Diary of a Prosecutor: Episode 15
It’s no one’s favorite time of the prosecution year: inspections. With the prosecution being put on blast lately, everyone fears the inspections will be used as an excuse to punish a scapegoat to improve the institution’s public image. Sure that their recent troublemaking will have serious consequences, our team prepares for their every case to be scrutinized and wonders which one of them will get axed. Despite all the apprehension and negativity, they may find that this unpleasant process brings about a chance for personal growth, if they’re open to it.
We see each of our prosecutors being questioned … by a version of themselves. Seon-woong narrates the prosecutor’s role is flipped when the yearly work inspection occurs. Cue the arrival of the inspectors amidst the typhoon-induced dramatic weather.
Since Prosecutor Min, Myung-joo’s old boss, is heading the inspection, Chief Choi puts her in charge on their end. At the welcome dinner, Myung-joo sits with the bosses while the rest of her team is at the kiddie table in the back. They do some bad lip-reading and imagine what the conversation must be at the adult table.
The inspection is being conducted by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office this time, which they suspect is a response to the recent acquittal of a chief prosecutor that received public backlash. Baby Jung-woo is scandalized to hear that they might go looking for someone to fire with this inspection. He smiles in relief that newbie prosecutors aren’t subject to the inspection, making everyone give him the stink eye.
Yoon-jin supposes Myung-joo will be fine—her previous boss will likely go easy on her. Jong-hak calculates that if she and Jung-woo are safe, that leaves eight prosecutors at risk. With two of the prosecutors ingratiating themselves with the inspectors, Seon-woong sighs that makes a one in six chance.
Myung-joo makes nice and toasts with her former boss, but her face turns serious as she recalls their conversation about her transfer.
On day one of inspections, a nervous Jong-hak is called in for questioning. Prosecutor Min plays the “you know why you’re here” game, which totally works on Jong-hak as he sputters that he didn’t mean to do anything. And with that, “Case 1: Internal Affairs Knows What Prosecutor Hong Did Last Winter” begins.
Seon-woong takes us back to last winter, before Myung-joo or Jung-woo were on the team. At a team meeting, Min-ho orders sarcastic applause for Jong-hak who has the highest number of unsolved cases. He praises Prosecutor Choi Dae-jin (currently at the Jeonju branch) for successfully improving his numbers.
Over drinks, Jong-hak gets Dae-jin to spill his secret to success. As Jong-hak hesitantly gives it a go, Seon-woong narrates that the method is simple. You call the accused (or witnesses) and hang up before they can answer. Next, you request a stay of indictment on the grounds that their whereabouts are unknown. A stay of indictment moves the case from the unsolved pile.
Prosecutor Min notes the several instances of stays of indictment just in December. Jong-hak timidly apologizes. The inspectors share that thousands of suspects were lost due to statutes of limitations expiring during stays of indictment. Prosecutor Min orders Jong-hak to track down the necessary persons in his nine cases and resume investigations.
Jong-hak’s deep sighs during lunch prompt Seon-woong to ask if he’s okay. “I feel like I’ve become despicable human trash, but I’m alright,” Jong-hak replies long-sufferingly. Yoon-jin gives him PPL—I mean, ginseng extract. She stuffs her face in preparation for her own questioning.
On day two, Prosecutor Min questions Yoon-jin about July 14, and we begin “Case 2: Prosecutor Oh Holds onto the End of the Weekend.” Flustered, Yoon-jin takes the afternoon off after learning her mother-in-law needs back surgery. But Seon-woong narrates that this incident isn’t about her weekend.
The power goes out as Seon-woong sits at his desk in the sweltering summer heat. Some cops come by to drop off Bang Bae-sung, a wanted criminal they picked up. But Bang Bae-sung isn’t sure why he was apprehended, and Seon-woong can’t access the database with the computers down.
As they go into the hall, Bang Bae-sung’s family runs up wailing. It’s chaos as the wife and mother scream and the child cries. Seon-woong manages to get them seated, but then the wife and her mother-in-law start going at it.
Seon-woong leaves them to their devices while he locates Bang Bae-sung’s case files in Yoon-jin’s office. When he gets back to his office, they’re suddenly having a prayer circle. Pfft. As Seon-woong goes over the files at his desk, he looks up incredulously as they break into some praise and worship song. Ha, this family is all over the place.
