Edited by Hwang Hong Sun
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Of all the actors who recently rose as Korea’s favorite leading actors, is there anyone who is “trusted” like Namkoong Min? From the 2022 series Hot Stove League to the 2021 drama The Veil, all his projects received glowing reviews, both viewership and critics-wise. And of course, his passionate performances were rewarded with Best Actor awards from both networks. Naturally, Namkoong Min’s new project was always the center of attention, and his choice was One Dollar Lawyer – a drama about the best-skilled lawyer who only charges his clients a dollar as his attorney’s fee.
Actually, the expectations for the show before the premiere weren’t at all favorable. Some pointed out its similarities to My Lawyer Mr. Joe, and a whole lot of legal dramas have flooded out recently, causing viewers’ fatigue over the genre. However, One Dollar Lawyer successfully caught the viewers’ attention and surpassed 15% viewer ratings in just eight episodes. So why is One Dollar Lawyer so popular?
A Pleasant But Not Light Legal Drama
When we think of a legal drama, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s heavy. The terms are unfamiliar, and the faces of those in the courtroom are either aggressive or dark. Even if the overall tone is necessary since the courtroom decides people’s fates, we can’t help but feel frustrated sometimes. That’s why One Dollar Lawyer differentiates itself with a pleasant and comical tone. And because of it, it approaches the viewers who weren’t much of a fan of a genre more closely.
From Its title, One Dollar Lawyer reveals its purpose. The attorney’s fee is one dollar, meaning the clients are mostly those who are financially strapped, and Chun Ji Hoon sympathizes with their story and fights against absurdity. However, the process of how he solves the cases will be ingenious. Stealing the wallet in court to prove the innocence of his client who was accused of pickpocketing, or destroying a car of a rich man who is making unreasonable demands over his damaged car; Chin Ji Hoon’s sudden and unpredictable actions double the exhilaration.
Yet, the courtroom shown in the drama isn’t always so light. The show helps viewers connect with the story by dealing with current issues in our society, such as the controversy over abusing security guards in apartments, victims suffering from a juice racket, and blind spots in used car sales. Moreover, it constantly compares Chun Ji Hoon with a large law firm that defends even the dirtiest side of those with wealth and honor, asking viewers whether the law is fair to everyone, even those powerless and penniless.
Chun Ji Hoon’s Past that Touchingly Shows the Drama’s Goal
One Dollar Lawyer begins chasing Chun Ji Hoon’s past from episode 6. It unravels the quirky lawyer’s past; why he went from being a successful prosecutor to being a lawyer and why he only takes one dollar for every case. And in the story, a familiar face shows up – Lee Chung Ah, Namkoongmi’s co-star in the drama Awaken, appears as Attorney Lee Ju Young, Chun Ji Hoon’s girlfriend.
The episodes of his past set the direction, leaving a positive impact on the show. When he was still a prosecutor, Chun Ji Hoon found out that the political case he was investigating was actually related to his father. He dug up the truth with no one’s help, but in the end, his father took his own life. Through his tragic family story, One Dollar Lawyer shows the big picture of Chun Ji Hoon fighting against the “unseen” power in order to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding his father’s suicide.
Above all, adding the story of Ju Young, who was suddenly killed in connection with the case, the drama reveals the sad secret behind Chun Ji Hoon’s delightful, amusing attitude. The story behind how he became a “one dollar lawyer” brings viewers to tears, and Namkoong Min’s performance that skillfully goes back and forth between smirky playfulness and seriousness helps viewers get immersed in the story. You could say that the heartbreaking love story added to the persuasiveness of the character’s eccentric behavior.
One Dollar Lawyer has reached its second act, starting episode 9. Chun Ji Hoon will continue to help his neighbors in need who need the power of the law and eventually get revenge in his own way. His fight against the villain of the piece that took out all his loved ones is also a reason to keep watching this show until the end. I can’t wait to see what clever method Chun Ji Hoon will surprise us with. (8/10)
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.