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I just finished watching SBS’s 2012 drama Ghost, starring So Ji Sub and Uhm Ki Joon as the protagonist and antagonist, respectively. The drama aired in May to August of 2012 and was about a cyber crime unit intent on capturing an individual who had successfully murdered multiple people throughout the course of the show. In the drama it was stated that this individual was a “ghost”, meaning hard to capture. The audience knew pretty early on that Uhm Ki Joon was playing the villain of the piece, Jo Hyun Min. Therefore, the audience doesn’t really worry about who the big bad is, it’s all about how our heroes can catch the villain, his minions, and successfully put them in jail.
The drama introduces us to the Cyber crime team, in charge of all things cyber crime. So Ji Sub plays Kim Woo Hyun, the head of the team. Lee Yeon Hee plays Yoo Kang Mi, a newbie on the team who hasn’t yet learned the practicalities of being an officer. G.O plays Lee Tae Gyun, another young newbie on the team, who’s specialty is computers. Kwon Hae Hyo played Han Young Suk, a veteran officer, who has been transferred into cyber crime and struggles to become comfortable with computers. Kwak Do Won plays Kwon Hyuk Joo, their police officer counterpart and an officer characterized as a “mad bull”. Im Ji Kyu plays Byun Sang Woo is another police officer. Bae Min Hee (playing Lee Hye Ram) and Baek Seung Hyun (playing Kang Eung Jin) round out the cyber crime team. Finally Choi Jung Woo plays Shin Kyung Soo, the Director of police, and Jang Hyun Sung plays Jun Jae Wook, the individual in charge of the Cyber Crime Team.
The drama begins with an overarching mystery. Shin Hyo Jung, a young actress, is pushed from a building and killed. Kim Woo Hyun investigates the matter, and the general belief is that she committed suicide. A computer hacker named Hades releases a video that shows Shin Hyo Jung being murdered; she was pushed out of an 11th story window. That video is manipulated to show Hades as the murderer. In the course of his career, Woo Hyun has come into contact with Hades. On Hades’ trail, Kim Woo Hyun encounters an old friend, Park Ki Young. Park Ki Young is able to escape at their first meeting. Park attended the police academy with Woo Hyun, but dropped out due to undisclosed reasons. Park Ki Young then became a reporter for an online newspaper, True Story, and a hacker instead. He has spent the past few years hacking into government databases. With the police now searching for Park Ki Young, believing him to be the murderer, Park reaches out to Kim Woo Hyun, his old friend. By now, Woo Hyun has learned the identity of Shin Hyo Jung’s murderer, but we don’t get to see the individual.
In a surprising twist, Woo Hyun threatens to kill Park Ki Young, going as far as to pull a gun out, but then tells Ki Young to run and hide somewhere. When Ki Young questions Woo Hyun’s behavior, Woo Hyun says there is nothing he can do because there are others in the police agency who are corrupt, as well. While the two are talking, there is an explosion and one of them dies.
Due to confusion at the scene, Ki Young is believed to be Woo Hyun, and his face is rebuilt to look like Woo Hyun’s. Woo Hyun’s colleague, Yoo Kang Mi, discovers that Woo Hyun is dead and it is Park Ki Young in the hospital bed. She saves him from a killer, and then colludes with him to fool the world into believing that he is Kim Woo Hyun. She does this so she can discover the truth about Woo Hyun. One year later, “Kim Woo Hyun” comes back to work and is demoted for breaking protocol and going to see Park Ki Young without backup. He now has to work under Kwon Hyuk Joo, an officer who dislikes Woo Hyun and mistrusts him. (I will refer to So Ji Sub’s character as Kim Woo Hyun because that’s how all the characters address him.)
Since Woo Hyun knows that he didn’t kill Shin Hyo Jung, he swears to find the real killer. While searching for the killer, he becomes allies with Kwon Hyuk Joo, who is out for blood because one of his officers was killed. He reveals the truth of Woo Hyun’s death, and the two discover that Jo Hyun Min, the chairman of Se Kang, was the killer behind all of this. The two, and the rest of the core team members, ferret out the spies Hyun Min has placed in the Police agency (Kang Eung Jin and the Director, Shin Kyung Soo), discover the hacking that has been done through the Safetech Antivirus Program, and the reason why Jo Hyun Min started all of this.
