Forest of Secrets 2: Episode 2
Pieces are falling into place this hour as we delve further into the fight over investigative authority between the police and prosecution. Our intrepid prosecutor is swept up into the proceedings, and not everyone is happy about it. The upside: he gets to hang out with his cop bestie! But the power struggle between their organizations is getting out of hand, and like it or not, both sides are going to have to work together to sort it out. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’ll be done harmoniously.
Shi-mok goes through the case file on the drowning. Yong-ho’s Insta photos were taken mere minutes before the estimated time of death. A local cop told Shi-mok that an elderly lady who lives nearby heard the college kids leaving the guesthouse right before her favorite drama started at 8:06 P.M. That means the rope would’ve already been cut since the photos were taken about 10 minutes prior.
Notably, although the officer wrote this in his report, it’s missing from the case file. When Shi-mok tries to get in touch with the prosecutor in charge, they give him the runaround. In Seoul, Yeo-jin is stunned when it’s announced on the news that the high-ranking official who leaked information is Director Kim of the Intelligence Bureau.
She rushes into the National Police Agency and sees officers carrying evidence boxes out of Director Kim’s office and leading him out. Yeo-jin asks Chief Choi (who’s also with the Intelligence Bureau) if she’s okay. Chief Choi notes that Director Kim’s position is the highest an officer can go and claims he’s an easy target for the prosecution.
Yeo-jin wasn’t born yesterday and observes that the people who took him were their people, not the prosecution. Chief Choi asserts that they couldn’t allow the prosecution to take him. Would Yeo-jin just wait around if Chief Choi were caught by them?
Yeo-jin responds she wouldn’t do anything because no one would dare to take Chief Choi. Once Yeo-jin leaves, Chief Choi calls prosecutor Woo Tae-ha to “inform” him (i.e. rub it in) that he won’t get to summon Director Kim.
Yeo-jin returns Shi-mok’s call and learns that the case was closed without indictment. She’s frustrated that the judge-turned-lawyer got the case closed so easily, citing special treatment due to his status. Shi-mok plans to file a complaint, but Yeo-jin worries he’ll upset his superiors. Like that’s ever stopped him.
After they hang up, Yeo-jin recalls Chief Choi telling her to let her know of any developments with their Reformation Unit. She mutters “special treatment,” looking like she has an idea.
The following day, Chief Choi visits the father of one of the students who drowned. She returns his son’s shoes. Did no one tell him that the rope barrier had been removed? He cries as he says his son had to pay for these shoes himself since he couldn’t afford to buy them for him.
Chief Choi brings the conversation back by saying she’s sorry the prosecution didn’t try hard enough to bring justice. Ah, so that’s why she’s here. He asks if the police can reinvestigate, but she claims that’d be difficult. He briefly shows her a picture of his son with his friends from the afternoon of the incident. She asks him to send her the picture.
Outside, she addresses the reporters and shows the picture to the crowd, shaping the narrative into a filial son who’s tragic death is being painted as his own fault. His father wasn’t even aware someone had cut the rope line. Oh, she’s good.
She turns the tide, inciting criticism of the prosecution by further claiming that, despite the complaint filed by the original prosecutor involved in the case, they closed the case days after a judge-turned-lawyer took it on. “If no change is made to the prosecution’s investigative authority, such special treatment will continue to be given to its former and current officials.” Gauntlet thrown.
The Commissioner General and Minister of Justice begin talks to have the police and prosecution cooperate to resolve the issue of investigative authority. Chief Prosecutor Kang makes a statement that the cut rope line didn’t cause the accident, but they’ll try to resolve the concern of the bereaved if their decision is challenged.
They ask about the complaint, but he downplays it, claiming it was simply an inquiry from a prosecutor not even assigned that case. Inside, he grumbles that Chief Choi likely gathered the reporters herself. The news is filled with criticism of the prosecution and curiosity about Shi-mok, much to Chief Prosecutor Kang’s annoyance. He calls the Tongyeong branch chief.
On his way to his new office, Shi-mok gets a call from his Tongyeong colleague who tells him to hold off on going to Wonju. Shi-mok pulls off to call the branch chief who’s just as confused. He tells Shi-mok to go home for now; he’ll let him know once they tell him what’s going on.
