JTBC’s Law School (로스쿨) is an intriguing take on the law and crime genre in Korean drama. An ensemble cast of characters, brought to life by an excellent cast, drive the narrative and offer an inside look at the diverse motivations and principles of people in the justice system. And even more unique is how the justice system and Korean law is a character in and of itself in the series.
Law School is centered around the students and faculty of one of the most prestigious law schools in the country as it gets rocked by the death of one of its professors, Seo Byung Ju (Ahn Nae Sang). The circumstances behind his death, however, draw suspicion on a number of people including former hotshot prosecutor Yang Jong Hoon (Kim Myung Min), now a blunt and brusque professor at the university.
Among his students are Kang Sol (Ryoo Hye Young) who comes from a poor background and pursues law after experiencing her own injustice years before and Han Joon Hwi (Kim Bum), one of the top students who already has a deft handle on the law.
Along with the members of their study group (Lee Soo Kyung, David Lee, Ko Yoon Jung, Hyun Woo, Lee Kang Ji, Kim Min Seok), they work to uncover the truth about Professor Seo’s death while needing to keep up with the rigorous curriculum and having to deal with their own personal issues and fights as well.
Though the series has its central mystery, Law School is its most engaging when it focuses on the characters who are in different stages in their law careers. It is their response and reactions to what can sometimes be a strategic cat and mouse game that provide the most interesting and affecting moments.
Needing to navigate the intricate ins and outs of the law with relation to the central mystery, their everyday classes and their own personal searches for truth and justice separate Law School from other similarly-themed dramas.
Law School is a considerably in depth look at the law, relatively speaking. It is a realistic and detailed look at the Korean justice system. And it offers a compelling template for both the corruption of it and a hopeful overcoming of that corruption.
Law and crime dramas tend to focus on the cases and the central mystery, as well as exploring the mind of the criminal perp. But Law School focuses on exploring the minds of those in the justice system. Whether it’s the hotshot lawyer, the corrupt prosecutors, students studying law and everyone in between.
Usually we see the two extremes with depictions of those in law and order. That is, the irredeemably corrupt or the honorable and noble. Law School introduces us to a diverse group of multi-layered characters. No one is ever totally “good” or totally “bad.” And that in itself is one of the series’ guessing games.
Being able to follow along and try to pick apart characters’ philosophies and motivations drive the series’ narrative. Especially as one of the recurring moments in the series is the hotshot prosecutor-turned-professor imparting his knowledge onto his students in a “use your mind” and “you gotta think” kind of way. Answers are never just handed out. And in turn, the students learn more through the experience than they ever could by just simply reading and memorizing what’s in their textbooks.
Kim Myung Min, Lee Jung Eun (as former judge and fellow professor Kim Eun Suk), Gil Hae Yeon (as Dean Oh Jung Hui), Oh Man Seok (Vice Dean Kang Ju Man) and the always scene-stealing Woo Hyeon (as Sung Dong Il) lead a talented young cast. As a true ensemble drama, the chemistry is strong and the performances compliment the well-written and fully developed characters.
Law School is a pensive and contemplative character drama. Puzzle pieces and surprise twists are as strategically placed as the intricate justice system the characters must navigate and play around with to achieve the justice they seek. The Korean justice system is definitely a dynamic world. And Law School is able to bring that world to vivid life in 16 exciting and engaging episodes. (With room for more as well.)