D.P. review: Jung Hae In exposes dark underbelly of South Korea's military

Jung Hae-in as Private An Jun-ho in D.P.
Jung Hae-in as Private An Jun-ho in D.P.

Director: Han Jun Hee
Writer: Kim Bo Tong
Cast: Jung Hae In, Shin Seung Ho, Go Kyung Pyo, Kim Sung Gyun, Son Seok Koo
Language: Korean with various subtitles

Streaming on Netflix

4 out of 5 stars

All South Korean men are required by their nation's law to serve 21 months of conscripted military service.

Bullying, hazing, abuse of power, laxness and even sexual abuse in the military are all themes that are explored with young director Han Jun Hee, who has adapted D.P. from its original web comic, and is determined to expose the dark underbelly of the South Korean military.

Jung Hae In (Something in the Rain) plays An Jun Ho, a pizza delivery boy who voluntarily signs himself up with the army to escape his abusive father and victimised mother, only to get more than he bargained for in the barracks of the military police.

D.P. grasps and manages to skilfully balance many themes, especially that of the patriarchy, toxic masculinity and the strict, almost regimental hierarchy that governs South Korea's society.

Jun Ho is one of the two new recruits that are constantly bullied in the barracks, being the lowest on the pecking order. Sergeant Hwang Jang Soo (Shin Seung Ho) dominates the rest of the men, forcing them to do menial work and physically abusing them on a whim.

Yet, reprieve and opportunity comes in the form of the regimental Sergeant Park Beom Gu (Kim Sung Kyun), who recognises Jun Ho's ability and nimble mind, and offers him a position in the Deserter Pursuit unit, or D.P., whose sole purpose is to chase and hunt down deserters from the army, and bring them back.

It is a relief to Jun Ho, as being in the D.P. helps him evade the abusive clutches of the men in the barracks, and at the same time he is allowed out of camp, paired alongside a senior soldier.

Through the episodes of hunting down deserters, Jun Ho learns to find himself and fight his own childhood demons through failure and success. He learns how to follow orders from a superior worthy of respect through his first failed mission with Corporal Park Sung Woo (Go Kyung Pyo), and forms bonds with his new and quick-witted partner, Corporal Han Ho Yeol (Koo Gyo Hwan).

Anyone who has served the military in one way or another can attest to hazing and bullying in one form or another, and D.P. makes no bones about the violent inductions that soldiers face from their higher ups, even in the upper ranks.

Sergeant Park Beom Gu finds himself at odds with the new deputy commander of the camp in the form of Captain Im Ji Seob (Son Seok Koo), a ladder-climbing figure who seems only interested in the furthering of his military career over all else.

In various attempts to curry favour with the camp commandant (Hyun Bong Shik), Captain Im decides to interfere with the D.P.'s missions, earning him the ire of the competent Sergeant Park.

For a K-drama, D.P. is executed masterfully and sends a stern message of warning to those in power, but also provides a comforting source of encouragement for the underdogs to stand up to those who abuse their authority and fight to protect the weak and displaced.

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