Forest of Secrets 2: Episode 3
The battle continues as both sides prep for the first council meeting, hoping to secure power for their institutions. In addition, our favorite prosecutor is forced to team up with his slippery friend-adjacent colleague as they attempt to get to the bottom of the suspicious “suicide” case the higher ups hope will provide ammunition against the police. If things are already this tense before both sides even meet, I can only imagine how these talks will go.
As Dong-jae leaves, KIM SA-HYUN (Kim Young-jae) arrives, and Tae-ha formally introduces him to Shi-mok. The old friends are friendly toward Shi-mok but barely let him get a word in edgewise. They answer for him, tell him how to eat his food … you know the type. Per usual, Shi-mok doesn’t drink, and Tae-ha gets oddly tense when Sa-hyun asks if Shi-mok can’t handle alcohol.
Meanwhile, Yeo-jin goes to visit Gun at her old precinct. She’s going to recruit him, isn’t she? Yep, she is. But Gun doesn’t think he’s a good fit for the council.
Yeo-jin shares that the prosecution is arguing Police Academy graduates are the ones with all the power, so they need someone like Gun to prove it’s not true. He’s high-ranking enough, not a Police Academy graduate, and young enough to satisfy Chief Choi’s requirements. He’s resistant until she starts flattering him about how good he is at his job and how he’s the perfect candidate for this.
Now their hurdle is Team Leader Choi who doesn’t want to lose him. They’re already understaffed. Team maknae Soon-chang thinks it’d be nice to have a field officer on the council to provide a different perspective. Team Leader Choi offers up newbie Soon-chang instead.
They’re interrupted by a radio call about a suspect, and Yeo-jin rushes out with them. She almost hops in the van like old times before recalling herself. She stares at the station nostalgically and vows, “See you again,” before walking away.
In the van, Team Leader Choi gives Gun permission to join the council. He’s hopeful they’ll be able to get results this time, arguing it’ll be great for Gun to have on his resume. Gun doesn’t want to leave the team, but Team Leader Choi thinks he should do it for Yeo-jin. She must’ve been lonely all this time and needs someone she can trust.
He implies this could help Gun advance beyond lieutenant. Team Leader Choi only asks that he bring Yeo-jin back with him when they’re done.
Poor Shi-mok is still stuck at the dinner, looking like he’s done as Sa-hyun drunkenly complains about how he was robbed of his promotion right when he should’ve gone to the National Assembly. Tae-ha encourages him to do well on the council not only for himself but because all their careers depend on it.
Sa-hyun tells Shi-mok to compile a list of all assembly members who used to be prosecutors or judges. He signals to Tae-ha for a smoke break, and they both get up. Sa-hyun adds former police officers to the list while Tae-ha orders Shi-mok to get ahold of the most recent proposal on police autonomy.
He starts to tell him to do yet another report, but he recalls Shi-mok will be “there” in the morning. Sa-hyun asks about it, but Tae-ha says he doesn’t need to know. Outside, Sa-hyun asks what’s bothering Tae-ha.
They’re surprised to see Shi-mok joining them, but he’s actually leaving early. Sa-hyun gets angry he’s disrespectfully leaving before his seniors, but Shi-mok just tells Tae-ha he’ll see him tomorrow and walks away.
Shi-mok looks exhausted as he works late and compiles the information they requested. He pulls out the case file on the police officer’s suicide and goes through the report. In flashback, we see two cops slide into another team’s police car and slip money into the seatback pockets.
Shi-mok narrates that there were seven officers in the Segok night patrol team in the summer of 2017. Two have since been convicted of accepting bribes, two resigned, another was transferred, one kept his position, and the newest member of the team Song Ki-hyun was found dead in the precinct shower.
In a flashback, we see the rest of Tae-ha, Shi-mok, and Dong-jae’s conversation. Tae-ha had argued that an officer killing another officer would be great for them but terrible for the police. He’d had an unwilling Dong-jae fill Shi-mok in on the case.
Six patrol officers had been accepting bribes for years, but then Ki-hyun joined their unit. His final investigation was on his team members. Dong-jae heard from the bars and clubs bribing the officers that Ki-hyun was trying to handle the case on his own.
