Drama Recaps
Third Ward: Episode 1
by | September 25, 2012 | 31 Comments

One believes in Eastern medicine, one believes in Western medicine, and they just can’t get along. But they’re going to find out that being brothers in the same hospital is a lot harder than they thought it’d be.

Sound familiar? Vaguely an amalgamation of other medical dramas you’ve seen before? It probably is.

I’ll be the first to say that medical dramas aren’t high on my list of favorite things, and Third Ward promises plenty of the medical drama norm, with a new(?) twist on the “I can save lives better than you!” story mechanic. If nothing else we’ll definitely be getting a pretty show, but whether that’s enough to slake your thirst for high stakes doctoring is up to you.

Note: This is a one-time recap just to get a whiff of tvN’s newest medical dramedy. (And yes, maybe just to get a peek at Oh Ji-ho.)


Orchestral music swells as we move right into the opening shot: Brain surgery as performed by neurosurgeon KIM DOO-HYUN (Kim Seung-woo). He coolly finishes the surgery and leaves the stitching up to his colleagues, just in time for him to not be on time to a hospital opening ceremony.

In contrast, we find KIM SEUNG-HYUN (Oh Ji-ho) staring at a beautiful vista from his spot on a very high cliff, which he then rappels off of.

We cut back to what seems to be the opening ceremony for Seohan National Medical Center, and the Head Director prepares to give his speech.

Someone’s late to the ceremony, and the frazzled girl jumps out of her bunk bed, eats some breakfast cookies she finds on her floor, and roots through her dirty socks to find the pair with the least offensive stench.

Either she’s living in the hospital or she just lives with another female doctor, who tsks at her roommate’s filthy habits. This is JIN HYE-IN (Kim Min-jung), who haphazardly throws on her own doctor’s coat but is delayed on her way out by a package of cup noodles on the floor which she debates on eating. Does the five second rule not apply here?

Back with the fancy speech, Head Director stresses that their medical center strives for one thing above all else: Communication and harmony between Western Medicine and Eastern Medicine.

Hye-in sneaks in during the speech, drops the cup noodles, then sneaks right back out. Her colleagues just roll their eyes.

We’re jumping from character to character pretty fast here, as a colleague calls Seung-hyun from the ceremony because he wants him there – Seung-hyun is their best weapon in terms of Eastern Medicine.

Seung-hyun scoffs at this, and his breath is a bit short because he’s on a cell phone while hanging off a cliff. His colleague thinks the heavy breathing is because he’s with a girl, which Seung-hyun lies is true just so he can get off the phone. Ha.

Another doctor colleague calls Doo-hyun about this apparently holy ceremony, but Doo-hyun doesn’t feel sorry that he’s late because he had to finish a surgery. “To go to that opening ceremony, do I have to make a patient into a corpse when I could save that life?”

Why is he having to argue with people about his priorities, when his first one is saving lives? You’d think other doctors would be like “Oh yeah, that is more important than a ceremony” but everyone’s all, “You should have gone to the ceremony.” Doo-hyun is the only one speaking sense.

Regardless, Doctor Colleague feels sorry for Doo-hyun since he’s been reassigned to Seohan, which we know is a collaboration hospital between two different facets of medicine. Doo-hyun is Western Medicine all the way, and snubs the very idea of Eastern Medicine and its “doctors”.

However, Doo-hyun is almost run off the road by a truck driver falling asleep at the wheel. Cue dramatic editing cuts.

Seung-hyun’s in danger too, since the reason he put himself in such a precarious position was to get a rare plant/herb from the cliffside. But grabbing it makes him lose his balance, and he ends up at the mercy of the rope he’s hanging from.

The sleepy truck driver ends up running Doo-hyun off the road, but he’s safe. The same can’t be said for the truck driver, who careens into some trees and causes a multi-car pileup behind him.

