I’m hoping this drama’s screenwriter has a sequel in mind because it was just too interesting to end. These men and women are personable, likable, and real and I would love to observe continued growth in both their careers and personal lives. Based on the Kim Woong 2018 novel Geomsanaejeon, Diary of a Prosecutor is excellent.
“The word prosecutor usually makes you think of two types. One is the loyal servant to the powerful. And the other is the Apostle of Justice who fights the great evil!” – Prosecutor Lee Sun-Woong
The story is told through the eyes (and voice) of Prosecutor Lee Sun-Woong of Criminal Investigation Team 2 at the District Prosecutor’s Office Jinyeong Branch. We learn that half their job is to summon people there and the other half is wrestling with countless suspects, victims, witnesses, and documents that would be taller than they are if they were placed in one stack. At this branch there is an unofficial competition between Criminal Investigation Team 1 and Team 2. The latter’s Chief constantly compares them to Team 1, and Team 2 always comes up lacking. One major difference is that they have many more unsolved cases than Team 1. Also, they are second place in the number of cases in which the victim submitted a formal complaint, second in the number of autopsies requested, and second in the number of older staff.
“A suspect’s fate can change based on who they meet as their prosecutor. Because, we prosecutors, we are human, too.” – Lee Sun-Woong
Lee Sun-Woong is in his tenth year as a prosecutor. A year and a half ago he was assigned to Jinyeong District where he is “currently spending his [my] most cheerful days” because Jinyeong is his hometown. He claims he is an expert in “beseeching for investigation.” The man has a sympathetic heart which always comes into play when he is doing his job, however he is seen as the type of guy that isn’t afraid to rock the boat when he feels he is right. It is never clear whether he is divorced, separated, or just lives apart from his wife and 11 year old son due to their jobs.
Prosecutor Cha Myung-Joo graduated at the top of her class from the Judicial Research and Training Institute – the same school (and year) Lee Sun-Woong attended. For the past 11 years she has been a prosecutor at all the District Prosecutor’s Offices (North, South, East, West, and Central), becoming the type of prosecutor you could see on TV. As the consequence to the outcome of one of her cases, she was sent to Jinyeong from the Special Case Unit in the Central Seoul district. She is determined to quietly serve her sentence in Jinyeong and get back to Seoul as soon as possible.
Jo Min-Ho is the Director of Criminal Investigation Team 2. He does a great job of balancing his authority as Chief while maintaining a genuine friendship with each of the prosecutors on his team. He is an avid bike rider and does his best to stay young both internally and externally. He has a child and is divorced from a ballerina whose father is a big-wig in the government.
Hong Jong-Hak is the senior prosecutor at the Jinyeong Branch. He and Director Jo Min-Ho share a camaraderie because they graduated from the same law school and often cheer each other on by singing their school song together. He accidentally got a lottery ticket one day and won second place ($17,000) which earned him the nickname Hero of Good Luck. Sadly, he has spent almost $25,000 buying more tickets, still believing he has a chance at first place. Jong-Hak is happily married.
Prosecutor Oh Yoon-Jin comes from the Violent Cases Unit where she used to take down gangsters. She is a working mother of one year old twins and married to a prosecutor. Because he works in a different district they live apart and her mother-in-law takes care of their kids. Yoon-Jin is in charge of trials.
Kim Jung-Woo just became a prosecutor and had been receiving guidance from Lee Sun-Woong until Cha Myung-Joo stole him away to work with her. He and Sun-Woong are roommates and he keeps a combination look on his bedroom door which makes Sun-Woong curious as to what could possibly be in that room . Jung-Woo wants to do a lot of dating but his work always gets in the way of him meeting new girls. He loves posting things to his social media account and is an avid gamer.
Sung Mi-Ran is the administrator directly under Prosecutor Cha. She works diligently and does her job well, all the time speaking as little as possible. She sits across from Prosecutor Kim Jung-Woo, watching him carefully with the eyes of someone in love.
Jang Man-Ok is a veteran of 30 years, the highest level investigator, assigned to Prosecutor Lee’s office. She speaks fluent Chinese and Sun-Woong is under the impression there isn’t anything she can’t do.
Kim In-Joo has been a prosecutor for 24 years and has subsequently worked his way up to being the leader at the Jinyeong Branch. He is honest, upright, and supportive of all his prosecutors. He is especially close to Lee Sun-Woong and they often go fishing together.
Lee Sun-Kyun plays the part of Prosecutor Lee Sun-Woong who is also the narrator of the story. For more information about him you can go to my review of My Wife’s Having an Affair This Week. Congratulations to this amazing actor for his role in Parasite, the first foreign film ever to receive the Best Picture award at the Oscars. I receintly saw it and I have to admit its originality is off the charts, definitely worth seeing. You can find it now on Hulu.
The part of Prosecutor Cha Myung-Joo is played by actress Jung Ryeo-Won. You can go to my Witch at Court review to learn a little bit about her.
Jinyeong is a (fictional) port city on Korea’s south coast. Its area is about 200 square km (77 square miles) larger than Seoul but the population is less than Dobong-gu’s, one of the districts in Seoul. The total number of prosecutors at the Jinyeong Branch is 12, and according to Lee Sun-Woong it’s not the typical working place all prosecutors dream of working at. The building was built on a cemetery and everyone thinks office number 309 is haunted. In the last five years, the prosecutor assigned to that office has changed 12 times, each one leaving prosecution forever, and Cha Myung-Joo has just been assigned to that room!
One of the best things about this show is the fact that all of these prosecutors are good, decent human beings who respect and follow the law. Much of what we learn about these prosecutors comes from the time they spend eating with one another. You see, these people are friends as well as colleagues and they often hang out in a group – eating, fishing, watching TV, and playing cards.
Each of the show’s 16 episodes has a specific topic and cases which are wrapped up by the end of the hour. But they all build on one another which is probably why I thought it would make a great weekly drama. (That’s the formula America uses for its TV shows.) Among the many varied cases Team 2’s prosecutors take on are murder, abduction, bullying, drunk driving, and fraud.
Diary of a Prosecutor’s soundtrack has a Latin American flair to it. Now I know that doesn’t sound like it would fit well with a production from South Korea but, strangely enough, it really compliments the drama well. Young Tak sings a song called Fog Blues, Is It Okay is performed by Namgoong Jin-Young, and Xuenda sings As the Wind Blows. The ballad We Are Still, sung by Ahn Hye-Jin, abandoned the Cha Cha/Rumba flavor and went with a sound we are more used to hearing in a Kdrama.
The scenery is pretty, simply because the fictional city of Jinyeong is near the sea. The five months of filming (from August to January) took place in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsan Province. Although the Jinyeong Branch building is a fair size, the prosecutors’ offices are very cramped.
Diary of a Prosecutor (aka War of Prosecutors) is a definite must see for any Kdrama fan. I sincerely hope there is a second season because I truly loved this show!
Likable, personable characters
Upright, honorable prosecutors
Good amount of varied cases
Each episode is independent of the others
Could have a sequel
The show’s narration makes it sound like a Diary of a Prosecutor
Not a single thing