Why didn’t you do anything when he was getting bullied? It’s the critical question asked by director Han Jun-hee in his South Korean Television Series, “D.P.” Like me, many others may fail to answer it. I guess most of us were (or will be) standing at a distance, observing the misconduct because we all “feel” it is “okay” to bully or get bullied. We all have our philosophies for the tragedy of others until we become the victims. But then again, are you going to do anything to change it?
Netflix’s Drama D.P. chronicles the life of new military recruits in the South Korean Army. As per article 3 of the military service act, every male shall faithfully perform mandatory military service of approx. two years. In the new batch, a young Private Ahn Joon-ho (Jung Hae-in) becomes a part of the Korean military police as a Deserter Pursuit soldier or D.P. soldier. The drama begins and ends with Private Joon-ho, who is the salient protagonist of the story.
‘D.P.’ Plot Summary
Ahn Joon-ho is a delivery boy who wants to stay away from his conflicted family. In response, he enlists himself for military service. After 5 weeks of training, Joon-ho gets assigned to a military police unit. However, as soon as he arrives at the department, he is constantly bullied by a senior, Hwang Jang-soo.
The bullies continue to harass Joon-ho and his senior, Private Cho Suk-Bong until Sergeant First Class Park Bum-gu (Kim Sung-Kyun) intervenes. Sergeant Park gets impressed by Joon-ho’s observation skills and offers him to become a D.P. soldier. To save himself from the bullies, Joon-ho hesitantly agrees.
On his first mission, Joon-ho assists Corporal Park Sung-woo to catch an army deserter, Shin Woo-suk, and bring him back to the unit. Joon-ho learns Woo-suk was beaten up for forgetting the lyrics to the military song. Thus he deserted the army to flee harassment.
Joon-ho’s first D.P. mission ends in a disaster when Woo-suk kills himself after discovering that D.P. officers have come to arrest him. Joon-ho blames and beats Corporal Sung-woo for the mess as he was busy partying instead of catching Woo-suk. But instead of kicking Joon-ho out of the unit, Sergeant Park assigns him another mission with Corporal Han Ho-Yul.
Ho-Yul and Joon-ho become an incredible duo, and together they catch the army deserters. However, in all the pursuits, Joon-ho decodes a common problem for why most recruits desert the army. He concludes that mostly all of them are bullied. Thus, harassment of officers by the seniors became the fundamental theme of the series.
Cho Suk-Bong – A Private who Went off the Rails
Until Episode 4, “The Monty Hall Problem,” Ho-Yul and Joon-ho’s enthralling ride added thrill and humor to the narrative. But from Episode 5, “Military Dog,” a tragedy raised the bars.
Since the show’s beginning, Joon-ho and his senior, Private Cho Suk-Bong, were constantly bullied by Hwang Jang-soo. Joon-ho saved himself from the threats after he joined D.P. and was always on pursuit. But Suk-Bong stayed behind with merciless Jang-soo and his gang of evildoers. They tortured a humble Suk-Bong to his core and pushed him off the rails. The horrors of harassment robbed away Suk-Bong’s peace and sanity, but still, he didn’t fight back, not until his patience gave up.
After Jang-soo’s discharge from the army, Suk-Bong assaulted a bully and deserted the army. Unable to forget the harassment, Suk-Bong went on a vengeful pursuit to kill Jang-soo. Because Suk-Bong was a recruit of the military police, the head commander wanted to resolve the matter and catch him without police involvement. Sergeant Park, Jang-soo, and Ho-Yul caught Suk-Bong. But blinded with maddening rage, Suk-Bong ran away again to finish his vengeance.
What made Suk-Bong the center of the conflict?
As per many testimonies throughout the series, Suk-Bong was established as a peace-loving individual. He was once a Judo Champion but left the sport because he wasn’t comfortable with hurting people. After his military service, Suk-Bong wanted to become a comic book artist and teach students. Even before joining the military, Suk-Bong used to teach, and his students used to call him “Mr. Bongdhi.” The name was a reference to Mahatma Gandhi, who preached non-violence throughout his life.
Suk-Bong was a ray of rope in a military environment filled with toxic masculinity (as also witnessed in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket). An example that would have inspired generations to come to be humble and kind to their juniors. But who likes a change? Suk-Bong was kicked and harassed until he transformed into a monster. And when a violent man sets an example through violent ways, it always ends up in a massacre that we may not want to witness.
‘D.P.’ Ending Explained
Suk-Bong kidnapped Jang-soo and took him to the air-raid shelter beneath the tunnel in Gangwon Province. SDT (special duty team), Korean Police, and Sergeant Park found out Suk-Bong’s location through an SOS signal sent Jang-soo through a mobile phone. The police officers tried to catch Suk-Bong, but he tricked them.
Jang-soo fled from Suk-Bong’s claws and ran out towards the tunnel. Suk-Bong followed him with a gun he retrieved from the police officer to finish off Jang-soo. But before Suk-Bong could commit the felony, Ho-Yul arrived at the tunnel and tried to stop him.
Ho-Yul convinced Suk-Bong that things would change in the army, to which Suk-Bong satirically answered, “They won’t even change the canteens. An entire army is out of the question.” Jang-soo reminded Suk-Bong of his “Mr. Bongdhi” legacy and how he helped a student, Seon-a, get into college. The revelations melted Suk-Bong’s rigid decision for a moment, but SDT arrived and surrounded him. Suk-Bong got paranoid and realized that there wasn’t a way out now.
In the end, Suk-Bong said that his students would no longer call him “Mr. Bongdhi.” He had come too far and thus won’t let his death go in vain. He wanted things to change, and he was determined to do something. To leave an example, Suk-Bong shot himself. However, his fate wasn’t revealed, as the military didn’t announce Private Cho’s condition. He lived or died, remained a mystery until the end.
After the tragedy, Sergeant Park was punished for his indiscipline while Captain Ji-sup was transferred. Joon-ho, still serving in the military service, joined the new recruits’ marching drill. But this time, he didn’t follow the crowd, instead ran in the opposite direction, probably to run away from the military. A D.P. soldier who would eventually desert the army.
D.P.’ Post Credit Scene
To redeem his soul, Joon-ho visits Shin Woo-suk’s memorial, where his sister asks about Woo-suk and his time in the military. Joon-ho, who didn’t know Woo-suk, lies about his kindness and diligence. Woo-suk’s sister comments, “If he was so kind and diligent, why didn’t you do anything when he was getting bullied?” Like many of us, Joon-ho too has no answers. Woo-suk’s sister hopes that something like this never happens again. But it happened with so many others after Shin Woo-suk. Suk-Bong is an impacting example, and another follows ahead.
The post-credit scene follows the plight of Suk-Bong’s friend, Luffy. He was in the same comic club with Suk-Bong, and they used to draw webtoons together. The webtoons directly reference D.P: Dog Days, a webtoon series on which Netflix’s D.P. is based.
In the post-credit scene, the news of Suk-Bong’s “suicide attempt” reaches Luffy’s unit, where he is similarly bullied and fat-shamed by his fellow mates. Luffy retaliates and points his gun at his bullies. He shoots towards them, and the screen fades to black without revealing the aftermath.
Luffy’s words before opening fire are, “I should at least do something.” Coincidentally, these were also the words of Suk-Bong, who tried to kill himself. Unfortunately, Suk-Bong hands over an example that is always going to result in blood and distress.
“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”
D.P. is a 2021 South Korean Drama Series created by Han Jun-hee for Netflix. The series is based on Kim Bo-tong‘s webtoon D.P: Dog Days.