Seung-hyun saves the plant, and even answers the phone while he’s hanging. He’s more than unhappy to hear his colleague tell him that if he doesn’t come to the ceremony, the Eastern Medicine Director will take back the house Seung-hyun rents from him.

Doo-hyun tends to one of the drivers from the accident, covered in blood from head to toe. (I’m glad he’s helping, but did he call EMS yet?) He saves the driver’s life by inserting a needle in his chest to clear some trapped air, and is taken along by EMS since Seohan is more than five minutes away and they need the help.

And poor Hye-in gets interrupted from finally eating her ramen by a call from a doctor, about Doo-hyun’s emergency patient coming in. One text gets all her colleagues out of the ceremony and ready for surgery.

She meets Doo-hyun outside the ambulance, while Seung-hyun leisurely strolls into the hospital. Er, what? Were you climbing a mountain two feet away from the entrance?

Security personnel don’t seem to believe Seung-hyun when he says he’s a doctor, even as he tries to help with a sick child a frantic mother brings in. The hospital isn’t supposed to open for emergencies till tomorrow, but you can’t really say no when someone’s dying. Seung-hyun gets to work.

In a different part of the hospital, Doo-hyun prepares to perform brain surgery on the accident patient.

Seung-hyun checks the boy over and thinks a Qi point is blocked, and asks for a scalpel. The nurse can’t give him one by law since he’s an Oriental doctor, so he dumps out his hiking bag to find one in there. Uh. Is that against the law?

He uses his own scalpel from his acupuncture needle roll and gives the boy a tracheotomy, aka a hole in his throat, while Doo-hyun performs surgery under the watch of the hospital directors.

While Seung-hyun seems successful in pulling out something the boy shouldn’t have swallowed, Doo-hyun gets sprayed with blood from his patient’s head. Something’s gone wrong in the form of a sinus rupture, and the doctors watching note that the case looks pretty hopeless. But I guess because they’re doctors they can just sit back and shrug like they’re watching the Discovery Channel.

After the procedure, Mom asks whether her son is alive. Seung-hyun replies that he’s alive, but it could be that he’s not alive… so, vegetative state. Mom breaks down in tears and begs Seung-hyun to save her child, so Seung-hyun brings out the acupuncture needles.

While Doo-hyun sets to suturing the ruptured vein, Seung-hyun inserts a long acupuncture needle into the boy’s head, noting in voiceover how dangerous a procedure it is.

But lo and behold, acupuncture saves the child from a permanent vegetative state.

As for Doo-hyun’s patient, the surgery is successful. All the watching doctors clap and cheer.

Seung-hyun packs his hiking bag up again, and doesn’t forget his Maxim magazine, either. The nurse gets a chuckle out of that.

The hospital directors call Seung-hyun “The Second Heo Joon” (a legendary doctor from the Joseon era), but they’re all surprised once Seung-hyun finally shows up with a goofy grin. One of the directors gets a belated call that an Oriental doctor performed a tracheotomy, and they all give Seung-hyun the hairy eyeball. Wamp wamp waaamp.

He gets pulled before the board of directors for a talking-to, but he yawns his way through because he’s too easygoing to care about medical laws. Cue comedic music when he finds out his salary is getting docked for a month because of it.

His director is mostly mad ’cause he wants to make a good impression as an Eastern doctor, since his ideal is to change the face of modern medicine by going back to traditional, Eastern methods. Seung-hyun reluctantly agrees to help him.

Seung-hyun’s colleague fishes through his backpack and finds the rare plant along with a framed picture of Seung-hyun’s mom. He offers to buy the plant/herb, but Seung-hyun wants the price to match his newly docked pay, and the colleague backs out.

No one seems to want to work at Seohan, especially when rivalries between the two schools of thought are high. Doo-hyun’s colleague laments that they have to work with Oriental doctors, and would rather get rid of them than collaborate with them. Doo-hyun seems to agree.

All the Western neurosurgeons go out for a group dinner and pep talk, though the subject of Hye-in’s father being an Oriental doctor raises some suspicions about her.

