Hospital Playlist (2020) A Tribute to Ahn Chi-hong

I woke up this morning to news that Kim Jun-han will not be reprising his role as Ahn Chi-hong in Season 2 which I found difficult to believe considering what a huge role he had in the first season. They spent so much airtime building his character only for us to find out now that he was a one-season only character. I am not someone to get hysterical about these things. Nothing would be gained by that but it seems to me in hindsight that they made us fall in love with the character only to turn him into a rival for Ik-jun.

Of course that does sound somewhat reductionist because the Ahn Chi-hong that we grew to love is much much more than that. His story is in actual fact an inspiring one. A career military officer who had achieved captain status only to find himself struck by a rare medical condition that would impede his ability to advance through the ranks in the army especially when he had been touted as a future general. It must have been a crushing blow. However, instead of wallowing in self-pity and taking the easy way out he goes into medicine opting for a specialisation in neurosurgery. The man has guts and is a great role model for his juniors. I was convinced that he would make a fantastic chief resident.

Everyone who has read anything I've written about the show knows that he's one of my favourites. Partly because of his heroic trajectory, partly because he's a deeply caring individual. He has been to the school of hard knocks and come out swinging. In most ways, he's a much more fleshed out character than the likes of Ik-jun, Song-hwa and even Jeong-won. He's very down-to-earth, and as a clinician he is still finding his rhythm.

I personally had no problem with his one-sided crush on Song-hwa. I thought it was thoughtful and sweet. Even if he was her "student", he was mature (only a couple of years younger) with plenty of life experiences of his own. He demonstrated a stability of character all throughout. Even Song-hwa praised him in front of Ik-jun, saying he was going to be a good chief because he was diligent and caring. I accepted the fact that Song-hwa wasn't interested in him that way but I certainly didn't think there was anything inherently wrong with his persistence.

There needs to be a balance in the way we understand characters. A well-written character (not talking about makjang here) should have their strengths as well as flaws and quirks. Just because they do things we don't approve of occasionally doesn't mean that they should be written off as evil people, unworthies or no-hopers. This kind of polarised approach was definitely an issue during the show's airing in the way some fans were discussing Gyeo-ul, Ik-jun and Chi-hong.

Chi-hong crossing the line with Song-hwa and Ik-jun is consistent with his disposition and his military background. Surely a man with a spine should put up a bit of a fight. Whatever we feel about what he did, it can't be denied that his actions on those occasions were not beyond the pale. I don't like that he was demonized by viewers to the point where he was accused of thinking more highly of himself than he should. I can't agree with that. I never saw that and the show itself reminds us that his perseverance in life is praiseworthy, an example to others who find themselves in a similar position.

I am writing this because I think if we make enough noise he could be brought back in cameos and as a recurring character. That is certainly my hope because I believe the world of Hospital Playlist would a little emptier and poorer for him not being around.