It turns out Bang Bae-sung turned himself in for assault. The APB should’ve been canceled, but Yoon-jin forgot in her hurry to get to her mother-in-law. While on vacation with his family, Bang Bae-sung tried to break up a fight and ended up in a police station. The cops saw he was listed as wanted and carted him back to Jinyeong. Thanks to Yoon-jin’s gaffe, a civilian was illegally arrested.
Seon-woong gets word to Yoon-jin and Min-ho who both hurry back to the office. Min-ho demands the three of them pool together their cash to provide taxi fare for the inconvenienced family. Yoon-jin goes in to apologize for her mistake and hands over the cash. The family is thrilled there’s no new charge and gratefully rushes out.
In the present, Prosecutor Min scolds Yoon-jin for making such a rookie mistake. When he learns she didn’t inform Bang Bae-sung about the Criminal Indemnity Act whereby the government compensates for a wrongful arrest, he orders her to immediately rectify her mistake.
Seon-woong meets Min-ho for drinks at the Fog. While Min-ho drinks away his sorrows, Seon-woong narrates that people are probably wondering why Min-ho is still showing up at work. We move into “Case 3: The Disappearance of Department Head Cho’s Letter of Resignation.”
Chief Choi not only didn’t accept the resignation, but he acted like he’d never even seen the letter. Min-ho was forced to keep coming to work like nothing happened. Um, like five other people witnessed Min-ho’s resignation, so how does that work?
Min-ho wonders if Chief Choi is waiting it out and hoping he’ll get fired as a result of the inspection. Seon-woong questions if Min-ho truly intended to resign, causing Min-ho to throw a fit. When Seon-woong calms him down, Min-ho complains that they shouldn’t have to feel anxious when it’s their superiors who messed up.
On day three, the inspectors catch Seon-woong and Jung-woo on their way in. Seon-woong prepares to be questioned, but he and Jung-woo are taken off guard when the inspectors request Jung-woo’s presence instead. Ha, so much for being a newbie.
The inspectors note that, since Myung-joo’s office handles so many cases, surely Jung-woo helps with the practical affairs. He reluctantly agrees. Although Myung-joo will take any blame—it’s her name on the cases—Jung-woo should be made aware of his mistakes. They ask about two similar DUI cases that resulted in different penalties. Jung-woo hangs his head as we head into “Case 4: Prosecutor Kim’s Unspeakable Secret.”
Seon-woong narrates that you do come across certain oddities in the course of a case that you can’t include in a report. Of the accused in the DUI cases, one is a cocky man while the other is a timid, abashed-looking woman. How do you decide who’s sincere? Their clothes? Attitude? Facial expression? Jung-woo considered various factors in determining the penalties, but was the decision fair?
Jung-woo struggles to provide a valid argument for how he determined the penalties and ends up telling the inspectors he doesn’t remember his reasoning at the time. They assert that, bad memory aside, the real issue is he lacks common sense. They come after him for his constant social media posts during work hours. They order him to delete all his social media accounts. Oooh, this is going to hurt.
He argues that they’re part of his private life, so how can they order him to delete the accounts? He tries to talk them down by apologizing and promising to behave himself, but they won’t budge. A tragic classical piece underscores his heartbreak, and a single tear runs down his cheek as he’s forced to delete his accounts.
The team gathers to support Jung-woo during this trying time. He wonders if you ever get used to these investigations, but the sunbaes don’t have good news on that front. Min-ho’s only suggestion is to become a department head to be exempt.
Min-ho notes that all but Seon-woong and Myung-joo have been questioned. Yoon-jin comments that it’s really just Seon-woong left, and Jong-hak chimes in that Prosecutor Min seemed fond of Myung-joo. But Myung-joo claims looks can be deceiving.
Yoon-jin thinks the details should be discussed over drinks, so Jong-hak suggests going to the Fog after work. They’re pleasantly surprised when Myung-joo agrees. Jung-woo decides to work late in honor of his poor deleted social media. Pfft.
Everyone heads out into the storm. None of them notice someone in a poncho lurking in the parking lot and carrying a bag.
At the Fog, Myung-joo recalls Jung-woo calling her gutsy during that awkward welcome party. She laughs that she naively thought she’d face minor disciplinary action for her investigation; she never anticipated getting sent to Jinyeong. She learned the prosecution is ruthless to those who come after one of its own.
