It would be impossible to watch tragedy if not for comedy. There is something about the laughter intercutting the sadness that gives us the courage to keep watching the tragedies unfold in front of us, and D.P. captures this perfectly. Part 1 of the series, consisting of six episodes, follows An Jun Ho and Han Ho Yeol, two officers of the D.P. unit (Deserters Pursuit) who are tasked with tracking down runaways from the army and bringing them back. It is the law in South Korea that all men must serve two years in the army before the age of 30. Some of the conditions faced by these men in the service of the nation that end up destroying their spirit, form the crux of the story, and here is a recap of Part 1 of D.P.
How Do An Jun Ho And Han Ho Yeol Track Down The Deserters?
An Jun Ho comes from a troubled home where his mother is the victim of domestic abuse at the hands of his father. For some reason, Jun Ho does not talk to his mother, and if we had to guess why, we would say that in some measure, he blames her for not leaving the situation. The world has yet to understand the complexities of the victims of domestic abuse, and we can see why Jun Ho may have blamed his mother. He doesn’t talk to her or reply to her letters, no matter how hard she tries to keep in touch with him. However, at the end of Season 1 of D.P., Jun Ho finally calls his mother. Maybe his experience with other victims of bullying and an understanding of what made them stay and what made them leave changed his mind. Three out of the four people he tracked down in the series had run away from the army because of the culture of hazing, and Jun Ho had to bring them back despite knowing what was happening to them.
Even Suk Bong had vehemently questioned him as to why he stood silently when he was being tortured by their seniors. This was the first time Jun Ho understood the compulsion to tolerate horrific conditions due to arbitrary rules imposed by society. As per our understanding, mandatory military service is a controversial South Korean law. It has its fair share of detractors, mainly because of how it tends to put a pause on people’s lives and ambitions and, for others, goes against their religious or personal beliefs. But those are not the topics covered by the series. In fact, it addresses the idea of putting someone through hell to “toughen them up.” Except that this doesn’t mean arduous training or exercises to strengthen the candidates mentally. It means giving seniors a free hand to haze the juniors as an exercise of their authority. Bullying is the act of picking on the weaker person to gain a sense of power and accomplishment. D.P. addresses how that goes to extremes in the army and why there is a need to rework the entire system so that the armed forces can once again be a place of honor rather than a place of horrors.
Luckily for An Jun Ho, he is able to avoid the major bully of the place, Hwang Jang Soo, when he gets assigned very soon to the “Deserter Pursuit” unit, where his keen observation proves to be a valuable clue in locating someone. An Jun Ho takes the chance, but his first venture ends in disaster when the person he is supposed to find, Shin Woo Suk, commits suicide. An infuriated and dazed An Jun Ho ends up beating his senior and partner, Park Sung Woo, though we know that he is more angry with himself than others.
Thankfully, Jun Ho’s second partner, Han Ho Yeol, is a lot more committed to the job, and they successfully track down Choi Jun Mok. The first two people were the victims of bullying that Jun Ho had to bring back to the unit. Maybe the series decided to balance things out by showing another side of the deserters through the case of Jang Hyeon Min. This was a completely irredeemable man, and it was the first time that we were rooting for Jun Ho and Ho Yeol to find someone and take them back, which they did successfully. But we felt that the series missed an opportunity here. Jang Hyeon Min was shown as a man who had run away from the army, only to leech off his girlfriend and father. It is interesting how going back to the army was shown as his punishment,” but that very fact makes us think of how the series should have commented on the mental effect of compulsory drafting on an entire population. But D.P. played it safe by not venturing into that area at all.
Does Ho Yeol’s And Jun Ho’s Approach Start Changing?
The case of Jeong Hyeon aside, Jun Ho and Ho Yeol had to have started questioning the morality of what they were doing. They were certainly following the rules, but to whose benefit? This was especially highlighted in the cases of Heo Chi Do and Cho Suk Bong. The former was someone who never had any trouble in the army and was something of a star on the team. Additionally, he took a risk with his life by running away. Though the two eventually track him down, they know that he escaped because he needed to take care of his grandmother.
Heo Chi Do had every intention of coming back to the army after he settled his affairs. Maybe for once, Jun Ho and Ho Yeol stopped to think of the repercussions of their actions, something they had been becoming increasingly aware of over their past cases. When Ho Yeol decides to let Chi Do go, it is simply a good-faith reading of his situation. Bringing him back would be a way of reinforcing a system of authority, but letting him go would mean actually doing something good instead of something simply legal.
Is Cho Suk Bong Alive?
Maybe the two of them had this realization a little too late because Cho Suk Bong was too far gone by the time they could even think of helping him. He was a simple art teacher who just wanted to enjoy anime, but life changed when he joined the military. As Hwang Jang Soo tells him later on, he bullied Suk Bong because he “thought he could.” The prevalent culture of hazing, the lack of accountability, and the absolute authority granted to seniors meant that Jang Soo was drunk on power, and he ended up picking on whoever he could. As expected, that gave others an example of the behavior they could emulate. Jun Ho may have gotten a sign of what was to come when he saw the otherwise gentle Suk Bong resort to bullying himself, but it was too late before anyone could do anything.
When Suk Bong is holding Jang Soo at gunpoint, Jun Ho makes an attempt to calm him down by telling him that one of his students had gotten into college. That news may have made Suk Bong happy, but it wasn’t enough to make him give up on revenge. The man’s dignity had been repeatedly attacked by Jang Soo and the gang, enough that all he now wanted was to get even. The repercussions simply did not matter because, when no one stood up for Suk Bong during that time, he had come to have a distrust in the goodness of people, because can something really exist if it is not visible? However, Jun Ho and Ho Yeol’s pleas make Suk Bong stop for once and assess that he would want Jang Soo to suffer throughout his life instead of letting him have a quick death. But that did not change the fact that Suk Bong felt finished from within, and that is why he aimed the gun at himself.
At the end of “D.P.,” there is only one question hanging in the air, which is why everyone is either bullying someone or being a spectator to it. Something about the whole ordeal has made Jun Ho finally call his mother, and we expect that they will have reconciled. Suk Bong has survived and is in a coma, and his friend, who was also getting bullied in the barracks, opens fire on everyone.
Season 2 of D.P. is going to be a discussion on the institutional changes that need to be implemented within the army. That was what Season 1 was leading to. We also expect to know more about the characters and how their personal lives are mixed up with their jobs. D.P. Season 2 is going to be just as gut-wrenching as Season 1, and it must hold up to our expectations from its narrative.