She claims that she’s there to overcome the limits of Oriental medicine, although one of the older doctors scoffs that she’d even call Oriental medicine “medicine” at all. (He calls it a philosophy instead.)

Then all the boys, minus her mentor Doo-hyun, make a big to-do about her applying for neurosurgery, because being a neurosurgeon is a man’s job and not for wittle girls. You know, because there’s a biological difference between men and women. Blerg.

Hye-in doesn’t stand up for herself, so Doo-hyun does it for her and cuts the sexist doctor down to size.

The next day, a female patient suffering from constant vomiting/diarrhea goes to see both Doo-hyun and Seung-hyun separately, with Doo-hyun diagnosing her with celiac disease (an allergy to gluten) and Seung-hyun diagnosing her with an Oriental medicine term for a stomach that rejects food.

They both give her different courses of treatment according to their medicinal beliefs, just to make sure we know they’re at odds.

Seung-hyun’s made his mountain plant into an edible medicine ball, but finds himself stooping underneath a female doctor’s legs to find it after he accidentally drops it.

Hye-in walks in on the situation and, thinking he’s a pervert, launches into a physical attack on him. Well, I guess it’s good that, though Hye-in can’t stand up for herself when faced with sexist comments, she can cause a huge scene when it comes to rash assumptions. Girl needs to simmer down nah.

Doo-hyun arrives in time to stop the ruckus, and he and Seung-hyun participate in a silent glaring contest.

Seung-hyun heads to the hospital roof and broods as he remembers a time when he suffered a accident as a child, and Mini Doo-hyun had angrily told him that he should have just died.

Another day, another case – this time it’s a grandma that Seung-hyun tends to, and she urges him to hurry up and get married. That means it’s a perfect opportunity for him and Hye-in to bicker crossly, because she’s still convinced he’s a pervert.

Right, so they totally can’t talk out this misunderstanding like adults, because that would just make too much sense.

Hye-in gets called in to see the brain surgery patient and his angry mother, who complains about his inability to use his right hand now. She wants to file for medical malpractice, and Hye-in loses her temper as she tells the mother that she should just be grateful to Doo-hyun that her son is even alive.

She storms out, but Mom runs after her and demands that her son receive treatment from an Oriental medicine doctor, even though the usual procedure is to wait until regular treatment is finished.

Mom isn’t happy with that answer, and wants her son treated sooner rather than later, since Hye-in is denying him alternative treatment when she herself doesn’t have the confidence to fix his hand.

Hye-in asks Doo-hyun about the whole Oriental medicine treatment idea, and he shoots it down without a second thought. She ends up delivering this news to Mom & Family, and Mom reacts violently: “What kind of collaboration hospital is this?!”

She tears the poster advertising collaboration healthcare from the wall, as Hye-in watches nervously.

So Mom decides to take her son to Seung-hyun, rules be damned. Doo-hyun finds the patient gone, as Seung-hyun talks to that same patient about being unable to offer help unless the doctor on duty asks for a collaboration.

He tries to explain the whole “official hospital procedures” thing to Mom, but she just asks him to look at her one-year-old grandson’s face and tell him that his father won’t be able to work forever with a bad hand (he’s a piano teacher, go figure).

Mom and Grandson cry together, so Seung-hyun says to heck with it, they’ll go ahead with treatment.

Doo-hyun has heard from the patient’s wife that Mom took him for some acupuncture, and heads down the hallway with a sour expression while Seung-hyun starts the treatment.

He barges in in the middle of the session, and orders Seung-hyun to take the acupuncture needles out. When he doesn’t, Doo-hyun begins plucking them from the patient’s arm himself.

Seung-hyun demands to know what he’s doing. Cue another glaring contest.


To be fair, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this show, other than that it’s pretty formulaic. It’s well shot and well edited (which shouldn’t be a surprise from tvN), and at least the episodes are brief. Not every show can be the newest story ever told, but it’s nice for stories we already know to have some extra spark or pizzaz, which this first outing wasn’t necessarily oozing.

