Police University: Episode 1
KBS’s new campus police drama has arrived! Our hero is smart and talented, but never explored his own interests and dreams until now. Now that he finally has something he wants to achieve, the consequences of his past actions may come back to block his chances.
Note: This is a first episode recap only. Coverage will continue with weecaps.
EPISODE 1 RECAP
At the Korean National Police University, five students lead the rest in a salute. They expertly shoot guns, practice martial arts, and vow to always be righteous to preserve the honor of the police force. They become recruitment ambassadors for the 2021 intake but in reality, the models in the ad are five different individuals.
Meanwhile, veteran detective YOO DONG-MAN (Cha Tae-hyun) gambles at an abandoned warehouse. He borrows money from the wanted VIP casino loan shark “Yellow Suit” (cameo by Kim Hyung-mook) and loses everything at once. Dong-man attempts to leave without paying back his debt, which instigates a fight.
Dong-man gets chased to a subway station where one of the students from the opening, KANG SUN-HO (Jinyoung), happens to be. Dong-man tries to escape on an empty trolley but it hooks onto Sun-ho’s bag and causes them both to tumble.
As a result, Sun-ho is late to a high school Judo competition where his best friend YOON SEUNG-BUM (Choi Woo-sung) is competing. Seung-bum’s a carefree guy, flashing abs at his crush Eun-ji instead of preparing for his match.
Sun-ho easily hacks into the tournament’s systems, gaining control of the cameras to focus on Eun-ji as per Seung-bum’s request. Since Seung-bum didn’t make it to the finals, he intends to ask her out with a cheesy declaration displayed on screen: “I love you. Be mine. You’re more precious than a medal.”
Seung-bum had once explained that love is when your heart feels so ticklish that you want to scratch at it. Sun-ho observes Seung-bum’s expression now and wonders what he likes about her. He also doesn’t understand why the athletes are desperate to win, or why others are having fun.
A female competitor argues with her coach nearby, wanting to compete despite her injury. “This moment will never come again; I’m going to do what I want at this moment,” she declares, catching Sun-ho’s attention. She heads out to the gym before he can see her face, so he points all cameras at her. She’s OH KANG-HEE (Krystal), and he pretty much falls in love at first sight.
Sun-ho is mesmerized by her determination and passion while she fights, but neither Kang-hee nor Seung-bum come out victorious in their respective matches. To make matters worse, the cameras are focused on Kang-hee rather than Eun-ji, but Sun-ho’s too busy feeling his heart to realize.
Caught by security, Sun-ho makes a break for it and accidentally activates the declaration of love with Kang-hee in frame as well as confetti bombs. He runs straight into Kang-hee and falls on top of her. She realizes from his laptop screen that he was responsible for the whole fiasco and sends him flying, hee.
Dong-man makes it back to the police station safely and vents to Detective Park Chul-jin about Yellow Suit. He was said to be the VIP casino leader, but turned out to be a regular thug. Dong-man didn’t wait for the rest of the team and operated alone, which seems to happen often.
That night, Sun-ho reads an article written about Kang-hee placing fourth and scrolls through her social media. He then opens up the Yoon Digital shop to fix his landlord’s laptop. Sun-ho doesn’t want Dad…err, Ajusshi, to know that he’s doing this.
His landlord is glad that Sun-ho grew up well despite the hardships he’d faced. Sun-ho reacts ever so slightly to the landlord’s casual comment that it must be time for him to be independent now that he’s 19.
Mr. Yoon Taek-il returns to the shop (an extension of the home he shares with Seung-bum and Sun-ho) and berates the landlord for taking up Sun-ho’s precious study time. Seung-bum pops in to tell his father to rest up after a long day, and the landlord says that it must be nice to have such caring sons.
Sun-ho observes the father and son from behind and recalls meeting Dad a decade ago on the day of his parents’ funeral. With a kind smile, he took Sun-ho home and raised his friend’s son as his own. Back then, Sun-ho and Seung-bum didn’t get along and their fights got physical.
Once, Sun-ho was pushed out of the house and told to go back to where he came from. Poor little Sun-ho sat in the shop with a bloodied nose, crying for his parents, when he’d discovered a laptop and became immersed by it. He stands in the same spot now as Seung-bum energetically motions for him to join them inside.
It’s parent-teacher conference day and Sun-ho’s homeroom teacher (cameo by Kim Kwang-gyu) is frustrated because his father didn’t show up to discuss post secondary options. He lied to Dad the night before that his meeting wasn’t today, even though he’d be at school to discuss with Seung-bum’s teacher anyway.
