Law School
jtbc (2021) 16 Episodes
Legal Melodrama, Grade: A
Korean Drama Review by Jill, USA
(Some Spoilers)

I was not about to miss this legal drama, Law School (2021), for anything, once I saw the cast involved, primarily the beyond excellent, into the stratosphere amazing, veteran actor Kim Myung Min, who had unforgettably played Maestro in the masterpiece K-drama Beethoven Virus in 2008; plus younger, always attractive actor Kim Bum from Boys Over Flowers and That Winter, The Wind Blows; in addition the drama included a favorite female veteran actress I've grown quite fond of over the years, Lee Jung Eun (When The Camellia Blooms, Oscar winning film Parasite).

Bringing up the rear in the main cast is adorable Ryu Hye Young (Heart To Heart, film Love, Lies) who actually ended up stealing many scenes from the other actors because her character was just so stubbornly admirable, so indomitably energetic! In addition, it was directed by experienced Kim Suk Yoon (Radiant, Awl) whose unique creativity here helped me to feel in strong hands for the duration of the drama. His emphasis on many wide, sweeping, panoramic camera shots, taking in the facial expressions of characters in a large law school class, helped to make me feel sympathy with most of the students and faculty, even when the characters were undergoing enormous stress or behaving in unbecoming ways. All the characters' emotions and reactions mattered with that style of direction and camerawork, not just the main cast's characters'.

Left to Right:
Actors Kim Myung Min, Kim Bum, Ryu Hye Young, Lee Jung Eun

I happen to enjoy most of the legal dramas I've seen from Korea over the years. They each try to be a little different from the others, emphasizing different types of law cases, and different temperaments and personal histories among lawyers and judges in the stories. Law School was perhaps different in many ways from the others because the majority of its characters were newbies to the legal world; we see law students from the beginning of their first year in school, progressing to the year after graduation, when they are becoming more experienced taking on various cases in the real world. It also had more moments of humor than some of the other law-themed shows I've seen -- always a welcome addition for me in any story!

About the only thing I would have done differently, if I were the writer, was to give the audience less of an open ending when it came to possible romances among the main characters: affectionate feelings that sometimes seemed to be brewing underneath
the surface, but which never really progressed to anything substantial. If you mostly watch K-dramas for romances you'll most likely be frustrated with this one! However, if you like to be challenged intellectually, and enjoy the subject of the law, then you will have definitely found a new favorite that will linger in your memory long after you've finished it.

The Story:

Law School primarily centers on four main characters either working for, or attending,
Hankuk University, considered the top law school in the nation of Korea. These include brilliant lead legal professor Yang Jong Hoon (Kim Myung Min) who had once been a prosecutor; bright male law student Han Joon Hwi (Kim Bum) who is determined to succeed at all costs; an insecure female student from a poor family background named Kang Sol A (Ryu Hye Young); and friendly female older teacher Kim Eun Sook (Lee Jung Eun), who became like a mother figure to them all over time.

When we first meet them they are engaging in a mock trial, with students acting out as either criminals on trial, or lawyers. Then a recently released from jail criminal named Lee Man Ho (actor Jo Jae Ryong, incredible performance as the heavy!) suddenly breaks into the mock trial room, and badly frightens the pregnant teacher Eun Sook, causing her to miscarry her baby. She had tried him for previous crimes years ago that had sent him to jail, and he is pleased as punch to cause havoc in her life now that he's a free man again. Man Ho is destined to keep re-appearing into the story as it moves along; he is a man of many secrets: every great drama requires a superb heavy or bad guy who keeps the audience hissing every time he shows his ugly face on screen! (Oh, those hideous capped teeth this character had, whenever he smiled; they were enough to scare even Charles Manson to death!).

Then another, even more brutal, situation arises suddenly: one of the other lead professors at the school, Seo Byung Ju (veteran actor Ahn Nae Sang, whom I am always delighted to see in any cast!) dies and appears to have been murdered. Turns out he was a secret meth addict, and someone who didn't like him caused him to take an overdose of the drug in a drink, camouflaging it as sugar, sending him into heart failure. He dies in his office, collapsed and slumped over on a chair, and in flashbacks we are shown several people he had interacted with in the last moments of his life. Which one could have been the killer?

