South Korea’s military is notorious for a culture of sometimes deadly hazing and bullying that remains pervasive despite attempts to address it. Every episode of D.P. Dog is like a dagger to the heart; the issues it raises are dark but have depth, especially related to the abnormal practices the military service allows to continue. It's hard to take, let alone accept these practices actually translate into real life.
Only when I read an article by director Han Jun Hee, who adapted Kim Bo Tong's webcomic with the same title, D.P. Dog Day, did I realize there was truth to the fiction. In the article, the director went on to say he'd been thinking of bringing this story to life for the past six or seven years. The reason he did the way he did was that he wanted to follow young men in their early 20s and depict what they go through while at the same time offering a drama that could resonate with audiences by laying out current underlying issues facing South Korean society.
The moment I saw Cho Suk-bong back in uniform, I knew there would be more heartache to contend with; a deserter coming back to service, I could only imagine the atrocities they subjected on him. The forced perverted sexual acts were the hardest to contend with, not that the taunting and ostracizing were any better. Watching it unfold was crushing, the aimless hazing and bullying, the humiliation. No wonder Cho saw no other avenue but to run away as far as he could. Seeking revenge was an attempt at some measure of justice, particularly since his senior officials knew about his plight and did nothing. It's proof that the military wanted nothing more than for the bullying to remain in the shadows unaddressed, and maybe if they concentrated hard enough, they could puff it all away.
I understood why Joon Ho, Ho Yul, and Park Bum Goo felt betrayed by Cho Suk-bong after they'd done for him, but I doubt anyone could fully understand Cho Suk-bong's pain or the injustice committed against him until they are the ones experience it too. Yes, what Cho Suk-bong did was wrong, but everybody else wronged him too, and what's worse, they didn't think much of it. But even that's understandable in a way since they were all doing what many before them and alongside them expected if not demanded they do. What hurt the most was seeing how things quickly spiraled out of control for Cho Suk-bong, the build-up and frustration but worse the detrimental psychological effect. Still, I found it hard to fault Cho Suk-bong for finally combusting. I mean, a person can only take but so much. As it's been said repeatedly, silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.
That Cho's case is one straight from the headlines of a case of a sergeant in 2014 who went on a deadly shooting spree, reportedly as revenge for repeated bullying, makes it even that much more regrettable, especially since it was within the hands of the military to address issues or at least stop them but failed to do so to the detriment of many lives. Joon Ho wailing at the end at the loss of a life whose only crime was trying to live his life to the best of his abilities with the threat of legalized abuse was sorrowing and harrowing at the same time.
I admire, praise, and commend the whole production team, especially the cast; they all did astounding work. I've gained so much appreciation for their exceptional acting abilities. It must not have been easy to play the roles they did. The same goes for the scriptwriter for scripting such a compelling story and the director for bringing to life this raw gut-wrenching yet at the same time eye-opening drama. I hope it catalyzes the change both the civilian and military society in South Korea and other countries across this globe so desperately need. This drama will remain with me for a long time to come, highly recommended. Watch episodes 5 & 6 here.