Sun-ho has no dream career and only plans to apply to universities that offer scholarships or have a dormitory. Aware of his situation, his teacher sighs and suggests that he become a police officer. It’s a stable job, Korea National Police University (KNPU) offers tons of support, and he has the grades for it — he just needs to get stronger.
While mulling over this information, Sun-ho spots Seung-bum and Dad from afar and receives a text from “Bestie” telling him that Dad wants to have jjajangmyun together. Sun-ho lies that he has remedial classes and declines.
While thinking about his teacher’s recommendation, Sun-ho sees Kang-hee’s newest post with the caption, “On my way to prep school.” Noticing something in her photo, he heads to the KNPU prep school.
Sun-ho didn’t really give it much thought at first, but hides behind a van once he gets there to avoid being seen by Kang-hee. He overhears her telling her friend that becoming a police officer is her dream, which surprises him.
The van begins to drive off so Sun-ho awkwardly dances around to avoid being seen, haha. When he comes across the Police University recruitment ads, he imagines that it’s him and Kang-hee in the posters.
Dong-man visits a fancy casino as a VIP member. They play with crypto and each person is given a device to place bets with. The detective slips into the restroom to do some water damage to the betting terminal and plants a tracking device.
He gets in trouble with his team captain once he returns to the station — in the past year, Dong-man lost 100 million won (~$100,000 USD) and even took out personal loans because their budget was too small. This isn’t new for him, because he spent a large sum of money arresting a voice phishing ring two years ago as well.
Cryptocurrency transactions are hard to track — even the cybercrime team struggles chasing them down — which is precisely why Dong-man spent so much money to become a VIP member. He now has access to the on-site casino and they can arrest everyone involved once the betting terminal gets sent to HQ to be fixed.
Sun-ho prints out a KNPU application form, having made up his mind to apply. At 11PM, an alarm rings and he logs into the Black Net as Yoon to talk to his internet friend, Bird. Sun-ho sends over an online account backtracking program that Bird asked for.
What he doesn’t know is that Bird is actually Dong-man disguised as a university student. Chul-jin notifies Dong-man that the betting device is on the move, so he logs off abruptly.
Sun-ho offers to accompany Dad to a late night gig, but Seung-bum appears and insists that he’ll drive. Sun-ho watches as they drive off, leaving him home alone.
Dong-man zips through the streets and has no intention to slow down because “Criminals don’t obey the speed limit when they’re on the run.” With Chul-jin in tow, Dong-man once again dives into a situation without any backup. He needs to catch the criminals and retrieve his money to pay back his maxed loans, or he’ll become homeless soon.
He turns sharply into a residential street following the tracker and comes head-to-head with the Yoon Digital van. Dad reaches over to protect Seung-bum just before the vehicles crash.
Sun-ho wakes up the next morning and has no idea what has happened until after his written exam for the KNPU application. When he finishes and returns Seung-bum’s calls, Sun-ho rushes to the hospital.
Seung-bum grabs a front row seat to watch Dong-man getting an earful from his captain for acting on his own and injuring civilians. The VIP casino is gone now before any arrests could be made. The captain asks why the team must always clean after Dong-man’s messes and warns that he could lose his uniform next time.
Dong-man strips down to his underwear revealing many battle scars, while spitting a bunch of retorts at his captain. He admits to feeling bad about the accident, but claims that being scared of these things will limit what they can do to catch the criminals. On his way out, Dong-man pauses when the captain yells, “Chul-jin got hurt again because of you!”
Chul-jin shares a room with Dad, both sustaining minor injuries. He apologizes on Dong-man’s behalf and explains that he was too embarrassed to face Dad in person. He passes along an envelope but Dad declines the money, claiming equal responsibility for the accident.
Dad proudly tells Chul-jin that he has two sons and right on cue, Sun-ho arrives in a worried frenzy. Dad looks at him with such immense pride, aww!
Sun-ho is horrified to learn that Dad has stage 1 prostate cancer. It would’ve been difficult to catch, if not for this accident. He can undergo surgery but it’d cost 7 million won, so the boys turn to their landlord for help. Although he’s willing to lend the money, his wife says no.
Sitting in the shop alone, Sun-ho imagines Dad telling him to relax — he has a family and a home and doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders by himself. He also tells Sun-ho to stop calling him Ajusshi and to just say “Dad,” which makes Sun-ho cry.
The next day, Seung-bum searches the house for money and suggests stealing from the pawnshop that rips off the elderly. “Is it a crime to steal from bad guys?” he asks. When the news reports on the illegal crypto currency gambling sites, Sun-ho gets an idea.
Dong-man watches the same broadcast and sighs. He needs to get his money back to repay his loan by the end of the month. He considers messaging Yoon, but seems to come up with another plan when he sees his colleague.
