If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted drama, D.P. is not what you should turn on. Based on the webtoon D.P. Dog’s Day, the drama’s plot is emotionally difficult and the reason for that plot is heartbreaking. There are many Kdramas out there whose story centers around the bullying that takes place in schools but this is the first one I’ve seen that tackles that same heart-wrenching topic within the military.
Just as all young men do when they reach a certain age in the Republic of Korea, Ahn Joon-Ho left his civilian life in 2014 and entered the army to serve his two-year mandatory military assignment. Because of his height, he was quickly given the assignment of being a military police officer and from there was chosen to be a D.P. soldier, having no idea what the initials stood for but being keenly aware of what the job entailed – catching deserters. (D.P. is an acronym for Deserter Pursuit.) Sadly, Joon-Ho’s first mission ends in complete disaster when the guy in charge of the operation decides they should first use their time on the outside to party before doing their job. Understandably, Private Ahn can’t help but blame himself for the failure and it takes a little time for him to get over his self-loathing. Eventually, he is paired up with Corporal Han Ho-Yul, a seasoned D.P. officer with lots of experience in tracking down soldiers that, for a variety of reasons, have deserted their units. As Corporal Han teaches his junior how to do his job efficiently and effectively, the young Private’s insight and intuition prove to be a valuable asset to the duo.
Ahn Joon-Ho is a simple, quiet, contemplative young man – one that knows right from wrong and almost always chooses the former. He grew up in a horribly dysfunctional family- cowering in a corner, clinging to his younger sister, and watching in horror as his drunken father would beat his mother and take her money to buy alcohol. Although he pities his mother for what the tyrannical man puts her through, he is angered by the fact that she allows the abusive behavior to continue. Joon-Ho learned to box when he was younger as a self-defense measure against his brutal father.
Corporal Han Ho-Yul has been a D.P. soldier for a while now and happily, takes Private Ahn under his wing, teaching him the ins and outs of how to track down a deserter. The young Corporal seriously goes about his duties while still being sympathetic to the man he is tracking.
The part of Private Ahn Joon-Ho is played by actor Jung Jae-In. I found it commendable that before D.P. began filming he boxed for three months so he could do his own action scenes. Since Private Ahn was a boxer it makes sense Jae-In must have wanted to make sure his character looked like he knew what he was doing when it came to hand-to-hand combat. In case you’re curious, Jung Jae-In served his own mandatory military assignment a dozen years ago. You can find out a bit bout this wonderful actor by going to my While You Were Sleeping review.
Thirty-eight-year-old Koo Kyo-Hwan is an amazingly talented individual. He attended Seoul Institute of the Arts but the man is much more than just an actor, he’s also credited as a producer, film editor, script editor, screenwriter, and director. As far as accolades go, Kyo-Hwan won three Best New Actor awards for his role as a transgender woman in the motion picture Jane and one Actor of the Year award for his performance in the movie Beaten Black and Blue. His character in D.P. is Corporal Han Ho-Yul who, interestingly enough, is a person that wasn’t in the webtoon. Luckily, Kyo-Hwan was able to get some helpful hints on how to portray his character from his road manager who had been a D.P. soldier during his military service.
For years I have known all South Korean young men must serve in the military. I’ve said farewell to my favorite pop idols and actors alike as they’ve shipped off for two years to courageously serve their country, all the while anxiously awaiting news of their return to civilian life. However, I never even considered the fact that the military might be like how it is portrayed in this drama. I realize the entire military wouldn’t be as cruel as what we observe in this particular story but could there possibly be pockets of it, here and there, that is just like what we see in D.P.? While watching the show I kept telling myself – this is a drama, Sara, just make-believe. But then I read that the drama’s screenplay was co-written by Kim Bo-Tong, who authored the webtoon D.P. Dog’s Day, from which the drama was based, and the webtoon was based on Kim’s personal experience while serving his mandatory military assignment. Discovering that bit of information was utterly terrifying but then I thought, how great would it be if D.P. could bring this tragic subject into the public light so outraged citizens could pressure the government into finally doing something about it?
This story also makes us wonder if mandatory military service is even a good idea. I understand that leaders may think a country is safer when more people can defend it. That makes perfect sense. However, I know people who are just not cut out for military life. Making military service mandatory just seems wrong to me. My curiosity about this subject took me to the Internet where I discovered that many, many countries have mandatory military service in place for their citizens. Maybe that law is something those countries need to re-think while analyzing just how much good it does compared to the irreparable damage it may cause. Just a thought.
When the show was over I spoke with my roommate’s friend who has been home from his five-year service in the army for less than a year. I wanted to know if my own country’s military was as cruel to its soldiers as the South Korean military was to theirs (according to what I had just seen portrayed in D.P.). From what he told me, a few decades ago mistreatment of the soldiers was much more the case than it is now. He said years ago it wasn’t uncommon for men to be physically abused by someone of a higher rank. Then he went on to say that because of the bullying, soldiers had been committing suicide. When I asked him why he thought things had calmed down over the past twenty or thirty years he explained that a high-ranking officer’s entire military career could be completely destroyed if it was discovered that horrific bullying was going on under his/her command. He also reminded me that women serve right alongside men now, and that may be another reason the bullying has declined over the years.
When the drama was over I backed it up and re-watched the ending once again. Did it honestly end the way I thought it had? Yep, I’m pretty certain that what I had perceived really did happen. And it looks as though I’ll be able to find out if my guess was correct because I read that two weeks ago Jung Jae-In mentioned that he was “looking forward to season two,” and that “the director and writer are already writing the script.“ Sure, I’ll watch a sequel. But at least this time I’ll be prepared for another heavy-feeling plot. By the way, don’t turn the show off when you see the credits begin to roll on the last episode, of which there are six. There is a minute more of the story that plays out in the middle of the credits – like what happens in the Marvel movies.
D.P. has been the recipient of some pretty high praise from some critics as well as the public. One critic referred to the drama as “The finest Kdrama mini-series this year.” Another mentioned that the show handles “extraordinarily difficult and tragic subject matter with compassion and sensitivity,” while at the same time criticizing the “ludicrous escalation of events during its climax, which suddenly turns a fairly grounded show into a melodramatic action thriller.” As for the public’s response – the series topped Netflix’s Top 10 in South Korea! What did I think of D.P.? Well, it deserves lots of praise for bringing a tremendously difficult and heavy subject into the light.
I wasn’t really thrilled with D.P.‘s soundtrack but I love the harmony in the slow rock song Good-Bye, performed by Meego and Renee. I was also surprised at how many of the songs are sung in English.
D.P.‘s cinematography is quite impressive but my favorite shot, by far, comes a little more than halfway through episode four. At the bottom of our screen, there is an amazingly beautiful, modern city complete with towering high-rise buildings crammed tightly together. However, as the camera keeps moving up we see an old, dilapidated neighborhood bordering the bustling metropolis. It’s an incredibly clever shot that says so much. You know the old saying – A picture is worth a thousand words!
This drama has a lot to tell the world and we should listen carefully to what it has to say. South Korea, the U.S.A., Isreal, the U.K., Canada, Japan… I’m sure reforms in all countries’ military system need to be made quickly, and maybe one could be that not all young men have to serve. I don’t claim to have all the answers. All I know is that something needs to be done to prevent things that happened in D.P. from happening anymore in real life.
Great chemistry between Private Ahn and Corporal Han
Interesting and varied reasons for desertions
Brings the despicable bullying in the military to light
Only six episodes
Very crude language throughout
Horrible, torturous bullying