Diary of a Prosecutor: Episode 8
Today’s topic is sexism and misogyny in its various forms. Whether it’s an unfair assumption based on gender or outright sexual harassment, women are forced to put up with injustices on a regular basis. One of our prosecutors is at the end of her rope as she struggles to balance her work and personal life with little support or respect from those around her. When everything comes to a head, will her colleagues and family step up?
It’s 6:00 AM and Yoon-jin wakes to screaming babies. At 6:30, Jong-hak’s wife gets up to start making breakfast. Yoon-jin makes up bottles for the babies. Myung-joo’s alarm goes off at 7:00. Jong-hak’s wife drags him out of bed at 7:30.
Seon-woong and Jung-woo get up at 7:45 and head out to grab breakfast at 8:30. Myung-joo gets to the coffee shop at 8:40 and orders the usual. Meanwhile, Yoon-jin rushes out the door to the sound of babies wailing.
Everyone converges at the elevator with Yoon-jin literally sliding in right in the nick of time. Jong-hak has the nerve to actually suggest she wake up earlier so she doesn’t cut it so close. Not everyone is kindly woken up to a prepared breakfast, sir.
Seon-woong narrates that Jinyeong has a school and a girls’ school, police officers and female police officers, professors and female professors, and employees and female employees. The same goes for prosecutors.
Yoon-jin gets a call from her mother-in-law letting her know that Jae-hee has a fever. She wants to take the baby to the doctor’s, but she can’t handle taking them both. Yoon-jin tells her to wait it out for a bit.
In his office, Seon-woong uses his handy dandy carpenter’s ruler as a back scratcher. Man-ok gasps and smacks him. “Why didn’t you tell me you had this?!” Seon-woong: “What is it?” Wait, so he doesn’t even know he’s in possession of the all-powerful ruler?
We flash back to Seon-woong’s first day at the Jinyeong office. One of his desk drawers was jammed, and when he yanked it out, there was the ruler. He’d shoved it back in another drawer. In the present, Myung-joo’s words about him showing off the ruler in front of her finally make sense.
At the team meeting, Min-ho berates everyone (except Myung-joo) for the number of unsolved cases they accumulated last month. Yoon-jin flinches when he names her as the worst offender and demands an explanation. He notes that the past month’s numbers are particularly bad. Is there something wrong at home?
Min-ho: “I know it’s hard to raise kids and work but look at Seon-woong.” Despite his son’s unfortunate situation, his numbers didn’t change. Okay, Imma need this man to stop acting like their situations are comparable. Seon-woong’s kid doesn’t even live with him!
After the meeting, Seon-woong starts to bring up the ruler issue with Myung-joo but decides against it. In Jong-hak’s office, Yoon-jin vents about Min-ho constantly excluding her and singling her out for being a mom.
Seon-woong interviews a woman named Jung Yeon-ah who is pressing sexual harassment charges against a colleague. His advances had escalated until he kissed her at a noraebang. She kept the incident to herself, and no one witnessed it.
Seon-woong explains that her coworkers testified they had no idea anything happened since she behaved normally. “Do you think I’m lying too?” Seon-woong assures her that’s not the case; he’s only asking these questions per protocol. She doesn’t look convinced.
On her way out, she bumps into Jong-hak. She grabs his arm for a second before smiling politely and walking away. Later, he’s shocked to discover she’s a sexual harassment victim. “She didn’t look like one.” Yoon-jin asks if they’re supposed to look a certain way, and Min-ho cautions him not to talk like that.
Jong-hak says he just meant he didn’t get that vibe from her. “You’ll know when you see her.” Yoon-jin wants clarification. “You know, she’s the sexy type.” Oh, hell no. Yoon-jin asks if sexy women can’t be harassment victims, making Jong-hak stutter. He actually gets ickier and specifies that he’s talking about the type that “makes use of their gender.”
Yoon-jin just blinks at him until he backpedals and mentions Yeon-ah “touching” him. They’re all confused (and concerned), so he explains how Yeon-ah grabbed his arm when they bumped into each other. Everyone sighs and Min-ho warns him not to say stuff that’s misleading.
Jung-woo jokes that it could be a problem if it felt off-putting for Jong-hak when she touched him. EWW. The men laugh while the women do not. Yoon-jin cuts in angrily that he’s mocking victims. The men share a look as she continues that it’s never okay to joke about sexual harassment. Preach, sister.
