This amazing crime solving, time travel OCN K-drama Tunnel was on the schedule right after Voice with Jang Hyuk and Jae Wook Kim, which I gave an A grade to, and I knew I was going to watch Tunnel because it was the first drama for one of my top favorite actors Choi Jin Hyuk (Gu Family Book, Pride and Prejudice, Heirs) after he was released from his military duties early because of a serious leg injury and the necessity of surgery. Ironically Choi Jin Hyuk had been offered the role Jang Hyuk took later in Beautiful Mind, but when the Korean people complained that it was too early for him to take a role after his early military release he was forced to pull back from that drama. (Not that I minded at all because Jang Hyuk aced that performance and did a magnificent job in that drama!). It's also ironic that the second male lead in Beautiful Mind is the second male lead in Tunnel, Yoon Hyun Min. Tunnel is directed by two directors, Kim Kyung Chul and Kim Sung Min, and written by new female writer Lee Eun Mi.
Knowing I was going to watch it did NOT prepare me at all for how gripping and addictive I would find Tunnel to be, nor was I prepared to love it even MORE than Voice, but I did! I thought it would be just another good but routine OCN crime solving drama, customized for Jin Hyuk but boy was I wrong! Sometimes I complain about too many time travel K-dramas being made today, but when they are done exceedingly well like this one they are a pure pleasure and never become boring.
In this show's case the time travel takes place between the mid-1980's and 2017 Korea, as our main hero travels through time in pursuit of an unknown serial killer. On one side of the tunnel is 1986, on the other side is 2017. Although the series is mostly serious there are moments of humor, mostly related to how different the world is in 2017 for our time traveling detective; in fact it's stated that in 1986 the police didn't even use the term serial killer to describe the murderer they are after. He has to be told what it means when he arrives in 2017, in shock, and finds his cop buddies decades older, but himself the same as he had been in the 1980's! He also has no clue what a cell phone is, or how much crime solving skills and computer technology has changed for the better, neither does he know what DNA testing is, since it had been brand new medical technology in the late 1980's right when he was tripping the light fantastic through the tunnel. This makes sense to me because i didn't know what DNA testing was until the early 1990's, neither did I get my first computer until 1986 when my Dad bought me an Apple 2C. Those were the days! This series was partly inspired by the famous Hwaseong serial murders cases although the characters solving similar serial murders in this story are not based on the actual detectives of that time.
Our 1986 Detective Stays The Same in 2017,
But His Rookie Has Become The Police Chief
The year is 1986. Detective Park Kwang Ho (Choi Jin Hyuk) is a talented, high energy detective who will do anything to catch a killer. He doesn't always follow police protocol, which sometimes gets him into trouble. He will do anything to enforce the law, including slugging suspects when necessary to put some fear into them. He's also a highly moral man, and gently pursues the pretty lady of his dreams, Shin Yeon Sook (Lee Sia), a girl who works as a secretary at a seamstress' business, until he wins her hand in marriage.
Then one by one attractive women in their twenties, always wearing short skirts and stockings, are viciously murdered in their town, including a girl Kwang Ho's rookie Jeon Sung Sik (Kim Dong Young when young, and Jo Hee Bong in middle age) was fond of. He feels guilty that he didn't do enough to protect the girl but Kwang Ho compassionately tells him it isn't his fault. When the killer is done he takes a fountain pen and marks dots on the victims' ankles. 1 dot, 2 dots, 3 dots, etc. numbering each victim. Later on that will actually help lead Kwang Ho to the real killer. A killing that particularly infuriates Kwang Ho is when a young mother is murdered, leaving behind a small baby named Sun Jae and an emotionally destroyed husband. The entire town is put on edge because of these murders, and Yeon Sook gives her husband a silver whistle on a chain to use in case he's ever in a tight spot while chasing the murderer. "Whistle for me, and I'll come running," she lovingly tells her husband.
Kwang Ho thinks he might have caught the culprit after a tip by a young girl leads him to catch a disturbed young man who has apparently been murdering dogs and burying them in his backyard (serial murderers often start with animal killings first). The arrested boy taunts him, asking him what difference does it make to kill people, but he does not admit to killing any of the women. Kwang Ho doesn't believe him but he still has to follow through on other clues.
