Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 18
Chief Prosecutor Shin continues his rampage, and has a new target in his sights. However, Deul-ho will give everything he has to thwart the chief prosecutor’s plans, and will fight tooth and nail to protect his family. Have no fear, though, because Deul-ho is Superman, and we all know that the heroes always have the last laugh in their shows. Looks like Chief Prosecutor Shin messed with the wrong neighborhood lawyer.
EPISODE 18 RECAP
After the press conference held by Geum San, Deul-ho marches up to Chief Prosecutor Shin and thanks him for his generous donation of $30 million. Chief Prosecutor Shin tells Deul-ho that he won’t release Hae-kyung, but Deul-ho threatens to tell the reporters that the money came from the chief prosecutor if he doesn’t.
Back in his office, Chief Prosecutor Shin crumples up a newspaper with the headline announcing that DHK Global is a charity. Ji-wook enters to report on his investigation of the group, and tells Chief Prosecutor Shin that while the organization appears suspicious and hastily made, the funds are legal. Chief Prosecutor Shin orders Ji-wook to release Hae-kyung and stop the investigation: They’ve lost this round.
Hae-kyung is released, and Deul-ho greets her outside in the hallway. She notes that he really got her out after all, and he tells her that he promised he would. Deul-ho takes Hae-kyung by the hand, and the two leave together. Aw.
They arrive at Deul-ho’s office, and Soo-bin runs into her mother’s embrace. Hae-kyung thanks everyone for watching over her daughter, and Soo-bin sings praises about the nice aunts and uncles who helped her with her homework. Hae-kyung offers buying dinner, and Dae-soo leads the gang out to eat beef before Deul-ho can change the menu.
Hae-kyung receives a call from Attorney Jang, who tells her to rest for today. Right when he finishes his call, Attorney Kim rushes in saying that Hae-kyung was released, but Attorney Jang already knows and tells Attorney Kim to prepare for repercussions. Attorney Kim is still bothered by the press conference from earlier, so he asks Attorney Jang if he doesn’t trust him. Attorney Jang tells him to stop spewing nonsense and concentrate on countermeasures.
In the privacy of his office, Attorney Kim answers a call from Chief Prosecutor Shin and tells him that he has everything prepared. Attorney Kim packs a file into his suitcase, and from the sneaky look on his face, it looks like he’s up to something devious.
Deul-ho drives Hae-kyung and Soo-bin home, and Hae-kyung talks aloud that Geum San needs to change. Duel-ho tells her that Chief Prosecutor Shin will continue harassing them, and promises to help her. They place the sleeping Soo-bin into her bed, and Hae-kyung asks if Deul-ho wants to stay tonight with Soo-bin. He says that he’ll stay another time, so Hae-kyung offers tea instead.
Sitting across from one another, Hae-kyung apologizes for misunderstanding Deul-ho. All this time, she thought that he betrayed her and her family. Deul-ho also apologizes for not being kinder back then, and smiles that being understood is a nice feeling.
Attorney Kim approaches Chief Prosecutor Shin in his car, and hands over a record of Attorney Jang’s profits. He assures the chief prosecutor that this should be enough to catch Attorney Jang.
Deul-ho returns to his office and broods in the dark. He narrates that Chief Prosecutor Shin will cut down everything blocking his path, and since Chairman Jung has been dealt with, Attorney Jang is next.
Chief Prosecutor Shin addresses a sea of reporters and tells them that the prosecutor’s office will continue their investigation of bribery charges against Chairman Jung. He states that he’ll do his best to uproot the deep-seated corruption. In his office, Chief Prosecutor Shin orders his team of prosecutors to investigate Geum San and double-check the slush fund ledger.
A group of men from the National Tax Administration barge into Geum San with a search and seizure warrant, and Hae-kyung can only watch as they pack everything away. News spreads fast, and Eun-jo tells Deul-ho about the recent tax investigation. He says that this is the chief prosecutor’s handiwork and tells her to keep an eye on Geum San. Deul-ho asks Dae-soo if he’s located a person named Lee Myung-joon, and Dae-soo says that he and Ae-ra are leaving right now to catch their target.
