Diary of a Prosecutor: Episode 7
This hour explores the brutal world of tweens and teens. The casual cruelty they inflict on their peers can have life-changing ramifications. Some kids truly don’t realize how their actions can affect the lives of others, but what about those who simply don’t care? That’s the question our parents and prosecutors grapple with as they’re faced with the unpleasant reality that kids can be vicious. Our lead’s family life and work life collide as he’s forced to stand on opposite sides of the same issue, caught between his love for his child and what he thinks is right.
Seon-woong narrates that we play various roles throughout the day: a superior, a subordinate, a spouse, a parent. At home, the prosecutor gang clears out so Seon-woong can be with his son. When they leave, Seon-woong takes Jae-hoon into his room while Jung-woo eavesdrops by the door.
Turns out he’s an informant providing updates to the prosecutor chat group. So far, Seon-woong and Jae-hoon aren’t talking, leaving the curious prosecutors to speculate on why it’s so quiet. A new message pops up in the chatroom. Seon-woong: “I’m here too.” Ha!
With that dealt with, Seon-woong tries to pry info from Jae-hoon, but the kid claims he just felt like coming. Jae-hoon’s mom calls Seon-woong and shocks him by saying his sudden appearance has something to do with school violence. She takes a call from the homeroom teacher, leaving Seon-woong hanging.
He rushes to his kid and makes sure he isn’t hurt. Worried, he asks who’s bullying him. Jae-hoon avoids his eyes and says he wants to sleep. Hmm… maybe he’s not the bullied? Seon-woong hugs him and says he loves him before putting him to bed. He watches him sleep, imagining scenarios of his son being bullied.
Jae-hoon’s mom calls back and tells Seon-woong the other mom said this has happened before. The school is trying to mitigate the issue, but Seon-woong thinks kids should face the consequences. She claims the police even showed up to ask questions after the victim’s parents reported it.
Confused, he assumes there must be two victims. She sets him straight: Jae-hoon is the assailant. (I love how the soft piano music comes to a screeching halt and is replaced by a cheeky bass line.) Now, Seon-woong watches Jae-hoon sleep with a totally different expression as he imagines Jae-hoon as the bully in the scenario.
On the way to take Jae-hoon home, Seon-woong stops at a rest stop. After buying Jae-hoon a snack, Seon-woong asks what happened. “Let me eat this first.” Wow. This kid’s brazen.
In the car, Jae-hoon casually remarks, “The police came over yesterday morning,” like he’s relating an interesting fact. He admitted to verbally bullying the kid, and the police warned him behavior like this could affect his future, so he’d agreed not to do it again. He relays all this while sounding bored and playing on his phone.
Seon-woong asks about the kid he bullied, but Jae-hoon brushes him off. Seon-woong finally loses his cool. Is Jae-hoon proud of his behavior? Why did he do it? Jae-hoon sighs, puts in headphones, and reclines his seat. Whoa, the audacity of this child is no joke.
The second they walk in the door, Jae-hoon’s mom Min-jeong yells at him for taking off to his dad’s without permission. Seon-woong pulls her aside so they can talk. She frets over what to do, but Seon-woong suggests waiting until the school’s investigation is over before worrying too much.
Seon-woong thinks it’s normal for kids that age to insult each other. “You could’ve mentioned that to the school.” Ooh, not a good move, dude. She doesn’t take well to his implication that it’s her fault.
He makes it worse by saying she doesn’t know how boys are at that age. Min-jeong: “Then why don’t you raise him!” She scoffs he must’ve been uncomfortable leaving Jae-hoon with someone who can’t understand him. “You haven’t been home in weeks. You have no right to say that!” Oh, I guess they are still married. She tells him to call the victim’s dad and walks out.
Seon-woong meets with the victim’s dad and (sort of) apologizes. But the victim’s dad isn’t having his you-know-kids-that-age excuse. “Weren’t you here to apologize?”
Seon-woong asks him to forgive this once, but the dad wants to follow procedure. If it had been Jae-hoon who’d come home asking if he was a piece of trash, wouldn’t Seon-woong do the same? Seon-woong assures him they’ll accept the school’s decision but requests he drop the police charges. They’re kids.
