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[K-Drama Review] Is ‘Police University’ Both a Good Romance and Crime Thriller?

Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun

korean drama Police University
Credit: KBS

KBS’s Police University, starring Cha Tae Hyun, Jin Young, and Krystal, is set in the police university, which was rarely dealt with in the past. Police University centers around a passionate detective and a genius police student who used to be a hacker. They meet in the National Police University as a professor and student, and together, they team up for a joint investigation. The movie Midnight Runners, released a few years ago and achieved great success, naturally comes to our mind. But unlike this movie, Police University approaches the viewers by adding the “investigation chemistry” between a professor and a student with campus romance.

The series starts off strong, delivering the energy of youth that reminds us of passionate college days. Seon Ho, an ordinary high school student who lived without a dream, falls in love at first sight with Kang Hee, who wants to enter the police university. As if to have realized something after seeing Kang Hee’s will to achieve her dream, Seon Ho also decides to enter the police university. We are already familiar with the cliche of choosing his future for his crush, but it goes well with the drama’s pleasant atmosphere. In the process, Seon Ho and Kang Hee’s “flirting” creates a comical and fresh vibe, just like their noisy farce.

When the two main characters talk about their dreams and love, veteran detective Dong Man, who has tasted the sweets and bitters of life, shows a glimpse into the harsh reality of the police. Dong Man has a painful past where his colleague and lover were injured or killed at the scene. Because of this, he pursues the criminal more fiercely. He seems blunt and tempered, but that’s not how he is on the inside. Taking care of his people where they can’t see, he narrows the distance with the viewers. Cha Tae Hyun’s solid acting goes well with Dong Man’s personality, making us look forward to Dong Man’s future performance. In addition, the jolly campus love story brought to life by young actors firmly takes the center of the series.

However, the series changes the mood from the 4th episode after solidifying the main characters’ personalities. Seon Ho and Dong Man, who keep each other at arm’s length due to their history of meeting as a detective and a criminal, join forces to solve a certain case. From this point on, the series offers a new kind of fun by appropriately mixing the love story at the police university and catching the criminal. In other words, various events at the police university become a vital clue to the case that the two heroes are after. This proves the ambition of Police University to capture both the laughter and romance of a youth drama and the thrill of an investigative drama.

korean drama Police University
Credit: KBS

Unfortunately, that ambition seems too big. Some settings created to combine the two different genres ruin the viewers’ immersion. As a result, a series of “forced” developments follow. For example, Seon Ho and Dong Man turned out to be the ones who comforted each other via online chat, and Dong Man’s colleague Cheol Jin, who suffered a severe injury, suddenly recovers and joins the police university. It is impossible to ignore the dissatisfaction of some viewers as they complain that the “plot is too frivolous.”

It’s not just that. The process of resolving the conflicts is lax. Even knowing that Seon Ho is the hacker, Dong Man easily forgives him and lets him go to use it as a dramatic element. Though we understand it in our minds, we can’t accept it with our heads. Afterwards, the process of Seon Ho entering the police university and overcoming the crisis of being eliminated is ambiguously described, halving the immersion level. Also, why is Dong Man secretly taking care of Seon Ho? We don’t have the answer to that question either.

It’s also disappointing that no other characters besides Seon Ho and Dong Man stand out. In particular, I feel sorry for the way Oh Kang Hee has been treated so far. She is the kind of person who works towards her dream of becoming a police officer, despite her mother being a criminal. However, until the 6th episode, Kang Hee’s role in the series is for “flirting” purposes only. Her role will get bigger as she joins Dong Man and Seon Ho’s investigation. And yet, the fact that the drama did not make good use of a character that can draw more attractive feels like the drama drew the limits itself.

Of course, despite many letdowns, Police University guarantees its unique fun. Although it deals with the heavy subject of criminal investigation, the viewers can approach the work more easily thanks to the youth’s ambitious energy. Yes, the drama’s attempt to include both the crime and romance genres are somewhat draggy. But if they make up for the current weaknesses, the satisfaction level will only go up.

 

Verdict: Old-fashioned production that can’t keep up with the vibrant energy of youth (5/10)

Editor Hwang Hong Sun: A Korean movie buff who wishes that the warm messages in good works will warm up this world at least by one degree Fahrenheit.

Translator Kim Hoyeun: If you are a fan of K-drama, K-movie, and K-pop, I am your guy. I will continue to provide you with up-to-date K-entertainment news.

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