K-Drama Review: ‘Hyena’ Eccentric and Thrilling Pleasure

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

Credit: SBS

An arrogant elite lawyer leads a politician involved in a scandal to the acquittal and celebrates her victory by watching the enraged citizens. Even the opening of the drama is unusual. As the title suggests, Hyena brings out the world of the lawyers resembling the hyenas, the predators that steal other predator’s prey and eat rotten meat. Yoon Hee Jae, a lawyer from a wealthy family, who is full of self-esteem and pride, teams up with Jung Geum Ja, a lawyer who wins at all costs, to represent the one percenter.

Even from the start, Hyena pushes hard on the world of impudent upper class and their fights. Morality is not part of the concern. Yoon Hee Jae firmly believes that the law and his own capabilities support the “super class” of South Korea, whereas Jung Geum Ja, who grew up with nothing, becomes the representative for these people with her life-long survival strategy. Power is everything Yoon Hee Jae knows and is a shortcut to success for Jung Geum Ja.

That’s why the excitement of the twist was so low when Jung Geum Ja hid her identity and approached Yoon Hee Jae to win the divorce suit of Ha Chan Ho, the head of Ishium Holdings. The story of seducing the opposing lawyer to gain information and catching him off guard is undoubtedly impressive, but as we watch it, we can’t help but to think of both sides. We feel somehow embarrassed since we can’t cheer or pity either side. Regardless of win or lose, the person who they fought over is a piece of crap.

Credit: SBS

But fortunately, Hyena doesn’t end here. A strange pleasure begins to flow as Jung Geum Ja, who mostly defended private moneylenders and gangsters, joined the law firm Song&Kim after winning the Ishium Holdings case. Signs of cracks appear in the high-class, which has been solid, as she stepped in with her ways. As Jung Geum Ja became a colleague of Yoon Hee Jae, the flow of the drama slowly changes, and she, who use to be a snob who only chased money and success, starts to look different. Of course, she still protects those who we can hardly agree with.

Although we might not be able to understand her ambition for money, we have no choice but to acknowledge her abilities. First of all, she shook Yoon Hee Jae, who thought of himself as an elite legal profession. Even after using his love and backstabbing him, she is not afraid to confront him. Sometimes in front of love, money and status are powerless. The person who loves more becomes weak. After meeting Jung Geum Ja, Yoon Hee Jae’s world starts to crumble, and soon after, he begins to accept his feelings for her. However, she always pretends not to know how he feels and moves forward by herself. Yoon Hee Jae can’t be the male lead in a romance, who is mostly depicted as a guardian or a prince. The pleasure naturally follows as we watch this unusual relationship.

Credit: SBS

Jung Geum Ja only moves forward with her abilities. Even if she breaks away from the bounds of the law and ethics in the process, she ultimately finds a way to satisfy her clients. Thus, her methods are recognized even in the world full of elite lawyers from influential families, including Yoon Hee Jae. In a way, she could be considered as a new type of anti-hero. While she does not cling to justice, like Matt Murdoch of the Daredevil, who acts as a lawyer by day and a vigilante by night, the fact that she entered the world, where the accepted few can enter, only with her abilities is mighty impressive, especially in present-day society, which has become increasingly polarized. Though her clients are a handful of haves, just like how she frankly advised Son Jin Soo, the head of D&T, Jung Geum Ja never gives in. Watching her take advantage of her ambition but never give in to anything, isn’t it strangely delightful?

Jung Geum Ja augustly challenges the world filled with the hypocrisy of the privileged class, earning her value for her ability and slowly assimilating her colleagues around her. Now that Song Pil Joong’s ulterior motive won’t work as Jung Geum Ja showed brilliant performances, we would like to see her expand her presence in Song&Kim and complete her world. Jung Geum Ja, a disruptor of an elite system. We have no choice but to admit her awesomeness.

Verdict: A new type of courtroom drama led by characters with strong individuality (7/10)

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