The dad isn’t moved and says his son isn’t ready to forgive yet. Um, I’m all for consequences, but isn’t getting the police involved in playground fights a bit much?
Over the phone, Seon-woong reports how it went to Min-jeong and tells her to have Jae-hoon apologize to the kid again. He heads back to work.
Myung-joo stops by the coffee shop and catches a news report about a Jinyeong girl who jumped off the school roof (but survived) due to verbal bullying and depression. Seon-woong listens to that same report on his way to work.
Later, Myung-joo questions that very girl (Hyun-ji) about incidents in which girls at her middle school took her money, insulted her, and destroyed her things. Hyun-ji stays silent. Myung-joo clarifies that she only has witness statements, so she needs to hear from her directly.
The team discusses the bullying case over lunch. Hyun-ji still won’t talk, but they’re interviewing the suspects soon. From Yoon-jin’s experience, kids have no qualms about shifting the blame. Unlike adults, they have no fear of the law, trusting their youth to protect them.
Although Seon-woong stays quiet, Jung-woo notices that he looks unsettled. When Min-ho asks after Jae-hoon, Seon-woong lies that there’s no trouble. Jae-hoon just came to visit his dad.
Seon-woong sits at his desk lost in thought. Was it all the violent video games? Was it the wrestling they liked to watch together? He thinks back to when he and his wife cried while watching The Light in Your Eyes, and Jae-hoon had laughed. Apparently, he’s never been an empathetic child.
After his wife calls to say they have to go before the school violence committee, Seon-woong meets with Yoon-jin since she specializes in juvenile cases. He does the asking-for-a-friend thing and gives her a brief rundown. Of course, she sees right through him but promises not to say anything.
He calls to share the info with his wife. The committee will just have them write an apology and reconcile with the parents. She’ll have to handle it since he can’t make it.
At dinner, Seon-woong notes that he didn’t receive any cases. Yoon-jin looks hella guilty while everyone tells him to take the day off. He must be stressed. Yoon-jin apologizes when Seon-woong throws her a look.
Min-ho offers to let him take the day of the committee meeting off, but Seon-woong declines. Jong-hak comments that it all sounds like too much for a fight between kids. Myung-joo is silent but seems to disagree.
They discuss the issue, and Yoon-jin offers to check with her elementary school teacher friend about how best to prepare for the meeting. Seon-woong reveals that the real problem is that they’re pressing charges.
They’re all aghast. Myung-joo speaks up to say the police might forward it directly to family court. Jong-hak thinks that’s too much for an 11-year-old kid who has already apologized, but Myung-joo claims that accepting the apology is up to the victim. Besides, visiting the court may help Jae-hoon “feel something.”
Seon-woong bristles, wondering what he should “feel.” Myung-joo brings up a kid from an earlier case who told her things would’ve been different if he’d realized how tough the world can be. You could hear a pin drop. Seon-woong is visibly angry but says nothing.
A nervous Min-jeong heads to the school alone. The committee is a pretty intimidating affair with several silent, scowling parent members. When the mother of the victim enters, Min-jeong rushes to apologize. Only it’s not the mom—it’s their lawyer. Yikes.
Myung-joo’s interview with the suspect in the bullying case is juxtaposed with the committee meeting where Jae-hoon is accused of verbal harassment, ostracizing the victim, and forcing him to run errands for him. Min-jeong looks horrified and cries.
During Myung-joo’s interview, the girl eventually breaks down. She cries that she didn’t know the effect the bullying would have and apologizes. Myung-joo doesn’t look moved.
In the committee meeting, the victim’s mother reads her son’s statement in which he confesses he’s scared to go to school because of Jae-hoon. He prays that Jae-hoon can learn from his mistakes. Afterwards, the woman’s husband ushers his sobbing wife out. When she’s given the chance to speak, Min-jeong is so ashamed she can barely utter the words, “I’m sorry.”
Outside, Jae-hoon waves at his mom happily as he plays soccer with his friends. Distraught, she sinks to the ground and sobs. Jae-hoon sees her crying and stops playing.
