POPCORNX REVIEW: D.P. Kdrama



"D.P." is a brand new South Korean drama just started streaming on Netflix (Watch here). Featured above is the Official Trailer. This is the series description on the Netflix page:

"A young private’s assignment to capture army deserters reveals the painful reality endured by each enlistee during his compulsory call of duty."

Starring:Jung Hae-in, Koo Kyo-hwan, Kim Sung-kyun
Creators:Han Jun-hee, Kim Bo-Tong

The WIKI-page is more reflective of the series:

"D.P., which stands for Deserter Pursuit, tells the story of a team of Korean military police with the mission to catch deserters.

The series magnifies the undesirable nature of the military. The bullying, and survival of the fittest are rife, with those presumed the “weakest” thrown to the bottom of the pile and served horrifying experiences at the hands of their superiors.

Private Ahn Joon-ho and Corporal Han Ho-yul both team up to find the deserters, and end up in an adventurous journey."


Here is a nearly 4-minuter featurette showcasing behind-the-scenes and interviews with cast and crew. There actually a few more interview and behind-videos, but they do not occlude English subtitles. I will attempt to add to this pool, but no promises, cheers.



Comprising of 6 episodes - duration between 45 to 56 minutes each - all premiered on Netflix, on August 27, 2021. I was able to sit down and finish the series within two casual days.

Watch it, and digesting it comfortably, however, was not as "easy".

Scroll thru to read my impressions, and watch a behind-the-scenes featurette (previously posted), and select songs from the OST/Soundtrack scattered throughout. Consider MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD.



The series opens directly with a bully incident occurring - in a everyday everyman civilian life situation - and we are treated to a flashback of the main protagonist - played by Jung Hae-in - and we get to see the man that started this series and how his life was "before", the night leading to his conscription that following day, and we get to gradually see the change in him throughout the 6 episodes, through predominantly his POV/point-of-view, which I will not describe more but to suggest you stay until the very end scene of the finale, before the credits roll.



On a personal side, I enjoyed seeing the conscription of males into the South Korean military (which is very seldom if at all depicted in media), and of how it reminded me of my time serving the Singapore Armed Forces in my own home country Singapore. Full disclosure (ok, "partial", but), I had served as a "Military Police" during my active & reservist time in the Army as well, although I was not assigned to the "Detention Barracks"-unit (abbreviated as "D.B."), but knew of it, but had faint zero knowledge of it's actual activities, so am unable to draw any parallels to SG whatsoever.

The images of me wearing the white helmet with white lanyard is but a faded memory of my time when I had a "waist", cheers. And that was where the similarities ended.

Witnessing the bully and senior/junior-culture in the series - otherwise factual-representation or scripted-fiction (I no specific frame of reference otherwise) - was as eye-opening, as it was severely uncomfortable. Not to lie, it fked me up good too. More on that a little bit further down this review-post, cheers.



Visually, the series intuitively felt like a "independent" feature(s), with a edgy-esque soundtrack - which harps a lullaby of loneliness - and a mix of conventional and none too traditional style cinematography, which quite frankly stood out lesser than the tone and intent of the scripted-scenes had portrayed.

Most times I'd felt they were going for a more "naturalist environment"-mode, but tampered with necessary ability to actually SEE the actors emote, which everyone here has a chance to do so - from the primaries, to the numerous guest stars/actors that appear. There are enough talking head moments here to warrant everyone's chance to emote.

DP KDRAMA Episodic Breakdown on POPCORNX


The montaged images seen above for the episodic descriptions (off the series' Netflix landing page) is a good representation of the visuals to expect. The de-saturated palette - whose contrast seems deliberately soften - especially during the day (scenes), while night time is a slightly different story, with stronger contrasts, and a ever slightly more "magical" vibrancy which bellies the subject matter. The "excitement" of the night, versus the harsh colourless reality of army daze...



As a dramatic presentation, the mood is a constant+consistent downer, with sparks of "fun" when Koo Kyo-hwan's "Corporal Han Ho-yul" (loved his portrayal) is educating Jung Hae-in's "Private Ahn Joon-ho" on the investigative aspect of D.P. (which is not specially called as "Deserter Pursuit" at all in the series, in fact, there was even a joke sequence made out of it), but that is few and far in between.



The Netflix-page listed the programme as "Gritty, Dark", and that is not far from the truth.