She doesn’t fully blame Prosecutor Min since his superiors must’ve been the ones to ultimately order her transfer. Although Prosecutor Min should have spoken up for her, Min-ho is glad she’s with them now. Myung-joo smiles when everyone joins in, but she notices Seon-woong looking disgruntled.
Myung-joo gives him the “what’s up with you?” eyebrow raise, and the table goes quiet. To break the tension, Seon-woong suggests clinking their glasses.
Jung-woo sits alone and spooked in the office as the storm rages. He hears squelching footsteps in the hall and freezes as the hooded poncho-wearing lurker enters. Jung-woo breathes a sigh of relief to see a smiling and giggling (yes, giggling) Mi-ran under the hood.
“Case 5: Prosecutor Kim’s Secretly, Greatly.” Seon-woong narrates that after their thwarted attempts to kiss, Jung-woo and Mi-ran made a brave decision. In the office, they message back and forth, bemoaning their frequent run-ins with their colleagues in this small town.
Mi-ran comes up with the bold idea to meet at the office. People often miss what’s right in front of them. Oddly, Jung-hwan says, “Alright, I understand,” with a smug smile. Jung-woo is startled, but Jung-hwan plays it off. Myung-joo smiles. Ha, everyone knows, don’t they?
With everyone going to the Fog that night, Jung-woo is left alone in the office. Mi-ran lurks outside, waiting for Jung-woo’s “all clear” text. She impresses Jung-woo with her bag full of champagne and food for their date.
They’re jittery and awkward. Jung-woo pretends to have spilled something on his seat and moves next to Mi-ran. They have another moment, but a loud crack of thunder startles them apart. Mi-ran has had enough and grabs his face and kisses him. Girl was clearly tired of waiting.
The lightning illuminates the entire team as they peer through the window. HA! Jung-woo spots them spectating and yells. Mi-ran tries to hide her face.
They sit Jung-woo down, and Seon-woong lightly chastises him for keeping this from him. Myung-joo, having witnessed the full glory of all their awkward moments, put two and two together. Jung-hwan’s earlier “Alright, I understand,” was in response to a signal from Myung-joo. Jong-hak reveals he’d seen Mi-ran running away at the café that day and knew something was up, too. Then there were the witnesses to their rooftop moment. Yoon-jin is having a ball with this.
It’s day four, and Myung-joo goes in for her questioning. We enter “Case 6: When Prosecutor Cha Met Department Head Min.” In the inspection, Prosecutor Min comments on how hard she’s been working despite his sending her there to relax. He even heard she’s responsible for what happened to Chief Kim. He sighs that she hasn’t changed at all.
He surprises her by clarifying that he’s not criticizing her. They need people like her, but he’s worried she won’t be able to continue this way. He sends her out with a supportive “you’ve worked hard.”
Over lunch, Jung-woo shares that Myung-joo looked dazed after her questioning. To further upset the mood, he comes across more criticism of the prosecution in the media. Prosecutor Min stops by their table on his way out to summon Seon-woong for questioning after lunch.
It’s finally Seon-woong’s turn as we begin “Case 7: Prosecutor Lee in the Stormy Room.” In the abused woman’s case, they question why he ruled it an “injury resulting in death” despite her clearly stated intent to kill her husband. They accuse him of being swayed by his emotions when he admits he couldn’t ignore the impact of decades of abuse.
They accuse Seon-woong of exhibiting a pattern of going easy on the poor and hard on the rich. Seon-woong is taken aback by the accusation and asks which case led them to this conclusion. They claim it’s present in all his cases.
Things get heated as he presses them to give him an example. Seon-woong stands. They think he’s biased? Fine. Fire him for being a communist then. “This whole inspection is to cover up the Hwang Hak Min [acquitted chief prosecutor] incident.” Whoa.
He goes on about the unfairness of it all when, suddenly, the windows shatter from the storm. Seon-woong leaves amid the chaos as everyone tries to save the documents flying around. Prosecutor Min moans, “He’s another Cha Myung-joo.” Ha.
The typhoon passes, leaving clear skies. Jong-hak makes calls about his stays of indictments, while Seon-woong indicts despite the accused’s unfortunate circumstance. Seon-woong narrates that the investigation caused everyone to reflect and act more carefully.
