“The Drug King” is based on the true story of a smuggler turned drug lord in 1970s South Korea. When the country was going through a sensitive period of politics, nationalism, and democratic movement, Lee Doo Sam thought getting Japanese people, Korea’s ex-colonizers, hooked on drugs was an act of national interest. Written by Lee Ji Min and Woo Min Ho and directed by Woo Min Ho, “The Drug King” features “Parasite” famed actor Song Kang Ho, “Hospital Playlist” famed actor Jo Jung Suk and “Kingdom” famed actress Bae Doo Na in lead roles.
‘The Drug King’ Plot Summary
Lee Doo Sam is a small-scale smuggler from Busan who helps smuggle gold bricks and luxury watches from Korea to Japan. He lives with his three younger sisters, a younger cousin, his wife, and kids. Doo Sam does not make a decent living to provide for his big family, but his wife always sticks by his side and gets the family through. In one of the smuggling operations, Lee Doo Sam is set up by his boss to become a scapegoat, and Doo Sam ends up going to prison.
After his release, Lee Doo Sam joins hands with Choi Jin Pil and Professor Baek to start a drug business. With Professor Baek’s cooking and Choi Jin Pil’s connections, Lee Doo Sam starts making a big profit in the trade. Later, Lee Doo Sam changes his identity to Lee Hwang Soon, and he is now a social activist by day who is also a decent businessman in the food industry. At night, behind closed curtains, he runs his drug cartel with the help of his political connections. His small business became a big empire in no time. Lee Doo Sam has gotten himself into a mess which allows a very ethical and stubborn prosecutor, Kim In Goo, to be behind him and his empire. Will Doo Sam be able to keep the empire that he has built safe from the prosecutor?
How Does “Made in Korea” Become a Brand?
Lee Doo Sam has played a game by changing his identity to Lee Hwang Soo. He has made his old identity, Lee Doo Sam, a missing person and made his wife remarry him with his new identity. Although he seems to be caring for his family, he goes more and more away from them as he runs to make his empire bigger. Lee Doo Sam gets to know Kim Jung Ah at a party; she is the adopted daughter of a big businessman and has many powerful connections. He woos Jung Ah and starts dating her. Doo Sam’s business booms with her help.
Kim Jung Ah introduces Doo Sam to big-shot politicians and businessmen. It is because of her that Doo Sam gets to live as a noble person by day and a “drug king” by night. Jung Ah suggests he give his drug a brand name, which leads to the infamous drug cartel, “Made in Korea.” His business grows big in Japan, but he is uninterested in selling the drugs in Korea because he doesn’t want his country’s young talent to go to waste. He manufactures the drugs in Busan, and they are sold in the streets of Busan and Korea as well, but on a smaller scale than Japan. Prosecutor Kim has already had one failed attempt at catching this drug mafia, but he is not stopping until he destroys him.
‘The Drug King’ Ending, Explained
In his early days, Lee Doo Sam received a great deal of help from his younger cousin, Lee Doo Hwan. Even though Doo Sam cares about his family, he has not been paying any attention to them. Doo Hwan has become a drug addict and is torturing his ex-girlfriends. He ends up killing one of his friends, and prosecutor Kim gets an easy bait to catch the big fish. Doo Hwan uses druggie Doo Hwan to fool Doo Sam and gets him into custody. Thanks to Jung Ah, Doo Sam gets out without any charges against him.
Doo Sam and his business have missed their downfall by a slight chance. Getting caught by the government was Doo Sam’s biggest fear, but after this incident, he feels like he has become powerful beyond anyone’s control. He cuts off ties with everyone, including Jung Ah, who was the reason he could climb to the top. Professor Baek teaches him how to cook and ends their partnership as well. However, Lee Doo Sam makes one mistake: Professor Baek had told him not to do drugs. After his wife and cousin betray him, and he becomes all alone in his business, Doo Sam becomes a druggie himself.
Doo Sam locks himself in his house alone in fear of getting killed. He doesn’t want to lose in front of anyone. When prosecutor Kim enters Doo Sam’s house and has him at gunpoint, he tries to kill himself. However, Kim saves him and his entire drug cartel is revealed, exposing involved criminals, government officials, and politicians. This causes havoc in the country and a narcotics control department is established because of this one man who pioneered the drug game in Korea.
The Drug King is not a very compelling movie to watch. The character of Lee Doo Sam stays low for most of the time, and once he gets out of prison, everything seems to come to him easily. Historical and cultural references of the 70s are shown aptly, and Prosecutor Kim’s character is the one to root for. With his intelligence, Kim brings Korea’s biggest drug cartel down on his own. With minimum violence or action, “The Drug King” depicts the rise and fall of Korea’s biggest drug lord.
“The Drug King” is a 2018 Crime Drama film directed by Min-ho Woo.