Gritty, dark, with touches of wry humor, Korean drama D.P. (2021 - Season 2 Begins Late July 2023), standing for the Deserter Pursuit team in the Korean military, is a realistic Korean drama penned by a webtoon artist named Kim Bo Tong, who based the story on his own challenging experiences during his required two year military service. In South Korea, according to their Constitution, every able-bodied male citizen has to join the SK military for about two years to serve his country.
Starring attractive young actor Jung Hae In (Snowdrop, Something In The Rain, While You Were Sleeping, Goblin, A Piece Of Your Mind, film Salut D'amour), who developed great on screen chemistry with second male lead actor Koo Gyo Hwan (One Day Off, Extraordinary Attorney Woo, film A Werewolf Boy), the drama was completely addictive because of their intense on screen relationship / friendship / bromance. I watched all six episodes of season one in only one day! couldn't turn it off!, it was just so cool! (I actually took more time writing this review than watching the series!). Playing their older military superior, with an admirable humanistic style, was veteran actor Kim Sung Kyun (Scarlet Heart Ryeo, I Hear Your Voice, film Golden Slumber). Perhaps one of the reasons I liked this K-drama so much, despite its largely dark theme, was because relatively few Korean dramas have been brave enough to examine problems in their country's military; certainly not to the same extent this drama did! Classic dramas like Sandglass (1995) and Friends (2002) touched on inequities briefly, so D.P. was quite educational for me, as well as entertaining. I sincerely hope the popularity of this show on Netflix helps to bring about healing changes in South Korea's military. Bullying should not be allowed. Ever! In war time the soldiers need to feel a camaraderie toward one another, not hatred.
From Left To Right: Kim Sung Kyun, Jung Hae In, Koo Gyo Hwan
An Jun Ho (Jung Hae In) works a food delivery job while waiting for his required two year military service to begin. He comes from a family in which his father (Kwon Hae Hyo, Winter Sonata, Search: WWW) is abusive toward his mother (Park Mi Hyun, Watcher, film A Tale Of Two Sisters) and his little sister (Lee Yeon) is often caught in the middle of their fights. Privately, Jun Ho has had it with his family situation, and actually looks forward to escape it via the military. Little does he know, though, that military life will end up being even more abusive than his own family life. Soon after he joins he becomes a target of an abusive soldier named Hwang Jang Soo (Shin Seung Ho, who had impressed me so much in his acting skills playing the bad guy in Moment Of Eighteen). Nothing is done about Jang Soo's petty attacks on the soldiers in his barracks.
Soon enough, because of his ability to deflect the abuse, maintain his calm, and because of his strict attention to detail, Jun Ho catches the special attention of lead Sergeant Park Beom Gu (Kim Sung Kyun), who needs to fill a vacancy for the military's Deserter Pursuit Team. He asks Jun Ho if he would be willing to step in to fill the vacancy and Jun Ho agrees. The job will give him some freedom to experience life outside of the regular soldier barracks, and away from the abuser soldier Jang Soo.
Jun Ho is originally appointed to work with Corporal Park Sung Woo (Go Kyung Pyo, Jealousy Incarnate, Chicago Typewriter, Strongest Delivery Man, Love In Contract, Operation Proposal) but he has some troubles adjusting to his new job, partly because Sung Woo is too fun-loving, instead of being 100% devoted to his job. His first job is to find a deserter who had deserted because of abuse by another soldier (it's not revealed but we suspect it's Jang Soo again), but partner Sung Woo takes Jun Ho to a karaoke bar instead of tracking down the deserter, and gets him drunk! When Jun Ho steps outside in the cold night air, to sober up from his drunken state, he lights a cigarette, and a kind young man approaches him and asks him if he could borrow his lighter. Jun Ho hands it to him and tells him to keep it, that he has another one. Soon enough Jun Ho learns that that soldier is the deserter they had been seeking, Shin Woo Suk (Park Jung Woo), who had used the lighter to kill himself! Jun Ho punches out his partner Sung Woo, grieving that he failed at his first test, essentially because Sung Woo was not responsible enough to care about Job First, Fun Last. His superior Sergeant Beom Gu ultimately saves Jun Ho's neck because he feels he was taken advantage of as a newbie, and he casts Sung Woo out of his position in the D.P. unit, but keeps Jun Ho on.
Then Jun Ho is partnered with an experienced DP soldier named Han Ho Yeol (Koo Gyo Hwan) and finally wins his first deserter case, for a soldier named Jun Mok (Kim Dong Young) who had also been abused in the military and escaped, hanging out in video game parlors, and basically living in the subway. Jun Ho gains more confidence in himself and his deductive powers of observation to help find other deserters, but never abusing them when they are tracked down. Other cases include a deserter soldier named Jeong Hyeon Min (Lee Jun Young) they have to track down in the city of Busan, trying to cozy up to his secretive and cunning girlfriend Mun Yeong Ok (Won Ji An) to get information out of her, and engaging in an incredible rooftop chase. Yet another deserter, Heo Chi Do (Choi Joon Young), essentially has to be rescued instead of just arrested for desertion, and another deserter named Cho Suk Bong (Cho Hyun Chul), an anime artist, had been the victim of repeated hazing incidents in the military and jumped a fence to freedom.