Shi-mok kills time at a rest stop and is confused to receive a text with a photo of a business card for prosecutor WOO TAE-HA (Choi Moo-sung) immediately followed by a call from the man himself. He asks Shi-mok to meet him that night, so off he heads to Seoul.
He arrives at Tae-ha’s office and is ushered inside where Tae-ha comments on the “rushed decision.” Shi-mok has no idea what he’s talking about, so Tae-ha starts from scratch. Does he know what the Criminal Legislation Division does? Shi-mok rattles off that they’re a long-term “temporary” division that studies prosecution reform and reports directly to the prosecutor general.
Tae-ha shares that a Police-Prosecution Council is about to be formed. Despite the prosecution’s history of “fairly overseeing investigations,” the police are always making an issue out of it. It’s blown up publicly, so they can’t ignore it as they usually do.
Shi-mok doesn’t understand why it’s necessary since the government has already proposed a reform bill, but Tae-ha snaps that they’re not just going to accept that “ridiculous” bill. Shi-mok asks straightforwardly if he’ll be part of this council, then.
Tae-ha confirms it, making Shi-mok wonder why he’s receiving this huge promotion to the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office. Tae-ha doesn’t know and admits that some were strongly against it. Shi-mok leaves the office bewildered but now part of the Criminal Legislation Division.
Once in his car, Shi-mok opens his navigation but can’t think of anywhere to go for the night. Aw. He ends up at a hotel and does some research on Tae-ha.
The next day, he goes to visit Chief Prosecutor Kang and asks why he was against Shi-mok’s promotion. Chief Prosecutor Kang chuckles and just as bluntly states that the police requested Shi-mok as an advisor to help make the council’s eventual proposal into a bill. He speculates Chief Choi is behind the move.
So why is he a full member of the Criminal Legislation Division instead? Chief Prosecutor Kang replies that they had to do something since the police interfered. (This fight is so petty.) Shi-mok is a bad fit on their side since the prosecution needs someone who will protect their authority wholeheartedly.
They’ve never yielded on this issue, so if he gives in, “you’ll be the biggest disgrace in the prosecution’s 70-year history.” Well. Shi-mok brings up the 2011 reform that gave police the right to initiate and conduct investigations, but Chief Prosecutor Kang argues they didn’t lose anything since police have to do that anyway.
Now, the police want to get out from under the prosecution and have the right to close cases as well. If the Criminal Legislation Division fails to win this fight, they’ll have to resign. Chief Prosecutor Kang likens Shi-mok to a sharp knife that everyone swings around, calling it dangerous when it cuts them and shoving it back in the drawer.
Shi-mok knows all too well, but he might be able to “find the answer” this time. Chief Prosecutor Kang wonders what he’s looking for, but Shi-mok pivots to ask, “Was it special treatment?”
Chief Prosecutor Kang denies it, saying the outcome would’ve been the same no matter how long they’d spent investigating. To indict, they’d have to prove cutting the rope caused the deaths which is impossible to prove. Shi-mok isn’t contesting the ruling but the sidestepping of the process.
Chief Prosecutor Kang gets riled up, thinking he’s accusing him of corruption. Shi-mok clarifies that by ignoring the process, the couple was robbed of the chance to reflect on their wrongdoing. They must think they can get away with anything now. Chief Prosecutor Kang has no rebuttal.
He shows Shi-mok the Sungmoon Daily article that accuses him of striking a deal with Lee Chang-joon. Chief Prosecutor Kang is angry at their disrespecting of the deceased and vows to take Hanjo and Sungmoon Daily down himself. Shi-mok remarks that Sungmoon Daily‘s CEO hasn’t learned his lesson.
Before Shi-mok leaves, he explains that Tae-ha didn’t expose Chief Prosecutor Kang. Shi-mok figured out he opposed his appointment on his own. Alone, Chief Prosecutor Kang complains that Shi-mok is too “high and mighty” to listen.
Elsewhere, CEO of Hanjo LEE YEON-JAE (Yoon Se-ah) deliberates over the illegal hiring – due to their previous government positions and company connections – of advisers for tax exemption issues.
Yeon-jae asks about the “special treatment” judge-turned-lawyer Oh Joo-seon whose work is connected to her father’s trial. She frustratedly exclaims they need a lawyer to stave off the prosecution. There’s also a lawsuit in the works that seems to involve Hanjo Distribution who is siding with someone named Lee Sung-jae.
