Now that the external enemy has been beaten (for now) the Joseon government begin to fight amongst themselves! The birth of another prince causes all kinds of tension between the opposing political factions as they argue over who should become the next king. Heo Jun is in the middle and doesn’t want to be dragged into their political scheming. But when Prince Gwang Hae becomes seriously ill, his enemies want Heo Jun to finish him off …
Several years have passed now and King Seonjo’s second queen – Queen Inmok – gives birth to a prince, Prince Yeong Chang. Do Ji seems to be Heo Jun’s right hand man now as we see the two of them together waiting anxiously for news of the birth. (Men were not supposed to enter the room when women were giving birth – not even doctors!) But it’s not just the doctors who are anxious. The birth of a prince will cause trouble in the palace between the political factions: one side backs Prince Gwang Hae and the other side will try to persuade the king to make the new prince the crown prince.
The king is pleased to have a son but there are mixed feelings for Prince Gwang Hae and the government factions.
Heo Jun always tries to stay out of political issues but Do Ji is not so naive and he explains that even Heo Jun will have to take sides now. Although Prince Gwang Hae is older and has the title of crown prince, his mother was only a concubine, not a queen so his position is not safe. King Seonjo’s first queen had no children.
It’s been 10 years since Heo Jun and his team began compiling the Imperial Medical Annals. Heo Jun has been working hard and has a nasty cough but still refuses to take a rest. The country is not doing well after the battle with the Japanese and Heo Jun discovers that their budget has been cut and so the herb collectors have not been paid for months.
Heo Jun works hard to finish his work but his health is getting worse
We take a break from the politics at court to catch up with the locals. Koo Il Su’s daughter, Un Yun, is married now but when she turns up with a black eye her father Ko Ilsu rushes off to find her husband and beats him with a brush! His new son-in-law gambles and plays around with women – just like Koo Ilsu did! Koo Ilsu regrets not letting his daughter marry Heo Jun’s son before Heo Jun’s family became aristocrats and out of Koo Ilsu’s family’s league!
Koo Ilsu’s daughter seems to have married a man just like her father!
Suddenly both Prince Yeong Chang AND Prince Gwang Hae get sick right at the same time. Heo Jun is in a predicament as this will test his loyalty to the princes. But he makes the decision based on medical reasons and heads off to check the baby prince first. The factions all take this as some sort of ‘message’!
Heo Jun successfully treats the prince
Later Prince Gwang Hae gets seriously sick again with malaria. It’s difficult to cure and Heo Jun is stumped at first. Finally he instructs the assistants to collect rain water on a stormy night. And then he gets some arsenic. Does this mean he has gone over to the other side and is going to kill the prince?
It seems that Heo Jun is going to treat the prince with arsenic!
The squabbling between the factions is so destructive and annoying! Poor Heo Jun just wants to get on with his job. The political situation is complicated as the factions squabble amongst themselves and break up into more and more factions. During King Seonjo’s reign the dominant faction was the Sarim faction (which had been persecuted by the Hungu faction in the past)
During Seonjo’s reign the Sarim broke up into two factions: the liberal Easterners (Dong-in) and the conservative Westerners (Seo-in). It was the Easterners who advised King Seonjo that the Japanese were not planning to invade Joseon – even though the words and actions of Japanese Leader Hideyoshi Toyotomi told a different story. That’s why the country was unprepared and taken by surprise when the Japanese rocked up!
Then the factions broke away again – the Easterners had internal conflict and separated into Northerners (Buk-in) and Southerners! (Nam-in) And then the Northerners broke up into Greater Northern (which were extreme leftists) and Lesser Northern. In the drama we see the Greater Northern and Lesser Northern factions. (The Greater Northerners back Prince Gwang Hae and the Lesser Northerners back Prince Young Chang) The Westerners split up too into Old Learning (No-Ron) and New Learning (So-Ron) phew! Something like that anyway. So complicated.