Squad 38 aka Task Force 38
38 사기동대
OCN (2016) 16 Episodes, Grade: B+
Crime Solving Melodrama
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA

Squad 38 (2016) is a rather atypical OCN crime solving drama in that it focuses on a government entity apprehending white collar crime business individuals who are evading their taxes, instead of the usual OCN type drama which focuses on police uncovering and fighting blue collar crimes, gangsters, loan sharks, kidnappers, murderers, etc. The number 38 comes from that part of the South Korean Constitution that has to do with the citizens' responsibilities to pay their share of taxes. The drama is tautly directed by Kim Jung Min. It received good ratings for OCN, sparking rumors of a potential second season, although personally, my favorite crime fighting OCN drama remains the brilliant Missing Noir M, which truly has no equal in this genre, and I would LOVE to see that THAT show get a second season which it so richly deserves. A year has gone by since I watched it and I still miss those characters!

Basically what we have here is an ensemble piece layered with great, energetic character actors and a young leading man, Seo In Guk (Master's Sun, The King's Face), playing against type - here he's a con-man only out for himself in the beginning, but eventually he joins forces with the government task force assigned to collecting unpaid taxes from the rich who are hiding it in all sorts of clever ways. This task force, headed up by a humble but determined government employee played by middle aged actor Ma Dong Seok (Swallow The Sun), has had a pretty poor track record of uncovering the tax monies owed the government, so they eventually hire the con man who can devise underhanded schemes in order to track down the funds of the white collar criminals who are hiding it. In other words they choose to fight fire with fire and then they start having greater success attaining their goals. Basically the con man ends up being a Robin Hood type of character, engaging in shady deceptions in order to help the government collect its taxes so it can help fund social welfare and educational programs for the citizens.


If you are looking for any standard romance here you are not going to find it and you'll have to go elsewhere. However, if you like a drama in which justice is served then you'll no doubt enjoy Squad 38. There is more of a "bromance" here between "hyungs" (brothers) than there is any romance between the men and women in this drama. The main delight of this drama is watching the relationship grow between Ma Dong Seok's and Seo In Guk's characters, a very nice older man - younger man affectionate partnership build on trust, and eventually even wisdom and sacrifice. And humor, always humor.

Jung Do (Seo In Guk) taking on a fake
identity in order to uncover tax cheats

The Story:

While the working class faithfully pays its taxes, the wealthiest elite use elaborate schemes to get out of paying their fair share of taxes. Stocky but energetic Baek Sung Il (Ma Dong Seok) is a humble but morally strong civil service employee who works as the Division 3 Chief at the National Tax Service (like our IRS). He becomes impatient with, and tired of, the wealthiest citizens circumventing Article 38 of the Constitution, which governs tax payment responsibilities of all citizens.

Under pressure from his bosses to increase his division’s delinquent tax collections, Sung Il tries to go after the largest tax evader in the country, Ma Jin Seok (Oh Dae Hwan), a nasty, woman-beating, wife-threatening, shady rich Gangnam businessman who owes the country an estimated $50 million in back taxes.


However, when Sung Il and his faithful female subordinate Chun Sung Hee (Soo Young) are publicly humiliated by Jin Seok and faced with possible disciplinary action for overstepping their bounds in his home, Sung Il realizes that he needs help going after the corrupt businessman. He accepts the help of professional scammer, con-man Yang Jung Do (Seo In Guk) to beat Jin Seok at his own game.

Jung Do was arrested and about to go to jail for his own petty crimes when he suggests the idea to Sung Il, who at first rejects the idea of using a scammer, but then, desperate to avoid his own future disciplinary action, decides to give Jung Do's idea a try. What else does he have to lose, except maybe his own job? He has a wife and daughter he rarely ever sees because he's always working, working, working, and with little to show for it. Why not accept the help of an energetic young con-man to get the job done? The con-man's motivations may not be altruistic, he wants to avoid a second jail term for himself by working with the government instead of against it, but he does seem genuinely interested in the job because he loves the thrill of the chase.

I enjoyed Song Ok Sook's "Wallet" character;
she's a great veteran actress who always delivers

Jung Do assembles his own team of professional thieves — voice phishing expert Jang Hak Joo (Heo Jae Ho), computer expert Jung Ja Wang (Ko Kyu Pil) secretly known as “Keyboard”, beautiful hustler Jo Mi Joo (Lee Sun Bin) secretly known as the “Flower,” and ruthless businesswoman Noh Bang Sil (Song Ok Sook, who played the Ahjumma cellist in Beethoven Virus) secretly known as the “Wallet”, and her ever present and faithful daughter, Choi Ji Yeon (Kim Joo Ri).

Can Jung Do and his team help Sung Il bring down the mighty Jin Seok
, or will Sung Il end up being played in the end? Will exposing Jin Seok also uncover other tax evading white collar criminals, politicians, corrupt cops, etc. and could they have formed a web of secrecy to evade the government, too? Like dominoes falling, could all the bad guys finally get their genuine comeuppance, or will some slip through the cracks, make backroom deals, and then disappear? Where will our favorite con-man Jung Do end up?

Solid writing and acting make this OCN drama worth the watch. If there was one addition it really needed I would say a memorable music score could have improved it even more. I didn't come away from this show humming any OST tune, like I do with most K-dramas. (In contrast Missing Noir M was loaded with great and unique melodies!).

If you're a Seo In Guk fan you really shouldn't miss this show. With every new drama I see him in he hands in more polished, sophisticated performances, and he's still so young and hasn't even done his military duty yet. I can just imagine what kind of an incredible, mind-blowing actor he'll be even five or ten years from now, since he's so excellent already in his mid-twenties. Applause! Applause!