So we have one hard-nosed Western doctor at odds with an easygoing Eastern doctor, check. They’re also brothers, check. Maybe they’ll fight over the same girl, but in the end learn to cooperate and love each other again. To this I feel like going: Aaaand…?

There’s probably more, but to be totally honest, there’s not much from this first episode that makes me want to stick around and wait for the ‘more’ part, even though the inherent dissonance between Eastern and Western schools of medical thought is interesting, especially when we look at which form of medicine is commonly given versus which form might be better, depending on the case.

So, even though Angry Mom was angry, it was really hard to blame her for wanting to try anything possible to make her child well again. I understand Seung-hyun’s reluctance to say no when he thinks he can help, but, medical laws and procedures are probably in place for a reason, right? But then we enter the realm of “But if it helps, why not?” which I don’t really have a good answer for.

From a character perspective, nothing really new is going on. No matter how many quick cuts we got to juxtapose Doo-hyun/Seung-hyun’s medical scenes, no one did anything to exceed the expectations of their character type. Not necessarily bad, again, but not really all that exciting either.

The comedy felt pretty forced, especially when it came to Hye-in acting totally irrational when she was completely rational as a doctor in the scene before. I get that it’s supposed to be funny when she gives Seung-hyun a beating, but it wasn’t. Add that to the comedic bickering scene along with the “you should just be grateful your son is alive” bit, and you get a slightly apathetic if not minutely annoyed reaction. If I’m wondering whether Hye-in is fit to hold peoples’ lives in the palm of her hand, it’s probably not the best place for a drama to be. But hey, maybe she’ll learn and grow through the series to become a true blue neurosurgeon and show the world that Eastern and Western medicine can be used together for better results than they get apart.

If medical dramas are your premiere cup of tea though, then Third Ward should fit in nicely. The surgery scenes were nauseatingly realistic, which is a good thing in the medical dramasphere (bad example: Dr. Jin), but I’m not really seeing how we’ll be deviating from the land of predictability, either.


31 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. elle loves kdrama

    I have missed Oh Ji-ho!!! Sadly, not enough to stick around for this show either.

  2. cv

    For a medical drama, I thought it wasn’t bad at all. :p

    Haha! I actually liked it. ^^

  3. Sabah

    I agree it is not bad but not as insightful or detailed as I had wished. Still, I am enjoying it. I normally watch it after Vampire Prosecutor, like a de-pressurizing chamber, as I return to reality…well sort of reality.

    Many thanks for the one of recap, I always enjoy reading different takes on things.

  4. Village Mrembo

    Oh boy! DB recappers have got me seriously brainwashed! I wasnt too excited abt this show but had u shown half the enthusiasm in it i might just have taken a wee peek! It’s like its my new ‘bible’ to all things kdramas! If the recap aint exactly favourable i dont bother and if everyone’s raving about it then i’ll atleast give a drama a try, tho i can’t say the same about shows like My g/f is a gumiho & that flower boy ramyun shop show, boored!!!
    Looks like am not wasting my time on this one, last medical drama i enjoyed was OBGYN…yup! That long ago!

    • 4.1 matinsoleil

      OBGYN you’re sooo right!!! I can’t believe it aired in 2010. So far the only medical drama I really enjoyed. I don’t think that one will stole the 1st place to OBGYN so I won’t watch it

  5. chocopie83

    the surgery scenes were shot wonderfully i suppose.. though some might find it a little annoying.. but hey, this is what doctors and the paramedics do in real life.. if you’re looking for dramas with medicine world simply as a hanging picture in the background, go catch grey’s anatomy..

    kim minjung’s character is not as charming as yoo inna’s in qihm, though i think they share the same level of innocence – not really sure how to describe their personality, but hopefully you get it :p – but snsd’s sooyoung will be joining from ep 3, so i think imma give it a try (yes i’m a biased fangirl :p)

    best of luck for this drama anyway 😀

  6. Mystisith

    Of all the currently airing shows, it’s the one I’m liking the most. You heard me: More than Arang or Faith or whatever. Nothing new, but a good medical drama mixed with some
    rom-com and a bit of melo, all well crafted. (+ fan service). No pretense or misleading synopsis and it’s a relief.
    PS: Choi Soo-young from the SNSD is adorable and convincing in her role and I wouldn’t have bet on it. Those nice surprises are always welcome.

