About a year ago I watched The Ghost Detective, starring Daniel Choi, a man on my favorite actors list, and loved the show. So when I saw that another one of my favorite actors, Choi Jin-Hyuk, was playing the lead in a drama entitled Zombie Detective I excitedly put that on my watch list. Now, after waiting just shy of a year so I could review it closer to Halloween, I finally got around to watching it.
One fateful evening, Kang Min-Ho awakens to find himself in a landfill, unable to speak, barely able to walk, and completely void of any memory of his life before that moment, including his own name. Shortly thereafter, from a quiet hiding place under the cover of darkness, he observes one man brutally hitting the other with a large rock. When the attacker leaves the scene, Min-Ho goes over to the victim and is surprised when the bloodied man hands him some keys just seconds before he dies. Confused at what had just transpired, Min-Ho takes the deceased person’s belongings and sets off to find answers surrounding not only the man’s murder but his own past, as well.
Investigative writer Gong Sun-Ji has been working on locating the person responsible for a little girl’s murder and is thrilled when she’s able to convince the only witness to the evil deed to participate in a TV interview. However, when she discovers the witness was almost killed after doing the interview, she feels so guilty that she quits her job. Fortunately, she is able to secure a new job as a temporary assistant to a strange man that runs his own detective agency.
Kang Min-Ho is completely void of any memories before he discovered he was a zombie. In an effort to uncover who he is, as well as the how and why he became a zombie and how he can become human once again, he takes on the identity of the man who gave him the set of keys just before he passed away – Detective Kim Moo-Young. Min-Ho spent an entire year teaching himself to walk and speak like a human and, thanks to a tremendous supply of BB cream he is able to live among them once again. He detests the fact that he craves human flesh and does his best to suppress that grotesque urge. Although he likes Gong Sun-Ji, he wants to keep a good physical and emotional distance between himself and all humans, which includes her. He is happily surprised to discover he has amazing fighting skills, that are simply a matter of muscle memory, because that may be a clue to his past.
People consider Gong Sun-Ji to be nosy but her curiosity and sense of justice have made her into a superb writer for the HBS current affairs TV program 70-Minute Chase, for which she has proudly interviewed people for an amazing 67 cases. Once she decides to investigate a story, she is tenacious in uncovering the truth so she can bring it to a complete closure. Sun-Jo’s friend compares the writer to Batman, someone desperate to make the world a safer place and see justice done even if she has to pursue the suspect on her own. Because her parents passed away many years ago, she and her older sister grew up relying solely on each other. Sun-Ji lives with her domineering sister, her reserved brother-in-law, and her darling nephew.
Officer Cha Do-Hyun is a Gangrim Police Violent Crimes Unit Detective and also belongs to the Police Martial Arts Special Unit. The man is good at what he does and is thought of highly by his peers. Although it’s obvious to those around him that he likes Sun-Ji, he insists they are only friends. Sun-Ji’s sister does everything she can to encourage Do-Hyun to confess his feelings to her sister and often helps to facilitate ways for them to be together, hoping someday soon they will become an official couple.
Lee Sung-Rok runs World King Detective Agency. He’s not happy that his place is located right across the street from handsome Detective Kim’s office which is in direct competition with his own. He had been working solo but decided to hire an assistant in an effort to expand his agency into a global one. He is suspicious of Detective Kim but also admires the man at the same time. Wang Wei is Sung-Rok’s Chinese assistant. He had been working delivering food for a restaurant but quit that job when he was offered a position working for Sung-Rok. The two make a clumsy yet decent detective team.
Gong Sun-Young is Sun-Ji’s overly strict older sister who runs the household with an iron fist. Lee Tae-Kyun (Sun-Ji ‘s brother-in-law) is a househusband who is totally obsessed with zombies. He wrote and directed the B-movie Busan Express. Lee Joo-Woo is Sun-Jo’s nephew. When he and his friends are unable to locate the little stray dog they consider their own, he hires Detective Kim to find it.
For information about Choi Jin-Hyuk, the actor who plays the drama’s titular character, you can go to my Tunnel review.
The gal who plays the part of writer-turned-detective-assistant Gong Sun-Ji is 26-year-old Park Ju-Hyun. While in her first year of high school, she saw the musical Cats and decided she wanted to be an actress. She furthered her education, majoring in acting at Korea National University of Arts and, while still a student, appeared in short movies and plays before graduating in 2019. Her acting debut came by way of the 2019 feature film The Dude In Me and she went on to be cast in the dramas Drama Stage: My Wife’s Bed, A Piece of Your Mind, Extracurricular, and this year’s (2021) Mouse.
