Edited by Yang Young Jun
Translated by Cho EK
The Netflix original series D.P. is one of those drama series that you have to watch to the end once you start. However, you could hardly describe it as a fun watch because it leaves a bitter taste after finishing it.
Soon after he enlists the army, Ahn Joon Ho gets to join the deserter pursuit unit, a.k.a D.P. With his keen observation and reasoning skills, he plays a crucial role in taking in the deserters and wins the trust of the officer in charge of the D.P squad. However, on his first mission, a disastrous incident occurs: a deserter he missed commits suicide. Suffering from guilt and trauma, Joon Ho joins Corporal Han Ho Yul to form a new team and begins to chase down the deserters, resolved to see no more deaths in vain.
Based on the webtoon of the same name, D.P. tells the story of the deserter pursuit unit that chases down the runaway soldiers. This is a somewhat unfamiliar squad, even for Korean viewers who have completed military service. Anyhow, the drama tells another ‘story of the Korean army,’ one of the favorite topics over drinks among Korean men. Let’s take a look at why this work is gaining immense popularity in Korea and abroad.
As it is a story of the chaser and the chased, the drama fundamentally takes on the character of a chase thriller or a detective story. The series also reminds us of buddy movies where the two with opposite personalities work together. D.P. faithfully portrays the basic elements of the genre and provides us with the guaranteed fun.
It is very thrilling to see the process of Jun Ho and Ho Yeol chasing down a thread of a clue and narrowing the investigation to nail down the deserters. The chemistry between Joon Ho (Jung Hae In), the serious one with excellent observing skills, and Ho Yeol (Koo Kyo Hwan), the free-spirited one with remarkable detective instincts, also stands out. Plus, because the characters go after the deserters who have fled all over the country, the series effectively uses open spaces in diverse places.
D.P. is an exciting chase thriller that also exposes the dark side of human rights in the South Korean military service. In fact, military service is a recurring theme in the mass media. However, if you ask whether the image of the military reflected in various media is what’s it like in real life, many will answer, “No.” Most of them reflected only a tiny part of the military that we see on the outside, and there are only a handful of works depicting the other side of the closed society.
From the moment the camera illuminates the deserters and the army quarters, it becomes difficult to watch the series just for fun. Or, it would be better to say that it raises the bitter question, “Is it okay to watch something like this for fun?” The drama unequivocally exposes the atrocities in the extremely closed society. The military base filled with violence, verbal abuse, and the inhumane absurdity that one can’t even imagine might have come as a shock to some and a painful memory to others. The sad fact is that all of this happens in reality, and the fact that things are ‘better now’ doesn’t stop it all from happening somewhere.
Moreover, D.P. does not forget to mention the absurdity prevailing in our society beyond violence and abuse in the military. The labor exploitations, the conflicts between the rich and the poor, and the domestic acts of violence depicted in the play parallel what happens in the military base and convey a message that we must never stand by in silence as they emerge.
The actors’ solid acting perfected the work. Jung Hae In, who has been mainly active in romance genres, played a pessimistic character who hides his true feelings in this series. But as time went by, he perfectly pulled off Jun Ho by showing his versatile emotions. Plus, he did a great job of portraying a mirror-like figure that reflects the raw and dark reality of a military base. Koo Kyo Hwan plays a key role in lightening up the mood in the series, which could have been a little too dark otherwise. By balancing out the pace and atmosphere in the series, he proved the reason for his popularity.
In addition to the two actors, Kim Sung Gyun, Son Seok Gu, and Shin Seung Ho realistically played officers, sergeants, and malicious superiors we often see in the base. In particular, Jo Hyeon Cheol, who played Jo Seok Bong, the character that represents the theme of the work, perfectly portrayed the benevolent soldier who eventually becomes a monster-like figure eaten up by his anger with his remarkable acting skills.
The ending of this story is by no means a happy ending. Although things got better than before in the military, the tragedy and the absurdity continue somewhere, like Seok Bong’s desperate cry, “I’m still using the same canteen produced in 1953, do you really think they would change?” Whether to stay silent or speak out about it seems to be depending on us.
Verdict: All the more memorable for its bitter aftertaste (8/10)
Editor Yang Young Jun: There is at least one good part in every movie or TV series. A media geek who isn’t picky with genres.
Translator Cho EK: I’m a big fan of Korean dramas and movies.