This leads him one night to the tunnel where one of the girls' bodies had been found, and he smells a cigarette burning inside. He peers closer and sees a man crouched down on the exact spot the body was found, re-enacting the murder with his body language. Kwang Ho begins to chase him and then gets temporarily knocked out by the mystery man. When he recovers and emerges from the other side of the tunnel, the killer is gone, and he doesn't recognize his surroundings, or his town anymore, since it is now quite built up with the passage of thirty years.
Baby Sun Jae Grows Up To Work With Kwang Ho
As A Detective In 2017
On this end of the tunnel, the year is 2017. Kwang Ho is almost run down by a young man in a car who has the same exact name. Kwang Ho quickly realizes he is thirty years into the future, after he shows up at his old station but it looks quite different all modernized, and the man who was once his rookie is now police chief. The man is shocked to see Kwang Ho, it had been assumed by people at the time that he had died in 1986 because he had disappeared, leaving the murder cases unsolved and his poor wife pregnant and alone. His former rookie covers for him and helps him find lodgings.
Then, strangely, the killings begin again with the same modus operandi, including the young man as a victim with the same name Park Kwang Ho (N from K-Pop group VIXX) who had almost run down Kwang Ho when he first arrived in 2017. Kwang Ho also realizes to his shock that one of the men working in the department is none other than the man who had been the baby Kim Sun Jae (Yoon Hyun Min as an adult) when he had left the 1986 world. Sun Jae is a serious cop with a cold and calculating approach to tracking down criminals. He doesn't warm to the mystical Kwang Ho at first, thinking him a bit daft. Kwang Ho soon realizes that if he is finally going to catch that serial killer who is now killing again he is going to need help from these 2017 contemporaries. He can't do it alone.
Kwang Ho meets someone new, a lady professor of criminal psychology named Shin Jae Yi (Lee Yoo Young, You Drive Me Crazy!). She lives right next to him at his new lodgings. She was raised in the UK by foster parents after her parents had died and then returned to Korea for some work, intending to go back to the UK when she was finished. However those plans change when she gets caught up in the serial murder investigation and even becomes a target of the killer herself. Soon Kwang Ho realizes to his shock that Jae Yi is actually his grown up daughter! She has the exact same whistle that his wife had given to him, slung over a photograph of herself as a child and his wife he had left behind. He keeps the secret to himself for quite some time.
Then Kwang Ho becomes deeply upset when he discovers what had happened to his wife after he left: she had died in a car accident. He becomes convinced he has to go back in time to 1986 to stop that from happening, but the tunnel is now closed to him. Stuck in the present day there is nothing else he can do but once and for all find that damn serial killer who has gotten away with murders all these years. What no one suspects is that it is someone quite close to them all, a respected person in the community, a suave and on the surface pleasant person who is always one step ahead of everyone .... at first. But ... remember the fountain pen marks!
Will Kwang Ho be able to get back through the tunnel to the past to prevent his wife from being killed in the car accident? Will he ever be able to get justice for all the killer's victims over three long decades?
Don't miss Tunnel! It's just fantastic, and filled with great cliffhangers. The cast for Tunnel includes Choi Jin Hyuk as Park Kwang Ho, Lee Yoo Young as Shin Jae Yi, Yoon Hyun Min as Kim Sun Jae, Jo Hee Bong as Jun Sung Sik, Kim Byung Chul as Kwak Tae Hee, Kang Ki Young as Song Min Ah, Lee Shi Ah as Shin Yun Suk (Kwang Ho’s wife), Kim Min Sang as Mok Jin Woo, Joo Ho as Oh Ki Ja, N as Park Kwang Ho (same name but different from the character played by Choi Jin Hyuk), Nam Moon Chul, and Kim Dong Young.
Recognize Kim Byung Chul? He played the evil villain in Goblin.
He plays a cop - talk about me having to adjust to a different role!!!
Who will be the killer out of these characters?