Jo Hyun Min is a powerful and mysterious man. We find out pretty early on that he is Shin Hyo Jung’s killer. While watching the drama, we get to see the reason for why he is doing all this. Thirteen years ago Jo Hyun Min was a young, powerless individual. He had to witness his father get railroaded by his paternal uncle into taking the fall for the Se Kang slush fund. The uncle bought the witnesses, the police, the prosecutor and the judges. Jo Hyun Min’s father was convicted, but was let out of jail because he was ill. The cherry on top of the cake was the paternal uncle then sends a poisoned alcohol bottle to his older brother. The message being clear: take your life and stop being a burden to your son. While Jo Hyun Min makes plans for the day that his father will be better, and they can then go on vacation, his father drinks the poisoned alcohol behind his back and dies.
Jo Hyun Min spends the next 13 years gaining power. He uses a hacking program, under the guise of it being an antivirus, to find dirt on every person in a crucial position to assist him. He then ruthlessly uses the power to get his revenge. He has no compunction in blackmailing those individuals he has information on to do what he wants. Jo Hyun Min first kills Nam Sang Won, a contemporary of his father who had also betrayed him 13 years ago, to frame his paternal cousin, Jo Jae Min, for the murder. Shin Hyo Jung witnesses the murder, so he kills her because she counsels him to turn himself in and then betrays him by deciding to send the video she made of the murder to news outlets. He then has Yeom Jae Hee, one of his assassin minions, killed when the man is caught by the police. The police officer Han Young Suk is killed when he finds a crucial piece of evidence that shows that the Safetech antivirus program is actually a hacking program. Ultimately, Director Jun Jae Wook is killed when he discovers that director Shin Kyung Soo knew about all of this. Before Director Jun can do anything, he is fatally stabbed and left to die in an elevator. During all of this, Hyun Min also sends a poisoned bottle of alcohol to his uncle. The message the same as it was when his own father received the bottle. In order to save his son, the uncle must die. The uncle drinks the alcohol and commits suicide. In the end, Hyun Min is done in by the consequences of his own revenge.
Throughout the drama, we saw a cat and mouse game between Woo Hyun and Hyun Min. The original Woo Hyun, we learn, was trying to find evidence to implicate Hyun Min, but was caught in Hyun Min’s web at the same time. Hyun Min deliberately pulled Woo Hyun into investigating the 13-year-old slush fund case because Woo Hyun was the son of the director of police at the time. The director, Woo Hyun’s father, lied and said that he had found solid evidence proving that Hyun Min’s dad was the culprit. We find out that Hyun Min also intended to kill Woo Hyun, but wanted to play with him a little bit first. Additionally, this coverup was also the reason that Ki Young left the police academy years ago. Ki Young found out the truth and was disillusioned not only by the police but all the news outlets that refused to print the truth. The original Woo Hyun was pulled further in when Hyun Min committed Nam Sang Won’s murder in front of him.
When Ki Young, under the guise of Woo Hyun, comes on the scene and starts working with the cyber crime team, his focus is on capturing the killer that framed him for Hyo Jung’s murder. That killer just turns out to be really, really smart. Whenever the team finds some crucial piece of evidence, Hyun Min’s spies step in and steal it away. The team discovers one spy, and another crops up. They go look for the team of hackers that are working for Hyun Min, and those guys disappear time after time. When they find evidence that the top Director is also corrupt and hand it over to the only man that can help them, Director Jun, Jun is also killed. When Hyun Min gets tired of Woo Hyun’s constant efforts to get him, he tries to set his personal prosecutor on Woo Hyun. That attempt fails and the prosecutor is disposed of. Hyun Min then releases a video showing that Woo Hyun was at the scene of Nam Sang Won’s murder, though he is careful to conceal his own presence there. When Woo Hyun then comes out as a witness for that murder, accusing Hyun Min of being the actual murderer, Hyun Min calls into question whether that man is really Woo Hyun. When Woo Hyun’s team produces a video of the Nam Sang Won murder that unquestionably proves that Hyun Min was there when the murder occurred, Hyun Min is able to use his power to be acquitted of those charges due to insufficient evidence. In the end, Hyun Min is let go and he taunts Woo Hyun by saying that no one can imprison Hyun Min unless it is Hyun Min himself.
Finally, frustrated that they can go no further in catching the killer legally, Woo Hyun steps away from the police persona he has donned and acts as Ki Young once more. He releases the list of politicians/assorted other IMPORTANT individuals and their misdeeds on the internet. He has a friend write the truth about Hyun Min’s actions. And he sits back and watches Hyun Min’s power slip away.