Meanwhile, First Lieutenant Lim Ji Seob (Son Suk Ku) only cares about his own personal success in the military, not the DP team; he often gives the members of the DP team a hard time, criticizing them unfairly. Lead Sergeant Park Beom Gu has to carefully and gingerly side-step his poorly thought out commands to get each deserter capture accomplished. Ji Seob's lack of worldly experience even results in the suicide of one of the deserters, when he calls in a military swat team, instead of allowing the DP team to take care of the situation more quietly on their own. Once again we learn that it had been bad guy Jang Soo who had quietly tortured many of the deserters. Will one of them finally take the ultimate revenge against him?
I am really looking forward to Season Two of D.P. arriving soon on Netflix. When I have finished series two I will update this review of season one, which truly was a nail-biter and included a dramatic cliffhanger ending that leaves the audience wondering what will happen next. Again, I really hope this show results in security improvements in the South Korean military. I guess that lifestyle brings out the worst in some men, but their faults should not be swept under the rug, but rather confronted and dealt with properly.
"Making Of" Video
Season Two (July 2023)
Season Two of D.P. was even more intense than Season One, but both were amazing. Well written, taut, with great cliffhangers to keep you hooked, and perfect acting from the entire cast. I truly hope the series results in improvements in South Korea's military, especially in terms of bullying; it should never be allowed or condoned. A military should be made up of brothers in arms, not enemies in arms! Kudos to the whole production team for daring to bring up unpleasant truths!
With season two we continue to follow our two professional soldiers who search for military deserters, An Jun Ho (Jung Hae In) and Han Ho Yeol (Koo Gyo Hwan), but they are both definitely scarred by their previous experiences catching deserters, cases that did not always end well, especially the tragic case of Kim Ru Ri (Moon Sang Hoon) who had been routinely bullied due to his overweight condition, and who had lashed out by turning a gun on his abusers, killing two of them.
The stories of multiple abuses of soldiers had reached the attention of a human rights group, who are suing the government for their secrecy about the inner turmoil inside the military corps. A government attorney (cameo by fabulous actor Ji Jin Hee) is responding to the suit brought by this human rights agency, the Military Human Rights Center, whose female attorney Shin Hye Yeon (Lee Seol) is related to one of the bullied soldiers. At some point will either one or both Jun Ho and Ho Yeol turn on their own government to give much needed evidence to the human rights center?
A particularly difficult deserter case that Jun Ho and Ho Yeol are commissioned to solve is that of a soldier who had been an actor before military service, named Jang Sung Min (Bae Na Ra, amazing first performance for this young man!). He had been cast in a play that had called for his role to be a feminized character in a Chekhov play, and he is teased mercilessly about that once he is in the military. Fellow soldiers accuse him of being gay (though that is never officially confirmed in the script). Because of the abuse he suffers Sung Min deserts the military and becomes a female impersonator named Nina, to help hide his true identity. He plans ultimately to obtain a fake passport and escape to Britain, to act in the theater again, and hopefully attain a more peaceful life. Although Jun Ho and Ho Yeol have sympathy for him their jobs are on the line if they don't catch him, or if they decide to claim they can't find him and let him go. Will Sung Min be able to achieve his goal of true freedom? Or will someone catch on to the possible fake passport situation before he can board the flight?
Still another complicated case that Jun Ho and Ho Yeol have to solve involves soldiers at the border of South Korea with North Korea. A veteran soldier named Na Jung Seok (Im Sung Jae) had stepped on a landmine and been blown up. The young soldier who had been standing next to him at the time named Shin A Hwi (Choi Hyun Wook) had been blamed for his death, but as Jun Ho and Ho Yeol dig deeper into the case they uncover some lies that had been promulgated about the tragedy in order to protect the higher-ups in the military. Once again our brotherly team have to decide if they will keep quiet about the secret evidence in the case, thereby protecting the government, or will they side with the truth, and the basic human rights of all soldiers?
At the end of the series it's time for trooper Ho Yeol to finish his military requirement and return to a normal life, but Jun Ho still has a year to go. Will they remain in touch after their separation, or will that be the end of their deep friendship?
This series D.P. was often rough to watch, but I was fascinated by it nevertheless. There are no romances here, so if that is the only type of K-drama you prefer to watch you'll probably be disappointed. However, if you like variety in your Korean dramas, and not "the same old, same old", then this series will intrigue you to no end! Enjoy!
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