Attorney Jang uses his connections to ask about the recent tax investigation but doesn’t seem to get an answer. Hae-kyung states that this is most likely the chief prosecutor’s doing, but Attorney Kim thinks that they have nothing to worry about since they’ve prepared for this. However, that’s why Attorney Jang is concerned: Why would Chief Prosecutor Shin go through all this trouble when he knows he won’t find anything this way?
Chief Prosecutor Shin looks through the file—provided by Attorney Kim—containing an account of all the transactions between Geum San and Dae Hwa Group, which he then hands to Ji-wook. He orders Ji-wook to bring in Attorney Jang. Frustrated, Ji-wook asks the chief prosecutor to persuade him rather than give out orders.
Unfazed by his son’s outburst, Chief Prosecutor Shin threatens to reassign the case to someone else, but Ji-wook firmly states that he’ll do it. Ji-wook returns to his own office, but a flashback of his father with Chairman Jung continues to disturb his thoughts.
In a meeting with Attorney Jang and Hae-kyung, Deul-ho asks if there’s anything Attorney Jang’s hiding. Attorney Jang admits that their fees were high, but they didn’t make illegal contracts or lobby. Deul-ho notes that Jeon-gwan Ye-u (informal practices in the legal system comprising of privilege and preferential treatment—more on this in the comments section) will be a problem. Hae-kyung advises her father to cut ties with Dae Hwa Group, and Deul-ho is in agreement with Hae-kyung that Attorney Jang will have to make some sacrifices.
Attorney Kim bursts into the room to notify the group that Ji-wook is here, and Ji-wook enters soon after with an arrest warrant for Attorney Jang. Deul-ho offers to escort Attorney Jang so that he can leave his firm without being handcuffed. Ji-wook complies, and in the back, Attorney Kim smiles to himself as he watches his boss being taken away.
In the interrogation room, Attorney Jang dismisses Hae-kyung and Deul-ho, and says that he’s a lawyer, too. Outside, Hae-kyung is fraught with worry, and as she turns to leave, Deul-ho pulls her into a hug. He gives her words of encouragement, but in the end, he can only stand idly by as she leaves to deal with the aftermath at the firm on her own.
At a Buddhist temple, Ae-ra and Dae-soo investigate the whereabouts of their target, and though they find her praying, they also notice two burly guards off to the side. Dae-soo suggests shaving his head and pretending to be a monk, but Ae-ra comes up with a better idea and pretends she and Dae-soo are a couple.
They settle next to their target inside a temple, and Ae-ra immediately starts whistling and trembling. Their target stares in alarm, and Dae-soo explains to her that a spirit recently entered his wife. He asks the target if she’s worried about something, and she explains that she’s praying for the well-being of her savior.
Continuing her pseudo-trance, Ae-ra shouts that she sees a court, and states that the person is a prosecutor. Ae-ra continues to spew facts about the target, and she is completely hoodwinked by the pair. Thus, when Ae-ra tells her that her savior will be in a car accident unless she returns to Seoul, the target readily obliges to leave, though she thinks the guards outside will pose a problem. Dae-soo tells her not to worry since they’ll help her escape.
Cut to Ae-ra dressed in the target’s clothes and luring the guards away as Dae-soo escorts the woman to the car. He drives her to a remote restaurant and convinces her to follow him inside. Deul-ho greets the target and recognizes her as the previous housekeeper for Chief Prosecutor Shin.
The two sit down, and Deul-ho explains that she could go to jail for letting the chief prosecutor use her bank account. However, she says that she is willing to go to jail since Chief Prosecutor Shin is her savior. Deul-ho then tells her that she helped the chief prosecutor hide his bribes, and her face falls at the news.
Back in the interrogation room, Ji-wook questions Attorney Jang about the large sums of money he received and asks if he lobbied to get it. Ji-wook’s grilling fails to faze the experienced lawyer, and instead, Attorney Jang disrupts Ji-wook’s composure by asking the prosecutor why he’s changed so much. Has he found out something about his father?
At Geum San, Hae-kyung talks with Attorney Kim about the various charges against Attorney Jang and states that her father will be charged with violating the Attorney-at-Law Act. An employee tells Hae-kyung there’s trouble, and she and Attorney Kim go downstairs to see protesters chanting in front of their firm.
Ji-wook gets a call from Deul-ho, and meets him at the remote restaurant. Deul-ho mentions the names of three previous employees of Chief Prosecutor Shin, and tells Ji-wook that these employees received $1-3 million from Chairman Jung. They also happened to let the chief prosecutor borrow their bank accounts.