Make no mistake, this is not a "feel good" series. This series is not necessarily a "family affair", and not necessarily a "date show". There is zero "romance" here. That image of a pretty lady smiling in Episode 3 (titled "That Woman"), is a ruse. Yes, she does appear, and whatever notions of romance is all but stripped away before the credit rolled, both painlessly and painfully. Otherwise, the predominant P.O.V. (Point Of View) is MALE, except for the end sequence, which cuts deeper than one might realize. Again, scroll thru a little bit lower to read my impressions.



Rated "M-18", the series is infused with f-bombs aplenty (even if it's in Korean, the subs don't hide it), and nearly everyone has an attitude or axe to grind. Everyone has a history. Everyone has a "backstory" to who and why they are the way they are - sometimes it is stold comfortably in flashbacks, sometimes it is gently shoved in your face, like you would imagine the "classic" male romantic-lead do, when they have the lady's back pressed up against the wall, and he slams his hand on the wall behind her.

There are a lot of uncomfortable inverse masculinity scenes, where said common perception of "masculinity" is constantly put into question, and the answers are as unnerving, if there are any, not least the words regurgitated here for power-tripping folks. The macho-male dick-size-comparison is constantly in full play, and the game-mode is sometimes unrelenting, purposefully so.



Be it the script, or the deft persuasion by series director Han Jun-hee ("Coin Locker Girl", "Hit-and-Run Squad), from a screenplay by Kim Bo-tong and Han (based on the Lezhin webtoon "D.P Dog's Day" by Kim Bo-tong himself), the result is what I personally feel to be as important a project, as perhaps what "SKY CASTLE" (2018-19) was to have opened the eyes of the government and public to the South Korean education system.



I am torn between: "GUYS SHOULD WATCH THIS" - imagining it would be cathartic, and perhaps even a reassuring "We Know" ... and on the other end of the emotional spectrum, thinking "GUYS SHOULD WATCH THIS WITH THEIR LOVED ONES" - be it girlfriend, wife or family - because one might want them to witness and "understand" what could have/was what they "had gone through and survived", rather than telling them about it ... all that said though, as mentioned before, I cannot determine if these were FACTS or FICTION, as I've not lived thru them myself.



I have been lucky to not have gone thru a heavy stage of bullying, but for that one time in Secondary School (from a classmate too, no less - we became somewhat "buddies" later WTF), which perhaps affected me more than I admit thru my adult-years, but is looked on as a joke now, decades later. And realising that what I had thought was a "joke", might be want other guys might have felt, after their experiences three the years - be it the one being bullied, or the bully himself. The aspect of "Bully" here in D.P. goes both ways, as much as it had become a "tradition" no one chooses to speak aloud of, beyond the confines of the military service tenure.

All that said, I would say D.P. is highly recommended, and on a personal note, is a MUST WATCH, for the self-inflicted emotional heart-punches and silent truths that you may not openly hear from others affected.

Meanwhile, here are what I had posted on socials, with some rephrased and details here in this post:



ABOVE (On @asliceofheng): "3 episodes into “D.P.” (New #kdrama launched on #Netflix), and I am mentally exhausted but intrigued with the none-too subtle running deep set “mental-health” theme dedicated thus far to the predominant male POV, for the military conscripted males of (South) Korea and their families… reminiscent of our (Singaporean) own army days.

This might be a tad sensitive for some folks who’ve gone thru and survived the yesteryears, but as well the series is also beyond with comedy and investigative elements, and you learn as the character learns too, IMHO."



These was what I had tweeted, immediately after watching the finale:



Fact or Fiction, this adaptation from a webcomic to live action 6-episoder series on Netflix felt as important as #SkyCastle was (in the criticism of the eduction system), with this a dedicated critique of the systemic bullying in the army.

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This sole interaction and conversation between main protagonist played by #JungHaeIn and a sister of a deserter (Played by Lee Seol - Whom only appeared in two episodes very briefly), could well be a start of a "simple conversation" anyone else might have had anytime anywhere, but might be so much deeper for some who "survived".

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Be it ego, shame or otherwise personal choice, men might chose not to share with their loved ones. It is not something to be "proud" of surviving, but is instead ignored, until the shit hits the fan, or as the final post-credits sequence might question/propose.

This series needs to be taken seriously, even if it is uncomfortable and disrupting to some/many.



From this point onwards I will (attempt) to post promotional videos from the cast of "D.P." in promotion of their series! I will only post these WITH English subtitles, as I come across them, cheers :)










UPDATED: Is Netflix drama 'D.P.' the reality of Korean military? "KOREA NOW" finds out in a street interview.

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