2022 has seen two high-profile legal thriller K-dramas released one after another — Again My Life on SBS and Doctor Lawyer on MBC.
Today, we break down the following — what makes both these legal thrillers so similar? Do these similarities make both K-dramas popular and addictive? Read on and hang onto your chair.
Success with any K-drama starts with the casting of the protagonist. Here, both K-dramas made the right move with their respective casting.
Both male leads — Lee Joon-gi and So Ji-sub — are almost "ageless" in their looks despite many years in the industry. They are dashing hunks by any South Korean standard and have very strong fan bases,
Both protagonists are legal professionals. Kim Hee-woo (Lee Joon-gi's character) is a prosecutor, while Han Yi-han (So Ji-sub) is a heart surgeon and lawyer specializing in medical lawsuits.
Every legal hero needs to feed off a strong and influential villain or antagonist to reflect the hero's growth and development at each stage of the story.
Here, both Again My Life and Doctor Lawyer cast Lee Kyung-young as the ultimate mastermind-villain. Is it coincidental or by design?
Certainly, Lee is a seasoned veteran when it comes to acting and especially, mastermind-villain acting. His expressions exude a certain scheming calmness that convinces the audience that this is a true mastermind capable of devising several moves ahead of the good guys.
Without a doubt, Lee Kyung-young anchors both mastermind-villain actor roles successfully, constantly keeping viewers on edge for what may befall the protagonist soon.
Like Lee Kyung-young, both K-dramas have also picked Kim Hyung-mook for the role of a corrupt colleague and a plot "wildcard".
In Again My Life, Hyung-mook plays the character of prosecutor Jang Il Hyun who is Kim Hee Woo (protagonist)'s senior colleague and one of the prosecutors under Cho Tae-sub (Lee Kyung-young)'s influence.
In Doctor Lawyer, Hyung-mook plays the character of doctor Park Ki-tae who is Han Yi-han (protagonist)'s doctor colleague and one of the many doctors under Gu Jin-gi (Lee Kyung-young)'s orbit.
Kinda similar? Still, let's look further..
Coincidentally, both corrupt-colleague characters played by Kim Hyung-mook are arrested and sent off to prison, where the protagonist will attempt to convert him as a wildcard witness.
Hyung-mook's wide-ranging acting repertoire certainly fits the role of a corrupt colleague-turned-wildcard to a tee. In fact, you might even find his character likeable as he may help the protagonist, knowingly or unknowingly, in unexpected ways.
Now, let's turn our attention to the "good-side" characters. Our legal protagonist needs to have friends and reliable friends he will have.
In Again My Life, Kim Hee-woo has prosecutor Kim Gyu-ri (Hong Bi-ra) as his female prosecutor friend. Kim Gyu-ri's character is more righteous and feisty, a more supportive role playing off a compatible contrast with the calmer and strategic Kim Hee-woo.
In Doctor Lawyer, Han Yi-han has prosecutor Geum Seok-young (Im Soo-hyang) as his female prosecutor friend/ex-fiancee. So, the direction's a little different here — the character of Seok-young is a main character on the path to uncover the truth to her brother's death and is more willing to overlook prosecutorial righteousness to work with Han Yi-han along grey boundaries.
In Again My Life and Doctor Lawyer, the female prosecutor cast are both fair and petite (then again, so are most female lead actresses). All in all, I feel the female prosecutor roles in both dramas are tailored well to give the needed support to advance the protagonist's cause along the plot.
Investigative reporters are important allies to lawyers and prosecutors alike.
In both K-dramas, the ally reporter role comes in the form of a female reporter character, respectively by Kim Jae-kyung (as reporter Kim Han-mi in Again My Life) and Jung Min-ah (as investigator/ex-reporter Jo Da-ram).
There are some similarities in their appearances, as both cast have similar face shapes and sport similar hair styles in their respective portrayals.
Finally, with the key ingredients of a charming protagonist, a convincing villain, a corrupt colleague and female prosecutor and reporter allies, we finally look at the plots.
In both plots, the protagonists were trounced early to their lowest point in Episode 1 — Kim Hee-woo was hurled down a building to his death while Han Yi-han was framed and jailed for medical malpractice and bribery and disqualified from medical practice forever.
Both protagonists go through a multi-year stage where they re-build their power. In Again My Life, Kim Hee-woo was revived as a high school student and then over eight overs, learnt how to build financial power and gain key allies from those he helped.
In Doctor Lawyer, Han Yi-hyan studied law in prison, graduated from the bar, gained key allies from those he helped and finally regained his doctor licence to beomce a "Doctor Lawyer".
In other words, in both plots, Lee Kyung-young's villain almost destroyed the protagonist only to have him rise from the ashes with a secret, ingenious and elaborate plan that will be executed over the next 15 episodes or so to defeat the villain.
Most certainly, like anyone who likes a rise-from-ashes story of good prevailing over evil, I enjoyed watching and comparing both legal thrillers.
The major characters for both K-dramas are well-designed and well-acted, with a strong supporting cast from veteran actors such as Kim Hyung-mook (both), Choi Kwang-il (Again My Life) and Choi Deok Moon (Doctor Lawyer).
So, I will say, if you like legal thrillers and of course, Lee Joon-gi and So Ji-sub, both Again My Life and Doctor Lawyer are must-watch K-dramas in 2022!