Edited by Kim Won Hee
Translated by Cho EK
The Devil Judge is set in a fictional dystopian Republic of Korea and depicts events surrounding the courtroom. The strange mixture of the dystopian universe and the courtroom setting garnered much anticipation even before the premiere. When I first started watching it, the drama surpassed my already great expectation for the show. Let’s find out the charms of The Devil Judge.
The narrative unfolds in an exhilarating way in each episode. It builds up one after another and interacts with different characters and events. It is remarkably different from any other courtroom series I’ve ever seen so far. The trial in the drama is a live show where all citizens are eligible to participate and judge. The public can respond positively or negatively to defendants on trial by listening to their arguments and testimonies in real-time, looking at the evidence. As soon as the judge imposes a sentence, the public starts voting for or against the term and comes up with a final verdict.
The atmosphere of the trial in this drama is different from the traditional ones that are silent and serious. Meaning it almost reminds me of the show ‘Produce 101,’ where people cast their votes on judgments that suit the public’s taste. It may sound absurd at first glance. But it is set in an era where the system’s corruption has peaked. So, such participatory trials are described as the only way to bring justice and the show leaves a strong impact in every episode.
The cases and people on trials are similar to those we see in real life: the large corporation that caused the wastewater leak, the children of politicians who pick on the weaks, celebrities who commit sex crimes using their fame, and YouTubers who propagate hate and violence toward minorities. The drama makes them stand the trial and puts the power of law and justice in people’s hands.
The people who support the victims to speak up in the trial share their sufferings. Some of them are the family of the deceased victim killed by a toxic disinfectant or died in a department store collapse. These people have watched the perpetrator receiving a light sentence. Others are the direct victims of sex crimes who had to watch the perpetrators walk away. The drama constantly brings up the corrupt authorities, highlights the system that only looks out for those in power, and punishes the criminals to get what they deserve. Catharsis naturally happens. It seems like the former judge Moon Yoo Seok is solving the absurdities which he had faced in the real-life courtroom through the drama.
The second appeal of the drama is the relationship among the characters. In particular, Kang Yo Han and Kim Ga On, played by Ji Sung and Jin Young, stand out the most. The two have maintained a bizarre relationship so far. For example, Yohan appears to be an ambiguous figure, so viewers weren’t sure whether he is good or evil. He hangs out with corrupt authorities who put only their interests first, cleverly manipulates the evidence of the case, and designs the flow of the court.
Gaon doubts whether Yo Han is truly a righteous person. However, he gradually understands Yo Han’s intention as he learns that the judicial system he believed to be justice is not functioning at all due to corruption. On the other hand, Ga On has a special place in Yo Han’s mind because Ga On resembles his dead brother, the only one who cared for him.
The two start to live together in Yo Han’s house, where it’s safer after their lives have been threatened. Meanwhile, Ga On begins to understand Yo Han as he learns about his past, and Yo Han reveals his vulnerability to Ga On. They gradually form a family-like relationship in an interesting way.
The relationship between Jeong Seon Ah, played by Kim Min Jung, and Kang Yo Han, cannot be left out. Sun Ah grew up in hatred and violence. She started from the bottom and earned her current position at the board of the Social Responsibility Foundation. With her innocent expression, she uses others for her own benefit without remorse. It is impressive to see Seon Ah and Yo Han, who have very similar tendencies, compete for their purposes.
Seon Ah has a strange obsession with Yo Han. It’s a little different from affection or love. She sometimes reveals her hatred toward him, who always gets in her way. It seems like she wants to decorate herself with Yo Han, who grew up in a prestigious family.
The Devil Judge has only four episodes left. The corrupt authorities are revealing their desires, but Yo Han and his team, who have led the court with the support of the public, are facing a crisis. Will the drama be able to provide catharsis to the end? I hope it will end on a good note.
Verdict: A unique courtroom drama that provides a fantastic satisfaction (6/10)
Edited by Kim Won Hee: I am a person who needs more than 24 hours in a day because there are so many things I love. I am amassing various genres in the jewelry box in my heart.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.