Yoon-jin’s phone rings. The baby’s fever is still high, but her mother-in-law has back pain and can’t take the twins to a hospital. Min-ho gives her permission to go, and she runs out. Min-ho sighs that he’s worried about her.
The doctor prescribes cold medicine, and Yoon-jin heads back to work after dropping the baby back with her mother-in-law. Her investigator calls wondering where she is; the interviewee is waiting. Oops. Yoon-jin tells him to start without her.
Min-ho takes her to task for forgetting and making the interviewee wait for 30 minutes. She says she explained and apologized, but that just makes Min-ho madder. He thinks it would’ve been better if she’d pretended it wasn’t her interview in the first place.
Yoon-jin calls her husband to tell him not to come that weekend. And right as she hangs up, her mother-in-law calls to tell her the other baby has a fever. She gives herself a pep talk to get through the workday.
In the elevator, Myung-joo comments that being a working mom must be hard. She advises Yoon-jin to take a leave if she needs to—it’s better than having it affect her work. Yoon-jin says that’s too much coming from another woman. But Myung-joo claims that’s why she said it. She hates hearing men say, “This is why female prosecutors can’t do their jobs.”
Exhausted after taking her second screaming baby to the doctor’s, Yoon-jin falls asleep on the cab ride home. She does the dishes with a baby on her back as her mother-in-law encourages her to take a leave from work. That night, she somehow manages to soothe both screaming babies and sleep.
She wakes up the next morning to do it all over again. To make her day worse, she loses her hearing that day. As she walks out, she gets a call from her husband who came home after all. He chides her for not telling him the kids were sick.
Her mother-in-law takes the phone and orders her to come home early and bring groceries for her son’s dinner. When Yoon-jin politely reminds her she’s busy, her mother-in-law frustratedly says she’ll handle it then and hangs up.
Seon-woong meets with one of Yeon-ah’s sleazy colleagues who accuses her of flirting with all her male, senior colleagues. He calls the accused man “gentle.” Ugh.
When Yoon-jin gets back to the office, Myung-joo confronts her about the hearing. That man assaulted a woman over 10 times in a year—how was he acquitted? Was Yoon-jin distracted by her kids? The raised voices draw everyone out into the hallway.
Yoon-jin fires back it sounds like Myung-joo is blaming her. Myung-joo doesn’t deny it. “If it’s too much to raise kids and handle trials at the same time, let me know.” Yoon-jin asks if she’s accusing her of not being able to do her job because she’s a mom. “Is that not the case?” Whoa. Not cool.
Seon-woong ushers Min-ho to lunch when he comes upon the scene. The investigators have their own lunch and marvel over Myung-joo’s brutal truth-telling. But Man-ok asserts it’s not Yoon-jin’s fault but rather the government’s and theirs for not supporting her.
The government encourages women to have kids to raise the birthrate and expects mothers to bear the entire weight of raising them. Jung-hwan argues things are better these days, and another (male) investigator adds that Min-ho is “considerate.” Excuse me, sir? Man-ok: “If things were truly better and he truly considerate, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Min-ho complains to Seon-woong and Jong-hak about the state of their department over lunch. There’s so much fighting. Seon-woong defends himself, saying Myung-joo keeps acting aggressively toward him.
Jong-hak thinks that’s reasonable given he flaunted the carpenter’s ruler. Frustrated, Seon-woong blurts out that he just picked it up randomly. Min-ho freaks out since he even bragged about Seon-woong earning it to Chief Kim.
After lunch, Min-ho makes an awkward trip to Chief Kim’s to break the news. To his further embarrassment, Prosecutor Nam walks in. Rather than confessing the truth and facing Prosecutor Nam’s gloating and Chief Kim’s anger, he reveals that Seon-woong uses it as a bottle opener.
Chief Kim gets a kick out of that, but Prosecutor Nam is scandalized. Min-ho lies that Seon-woong said he sees it as a metal stick and has no intention to treat it as special. Chief Kim opines that they’ll never understand Seon-woong’s noble intentions. Pfft.
Seon-woong can’t believe Min-ho lied, comparing it to fraud or diploma forgery. Min-ho says what’s done is done and barely stops Seon-woong from marching over and revealing the truth. He begs Seon-woong to just keep quiet; he doesn’t have to lie.
