What do all legal dramas in South Korea have in common? Good looking men in suits. Here are some of the very best.
The latest news in Korea is that Doh Kyungsoo is set to be making a drama comeback in True Swordsmanship. “A story of a genuine prosecutor giving unseemly justice for the weak and victims, and cracking down on all corruption in the Republic of Korea. Doh Kyungsoo’s proposed role is Jinjung, a prosecutor,” read the triumphant article. SM Entertainment is said to positively be considering the proposal.
This had me thinking of all the Korean dramas taking place in the realm of law. Legal dramas always have a few things in common: fighting corruption (sometimes the protagonist is the corrupt one), lawyer-y shenanigans that usually have no root in reality, a love story, and the whole point of this article: hot men in suits.
Behold, a list of some of the most good looking K-drama characters who have taken up the lawyer’s oath in the name of small-screen entertainment:
Vincenzo’s Vincenzo Cassano and Jang Han Seok
Everyone watched Vincenzo this year, so there’s no point rehashing what went on, but if you’re living under a rock, here’s what happened: Italian-Korean Mafioso and lawyer Vincenzo Cassano (Song Joong-ki) finds himself back in Seoul, forced to defend the rights of a bunch of misfits living in Geumga Plaza, a run-down building with a hidden basement housing an entire room of gold. The building in question is also sought by the Babel Group; a corrupt conglomerate fronted by Jang Han-seo (Kwak Dong-yeon) but operated by his evil, depraved, older brother Jang Han-seok (Ok Taecyeon).
Are they good lawyers? Well, no. Vincenzo is part of the mafia. In Italy, he was the consigliere to the Cassano family, and someone usually ended up dead or had their entire house burned down. He starts out defending the Geumga Plaza residents, not for altruistic reasons but because they (unknowingly) sit on his gold. He has a twisted sense of justice, motivated by revenge: “Justice is weak and empty. One cannot win against villains with justice alone.”
Coming up unprepared in court to the combined might of Babel Group and Wusang Law, his first recourse is to cause chaos in the court to buy time. All of this would get you thrown out and disbarred in any functioning court of law. But this is drama land so reality doesn’t matter.
As for Han-seok, who starts the drama pretending to be a simpering legal intern with a crush on Hong Cha-young (Jeon Yeo-been), he’s not much better. He’s even worse. He might have graduated from Stanford Law, but he murdered his father, holds his brother under his thumb in a twisted and abusive relationship, and has no qualms murdering everyone just to get his way in the end.
I don’t know if Korea has a Lawyer’s Oath that all lawyers must live by, but in the Philippines, we do, and safe to say both Vincenzo and Han-seok have probably broken all those rules. Because this is a Korean drama, there has to be a bad guy who loses everything in the end, and because Vincenzo is played by Song Joong-ki, he isn’t the loser. But if this were real life, both of them would be in jail.
Suits’ Go Yeon-woo
Yes, Suits the American version had Meghan Markle but Suits the Korean version had Park Hyung-sik, and because I’m writing this article, I say the Korean version wins on that alone. In the role of the Michael Ross character (the genius rookie lawyer who doesn’t actually have a law degree), this is one of the great, must-watch Park Hyung-sik roles. Go Yeon-woo starts down on his luck, reduced to drug running for chaebols just to earn money for his grandmother, but a chance meeting with Choi Kang-seok (Jang Dong-gun) where he impresses with his eidetic memory of the law manual gives him a chance to escape his current lot in life.
Is he a good lawyer? Unfortunately you can’t be a lawyer without going to law school, graduating, and passing the bar, and Yeon-woo did none of that (he never even graduated high school). As a lawyer, you hold the future of your clients in your hands, so you need legitimate proof that you know what you’re doing. In terms of his lawyerly performance, Kang-seok is also always telling him not to be swayed by emotion. He tended to sympathize and sometimes secretly side with the opposition. This is someone who is a good person, but not necessarily a good lawyer, but I suppose if he had the same chances as everyone else, he would’ve been a great guy to have behind you.
Suspicious Partner’s Noh Ji-wook
In Suspicious Partner, prosecutor Noh Ji-wook (Ji Chang-wook) is paired with intern Eun Bong-hee (Nam Ji-hyun) on a murder she is initially accused of committing. Their wacky hijinks make for a fun experience, although because this drama is so long (40 episodes, instead of the standard 16-18) the legal aspect tends to get muddled.
Is he a good lawyer? Ji-wook wanted to be a prosecutor to honor his father, who died in a tragedy. In episode 2, we fear he might not be a very honorable one, because tasked with making sure Bong-hee ends up in jail by the murder victim’s father, he acts like he’s about to do his bidding. However, his morals get to him and he torpedoes his case, dismissing the charges against Bong-hee. This makes him a good man, but also means he loses his job in the DA. Of course, this is only episode 2, there’s a lot more to go and a murder that needs to be solved.
While You Were Sleeping’s Jung Jae-chan
The plot of While You Were Sleeping is a little hard to explain. A mix of legal drama and fantasy starring professionally good-looking people Bae Suzy, Lee Jong-suk, and Jung Hae-in, their characters share the ability to see the future in their dreams. Jung Jae-chan (Lee Jong-suk) plays a prosecutor.
Is he a good lawyer? A lawyer who can see the future seems like it would be good to have on your side. But cases cannot be won on circumstantial evidence, and if you went to court and told the judge and told them your client is innocent (or guilty) because of your dreams you’d probably get laughed out of there.