At first, incredibly, suspicion falls on teacher Jong Hoon as the potential culprit, shocking all his students and other faculty members, and he is even arrested for the crime and jailed, but as the story progresses other candidates pop up who seem to have even stronger possible motives for killing this teacher. For a short time even the brightest law student in the class, Joon Hwi, is suspected of the crime; then it is revealed he was actually the teacher's nephew, and very much wants to uncover the truth behind his uncle's death. Further episodes highlight the flaws in Korea’s legal system, and how people can get unwittingly convicted for crimes they did not commit, while the actual criminals get away scot-free, only to wreck havoc once again in the lives of their victims.

Top left to right: Kim Bum, Ryu Hye Young, Hyun Woo
Bottom left to right: Lee Soo Kyung, David Lee, Ko Yoon Jung

During the course of the drama we get to know the law students in depth. All are likeable and ambitious young people determined to succeed at their chosen profession, but each one has personal family problems to some extent which threaten to hold them back from accomplishing their end goals. Han Joon Hwi is one of the top students in the freshman class, coming from a well-to-do background, with his uncle Seo Byung Ju a professor at the school at the beginning of the story, who dies a mysterious death, and flashbacks try to show the audience that he had a motive to cause his uncle's death.

Kang Sol A is the daughter of a poor working class mother; she was able to get into the law school through a special scholarship opening for the underprivileged. She had had some former legal dealings with the lead professor at the law school, Yang Jong Hoon, and he seems quietly interested in having her succeed, even though she has more troubles passing tests than the other students. He often seems to go out of his way to inspire her, to help her.

Coincidentally, there is another female student named Kang Sol, so she is called Kang Sol B by faculty and students, to separate her from Kang Sol A. She comes from a rich family too but her parents are socialites who often bicker and bring dissension into her life. Her father Kang Ju Man (Oh Man Seok) is actually in the law profession too, and is the vice-dean of the school; he often wonders if his daughter can handle the stress of this school. Later he even becomes yet another suspect possibility in the sudden death of the law professor Seo Byung Ju, causing great distress to his daughter and his wife (Park Mi Hyun).

Yet another female student named Jeon Ye Seul (Ko Yoon Jung) who comes from a rich background begins to have troubles with her aggressive boyfriend named Ko Du Seong (Lee Ho Yeol) who starts to smack her around and even rapes her, which results in her acting in self-defense and almost killing him, inflicting serious bodily injuries on him. She is arrested for the "crime" but the faculty and other students at the school combine forces to support her in a plea of self-defense. Unfortunately, this low life scumbag Du Seong is the son of a rotten politician assemblyman named Ko Hyeong Su (Jung Won Joong), and he has the money to fight against Ye Seul's case with a vengeance.

Two more law students we begin to keep an eye on, who experience tremendous character growth, are Seo Ji Hoo (David Lee) whose father had been falsely accused of the crime of manufacturing toys with cancer-causing agents in them, and quiet cutie pie Yoo Seung Jae (Hyun Woo from one of my top fav short dramas Taste Of Curry) who has some secrets of his own he doesn't want the others at the school to learn about (but you know how that goes -- secrets never remain secrets for very long in KdramaLand!). Two more male students who are there for some comic relief are curly-haired Min Bok Ki (Lee Kang Ji) and be-speckled Jo Ye Bum (Kim Min Suk). They often made me smile with their words and antics.

Law School is a great ensemble cast piece, filled with actors who play off each other flawlessly, both the more experienced veteran actors, and the young up and coming types. The law cases depicted in the show appear to be rather relevant to some headline stories we've read about in Korean and US news. The writer Seo In did a very good job with the script, which fleshes out the characters clearly, making us realize quite early on which characters are more trustworthy than others.

I mostly enjoyed the chemistry between Kim Myung Min and Kim Bum and Ryu Hye Young; the touches of humor that showed up on occasion when these characters were dealing with one another always made me smile. If there ever is a season two (I won't hold my breath, knowing how few K-dramas ever get sequels) I would hope the writer would showcase some growing romance there, instead of just basically friendships. Check the drama out and see if it's to your own liking. Enjoy!