When Seon-woong is still hesitant, Min-ho changes tack and blames Seon-woong for the whole debacle. How could he have graduated from Seoul National University without knowing about that ruler? Didn’t he have friends?
Later, Seon-woong and Man-ok interview the accused in the sexual assault case. He plays the innocent boss whose employee is out for revenge after being turned down for a promotion. He claims she’s the touchy-feely one, anyway, and blatantly denies any occurrences of harassment.
In the hallway, everyone heads out together. Yoon-jin, who coughs like she’s got a cold, asks where everyone’s going. Jong-hak shocks her by saying her husband is treating them to barbeque. Outside, she calls her husband who tells her his mom will babysit.
Her husband claims his mom suggested this for Yoon-jin’s sake, but Yoon-jin thinks it’s more about him getting in with the prosecutors. It’s not about her at all. She orders him to cancel the reservation and drags the team (minus Min-ho and Myung-joo) to the Fog.
At the Fog, Yoon-jin guzzles down beer and apologizes for her husband. The guys worry she shouldn’t drink given she’s coughing up a storm. Sick of being asked if she’s okay, she stipulates that anyone who asks takes a drink. Then, she dramatically passes out onto Jung-woo.
They take her to the hospital and leave when her husband and mother-in-law show up. Her mother-in-law does everyone’s favorite I-told-you-so routine. Then, she says to her son, “Sit here. You must be tired from working.” Yeah, he’s clearly the one in need of a rest here.
Yoon-jin can only talk back in her mind as she watches the ridiculous scene. Her mother-in-law tells her to take a six-month leave from work. Yoon-jin thinks to herself with tears in her eyes, “Your son isn’t the only prosecutor. I’m a prosecutor too.” Her parents are proud of her. She’s exhausted everyday from her job, only to come home to housework.
She finally starts to say what’s on her mind, but it comes out jumbled. Sighing she needs rest, she tells her husband to take his mom and go. The second they leave, she sobs under her covers. She discharges herself late that night, but she’s still not home by the next morning.
Seon-woong wakes to ambulance sirens and a phone call. Yoon-jin’s mother-in-law threw out her back, leaving Seon-woong and Myung-joo to watch the babies. (They’re all in the same building.) They worry Yoon-jin is passed out somewhere and decide to mount a search.
With no one else around, Seon-woong goes searching while Myung-joo hesitantly stays with the babies. Soon after, the babies wake up screaming, and Myung-joo panics as the Jaws theme plays. Ha.
On the hospital’s CCTV footage, Seon-woong spots Yoon-jin getting in a cab. Meanwhile, Jong-hak and his wife come to save Myung-joo, who looks a mess. She calls Seon-woong for an update. He’s headed to the police station—Yoon-jin caught at cab at 2:00 AM and got dropped off at her building but never made it inside.
Seon-woong goes straight to kidnapping and thinks they should contact her family first, but Myung-joo tells him to hold off. She asks him to meet her at the office. He’s confused but follows her in. And there sits Yoon-jin, fast asleep next to the copier. She’d spent all night working on the appeal for the hearing she lost.
After hearing about her mother-in-law, Yoon-jin rushes to the hospital. Frazzled, she apologizes and explains where she was. Her mother-in-law stops her. “How are you feeling?” She tells Yoon-jin she gets how important her work is, but she looks so tired. As a respected prosecutor, who wouldn’t understand if she needed a break?
Yoon-jin admits that female prosecutors get criticized so much, she’s afraid to take maternity leave. Her mother-in-law is surprised and sighs the country has a long way to go. Yoon-jin suggests making her husband take paternity leave instead; she already used hers after giving birth. Her mother-in-law scoffs. “What use would he be?”
After a long day, Yoon-jin walks in the door to screaming babies. Seon-woong walks in to chicken and beer with Jung-woo. Of course, Jung-woo runs off to his room the second he gets a call from a potential date, and Seon-woong tries to work out Jung-woo’s door passcode. At home, Jong-hak does the dishes and thinks back to the screaming babies he was handling earlier. Myung-joo kicks back alone with a beer.