In the end, the two sit down to have a conversation about what will happen next. Hyun Min is sure that this will all end within a few weeks or months. People will forget the scandal. He will get his power back. And he will never be punished. Just like those individuals from 13 years ago. Woo Hyun pulls out his final card at this point. The cyber crime team was able to find Hyo Jung’s cell phone, which had been at Hyo Jung’s grave since her death. If Hyun Min had gone even once to visit her grave, he would have seen the cell. He would have been able to discover the video that showed Hyun Min at the site of the murder. He reveals that Hyo Jung never intended to out him, the proof being that she had carefully cropped Hyun Min’s face. He then tells Hyun Min that his girlfriend was pregnant when Hyun Min coldly murdered her. This is the first crack in Hyun Min’s shell. He insists that Hyo Jung told him that she wasn’t. Woo Hyun hands over Hyo Jung’s cell and leaves. We see the pictures of a sonogram on Hyo Jung’s cell. And, as Woo Hyun walks away from the building, Hyun Min’s body lands behind him, the man having jumped from the 11th floor.
The End . . .
The drama was interesting at some points, but there were also convenient plot holes that made me question how intelligent or dumb did the writers think the audience was.
There were small beats of human interaction and characterization that captured my attention and made me feel for the drama and its characters, for example when they showed Han Young Suk’s final moments. When this veteran officer painstakingly copied over a computer hard drive, striving to protect the evidence above all, only to be killed minutes or hours later, it affected me. His frustration, and his need to kowtow to a younger generation so that he can do his duty, made me feel for him. It made me relate this character to all those people out there struggling to find a new place for themselves in this economic downturn. When Director Jun turns out to be good guy, only to be killed within a short span of time, it was disturbing, as well. We had been lead to suspect this character throughout the drama, but the moment we know he is good, he’s gone. Leaving me feeling guilty, and with the character having no chance to actually do good onscreen. I felt that was unfair. When team leader Hyuk Joo quietly goes into Director Jun’s empty, dark office and just sits there staring at the Director’s desk after his murder, I got a lump in my throat.
But I can’t count the number of times this cyber crime team lost evidence. We had the woes of the multiple missing or manipulated or wiped USBs. One time the team finds the USB that one of their fellow officers dies for. They get a phone call that the actual villain is in the building. What do they do? All three of them leave the office and leave the USB behind! The newbie cop tries to take the blame, but really, anyone with an ounce of common sense would have protected that USB their lives. That scene was totally a plot hole. The characters knew there was a spy on site and yet still acted this stupidly.
Additionally, I did not like the end message that the drama gave. That those in power will remain untouchable. Those who follow the rules will always lose. Woo Hyun could do nothing to Hyun Min through legal means. It was only when he stepped outside of those restrictions was he able to push Hyun Min off of his pedestal.
The acting was okay, but no one really stood out. Each of the actors performed to the level required for their characters, but their characters were so bland that I couldn’t get really excited about them. Team leader Hyuk Joo had his moments, but not too often. I did like his little relationship with the reporter and wish there had been a little more of that in the drama. I also felt the show miscasted the actress playing Hyo Jung. This woman was the mystery the drama started out with. Flashbacks were shown through out the drama, and she stayed with us until the last episode. The writer spent no time in getting us to sympathize with the character. Therefore, they should have casted someone who one would automatically sympathize with. I didn’t get that urge to care for or feel for this actress, which kind of took away from showing us how horrible this man was.
I like Uhm Ki Joon as an actor, but he didn’t really impress in this drama either. All throughout the drama, I could intellectually understand why Hyun Min was doing this. I didn’t think it was right that he was hurting innocents along the way, but could understand it because I could see that this was a man who had pretty much gone insane due to what had been done to his father. Before that, he had kept up a cold facade, which didn’t really allow for exciting acting. He was cold in all of his calculated actions. He really had no reason to be emotional, because the only person he had ever loved was killed 13 years ago. There was no question that he ever loved Hyo Jung. I think she was more of a mistress for him, but the poor girl did love the man. At the final confrontation with Woo Hyun, I finally understood him. But, when he learns that Hyo Jung was pregnant and realizes that he killed his own child and jumps, I got that. That is when I saw the man who had spent 13 years getting revenge for his father, break under that revelation. This man CARED about his family and would even ruthlessly punish himself when he hurt his own.
Ghost wasn’t anything special. It also made me question the intelligence of the officers that were investigating this case periodically as I watched the drama. But it is worth one watch. I give it a 5 out of 10.