Ji-wook asks for proof, and Deul-ho asks the target to come out. Ji-wook instantly recognizes his former housekeeper and appears shaken by her appearance. Deul-ho explains how Chief Prosecutor Shin took advantage of her trust, and she tells Ji-wook that she didn’t know that she was being used for money laundering. Deul-ho knows that Ji-wook hates crime, and applauds his conviction. He only hopes that Ji-wook’s conviction remains equitable under all circumstances, even against his father.
Deul-ho returns to the office, and Eun-jo tells him that the internet is in an uproar about Geum San. She cautiously asks if he’ll defend Attorney Jang, because she’s against the idea. Eun-jo witnessed the corruption at Geum San firsthand, and doesn’t think helping them aligns with Deul-ho’s principles. He tells her that he’s going to help regardless, and Eun-jo storms out of the office.
She gets drunk at a pojangmacha (street stall) and complains to her friend over the phone that she moved to Deul-ho’s office to help the poor and falsely accused. However, Attorney Jang is neither of those in her mind, and she can’t understand why he’s helping him.
Ji-wook happens to enter the same stall, and ignores the drunken Eun-jo. Unluckily for him, Eun-jo notices him and plops down at his table. She tells him to deal with Attorney Jang according to the law and wails about how she wants all the criminals to be punished. Her head then slams onto the table, and Ji-wook gapes at her, completely speechless.
Ji-wook tries to get Eun-jo to stand up and asks where she lives, but she’s too drunk and happy to care. While he’s giving directions over the phone to a designated driver, Eun-jo slips away in a taxi and giddily waves good-bye to Ji-wook with half her body sticking out of the window. He’s dumbfounded and just stares with her purse hanging around his neck.
The next morning, Eun-jo wakes up with a hangover, and checks her phone to see multiple calls from Ji-wook, which sparks her memory about last night. She’s mortified, but then notices that there hasn’t been a single call from the office. She wonders aloud if she has that little of a presence.
She goes to pick up her purse from Ji-wook’s office, and he asks her if she’s quit yet. She doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and Ji-wook guesses that she forgot all about her convictions yesterday. Eun-jo states that she’s still against defending Attorney Jang, and Ji-wook muses that even if one has convictions, it’s difficult to act on them.
Deul-ho meets with Attorney Jang and offers to take his case. Attorney Jang thinks back to when he abandoned Deul-ho three years ago and tells Deul-ho that he’ll ask for his help when he really needs it. Attorney Jang asks Deul-ho if he still considers him family, and apologizes to him.
Chief Prosecutor Shin yells at Ji-wook for releasing Attorney Jang, but Ji-wook says that he’s merely following the rules. Once he leaves, Chief Prosecutor Shin immediately calls Attorney Kim to ask about the next phase of their plan. Attorney Kim tells the chief prosecutor that he’ll start right after the preliminary hearing.
The day of the trial arrives, and Ji-wook accuses Attorney Jang on a number of charges ranging from tax evasion to manufacturing evidence. Hae-kyung pleads guilty to all the accusations, which surprises everyone, and the hearing ends.
Hae-kyung and Attorney Jang return to Geum San only to be met with a mob of protesters outside. They navigate through the crowd and safely make it to his office, but before they can catch their breath, Attorney Kim enters with his own mob of lawyers.
Attorney Kim tells Attorney Jang that all the partner attorneys have come to an agreement that he should step down from his position. Attorney Jang scoffs at his boldness and asks if he’s the one who handed over the documents to the National Tax Administration. Attorney Kim laughs at the accusation, and Attorney Jang attempts to grab the insolent lawyer, but passes out instead.
Deul-ho rushes to the hospital and asks Hae-kyung what happened. She explains the situation, and Deul-ho barges into Geum San. He throws Attorney Kim across a desk and asks who’s behind all this. He yells at Attorney Kim to warn Chief Prosecutor Shin that he’s coming for him, and chucks Attorney Kim to the floor. He tells Attorney Kim that the seat doesn’t suit him, and ever the meek weasel, Attorney Kim can only erupt in anger once Deul-ho is gone.
