Hospital Playlist (2020) The Life and Loves of Chae Song-hwa

Yesterday after posting my article on the WG dynamic, I was asked whether I thought Song-hwa would end up with Ik-jun or Chi-hong. It's a question I've been asked about and debated before so I thought it might be good to address it at some length here.

To put some background to this and lay all my cards on the table, it seemed to me quite early on... by Episode 4 to be exact, that the drama was indicating in no uncertain terms that Chi-hong had romantic feelings for Song-hwa particularly as he was the only one that showed up at the camping ground. To be honest I was amenable to the idea of a male subordinate being in a relationship with his workplace supervisor especially because Chi-hong was/is an immensely likeable human being who was/is mature and down-to-earth. There's a relatable authenticity about him that I gravitate to. I, like a lot of others thought he was great husband material from everything we saw. Personally I wanted this one to happen... probably even more than Winter Garden because I thought it would be really groundbreaking in some way if it did. The power dynamics would be fascinating to explore. Plus... I adored Chi-hong (still do) and wanted him to have his happily-ever-after. I was frankly annoyed with what the show did with him... and made him an enemy of many viewers for "crossing the line" in Episodes 10- 11. I was uneasy about that although he wouldn't be the first male in a Korean drama that did it and I understood it as an expression of the military man in him: All's fair in love and war etc etc. What I resented about that whole incident was how the drama seemed to be using Chi-hong to spur Ik-jun on to make his confession... truth be told.

I can see why people love their Ik-Song. Jo Jung-suk always has great chemistry with his co-stars and many perceive him to be the male lead. Some people have a thing for musicians. :D I enjoy Ik-jun -- the good, the nutty and the friendly. I'm certainly very neutral about the whole thing so I'm not necessarily in the front row cheerleading for them to be a couple. But I'm a canon sort of person 9.5 times out of 10.

The reason why I remain neutral and I certainly won't be putting all my eggs into that basket is because of Song-hwa herself. All of this rests on how she perceives the men and her relationship to them. I've heard it said that she's a hard one to read but I personally don't think so. Her role in this first season is very specific... as I've said in my episode retrospectives. She sees herself as the Sage. That's absolutely clear when Jae-hak walks into her office and she rejects IJ's overtures to tempt her with food. It's obvious where her priorities were then. The thought of being confessed to by two men close to her... one a student, the other a very old friend... is deeply unsettling. I think there are good reasons for that. She resists a change in dynamics with them because she values what they already have. That's why she tends to date outside her immediate circle of relationships. Why would she want to disrupt the status quo for an uncertain romantic outcome and lose everything as a result?

Now that the entire first season has aired, I am very doubtful that Song-hwa will change her mind about Chi-hong. It seems like the show has burnt that bridge sadly. With Ik-jun, I frankly don't know. There are two more seasons to go so and since Ik-jun's one of the Flawed Five and very keen, he may have another shot at this. Plus he has secret weapon U-ju.

The possibilities as far as I'm concerned are as follows:

1) Song-hwa could end up being a contented single 40-year-old career woman even after 3 seasons. It would be groundbreaking to say the least. For a Korean drama that is. It would certainly, as I've said to online friends, overturn a familiar trope that a "lead" female character "has to" ride off into the sunset with one of the male leads. It would also put to rest once and for all the argument that Writer Lee U-jung only knows how to write Reply type stories.

2) Song-hwa ending with Ik-jun is definitely a contender because of the foundations that the show has already laid. Once upon a time these two people liked each other but they moved on. One of them even got married to someone else and had a child from that relationship. However, for them to pair up as I've said on other occasions, she will want to be sure that all the other men have their happily-ever-after. I say this because I'm sure that both Song-hwa and Ik-jun moved on in consideration for their friendship with the other guys. This is a friendship that has lasted 20 years surviving all kinds of tumult so it stands to reason that she's chosen to prioritize it. She won't want to shake things up until she's sure that there won't be a falling out among the Five because of this.

3) Song-hwa could end up with someone else we haven't met as yet. Someone from church maybe. This is the least likely scenario but I'm throwing it out there for public consumption. Again, it would be out-of-the-box thinking on the part of the show for her to be dating or married to some nobody guy outside of the hospital context at the end of season 3.

4) We could all be wrong and Song-hwa might change her mind down the track about Chi-hong but I'm not optimistic because of how Episode 12 ended for them. Still, she's not going to be in Sokcho forever, I imagine.

As I've said, everything hinges on what happens with her next season. Except for some random unreliable doctor from outside the hospital, romance wasn't really on the agenda for her in season 1. She was everybody's adviser, teacher or confidant. That's an amazing thing that the show did to be honest. And to give the most significant romance arcs to so-called side characters can be said to be almost innovative by Kdrama standards.