Exploring the social injustices of the downtrodden and destitute of Korean society, Miss Hammurabi was an emotional roller-coaster throughout the period it aired. Coming to an end last night, the story was at once heartwarming, motivating and also greatly nostalgic, leaving me wanting much more than was offered in terms of emotional satisfaction. However, everything that we did get as an audience, made me so very happy and I seriously have not watched many dramas that would leave the dormant social hero in me satisfied.
Revolving around the life of a freshly appointed judge, Park Cha Ohreum (played by Go Arah), it knits an entire work place story showing the highs and lows of lives at courts. Ohreum is a spunky and slightly overconfident young woman, However, she only speaks logic at her job and even at home. Having lost her physically abusive father to a suicide, and with her mother permanently living at a hospital due to receiving severe trauma, Ohreum’s private life is nothing to be proud of. However, the injustice she not only experienced within her family, but also faced sexual abuse at the hands of many influential men for being a star pianist, resulted in her changing her career forever. Seeking justice for all those who are falsely accused, and also for those who remain voiceless in a patriarchal society, Ohreum continues to bring out new aspects of cases, by highlighting things many around her tend to show a blind eye to. Having had oppressed female figures all around her, she is bent on forcing society to see reality from the eyes of a woman. From pointing out how clothes are no excuse for sexual abuse to questioning the legality of chaebols getting away with crimes on the basis of possessing more money, Ohreum does it all.
Part of Ohreum’s team of judges is Im Bareun (played by Kim Myungsoo/ L from Infinite). He shares an office with her and also happens to be a senior from her high school who has nursed a crush on her for far too long. Once these two meet all over again in the office, Bareun’s flame is reignited. While trying to teach her how things work unemotionally in the courts, he somehow ends up joining Ohreum’s banner instead, which is all about empathy, rather than cold facts. So much so, that he begins to do all that is in his power to make sure that Ohreum’s voice is heard till the farthest corners of the courts. Despite the crush, we do not get much of a romance since the show is geared towards solving much more hard hitting problems of the public. There is immense character growth in Bareun who literally evolves from a reserved young judge turning into a self-sacrificing one. The biggest positive that lies in him is his undying support for the girl he knew and immense pride for the woman she keeps turning into throughout the show. Breaking the patriarchal stereotypes by showing such a compromising young man speaks volumes about the kind of peace that can be brought about in society if more men were like him.
This duo is led by Han Sesang (played by Sung Dongil), who is the chief judge of this team. First of all, I have developed deep respect for Sung Dongil because he always manages to bring out the exact warmth expected of any father or father figure. He somehow always ends up making me cry with how beautifully he acts out most of his roles with a certain gentleness and candour. Having played Go Arah’s father in Reply 1994, this was basically a reunion of sorts for the two actors. However, while the chief judge maintained that gentleness of a father figure, he also managed to bring out the anger and frustration many bosses probably experience when dealing with new staff. Despite agreeing with Ohreum on many fronts ethically, he also makes sure to be the voice of rationality, and therefore continues to scold her and teach her about the logical methods to work. He does try to inhibit her motherly instincts many a times but at the same time, never have I seen a boss who would be more proud of those working under them than the chief judge is for his rookie. The bond that develops is pure beauty, and it really warms my heart.
Jung Bowang (played by Ryu Deokhwan) is a judge at the office next door. A classmate of Bareun, he happens to be his complete opposite personality wise. He is as boisterous as Ohreum, and the both of them like to have fun once in a while, helping Bareun loosen up as well. Despite his hyper personality and his nose in everyone’s matter, he is actually always fearful and scared of taking risks. He prefers to do things by the book so as to cause the least amount of discomfort for himself. It is again Ohreum that encourages him to take risks by rallying his support for all of her crazy ideas. Nursing a huge crush on the stenographer that works for Ohreum’s office, Bowang is shy and it takes him great guts to pursue her. However, the hesitation lies greatly in how the court would take such a relationship. He is faced with great criticism for pursuing an officer of much lower rank than him. The way he protects his crush and stands up for her in front of the court is again great evidence of a man who can stand up to the artificial standards set up by patriarchy.
The stenographer, Lee Doyeon (played by Lee Elijah) is the last of the characters I want to shed light on. This role of hers is a thousand times better than watching her in Fight for My Way last year. Her soft-spoken demeanour and the suavity in her every body movement is a killer. Her calm sexuality is fully in control and strangely empowering without really being loud or obnoxious. The way traditionalism and modernity of women somehow amalgamates into this one character blows me away time and again. It is no wonder that Bowang was head over heels in love with every word that escapes her lips. She doesn’t just captivate him really, I feel equally captivated watching her every single action. Her entire life story is humbling and very motivating for many young women who don’t have it easy in life and yet possess the urge to be successful young career women. Her sisterly affection for Ohreum isalso heartening to watch because it really showed that even if a single person rallies themselves to support you, you really can change the world forever.
Miss Hammurabi is a must-watch. It’s one of the most flawless legal dramas I have ever seen come out of Korea. I frankly enjoyed this a thousand times better than Suits. They did not throw too much legal jargon at us, but rather replaced it with the human aspects of courts and their cases. By providing such a close up of the lives of judges and the internal politics, a lot was explored for the sake of educating the audience. I believe social justice can be achieved no matter how difficult a case may be or how bigoted courts may be. We just need more people who are willing to establish new codes to challenge the old ones. This is why, the scenes showing Ohreum carrying To Kill A Mockingbird had a great impact on me. In fact one of the very last dialogues pertaining to entering the shoes of a victim was literally words spoken by Atticus Finch in the American novel. It is possible to alter the way the falsely accused are dealt with and it is also possible to come up with fresh solutions to issues. No law is set in stone, and everybody is innocent until proven guilty.