Sadly, I thought Detective Zombie was nowhere near as entertaining as The Ghost Detective. The problem was that the writer tried to mix comedy into what could have been a really good fantasy/crime/mystery and it ended up cheapening the story. I wasn’t at all surprised when I found out that the drama didn’t do well in the ratings department. I’ll bet other people disliked the unnecessary comedy as much as I did. As I watched the show I kept thinking, Choi Jin-Hyuk is way too good an actor to be cast in a show that is surrounded by such silliness. Watching his performances in Tunnel, Rugal, Pride and Prejudice, Devilish Joy, Emergency Couple, and The Last Empress made me realize what an amazing actor this guy is – much too talented for a drama that, in my opinion, dumbs down its story with silly comedy. Is the show awful? Not at all. It’s just not as good as it had the potential to be.
The biggest problems came in the last few episodes as the show was winding to its close. They weren’t “oops,” they were just plain out-and-out “wrongs.”
Kang Min-Ho/Detective Kim talks about how he doesn’t have a heart or any blood running through his veins yet someone is able to get a fresh blood sample off an object he was stabbed with. Wrong!
There is a person who can walk and talk just fine right after becoming a zombie yet Min-Ho tells us that it took him a year to learn to walk and speak like a human once again. Wrong! (Also, it shows Min-Ho learning to walk like a human by using a treadmill – how did he get the treadmill and the house it’s in before he began to mix with humans in their world?)
We see Detective Kim place his cell phone on a coffee table in front of him seconds before he gets up to answer the door. While at the door, he is drugged, faints and the next thing we know Sun-Ji is able to discover his whereabouts by using the tracker device she put on his phone. Wrong!
We see the carefully planned way Detective Kim, Lee Sung-Rok, and Wang Wei get into a heavily guarded building but we never see how Sun-Ji sneaks her way in? What… she could sneak past guards on her own, without any help? Wrong!
SPOILER… A guy is being held down when the police grab him and put him into a cop car. While he is being transported to the police station, he causes an accident and gets free. The next thing we know the guy is a zombie. It doesn’t show him grabbing the zombie serum and a syringe before the officers took him away. Did he just carry the stuff around with him? And if he did, did the officers not pat him down and put handcuffs on him before putting him in the police car? Wrong!
On the upside, the story is very compelling and flows well. We find out bit-by-bit who Detective Kim really is and how he coincidentally ties into the murder case Sun-Ji is so intent on solving. We also discover how Min-Ho became a zombie and who was responsible for the evil deed. And the drama ends with the possibility of a part two hanging in the air. Would I watch a Zombie Detective sequel? You bet I would. I’d definitely sit through another 12 hours/episodes of unnecessary, awkward comedy as long as the part of the zombie detective was played, once again, by Choi Jin-Hyuk.
Kudos goes to Choi Jin-Hyuk’s make-up artists for the amazing job they did in making him look so authentically zombie-like. I was very impressed with the fact that his dark veins didn’t look fake at all. I wonder how long it took for him to become a zombie. Good job, make-up team!
I really liked Zombie Detective’s music. Every single song is great. Byung Jin-Sub and Rhinoceros perform Going, the show’s upbeat song. The rapping in it is wildly superb! Each of the drama’s ballads is lovely – Lucy sings I Don’t Wanna Heart You, Celine favors us with Good Memory, and Jung In performs Thank You and Sorry. I can only describe the slow rock song Be Ok, sung by I’ll, as fantastic. You really ought to check out Zombie Detective’s soundtrack in its entirety.
The show’s backgrounds/scenery are perfect for the story and the location shoots were excellent choices. Although the real Detective Kim’s office is very basic and un-showy, there is a tiny, hidden-away closet that has your typical run-of-the-mill detective gadgets, complete with a red-light-glow when the door is opened.
All in all, I’m glad I saw this drama. In my opinion, trying to make it into a comedy was a tremendously huge mistake but I liked the show in spite of that. The drama’s “mistakes” are things that could have been corrected but, for some reason, people (writer, director, actors/actress) chose to overlook, and that’s sad. However, although it has some big problems, the show is worth watching, especially if you love zombie movies and/or are a Choi Jin-Hyuk fan. My advice would be to wait about a month before starting it, though. Shouldn’t a Zombie Detective drama be seen closer to Halloween?
Possibility of a sequel
Several major “mistakes” near the end
Silly, unnecessary comedy
6 thoughts on “Zombie Detective”
I tempted to ask which TV station it is shown. That’s an awesome review.
I watched Zombie Detective on viki.com
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Thanks so much.
I’m always happy to help another Kdrama fan find a show they’re looking for.
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Another great review, Sarah. I thoroughly enjoyed Zombie Detective. I found it quite refreshing (despite some of the continuity errors) and I actually enjoyed the more comical moments.
Thank you so much for your comment. I really think it’s good for Heart & Seoul readers to see that other people’s ideas about a drama are not always the same as mine. I have said on more than one occasion that if you find you always disagree with my take on things, my reviews can still be helpful – just know that if I said I disliked something you’ll probably enjoy it.