Min-ho, Prosecutor Nam, and Myung-joo walk the investigators out. Myung-joo steps aside with Prosecutor Min and acknowledges that back then and now, he’s been doing what he feels is right. He smiles and holds his hand out for a handshake … which she doesn’t take. Ha. Guess there’s some hard feelings. Min-ho gives her a thumbs up.
Chief Choi looks disappointed as he watches the investigators leave. We move into “Last Case: Chief Choi’s Guilty Conscience.” (I’d be surprised.) He’d been livid when Min-ho turned in his resignation. Right then, he got a call informing him the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office was conducting the investigations.
Between his golf buddies and the rumor that he’s impeding everyone’s work in Jinyeong, Chief Choi should lie low. Word on the street is that they’ll need to fire someone at least at the level of branch chief to make up for the recent incident. When he hangs up, Chief Choi tosses Min-ho’s resignation letter. He tries to convince himself they won’t fire a branch chief.
During a meal, Min-ho asks the team who they think is out. Everyone thinks they’re safe, naturally. Yoon-jin suggests a vote. On three, they all point to … Seon-woong. Of course, he points at Myung-joo.
Seon-woong wonders what he did that’s so wrong. Yoon-jin says it’s just a feeling, while Jong-hak points out that even the sky got angry at him. Ha. They all agree being the last one to be questioned isn’t a good sign either.
Min-ho is stunned by something on the TV screen and jumps up to raise the volume. They all watch in amazement as it’s announced (former) Chief Kim will lead the special investigation team to reopen the Hwang Hak Min case.
We flash back to when Man-ok and her fellow investigator saw Mi-ran and Jung-woo on the rooftop. When they’re back in the stairwell, the investigator pays up. Ha. Man-ok asks if they should make another bet and smiles knowingly.
Back on the roof, we pan over to the other side of the building where Jung-hwan is hiding. A woman, whose face we don’t fully see, is holding his hand. He has lipstick smeared on his face.
I didn’t realize there were annual inspections. I thought Chief Choi had specially requested an internal affairs investigation of Seon-woong’s situation. It seems like a useful practice, though, for keeping prosecutors accountable. It’s impossible not to mess up, and most of the mistakes were more oversights than intentional bad practice. But in a profession like theirs, regardless of intention, any mistake can have serious repercussions. It’s important for prosecutors to constantly reflect on their actions and ensure they’re being as fair as possible.
This episode really got at each prosecutor’s weaknesses and tendencies. Seon-woong gets too emotionally invested, Jong-hak is too easily swayed, Yoon-jin gets frazzled and careless, Jung-woo is too self-centered, and Myung-joo assumes the worst. The inspections showcased what we’ve seen bit by bit throughout the series from our team. But we also saw them all listen and take steps to improve, which is the most important thing. Baby Jung-woo even deleted his social media accounts!
Oh, Jung-woo and Mi-ran. I love how they thought they were being all slick only to have the ENTIRE team watching their date. Even Myung-joo got a kick out of messing with them. It would have been so much less embarrassing for them to have just told everyone, but of course, that would have spoiled everyone else’s fun. At least they finally got to kiss.
Myung-joo seems so relaxed with everyone now. It’s such a marked change from the early episodes where she looked miserable all the time. I’ve noticed the change for a few episodes, but it really came through in this one. She smiled and joked around with everyone like one of the team. Even her and Seon-woong can mess with each other without it becoming a sparring match now. She’s definitely become more of a team player and seems happier for it. But I appreciate that she did it without apologizing for who she is or trying to be liked. She just made more of an effort to connect with her team in her own way.
I’m still waiting to hear why Myung-joo came to Jinyeong after seeing Seon-woong worked there, and we’ve only got one episode left. Last week’s preview showed her and Seon-woong discussing the past, which I’m assuming will be in the final episode since we didn’t get it here. It better be, because I’m going to be upset if they leave us hanging on that.
A minor correction: I had it in my head that Prosecutor Min was a chief rather than department head. I’m pretty sure I labeled him Chief Min in a previous recap, so sorry if that caused confusion. Seeing as I confused myself, I thought I’d mention it. Keeping all those prosecution terms and titles straight has been a challenge–I’m literally staring at a sticky note on my laptop with Korean prosecutor titles on it right now. But on the bright side, I now have a solid understanding of the organization of the Korean prosecution, so there’s that.
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