In the interviews, the students deny bullying Hyun-ji—they were normal spats. One girl apologizes, but the other is unrepentant. If the victim felt threatened, that was her problem. When they confront the apologetic girl about her insults that the victim stank, she claims she was merely giving her advice to encourage her toward better hygiene. Wow.
The unrepentant girl insists that she only said what was true. Even telling the victim to “drop dead” was no big deal. Her and her friends say that kind of stuff to each other sometimes. This girl is scarily unfazed. In the end, both girls apologize. The unrepentant one even wrote a long apology letter.
Jung-woo buys their apologies and doesn’t think they’re bad kids, but Myung-joo calls him naïve. Kids now are quick to assess the situation and act accordingly. They’re like the kids in “Lord of the Flies.” Ha.
Seon-woong calls his wife for an update. Jae-hoon won’t be expelled since he’s in elementary school, but he does have to transfer. Their son even forced another kid to be a “bread shuttle” (when someone is bullied into buying bread and running errands). What’s the use in having a prosecutor husband, she demands, when she had to face them and their lawyer alone?
Min-jeong yells that he should’ve mentioned he was a prosecutor to the victim’s dad. Maybe things would’ve turned out better. What’s he going to do about their kid’s permanent record? Seon-woong asks about Jae-hoon, and she scoffs that he was totally fine playing soccer.
At the team meeting, Myung-joo pushes for criminal charges, but Min-ho doesn’t think the evidence warrants it. The victim won’t talk, and the verbal harassment wasn’t even that severe. Myung-joo counters that the same circumstance can affect people in different ways. Yoon-jin presses that there could be other factors, but Myung-joo disagrees.
In the end, Min-ho agrees to let Myung-joo investigate further. Seon-woong, who has stayed silent, gets a text summoning Jae-hoon (and his guardian) to the police station on Saturday.
In his office, Seon-woong looks up information on juvenile trials and outcomes. He’s interrupted by a call from Min-jeong. He assures her he’ll handle the police interview.
He shows the text to Min-ho and Jong-hak. Seon-woong clearly wants to ask something but hesitates until Min-ho tells him to spit it out. He asks if Min-ho knows anyone influential in the police force. Min-ho goes to call his investigator friend when Jong-hak one-ups him—he knows the station chief.
Jong-hak calls and puts him on speaker to flex. He asks about Min-ho’s friend the investigator, which sets the chief off. He goes on about how much of a troublemaker he is. “Is your department head nuts too?” Ha! Jong-hak promptly hangs up.
Min-ho makes Jong-hak stay behind after telling Seon-woong he can leave. He closes the blinds, and we hear yells as Seon-woong walks away.
To make his day worse, Seon-woong gets a call from his dad who wants him to help a friend who got arrested. Seon-woong refuses, chiding that this kind of favor could cost him his job. He hangs up when his dad starts yelling at him.
At home, Myung-joo watches a report on the bullying case. The victim’s schoolmates fly hundreds of letters made into paper airplanes in support. In the next interview, Myung-joo reads one of the letters, but the Hyun-ji stops her. She cries that they’re the ones who watched and laughed while she suffered. She won’t forgive them and wishes they would die.
Over the girl’s sobs, Myung-joo says she doesn’t have to forgive or even go back to school. She should do whatever she wants to do. Jung-hwan and Seon-woong watch from behind the glass.
At the next meeting, Myung-joo recommends forwarding the case to the juvenile court. Min-ho takes issue with the harshness of the opinion she included in the report, but she argues they would all only receive probation otherwise. For the victim’s sake, they should face punishment.
Jong-hak agrees with the sentiment but thinks it’s overboard since they’re kids. Myung-joo points out that they need to learn that harming others will harm themselves. Again, Seon-woong is quiet but looks bothered.
That night, Seon-woong goes to his family home. He checks in on a sleeping Jae-hoon and remembers Hyun-ji’s words from the interview. “It’s because I’m weak, right?” Without things like looks, popularity, good grades, or money, she’s a target. Myung-joo had assured her it could happen to anyone; it wasn’t her fault.
