No one could have portrayed Doctor Cha Jeong-suk better than Uhm Jung Hwa. After all, the K-drama paints the story of a house wife who gets another shot at her medical career, and Jung Hwa herself knows all about the importance of second chances.
Aside from being an actress, Jung Hwa is also a living legend in her country’s music scene. She even earned the moniker “Korean Madonna” for continuously and successfully redefining her career throughout her over thirty years in the industry. Which is why it came as a shock to her fans and her colleagues that she was actually battling thyroid cancer in 2010, all while filming the reality singing competition Superstar K. “[Uhm] did not show any signs of being sick and was always bright and friendly to all the staff backstage,” an employee from the show told Korean outlet Ilgan Sports.
Jung Hwa’s diagnosis was only revealed by her agency in October 2010 after her surgery. Luckily, the cancer was discovered at an early stage during one of Jung Hwa’s routine checkups.
The singer-actress soon recovered from her operation but at the cost of her voice. In a 2017 interview to promote her first album in eight years, Jung Hwa shared that her cancer surgery paralyzed a part of her vocal cords, to the point where she couldn’t talk, let alone sing, for eight months. “That time was so difficult for me. I didn’t get any shots to fix my vocal cords and instead practiced to overcome it,” recounted the actress.
The experience left a lasting impression on Jung Hwa who was originally convinced she would never step into a recording studio again. “I didn’t appreciate it when I didn’t have any problems with my voice. I realized how precious everything I have is,” she admitted. “I realized it after I had lost it, when I didn’t think I’d find it again. I had heard that I would never be able to sing again. But I thought that if I didn’t overcome this, my life would be sad and I would be missing out. Wouldn’t it be awesome if I was able to overcome it? It’s like a movie. I wanted to win through it. I worked really hard.”
Jung Hwa’s career has never been better 13 years after beating cancer. In particular, she’s been gaining global recognition for her recent dramas Our Blues and Doctor Cha—the latter of which is currently the seventh highest rated Korean drama on cable TV. She also managed to yet again revitalize her music career after joining the project group Refund Sisters in 2020. Their debut song, Don’t Touch Me, swept the top spot on every major Korean music chart upon its release.
Apart from Doctor Cha, you can catch Jung Hwa on the music program Dancing Queens on the Road, a show that’s gathered Korea’s top female singers to perform around the country.