Deul-ho returns to the hospital, and Attorney Jang wakes up to see Deul-ho by his side. He tells Deul-ho that he regrets not starting the succession process sooner for Hae-kyung and can’t stand to see his father’s firm being taken away. Deul-ho remains silent as he watches over his father-in-law.
In his dark office, Deul-ho thinks to himself that Chief Prosecutor Shin has lost his senses and must be stopped. The next morning, Eun-jo walks in to see Deul-ho still contemplating on the couch, and asks if he’s been like that all night.
He asks her why she thinks he’s defending Attorney Jang, and she guesses that he did it to make sure the defendant gets a fair ruling. He tells her that he did it because Attorney Jang is family, and thinks it’s a dull reason. Eun-jo seems to disagree and appears satisfied with his answer.
In another hospital room, Chairman Jung wakes up from his coma, but the doctors say it doesn’t look good. Chief Prosecutor Shin visits the chairman, but when Chairman Jung fails to give him a response, the chief prosecutor can’t help but smile. That’s pretty dastardly.
On the news, Chief Prosecutor Shin is reported to be the favorite for the upcoming appointment of prosecutor general given his slew of recent arrests. Chief Prosecutor Shin gets a call from the secretary general who gives him an unofficial congratulations. He smiles to himself in his office while his previous partners lay in hospital beds.
The prosecutor’s office throws a party for Chief Prosecutor Shin’s soon-to-be promotion at a swanky bar. Everyone panders to the chief prosecutor while Ji-wook sits in the corner with a sour expression. Deul-ho crashes the party carrying a large wine bottle, and says that he’s wearing the wrong colored suit. Despite the others’ protest, Chief Prosecutor Shin lets Deul-ho join and pours him a glass of champagne.
Deul-ho accepts the glass and then goes on stage to make a small declaration. He tells the crowd that, instead of drinking champagne, he’ll make Chief Prosecutor Shin eat seaweed soup (a slippery soup that symbolizes Chief Prosecutor Shin “slipping” from the promotion). He then dumps his drink and smashes his glass into the cake. The other prosecutors charge towards Deul-ho, and our titular prankster scampers away.
I’m glad that it looks like Deul-ho is getting back together with Hae-kyung because I love seeing the three of them together (I can’t get over how cute Soo-bin is). While I did point out her flaws in the relationship before, I think she’s matured, and her love for Deul-ho, as both the candid lawyer and father to her child, is becoming more evident. I also found it appropriate that Deul-ho apologized to Hae-kyung because he did appear to be absent in their marriage, and I do believe he should have been more open and frank with her about his struggles. Thus, it’s now Deul-ho’s turn to be more present in his family’s lives, which is why I thought it was an interesting thematic choice for Deul-ho to defend Attorney Jang because “he’s family.” I think the delivery both in terms of writing and directing could have been smoother since I felt that the show rushed the narrative arc of redeeming Attorney Jang, but nevertheless, it was an interesting choice to have Deul-ho constantly struggling with the issue of family. He lost his prosecutor position because of family (i.e., Il-gu) and now he’s back to defending his family.
While I love the character growth we’ve seen in Hae-kyung, it makes it more apparent that Eun-jo has been thrust to the wayside. I know that I’m beating a dead horse with this issue, but Eun-jo was and continues to be a tertiary character, which is a shame because the show was capable of giving her a character arc. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that her character is a supporting role because Ae-ra and Dae-soo are tertiary characters who, in my opinion, have stolen the show alongside Deul-ho. It’s just that this episode showed so much potential for Eun-jo’s character. She’s the defense attorney parallel to prosecutor Ji-wook. They both struggle with maintaining their conviction while living in a world that tells them otherwise, and they both have a strong sense of justice that tends to be black-and-white. Even Ji-wook notices the parallelism between him and Eun-jo. It could have been so interesting to see these two similar characters on opposite sides of the courtroom learn from each other and find a middle ground. Seeing the interaction between the two of them at the pojangmacha really emphasized the hidden potential, but whether it was due to writing or directing, it appears a little too late to give Eun-jo (and even Ji-wook) the character growth they deserve.