Seon-woong and Man-ok interview Yeon-ah again. He informs her that colleagues have said she’s falsely accusing her boss, so it’ll be difficult. Yeon-ah opens up about her time at work. She learned to smoke so she could join the men’s smoke breaks where they would bond and share information. She advanced quicker than her fellow female colleagues.
Noticing that the pretty girls were treated better in the office, she started wearing makeup, working out, and dressing more stylishly. Then came the harassment. Assuming that was the price for a smoother work life, she put up with it. But she couldn’t ignore the kiss. “Do you know what I’ve regretted the most throughout my career? Being born as a woman.”
Myung-joo stops by Yoon-jin’s office to compliment the appeal letter. She awkwardly brings up how hard it is to be a working mom. “Stay strong.” Then, she pretends she forgot something and runs off, making Yoon-jin laugh.
Seon-woong narrates that there are soldiers and female soldiers, actors and actresses, as well as students and female students. The same is true for prosecutors, but it’s time to start calling everyone just a “prosecutor.” Like many mornings, they all meet at the elevator, and Yoon-jin slides in right as the doors close. They joke and laugh together.
We flash back to Seon-woong successfully entering Jung-woo’s room, and it looks like a teenage boy’s paradise. He’s got a nice computer setup, action figures and lots of pellet guns. Seon-woong gets overly excited handling one of the guns and ends up summarily executing some action figures, to his horror.
This episode made me all kinds of ragey but in a good way. Everything from the casual sexism inherent in society’s expectations to instances of sexual harassment and assault was portrayed wonderfully. Most of the time, explorations of sexism focus on the more obvious issues like sexual assault or explicit misogyny, but the persistent, quieter sexism can also be devastating. I liked that othering terminology was even brought up. The default is always male, making people feel the need to specify when it’s a woman in the position. Being defined as a “female prosecutor” or “female soldier” qualifies your achievements and draws attention to your identity as opposed to your performance.
These “little things” can wear you down and make you feel trapped. Navigating male-dominant environments as a woman is exhausting, and that was evidenced fantastically by Yoon-jin. It’s crazy to me that people just outright said to her face that being a mom made her bad at her job. Is that normal in Korea? I knew it was tough being a working woman and especially a working mother in Korea (not that it isn’t elsewhere), but it was hard to watch all the blatant injustices. Poor Yoon-jin ran herself into the ground taking care of her babies, doing housework and having a full-time career only to face criticism on all sides. She looked so beaten down by her coworkers and her mother-in-law all making her feel inadequate as both a prosecutor and a mom, I just wanted someone to give her a hug. And it certainly didn’t seem like that was going to be her husband who never stood up for her at all.
I like that our characters have room for growth, but as in real life, it’s up to them whether or not they seize that opportunity. Last hour, Seon-woong learned the hard way that he needs to prioritize his family more and be a better father to his son—loving him isn’t enough; he needs to be there for him and set a good example. This time around, it was Myung-joo’s turn. I was so disappointed in Myung-joo’s response to Yoon-jin’s situation. Rather than standing up for her, she threw her under the bus. I understand why she reacted that way since she’s worked so hard to be respected in her field and doesn’t want to suffer by association. But that obviously doesn’t make it right. Ignoring injustices and forcing yourself to try to be one of the boys may benefit you in the moment, but it just continues the cycle. Nothing will change if we don’t stand up for ourselves and each other. Thankfully, Myung-joo seems to have learned from her mistake.
But not everyone is open-minded or willing to change. Jong-hak’s and Jung-woo’s misogynistic, gross response to the sexual assault case was unsettling. Jong-hak’s comments basically implying sexy women are asking for it and Jung-woo’s disgusting joke implying only attractive women get assaulted were infuriating. Although they shut up after Yoon-jin’s admonishments, they didn’t look like they took her comments seriously. As for Seon-woong and Min-ho, they didn’t say much, but they were complicit by laughing. Seon-woong looked affected by Yeon-ah’s story, though, so maybe he learned something. In general, I’m glad everyone was more respectful of Yoon-jin by the end, but that’s not enough. I hope they learned something about their role in the injustices women (not just Yoon-jin) face.
We finally got the ruler story, and it was funnier than I anticipated. Not only did Seon-woong just find it in a drawer, but he didn’t even know what it was! People are obsessing and ascribing all these motives to his actions when he really just needed a bottle opener. The emphasis placed on that thing has always seemed ridiculous to me, but this makes it even better.
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