After the meeting, a man I’m assuming is her assistant updates her about the Sungmoon Daily articles. The paper’s CEO met with Lee Sung-jae the day prior.
Yeon-jae calmly confirms no one is outside the door before screaming complaints about the idiot company presidents and how she’ll get rid of them once her shares are secured. Despite the death glare she throws his way, her assistant respectfully encourages her to consider meeting with the CEO Sungmoon Daily. Instead, she asks him to contact Chief Prosecutor Kang.
Meanwhile, Tae-ha is visited by prosecutor SEO DONG-JAE (Lee Jun-hyuk) who claims to have information for him about Chief Choi Bit. Ah, the ever-consistent, favor-currying Dong-jae. Chief Choi previously worked in the police station under the jurisdiction of the prosecution branch he currently works for.
Dong-jae brings up a former chief prosecutor Park Kwang-joo who died of a heart attack supposedly after drinking and driving. However, he never drank since his body couldn’t handle alcohol. His wife raised a formal objection, but that was missing from the report Dong-jae received and no further investigation occurred.
As the prosecutor in charge, Dong-jae followed up with the police station and asserts Chief Choi covered up the death of a prosecutor. What makes it particularly odd is that he likely died naturally of illness. If Tae-ha wishes, Dong-jae would be happy to get to the bottom of it.
At his desk, Shi-mok hears Tae-ha screaming at Dong-jae for failing to investigate earlier and calling this a good “card” to play. Dong-jae argues that the police are using the media to turn the public against them, and it’s demoralizing to the junior prosecutors. The situation puts Tae-ha at a disadvantage.
Dong-jae is here to help (altruistically, I’m sure…) by digging up dirt. He’ll take responsibility if things go wrong. Tae-ha considers his words as Dong-jae works to convince him that they need to discredit the police in the eyes of the public.
Is Dong-jae certain the former chief prosecutor died of a heart attack? If so, where is the corruption? Dong-jae is positive and responds Chief Choi is the one who criticized them for closing the case too quickly. Dong-jae pulls out other case files of potential police corruption.
Tae-ha wants to focus on Director Kim not Chief Choi but keeps the files and consents to Dong-jae keeping him updated, although he looks put off by his weasel-y ways. Outside, Dong-jae gets a shock when he discovers Shi-mok works there. Tae-ha peeks out as they exchange pleasantries.
The prosecution and police prepare for the upcoming council meeting. Each side can only have three to four members, and they can’t belong to the teams that have been investigating the issue. Chief Choi and Yeo-jin both officially belong to other teams, so they get seats on the council. The same goes for Tae-ha and Shi-mok at the prosecution.
The police will bring in a high-ranking officer, and Chief Choi tasks Yeo-jin with finding someone in the field as well. Tae-ha rounds their team out with someone named Kim Sa-hyun who works with the National Assembly. Shi-mok is against the pick because of a link with a lobbying scandal, but Tae-ha is insistent. Shi-mok silently recalls that Sa-hyun and Tae-ha are from the same graduating class.
At the National Police Agency, Director Shin tells Chief Choi that the prosecution is determined to arrest Director Kim. He thinks they’re “overreacting,” seeing as similar cases have gotten a slap on the wrist. He wonders if someone has a grudge against Director Kim. Chief Choi gets a little shifty and shrugs it off.
Meanwhile, Tae-ha asks Shi-mok privately how well he knows Dong-jae. Is he trustworthy? Shi-mok says it depends on the situation and asks what work he intends to give him, but Tae-ha dismisses him without answering. Shi-mok caught a glimpse of the case file on a police officer’s suicide, though, and looks into it.
Yeo-jin gets a call from Shi-mok and is surprised to learn he’s at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office now. Elsewhere, Dong-jae gets a call from Tae-ha right as he’s mulling over Tae-ha telling him to leave Chief Choi out of his scheme. Dong-jae does an excited fist pump after the call.
Tae-ha finds out Shi-mok doesn’t have a place to stay and is applying for a room in the dorms used by investigators. Shi-mok, meanwhile, meets up with Yeo-jin who looks excited to see him and welcomes him back. Their old spot is gone, so they’re meeting in an incredibly noisy restaurant.
She freezes when he says he’s working for the Criminal Legislative Division and will be on the council. Yeo-jin recalls Chief Choi saying the prosecution is more concerned than they let on and something about a younger prosecutor. Shi-mok brings up the drowning case, and Yeo-jin shares that the victims’ families don’t want to reinvestigate.