The next day, Seon-woong and Min-jeong take Jae-hoon to the police station. Things finally sink in for little Jae-hoon, and he stops at the entrance, looking frightened. Seon-woong tells him it’ll be hard, but he hopes Jae-hoon will see how wrong it was to treat his friend that way and can see things from his perspective.
Seon-woong instructs him not to act tough in front of him—he knows how hard it is. Like the little kid he is, he cries and rushes into his dad’s arms. Seon-woong narrates that playing so many roles makes it hard to do them all well. It’s particularly hard to do well by your children, but you do the best you can.
Seon-woong goes into the interview with Jae-hoon and holds his hand. He decides not to use his status as prosecutor and refuses Jong-hak’s offer to call in a favor. He even gives his occupation as “office worker” when asked. Jae-hoon looks at him in shock.
We fast forward three months. Seon-woong and Jae-hoon (who is stylin’) go fishing, and Jae-hoon muses that everyone blames his parents for his mistake. Seon-woong tells him not to worry about it. He’s at fault too for not making enough time for Jae-hoon.
Jae-hoon claims he’s doing well at his new school and knows better than to bully his classmates now. Seon-woong wonders why he never tells his friends his dad is a prosecutor. Jae-hoon balks, saying everyone hates prosecutors, and he doesn’t want to get bullied.
Seon-woong asks if their image is really that bad. Jae-hoon: “These days, people don’t even watch dramas about prosecutors. They might watch dramas about doctors, though.” LOL. When Seon-woong goes on about the good old days when prosecutors were respected, Jae-hoon tells him to live in the present and face reality. “Are you ashamed of me?!” Jae-hoon refuses to answer.
This show does a great job dealing with serious topics. I appreciate that we’re always given multiple perspectives so that the issues don’t feel oversimplified. Today, we got a 360 view of how bullying affects all those involved from the bully to the bullied to the parents. Bullying is a commonly explored theme in recent years, but whereas most shows focus on the victims, I liked the twist of having Seon-woong’s son be the perpetrator. It put a fresh spin on a well-worn topic.
It’s harder to stand by principles when your own kid is involved as Seon-woong found out firsthand. He went from “those bullies need to pay the price for their behavior” to “eh, it’s just kids being kids.” Throughout the episode, Seon-woong struggled to reconcile his beliefs with his love for his son, but I’m glad he stood firm in the end. Although it’s harder, it’s even more important to show your kids what it means to take a stand and not be hypocritical. By not using his position or trying to step in for Jae-hoon, Seon-woong forced him to take responsibility for his choices, and Jae-hoon will be better off for it.
Part of an adult’s job is to foster empathy and understanding in children as they grow. We have to learn to be conscientious of others and make ethical decisions—it doesn’t usually happen automatically. And like Myung-joo argued, letting kids off the hook because they’re young does them no favors. I also liked that she brought up how severity of an action is relative. People are all affected differently, so something can be a huge deal to one person and inconsequential to someone else. What truly matters is the severity of the effect on the victim.
I wasn’t surprised, but Seon-woong is a super patient and loving father. It always makes me happy to see affectionate fathers, especially toward sons. Father and son relationships are often portrayed as more distant, so it was nice to see Seon-woong so involved and emotional with Jae-hoon. But his family situation has to be tough. Seon-woong moved to Jinyeong three years ago, so does that mean he’s been living separate from them for all this time? I imagine it’s really hard to maintain solid relationships like that. He and his wife must be exhausted.
Seon-woong being married pretty much squashes any romantic potential between him and Myung-joo. I didn’t really think it was going to go there, but it’s a kdrama which means you can’t ever rule it out. Truthfully, I’m kind of glad it’s off the table. In shows like this, sometimes a love line can feel forced and pull focus from the most interesting aspects of the show.
On a random note, I hate when shows play office abuse for laughs. That scene where it was implied Min-ho was hitting Jong-hak after the disastrous phone call rubbed me the wrong way. Employers abusing their employees is never funny, and for a show about social issues, that was disappointing. Min-ho is really the only character I dislike at this point, and his problematic work behaviors are the primary reason. Can we bring him before a violence committee?
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