Shi-mok is surprised no one was suspicious when Ki-hyun suddenly hanged himself at the precinct, but Dong-jae discloses that he was suffering from depression. Tae-ha summarizes that, if he was murdered, it means his teammates whom he was investigating conspired to kill him and managed to conceal it.
Dong-jae explains that the bribery charges surfaced shortly after his death, so people got distracted. Shi-mok rolls his eyes when Dong-jae says he’d have immediately brought this to Tae-ha had he known the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office did investigations. Tae-ha says they don’t do investigations, so Dong-jae helpfully suggests he and Shi-mok showcase their great teamwork on this. Pfft.
Shi-mok stays silent, and after a beat, Tae-ha allows Dong-jae to handle the case on the condition that Shi-mok accompanies him wherever he goes. Ha, so Shi-mok is his babysitter.
Shi-mok asks if the case is related to their division, and Dong-jae chimes in that the struggle over investigatory power is about emotion not logic. Tae-ha intervenes to ensure Dong-jae keeps them out of this whole business. No one can know he’s affiliated with their office or division.
Tae-ha tells Shi-mok to keep an eye on Dong-jae but not to do any of the work. He’s not ordering a prosecutor to dig up dirt – a prosecutor from another division is conducting a reinvestigation. If it’s truly a suicide, then there was no reinvestigation. Dong-jae leaves after giving Shi-mok this look.
Tae-ha asks Shi-mok to make sure Dong-jae doesn’t use Tae-ha’s name to get ahead. He’s the type who pokes around everywhere, so the police are bound to notice him. He tasks Shi-mok with keeping him on track and reporting back daily so they can back out if necessary.
In the present, Shi-mok muses on the fact that homicide was never brought up back then, so what changed? The following morning, Tae-ha chuckles in appreciate to see the labeled reports from Shi-mok on his desk.
Meanwhile, the sole remaining officer from that bribery-happy patrol team Baek Joong-gi gets a call that makes his eyes go all shifty, and he heads upstairs. As he passes through the hallway, we rewind to 2017 where an officer hears a sound coming from the shower.
Joong-gi runs inside when he hears the officer scream and finds Ki-hyun with a rope around his neck. Other officers rush in, and they panic as they attempt to untie him. They aren’t able to resuscitate him. One of the officers seems pretty sketchy; Joong-gi stares at him almost knowingly, as do some of the others, as he walks away.
Although no autopsy was done, the medical examiner discovered a bruise on Ki-hyun’s chest – attributed to CPR – and blood and skin under his fingernails. Once everyone leaves, Joong-gi uncovers his hand to reveal three long scratches.
As he and Dong-jae discuss the case, Shi-mok wonders how the clear signs of struggle were ignored, but Dong-jae guesses they had no reason to distrust the six cops who gave the same story of trying to revive Ki-hyun. Plus, his depression made suicide seem more likely.
Shi-mok speculates Ki-hyun could’ve transferred there because of his depression since transfers like his are unusual. Dong-jae is surprised (then smug) that Tae-ha didn’t share the other report Dong-jae provided explaining that very thing.
Shi-mok snaps him out of it, and Dong-jae says it’s the opposite: he experienced depression because of the transfer. He’d found out that a higher-up beat an officer merely for driving poorly. Ki-hyun had lodged a complaint and gotten transferred, and then he’d investigated his new colleagues.
“Doesn’t he remind you of someone?” Dong-jae prods. “Who?” Shi-mok asks cluelessly. Ha. Dong-jae takes it back since he wouldn’t even wish that on Shi-mok.
Shi-mok asks who first suggested homicide when the signs didn’t point that direction. Dong-jae dramatically states that the question should be who discovered it. And that was the former lead prosecutor on the case.
A bar owner had gotten some waiters who worked for him charged with assault after they’d gotten into a physical altercation, so they’d spilled the beans to the prosecution about him bribing police officers. That led to the discovery that the patrol team was taking bribes from lots of others.
Interestingly, that bar owner was the first one to say the Ki-hyun’s “suicide” a few months prior was actually murder. All business owners in the neighborhood knew he’d been killed by his colleagues. He alleged they bribed the officers out of fear since they were the types to even kill their colleagues.
