands to check the chef’s pulse! The chef objects at first (I’m not surprised!) But he is clearly not well and finally allows him to check him. Kwanghyun decides that he has a stone in his salivary gland in his TONGUE! (That’s different!) And the chef’s wife is informed that if they don’t operate straight away the chef will die. Straight away the kitchen turns in to an operating room and the chef is given an acupuncture anaesthetic before Kwanghun cuts the underside of his tongue open and removes the stone. (Yikes! 😮 )Of course the operation is a success and Kwanghyun and the others set off again.

Dr Saam, Kayong, and Kwanghyun are happy after the success of the operation

Dr Saam has an appointment with the local 부태수 (副太守) Deputy Governor General. Kwanghyun and Kayong are surprised to discover that he is from Joseon – he was a prisoner of war during the Manchu wars of 1636 but has managed to rise to and become a high ranking governor. The governor tells them that his daughter has a mysterious illness. But he can’t visit her because she has now married into a powerful family (with high ranking officials in the Ministry of War) and she has been put in confinement. (Perhaps because her new family is ashamed of her illness) Dr Saam saved the governor’s life years ago and so the governor obviously trusts him and wants his help again. But it’s difficult for them to diagnose her without seeing her and only hearing her symptoms – She has no fever or other symptoms, just a large swelling on her side which she describes as feeling like bugs are wriggling around inside it. (it’s like something out of a horror film :0 )She has seen doctors but no one can work out what’s wrong with her. So Dr Saam is his last hope. They have to find a cure.

Dr Saam meets with the local deputy governor general

Treating this young woman from Joseon makes Kwanghyun think about Jinyung. Then we see Jinhyung (known as Yongdal now) back in Joseon working with Kibae and Jabong in their secret pharmacy sorting out herbs for the poor. Their work has to be done in secret (as it goes against Myunghwan’s plans to sell herbs at a high price) but they keep getting anonymous tip-offs when the police are coming so that they can quickly hide all the herbs.

Jinyung works with Inju, Kibae, and Jabong at their pharmacy

Over at the palace, the princess comes out of her quarters dressed in a white mourning hanbok. Her loyal maid and guard are still by her side and look at her sadly as she is so young and already a widow. But suddenly the princess cheers up. It’s been three years now, she says (three years was the official mourning period for a husband or parent) and so it is time to stop mourning. (It’s obvious that her heart is not into mourning. She is simply following the Confucian rules of propriety for mourning.) Her maid and guard are shocked as she smiles with happiness and heads off to the fabric shop to choose some brighter colours for new hanboks!

At the store she bumps into Eunso who is now also out of mourning and so out of her white robes and now wearing a stylish hanbok. Eunso gives advice to the princess about what fabrics to choose – don’t choose anything too bright yet – while her maid looks on disapprovingly. (What a nightmare. It seems that she married someone she didn’t love and when he died she spent 3 years in mourning and that’s still not good enough! What’s the problem? Is she supposed to mourn forever?)

Eunso and the princess look at fabrics for hanboks

At the palace the young crown prince (the future 현종 King Hyeonjong ) is very sick. Myunghwan is still in charge of the hospital and treats the young boy with acupuncture. His treatment is successful and the king and family are very grateful to him. Grrrrr. Myunghwan may be respected by the king right now, but his relationship with his son seems to have deteriorated. Sungha has obviously not forgiven his father or himself for their roles in  Kwanghyun’s ‘death’. Myunghwan hears that the mysterious pharmacy for the poor is travelling around selling cheaper herbs. This is affecting his own and other noblemen’s pharmacy’s profits. He storms into Sungha’s office demanding to know what the board of Audit and Inspection are going to do about it! (is this illegal though?) Sungha explains he is doing all he can. But he says it without conviction. (I think we can guess who is sending the notes to Jinyung)

Back in Qing, Kwanghyun and Dr Saam are still trying to work out how to get in to see their patient. Kayong has an idea – she read in Heojun’s medicine book that there is medicine they can take to become invisible!

historical noteHeojun  (1537/39–1615) was a famous court doctor who died several years before this drama begins. There is a sageuk drama about his story also directed by Lee Byung Hun. His famous medical work Dongui Bogam was published in 1613. The drama Heojun presents the doctor as an earnest and heroic figure of medicine (similar to Kwanghyun.) But interestingly in this scene the characters focus on the less ‘realistic’ sections of his book. BTW Heojun was a real person from history but as far as I know Kwanghyun is just a made-up character. The character Heojun has a cameo in the MBC drama All About Eve (MBC 2000). 

 Kwanghun has a more realistic idea about how they can get in to see their patient – they will cause a distraction and then sneak in. He takes a pedigree horse as a gift from the governor. He is introduced as the vet and so is allowed inside the grounds with the horse. But once inside the stables he feeds the horses some herbs to ‘liven them up’ and unlocks the stable doors. The horses soon cause chaos as they charge outside. While the Qing guards are rushing around in panic Kwanghyun and the others sneak into the patient’s bedroom!

Kwanghyun causes a distraction with the horses

At first the governor’s daughter is shocked to see them and embarrassed to show them her huge lump. But when they finally see it, they are shocked too because it’s so MASSIVE! It’s clearly not a boil! Kwanghyun takes her pulse. And then considering that she has no other symptoms of illness, he finally comes to the conclusion that she’s not sick – she’s pregnant. But just then her husband marches in and catches them there. (He doesn’t seem too concerned that two strange men are standing in his wife’s bedroom! He doesn’t have them thrown out and killed immediately as I would expect) but he allows them to persuade him that his wife is about to have a baby! He doesn’t believe them at first (not surprisingly) but then at the perfect time his wife’s labour starts! There’s no time to spare. She must be operated on straight away.

Dr Saam tells Kwanghyun to do a Caesarian while her husband waits outside. But it takes too long and he loses patience. He storms into the operating room and fights with Dr Saam while Kwanghun is in the middle of the operation! The fighting stops when the baby starts crying. He has a son. And all is well. The governor is allowed to come and see his daughter and grandchild too.

Kwanghun performs an operation to save the governor’s daughter and her child

Jinyung has realised that it’s Sungha that is sending her the warning messages that police are on the way. She’s worried about his safety too because he’ll be in trouble if he gets caught. But he obviously wants to help her. Meanwhile Eunso hears that Kwanghyun has been spotted in Qing.

The Qing official is very grateful to Kwanghyun who now looks rather pleased with himself. He has never performed this operation before. But his face changes when he hears that there is a medical party coming on a visit from Joseon. And who should be in the party but Myunghwan! (and Jinyung! 😉 )


This episode feels like another break before the real action begins again. Kwanghyun has needed time to recharge his batteries and perfect his skills in Qing for a few years. He’s getting ready for a triumphant return to Joseon I expect. I am looking forward to seeing Myunghwan’s face when he realises that Kwanghyun is alive and well after all 😉

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