The boys sit in front of Sun-ho’s laptop with the gambling site open. Sun-ho’s a bit hesitant about committing a crime but with Seung-bum’s encouragement, decides to go for it. He explains that it’s easy: the bets on these sites are saved as crypto currency, so all he has to do is hack into the crypto accounts of the bad guys who run these gambling sites.
At the exact same time, Dong-man’s colleague hacks into the system as well to leverage Yoon’s account backtracking program and identify the organization’s main bank account.
They both get to work and Sun-ho grows confident because even if they get caught, they can’t report them because gambling is illegal. He decides to steal the exact amount needed for the surgery but warns Seung-bum that there’s a possibility that they could end up serving time. Seung-bum hits enter and 7 million won gets transferred to Sun-ho’s account.
The double-hacking alerts the site operators that something is wrong so they shut everything down and yet another one of Dong-man’s plans has failed. The captain is livid because every single trace of their site and records have been erased, and the year that the team spent on this case has now gone to waste.
The captain alerts Dong-man that he’ll be suspended and sent to another department. Dong-man complains that another hacker interfered with their operation and that following regulations won’t help them catch criminals. The captain is furious — they don’t need someone like him on the team.
Seung-bum hands the cash over to the nurse and asks her to make sure the cancer is completely removed. She notes that Dad is pretty mad, but Seung-bum tells her that the younger son will take care of that. Aw!
Dad is silently furious (the scariest type of anger, eek!) while Sun-ho apologizes. He’d be more comfortable if Dad yelled or gave him a beating like he does to Seung-bum, but is met with silence. He tells Dad to get some rest for his surgery tomorrow.
Once Sun-ho leaves, Chul-jin comes out of their restroom and tries to smooth things over. To their knowledge, the boys saved money from working part-time so he should just allow them to help out. The two BFF/brothers are ecstatic that their plan worked. To add to the high, Sun-ho passes his written test and is invited for a physical test. The physical is tough, but he passes!
On Chul-jin’s first day back to work, Dong-man asks him to investigate the hacker who stole from the gambling site. He’s suspended and can’t do it himself, but he believes that the criminal can be traced to a bank account. He wants to know how they managed to hack the site so easily but is eager to lock them up.
The boys enjoy a meal with Dad, who pours Sun-ho a shot of soju when Seung-bum is in the restroom. He tells Sun-ho that he can’t treat his sons the same when they’re so different. Seung-bum makes his head hurt, while Sun-ho makes his heart hurt.
Dad points out that Sun-ho doesn’t whine or talk about anything he wants to do or have like Seung-bum does. He knows that Sun-ho lied about the meeting with his teacher. Dad spoke to him on the phone and is really happy that Sun-ho has something he wants to achieve now.
Sun-ho dabs at his eyes but the touching moment ends when the detectives show up. With video evidence of them withdrawing stolen money from the ATM, they’re taken to the station to be questioned. Seung-bum points out that it’s Dong-man’s fault that they had to come up with money for Dad’s hospital bill in the first place and asks to be released.
Dong-man reprimands him for stealing even if there were no other methods, which gets Sun-ho to speak up. “Is it so wrong to steal from bad guys? We’re not the ones that you should be after,” he argues. However, he obediently answers as Dong-man takes down their information, and Seung-bum continues to talk back to the detectives.
They’re informed that they can be sent to jail for three years — while their friends are enjoying university life, they’ll be stuck in a cell. Dong-man essentially tells them that their life will be hopeless even when they’re out.
Dad arrives and gets on his knees to beg for forgiveness. He pleads with the detectives to give their bright futures a chance. Sun-ho can’t bare to look at his father, and Dong-man tells him to remember that these are the consequences of his actions and he must always be responsible for his decisions. (Dong-man’s right, but I think he needs that reminder as well!)
Sun-ho gets angry and decides to swing at the detective, but gets tossed onto the ground easily. Seeing this, Seung-bum throws a punch as well, which doesn’t land. …Not the smartest idea. Dong-man tells them that it might feel unfair, but the law doesn’t go easy on poor people for having no other choice.
Dong-man helps Dad up and gently tells him not to protect his sons with his knees from now on. It’s their job to handle these things on their own. He rips up the statement for Dad’s sake and lets them go, but warns them to never appear before him again. Chul-jin is concerned because this means he’ll be transferred off the team without a doubt.
Sun-ho can barely look Dad in the eye and is dejected for the rest of the night. He deletes the notification inviting him to interview at the school and agrees to enlist in the army with Seung-bum instead. However, Dad makes him get in the car the morning of the interview and wordlessly hands him breakfast.