They all knew Ki-hyun had been asking around about the bribes, so his colleagues must have known too. The prosecution assumed the business owners were saying that so they could claim they were forced to bribe the officers, and the “suicide” wasn’t reinvestigated. Presently, Shi-mok watches from behind the glass as Dong-jae goes in to interview Joong-gi.
Elsewhere, Chief Prosecutor Kang meets with judge-turned-lawyer Oh Joo-seon who apologizes for the mess surrounding the drowning case. He simply paid Chief Prosecutor Kang a visit since it involved the son of his law firm’s VIP client and didn’t expect the backlash. Chief Prosecutor Kang assures him they followed protocol.
Joo-seon mentions the firm’s president Kim Min-woo who Chief Prosecutor Kang met once years ago. He passes along the message that Chief Prosecutor Kang is welcome to join the firm whenever he leaves the prosecution.
He brings up the Sungmoon Daily article, wondering if they can’t do anything about it. Chief Prosecutor Kang notes that, if they did, they’d be involving themselves in Hanjo’s management rights battle.
Joo-seon observes that Lee Sung-jae must be upset he didn’t take over right when his father got arrested, but Chief Prosecutor Kang thinks he must’ve assumed he could lay low and easily take back the company from his sister.
As much as Chief Prosecutor Kang wants to defend Lee Chang-joon, it’d involving going against Sung-jae – he’s behind the Sungmoon Daily article – and backing Yeon-jae’s claims, thereby strengthening her legitimacy in the management rights battle. Joo-seon comments on how similar Sung-jae is to his father and that the affiliates of Hanjo are backing Sung-jae.
He dismisses Yeon-jae as a woman who doesn’t know anything and just took over while the men were away *gag*. Either way, Chief Prosecutor Kang has the deciding vote on who takes over Hanjo. Wouldn’t it be easier to deal with just one of them? Chief Prosecutor Kang looks troubled.
Afterwards, Joo-seon meets with Yeon-jae (Ah, so they’re in cahoots.) and reports that Chief Prosecutor Kang will likely refute the article since he got to where he is through Yeon-jae’s husband. If the article is deemed true, his own legitimacy would be questioned. If Chang-joon goes down, so does Chief Prosecutor Kang.
Sung-jae is pitting himself against the prosecution out of desperation to inherit Hanjo. Making matters worse, the prosecutor he accused of cutting a deal with Chang-joon is now at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Yeon-jae doesn’t look thrilled at that news.
Yeon-jae asks him to be an internal advisor for Hanjo, and he agrees. Outside, her assistant suggests contracting the illegal hires rather than officially hiring them. She needs to prove to the stakeholders that she has a solution to the tax issues, though. Anyway, Sung-jae has more former officials than she does on the payroll. Yeon-jae is more concerned about Shi-mok’s new position.
Shi-mok pays a visit to Segok Police Station to check out the scene of Ki-hyun’s death. He even goes so far as to turn his necktie into a noose and wrap it around his neck to test the spot where Ki-hyun supposedly hung himself.
As he pulls, he envisions the police officers assisting while Joong-gi chokes Ki-hyun who scratches him on the hand as he tries to pry him off. Shi-mok startles an officer when he comes out of the shower room, and the officer follows him to find out what he’s doing there.
Joong-gi, meanwhile, makes a secretive phone call and happens to pass by at that same time on his way to the roof. He asks the person on the other end if he’s been summoned yet and complains that Ki-hyun is still causing problems. The officer following Shi-mok bursts onto the roof, but it doesn’t seem like he overheard anything, although Joong-gi watches him suspiciously.
Elsewhere, a nervous, bumbling Gun shows up for a pre-council meeting detailing the police and prosecution’s major conflicts starting in 1998 when the courts sided with the prosecution and wouldn’t allow the police independent investigation rights.
It came up again in 2005, but nothing changed. Then, in 2011, they revised the law stating police had to obey the prosecution’s orders, but the prosecution retained the rights to oversee investigations and close them.
What makes this time different is that the prosecution has lost the public’s trust and support in this fight. Now, the prosecution is willing to negotiate, but they have conditions. One is the proposal of an autonomous police force, where officers would be “lent” to local governments, alongside the National Police Agency.
Director Shin interrupts to ask Gun what officers think since this would mean officers might be local officials instead of state officials. Gun haltingly answers that the response is positive; it’d give them a chance to rework their image as more citizen focused. One of the Reformation Unit members snickers.