Shi-mok guesses they received settlement money from the couple. Judging from the news instigated by Chief Choi, the families weren’t wealthy. Yeo-jin admits that she reported the special treatment, but Shi-mok comments she didn’t say anything untrue.
Yeo-jin looks uncomfortable and starts to say something else, but they’re interrupted by the server. Shi-mok starts to ask her about the case file he saw of the suicide, but he gets a phone call from Tae-ha asking him to come meet him and a colleague.
Shi-mok is hesitant to leave, but Yeo-jin tells him it’s fine. They’ll be seeing each other more often now anyway. When Shi-mok gets to the restaurant, Tae-ha is sitting with Dong-jae who is decidedly unhappy to see Shi-mok. He insists he can handle this alone, but Tae-ha says his team should handle it since Dong-jae brought it to them. Dong-jae is not happy about that.
Now we’re getting somewhere. The bigger picture is taking shape, and all our players are converging. The drowning case served as a springboard to set up the Police-Prosecution Council, although I doubt we’re entirely finished with that case. Now we’ve got those cases Dong-jae brought to Tae-ha’s attention too, so maybe we won’t be getting one central case this season.
And Dong-jae is back in all his shameless, weasel-y glory. You almost have to respect the consistency and dedication to his cause. I’m sure he’s not going to let go of his cases and chance to move up the ladder so easily, but Tae-ha clearly doesn’t trust him. If Dong-jae wasn’t already afraid of Shi-mok cramping his style, he certainly is now. Dong-jae looked nervous when he saw Shi-mok was back in Seoul, so maybe he’ll play things a little more carefully now. Then again, Dong-jae has never been one to play things too safe.
Poor Shi-mok with his bafflingly sudden promotion. You know if he actually looks bewildered, it’s serious. Using him as a pawn never seems to go well, though, so I have no doubt he can turn whatever schemes they try to rope him into to his advantage. Now it looks like Tae-ha is bringing Shi-mok into his and Dong-jae’s little dirt-digging operation by putting him on this police suicide case, but I’m not entirely sure what Tae-ha plans to do. He’s kind of hard to get a read on, but he comes across as someone who is willing to cross the line when he feels it’s necessary. His willingness to work with Dong-jae and his insistence on hiring his problematic classmate suggests he’s not squeaky clean, but I can’t tell how far he’s willing to go.
This council is going to be interesting and super tense, I imagine. How they’re going to manage to come out of it with an agreed upon plan is a mystery. No one is interested in actually reforming procedure to get the best results for citizens; it’s strictly a political battle as these things unfortunately often are. This power struggle is bringing out the worst in both sides with each determined to win at all costs. Thank goodness for Shi-mok and Yeo-jin who aren’t the types to be blinded by a power struggle – each side needs someone who cares about the truth and the people, and I hope our dogged duo can bring some much needed balance to the proceedings.
That being said, it won’t be easy for them on this council. Yeo-jin looked bothered to hear Shi-mok will be part of it. I took it as concern over the prosecution’s motives and tactics rather than questioning Shi-mok himself, but still. Yeo-jin seems to have a pretty good relationship with Chief Choi, even though she doesn’t always agree with her methods. And we haven’t heard her personal views on how this investigative authority fight should shake out, but since she reported the prosecution’s “special treatment” to Chief Choi to use, I’m guessing she’s more on the side of the police.
Added to all that, we’ve got Hanjo still being sketchy and probably influencing things behind the scenes. Not much has changed, it seems, even though Yeon-jae is in charge now. She appears just as willing as her father to get her hands dirty for Hanjo. Last season, I found Yeon-jae simultaneously annoying and interesting. She seemed caged behind that fake smile and laugh, always on the edge of losing it. It was clear she was more capable than she was allowed to be, and now she’s unleashed. I have a feeling that lawsuit that was mentioned will come into play, as will Sungmoon Daily which is still making waves. There’s never a shortage of corruption and power mongering, is there?
- Premiere Watch: Forest of Secrets 2
- Jo Seung-woo, Bae Doo-na go head-to-head in new teaser for Forest of Secrets 2
- A new conspiracy unfolds in teaser for Forest of Secrets 2
- The cast of tvN’s Forest of Secrets 2 gather for first script reading
- Jo Seung-woo confirms second season of Forest of Secrets