One thing that bothered me about Eun-jo this episode (besides the fact that she’s mostly used for PPL) was how they portrayed her in the scene where she confronts Deul-ho about defending Attorney Jang. I didn’t have any problems with her reasoning or even her reaction, but the way the show delivered it all was disconcerting. It seemed like the drama depicted her as the inexperienced lawyer whose naiveté made her inflexible and close-minded. It’s natural that she’s frustrated at Deul-ho because he gives the ever so enlightening answer of “so what?”, but my main problem with how this scene was handled is how they stripped Eun-jo of her credibility. I personally thought her wariness at helping Attorney Jang was reasonable, and her points about Geum San were valid (because that’s what the show built until this point). However, I feel like the show portrays Eun-jo stomping away because he’s doing something she dislikes—heaven forbid she might be actually raising valid points. Thus, her arguments are subsequently trivialized as personal whims rather than addressed as real issues. It could have been an important scene where Eun-jo clashes with Deul-ho about principles, but I feel like the delivery fell disappointingly flat in order to justify Deul-ho defending Attorney Jang.
Unfortunately, I don’t think the show ever gives a satisfactory answer to this problem, which is why I feel like this whole narrative concerning Attorney Jang was rushed. I don’t mind Deul-ho helping his father-in-law because he has strong sense of duty to protect his family; that actually falls in place with his character. However, it doesn’t magically solve the problems Eun-jo brings up about Geum San’s corruption and the millions of dollars Attorney Jang made by subverting the rules. Hae-kyung trying to fix Geum San and Attorney Jang pleading guilty don’t absolve his past sins and the subsequent punishment that should follow. Sure, Chief Prosecutor Shin orchestrated Attorney Jang’s fall, but he didn’t forge fake documents or manufacture evidence. In essence, Attorney Jang is finally reaping what he sowed, and while I support Deul-ho trying to help his father-in-law, I agree with Eun-jo that Geum San is still crooked. Though I feel like the show could have done a better job with Attorney Jang and his redemption arc, I am enjoying Kang Shin-il’s performance, and that interrogation scene was great. He really balanced that calm yet chilling persona of an experienced lawyer who won’t let a young whippersnapper toy with him.
I have no prior knowledge of or background in the legal system, let alone the South Korean one, thus the following is merely thoughts from a bystander with limited knowledge. That being said, I want to discuss this concept of “Jeon-gwan Ye-u” (전관예우) brought up in this episode. In a nutshell, it’s an informal arrangement in the South Korean legal system where retired judges and prosecutors receive preferential treatment when they enter the private sector. This preferential treatment can manifest itself into various degrees of favoritism in court, and influences rulings. As stated in the show, this is a customary practice though it also is a highly contested one. One consequence of Jeon-gwan Ye-u is that ex-judges and prosecutors charge exorbitant fees in exchange for guaranteed success, as shown in the case of Attorney Jang. He had high fees because of Jeon-gwan Ye-u, and though it is customary, it’s also problematic as we’ve seen throughout the show.
From a US cultural standpoint, it’s harder to understand how this blatant practice of favoritism based solely on connections could be universally accepted. While I don’t condone the practice, it makes sense in light of South Korea’s normative values of colleagues and the concept of “lines”—in part, a reflection of social stratification by party. A sense of obligation mixed with respect allows these preferential treatments to happen, and as a result, the masses are left disenchanted by the legal system since everything appears rigged. Thus, I think the whole blowup concerning Attorney Jang reflects the ingrained corruption of the South Korean legal system rather than a simple case of one law firm selling its soul for money. However, I feel like the show doesn’t dig deeper into this issue, which appears to be a reoccurring trend throughout the episodes. I think the show’s content is capable of having more depth plot-wise because all the pieces are there, but the drama seems to stay at surface level.
With only a week left, I don’t think Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho will have any crazy plot twists or sudden derailments. While I do think the show didn’t reach its potential, it was an enjoyable watch as long as you had the right expectations. The cast continues to be great, and it should be obvious by now who my clear favorites are, so let’s end this post with a cute face of Soo-bin because she’s the perpetual sunshine in this show. If I had my way, I’d just have screencaps of Ae-ra, Dae-soo, and Soo-bin. Now that would be a confusing recap.
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 17
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 16
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 15
- Park Shin-yang turns down Jo Deul-ho extension, KBS keeps trying
- KBS in talks to extend Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 14
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 13
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 12
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 11
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 10
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 9
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 8
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 7
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 6
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 5
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 4
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 3
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 2
- Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho: Episode 1