    • 6.1 anastassia


      I always look forward or agree with ur comment. Arang is my dose, my insane life, my crazy drama, my crack drama of the year. I did a thing that I never did before in 12 years of k-drama watching with Arang.

      I will look to this drama because of ur comment

    • 6.2 JoAnne

      I’ve been noticing your reaction and puzzling over it because you are usually hard to please, so I think I must check this out, too.

      Plus. Oh Ji Ho. (Really he was enough.) But it has to wait for my plate to be less full, honestly. I’ve got Arang, Faith, Five Guys, Nice Guy, Sprout…what else? I feel like I’m missing something.

      Oh crap – am I behind on something?

      Nope. There’s actually some US shows starting up that I watch. THAT’S what I was forgetting.

      Crap. I’m behind on them already. Oh well.

      • 6.2.1 JoAnne

        ah! Minho and Hyun Woo and Ha Nuel! That’s who I was missing! How could I forget all that cuteness all piled into one show? Especially since now they take shirts off at the drop of a hat?

      • 6.2.2 Sabah

        That reminded me about the American shows that are starting again AND yes, I am behind already too. Hehe

    • 6.3 Sabah

      Hey Mystisith, : )

      So soft subs came out courtesy of Viki and I have finally caught up. I am so glad you encouraged me to watch this show. I am really enjoying it.

      I would have liked a bit more on the West Vs East part, especially the traditional Korean medicine but it’s only a minor complaint.

      I also agree about the acting. Everyone is doing fine and it is a treat to watch Kim Seung Woo in something after such a long time, the last time was Perfect Neighbour. I would have loved to have Kim Nam Joo too, because I love their real life chemistry but regardless, so far the interactions are coming along nicely.

      Once again, thank you for the push.

  7. JoJo

    Aww, no time travel…no wonder you won’t stick around. Might give it a try, tho’. Thanks for the recap, Heads.

    • 7.1 almea

      LOL! Is that a throwback to Dr. Jin? I am (was?) a Jaejoong fangirl, and not even my love for him could get me to watch that awful drama.

  8. KDaddict

    Pic of actress w cup noodle–eyes n mouth opened wide. 2nd pic of same actress looking at floor–eyes n mouth opened wide. 3rd pic of same actress looking at OJH–eyes n mouth opened wide. No thx.

    • 8.1 jj

      Yeah can’t stand her eyes and her in this drama…but will be watching cuz of oh ji ho. She’s SO annoying .

      • 8.1.1 Mystisith

        At first I thought she was unattractive on the pics but for some reason, on screen it’s much much better and tolerable. I’m still not a fan of her frog eyes but at least she’s acting decently.

  9. True2u

    YAYY!!!! For recapping it


    I’m also so happy that Viki finally got it licensed, I’ve been on a hunt trying to watch the episode that had already aired, but was able to find ep 1&2 on YouTube, Those individuals also did an amazing job.

    I really love the cencept of Western medicine Vs. Eastern medicine. Both have their strong and weak points, and the story behind these two is seriously interesting, Finally a medical drama after Brain to sink my teeth into. ^^

  10. 10 Bella

    I dunno why.. but I can no longer take Seung Woo seriously anymore. It must be because I find him funny in 1n2d. Lol

  11. 11 Arhazivory

    ^ I agree with what Bella said. 1N2D has officially ruined Seung-Woo’s image for me. Maybe if I had known him as an actor before but since that’s where I know him from…. -_-‘

    The first episode was interesting. I didn’t feel excited for a second episode or anxious in any way, and I haven’t watched any since ep 1. But I love medical dramas and so once I can confirm a subbing group, I’ll watch it and hope they focus more on the operations….less on the melo.