The landlord calls to ask why he’s closed for the day and Dad proudly brags about Sun-ho interviewing for the prestigious KNPU. “My son Sun-ho wants to be a police officer,” he gushes happily. Sun-ho blinks back tears and apologizes for his mistake. Dad tells him that studying hard and becoming a police officer will make up for everything.
As Sun-ho walks to his exam, he thinks about how proud Dad is. He turns back and starts to say “Ajusshi,” but works up the courage to yell, “Dad!! I’ll make sure to get in and become a police officer!” Dad has no doubts about it.
Kang-hee notices Sun-oh when he arrives. The final interviews commence with four evaluators, although one’s face is hidden in the dark. PARK MIN-KYU (Choo Young-woo) goes first and leaves a favorable impression with a score of A.
Sun-ho meets a very nervous NOH BUM-TAE (Lee Dal) who has applied twice already. If he fails this time he won’t be able to apply again, so the pressure’s on. A friendly applicant named CHO JOON-WOOK (Yoo Young-jae) introduces himself as well.
Bum-tae and Joon-wook earn scores of B+, leaving Sun-oh to wait outside alone. Kang-hee approaches him and asks if he followed her here after seeing her at the prep school. He denies it and says that he also dreams to become a police officer.
Kang-hee secretly smiles when Sun-oh gives her a shy “Good luck!” She presents herself really well and tells a story about how French police hired reformed thieves to catch criminals and saw a significant drop in crime rates. She wants to learn with a thief’s mindset on the ground, while maintaining a victim’s mindset in the office, and passes with a perfect A+.
When Sun-ho’s turn arrives, the fourth evaluator turns his lamp on to reveal that it’s Dong-man. Neither of them can believe their eyes and Sun-ho’s horrified because Dong-man warned him not to cross paths with him again.
The detective reiterates that Sun-ho will never get the job he wants and will have to give up on his dreams. “You want to get into the Police University?” he scoffs, “Not a chance. Get out, you’re disqualified!”
This is exactly what I’ve been looking for to end my mini drama slump…I think! It’s kind of cliché and predictable, but I don’t mind it. Show doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet there’s still a lot of heart involved. I had a good laugh watching nosy Seung-bum blatantly listening in on Dong-man being lectured, blurred out in the background. Pfft. My favorite thing about this is hands down Ajusshi/Dad’s relationship with Sun-ho. It feels like he’s letting Sun-ho come out of his shell at his own pace, while supporting and encouraging him to take the next steps. Sun-ho’s quite polite at home and it’s not difficult to see why he might be walking on eggshells.
His fight with Seung-bum as a kid was most likely triggered by jealousy, which I don’t blame the young Seung-bum for. Sun-ho was a complete stranger who suddenly came into their home, and Seung-bum had to share everything with him — even his father. Although they’re close now, Sun-ho still actively pulls back to allow Seung-bum his moments, like letting Dad focus on him on parent-teacher conference day. While watching from the sidelines, it feels like Sun-ho never allowed himself to imagine that he had the luxury of choosing a career path, which is why he had no dream job growing up. Even with university applications, Sun-ho didn’t want to continue burdening his family and strictly asked for schools that give out scholarships and have dormitories. I’m glad that he started opening up towards the end of the episode, and was cheering hard when he finally worked up the courage to loudly call out “Dad.”
Dong-man has…a lot to work on. He has a one track mind and the only thing he does is attempt to capture criminals on his own. Ultimately, this comes from a good place, but the way he goes about doing it is harmful to his goal. Teamwork and trust is very important in the police force, and those are the two biggest areas that he lacks in. Constantly running off to do things on his own, the captain is left completely in the dark and his team has to clean up his messes. He doesn’t really seem to think things through before taking action, which comes with large consequences. Case in point, he’s very lucky that Seung-bum and Dad were largely unharmed, but car accidents can be fatal. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but the way he despises criminals for committing crime seems to stem from a more personal experience which makes me curious about his backstory. Something must’ve happened in his past that made him act this way, right?
His one defense is that criminals won’t leisurely lie in waiting to be arrested but…you just have to be smart about it. With the VIP casino now gone, it seems like Dong-man will have to ask his hacker friend Yoon a.k.a. Sun-ho for help. Perhaps working together will help him see the importance of teamwork, and that diving head first into everything doesn’t solve problems. I’m sure that as a professor at the Police University, he’ll come to learn a thing or two himself from his students. However, I am somewhat concerned that the higher ups decided to put Dong-man in charge of new recruits knowing that he doesn’t follow the rules when investigating cases. Perhaps he’ll be different in the classroom, but shouldn’t the next generation be taught by trusted and competent professors? Ultimately, I enjoyed this premiere episode and am excited to see them training and growing together.