Direction Shin signals to move on, but Gun cuts in to ask if he meant “real” officers in the field. From field officers’ standpoint, there are more pressing problems than just the overarching issue of investigative rights such as self-defense, quicker warrants that don’t have to go through the prosecution, and stronger internal regulations to prevent corruption.
Chief Choi tells him to stay on topic and reminds him they’ve all been in the field at one point. Yeo-jin fist bumps him under the table. Elsewhere, Shi-mok briefs Tae-ha on the case, explaining that Joong-gi claims he had no knowledge of the bribes despite being the team leader.
We flashback to the interview where Joong-gi went on about the team’s comradery and how he’d tried to help Ki-hyun who didn’t fit in. When Dong-jae had commented on the unbelievability of his being unaware of the bribery, Joong-gi got worked up. He yelled that Ki-hyun really did commit suicide, and his true colors show as he spit out that Ki-hyun caused them all trouble with his “victim mentality” and depression.
Shi-mok next plans to visit the sketchy-looking ex-cop in prison. Tae-ha notes that regardless of their issues, the police and prosecution have never had a colleague murder before. If it’s true, the public will completely turn their backs on the police.
At work, Yeo-jin’s jealous Reformation Unit colleague (the one who snickered at Gun) gives her dirty looks as she readies for the Police-Prosecution Council meeting. Tae-ha continues it’d give them the power to stop these pushbacks over investigative rights.
He calls it the “perfect weapon” and states they won’t give way in anything during the meeting. It’s their power in the first place. Both sides head to the council meeting determined.
All the talk of investigative authority in this drama made me so interested in the real fight over investigative authority that I had to look it up. I really like that they’re using an actual political conflict as the centerpiece. Incorporating real situations, arguments, and public dissatisfaction grounds it and lends it realism that these types of shows sometimes lack. The fight in real life over this issue seems pretty much as dramatic as it is here. I don’t know how much they’ll follow the real-life outcomes here, but it’ll be interesting to see.
It looks like we’ll finally get into the Police-Prosecution Council stuff next episode, and I anticipate it to be rife with tension and drama. I think poor Gun might be in over his head. He looked so nervous and out of place at that meeting, much to Yeo-jin’s enjoyment. Everyone does seem to look down on the field officers, so I don’t blame him. I like that we’re getting to see the internal conflicts as well, though, since it seems the higher ups and field officers have differing perspectives. Not that the higher ups will listen, necessarily. They’ve already decided what they want out of all this, and Chief Choi wanted Gun there seemingly just for optics. But I expect Gun and Yeo-jin are going to cause their own kinds of trouble on the Council.
There was too little Yeo-jin this hour, but I do enjoy the Shi-mok and Dong-jae combination. No one exasperates Shi-mok quite like Dong-jae, and it’s oh so fun to watch. Dong-jae is weirdly lovable despite his morally questionable ways. I think it’s because he comes across as too ridiculous to take seriously, even when he’s trying to be nefarious. You can’t help but be amused. Well, I can’t, at least. I’m looking forward to more eye-rolling and shenanigans through this forced partnership as they investigate.
The prosecution looks like they might really be onto something with this “suicide” case. Something is definitely fishy about Ki-hyun’s death, and while it’s kind of cold that it’s being used as ammunition, I do hope that awful cop Baek Joong-gi gets his comeuppance. Even if he didn’t kill Ki-hyun, he just seems like a nasty dude and not someone who should be a cop. I have a feeling Yeo-jin will get involved in solving this case, but that’ll put her in a terrible position with her superiors. Yet some more drama to sprinkle onto these Council proceedings.
While the police aren’t exactly behind the Sungmoon Daily articles besmirching the prosecution through it’s indirect links with Hanjo, they’re certainly happy to use it to their advantage. Now, Hanjo is coming to the fore, and it looks like Chief Prosecutor Kang is going to be caught up in the sibling fight over who gets to control the company. I imagine the police will latch onto that and call corruption, and it’ll become an even bigger mess. Since Sung-jae is attacking the prosecution, I’m assuming the police are quietly supporting him for the position. This Hanjo fight seems to be yet another tool in this war between the police and prosecution. At this point, both sides are playing with fire, and if they’re not careful, everyone will get burned.
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