  12. 12 Suzi Q

    I’ve seen Kim Min Jung before. She’s better at playing biatches like in Thornbirds. At least there’s OH Ji Ho. Can’t act, but tries hard.Is there any romance or drama? Don’t like the forced comedic bit with the medicine ball pill.

    I just love medical dramas, but unfortunately, this medical drama has a pretty ordinary formula. It’s not BRAIN., OB/GYN or White Tower.

    Will watch the first couple of shows and see if something interesting comes up.

    • 12.1 acejihyo

      totally agree. brain and white tower had the crack factor built in. pretty spoiled me in terms of medical dramas.

  13. 13 Laica

    I had a feeling this was in the works. 😉

    Right, so they totally can’t talk out this misunderstanding like adults, because that would just make too much sense.

    THIS. So much. It’s something that didn’t really bother me in my early kdrama days, but I find it harder to take every time I encounter it now. It is such a lazy way to make the OTP notice each other. Bickering is only fun to watch when it comes from a genuine clash of personalities/viewpoints, and is a way for them to come to understand each other.

    I won’t be watching this since I don’t like medical dramas and watching Oh Ji-ho “act” sets my teeth on edge. I did enjoy the recap, though. Your writing is always a treat to read, Heads!

    • 13.1 JoAnne

      Laica – give up on watching him act. I like to watch him move. And breathe. And smile. And shower. Him and Mr. Hand Towel, yep yep yep.

      Just sit there and be pretty, boys. I can do the rest.

  14. 14 Katherine

    Checked this drama out because I saw an MV of Soyoung & Oh Ji Ho that was released for the show. I quite like it, nothing spectacular but it is cute.

  15. 15 becca_boo

    I didn’t watch the episode, but after reading the recap and seeing the screencaps I have to ask, why does Kim Min-jung look like she’s channeling Goong-period Yoon Eun-hye?

    Thanks for the recap, HeadsNo2! It’s always great to hear your thoughts on a drama.

  16. 16 divaz_sha

    I loooove u, I love U ,i love u DRAMABEAN!!!!!!

    thank you for recapping my sooyoung drama..
    i have been looking all over internet yet no one recapping it
    now the most popular recap site have recap it..
    how fortune i am….

    thank you…thank you

  17. 17 DKM

    “So we have one hard-nosed Western doctor at odds with an easygoing Eastern doctor, check. They’re also brothers, check. Maybe they’ll fight over the same girl, but in the end learn to cooperate and love each other again. To this I feel like going: Aaaand…?”

    You forgot the part where one of them will inevitably get a brain tumor lol

  18. 18 Slothus

    I had been looking forward to this one for a long time (mainly owing to Kim Seung-woo’s presence in it as the cool modern professional a la his hotel manager character in Miss Ripley), and am quite pleased after finally seeing the first episode. Everything happened a bit fast – typical for lead episodes, but hopefully from here the show will slow down a bit while staying interesting. I like medical dramas to be higher on realism than other genres might be, but unfortunately this one is no House as far as believability goes… Which is acceptable, as long as it makes up for that in other areas. It seems to be doing that alright. The Kim Seung-woo – Oh Ji-ho stare-down was a great moment, and if their rivalry is developed to its dramatic potential without too many annoying distractions (such as that ridiculous Angry Mom) and with just the right amount of comedic relief, 3rd Ward should easily be the best drama of the season.

  19. 19 June

    Frankly, I like this show alot! I was watching Golden Time, and it was such a noisy show, no doubt several actors are good. Somehow, I still prefer 3rd Ward 🙂

  20. 20 eve2095

    Don’t you recap the other episode for this drama? hope that u will recap the other, i very need to read :D, thx

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