13 May 2023

K Drama Review: Live (2018) 4.8 || 4.7

We've seen some parts of Live on TV about a year or two ago. I was interested but Oppa was not. But thanks to our recent re-exposure to Jung Yu Mi in Jinny's Kitchen and Go Min Si (Love Alarm, Love Alarm 2, and Jirisan) in Youth of May, he finally agreed to watch this one. We were really struggling to find a good drama after watching and loving Youth of May. We dropped a couple of dramas until we finally landed on this one. And it was really worth the wait. 


Live is a police drama that tells the story of a team from the Hongil Patrol Division. The lead characters are rookies Yeom Sang Soo (Lee Kwang Soo) and Han Jung Oh (Jung Yu Mi), who started out always bickering with each other but ended up falling in love along the way. The division is led by Ki Han Sol (Sung Dong Il) who's assisted by Eun Kyung Mo (Jang Hyun Sung of Money Heist Korea Parts 1 and 2). Sang Soo's mentor is the decorated but hated by many Oh Yang Chon (Bae Seong Woo) who used to be a captain with the Violent Crimes Unit but was now demoted as a Lieutenant in the patrol division. Yang Chon is married to (but on the verge of divorce) Capt. Ahn Jang Mi (Bae Jong Ok of Worlds Within), a detective working in another division. Jung Oh's mentor is the easy-going and often branded as lazy Kang Nam Il (Lee Si Eon of Reply 1997, Reply 1994, and Hotel Del Luna). The other rookie, Song Hye Ri (Lee Joo Young of Samjin Company English Class) is paired up with an old retiring mentor, Lt. Lee Sam Bo (Lee Eol of May 18 and Hot Stove League ). Other members of the team are Jung Oh's short-time boyfriend, Choi Myung Ho (Shin Dong Wook of Now, We are Breaking Up); Kim Han Pyo (Kim Gun Woo of The Glory, Record of Youth and Fight for My Way); Kim Min Seok (Jo Wan Ki of Jirisan and Mr. Sunshine); Go Seung Jae (Baek Seung Do of Our Blues); Ban Jong Min (Lee Soon Won of Mr. Sunshine); and Min Won Woo (Kim Jong Hoon). 

The show takes us through the professional and personal lives of our characters and how they try to rise above the challenges they face as police officers. Live is a police drama that is dramatic enough to keep your entertained but it still manages to be action-packed to make it thrilling to watch. 

Jung Yu Mi as Han Jung Oh

After watching shy Yu Mi in Jinny's Kitchen, it was refreshing (and surprising) to see her play a feisty character. Yes, we've seen her in Train to Busan, Summer Vacation, Youn's Stay, What's Wrong with Secretary Kim, and Reply 1994, but this was her biggest role so far that we've seen. 

I loved how Jung Oh tried to appear cheerful while doing her job and how she excelled in it even if most of the time, her tasks probably triggered some horrible memories from her past, including a sexual assault incident when she was in high school. In a way, I was happy that she was able to help the rape victim sisters while she was on duty because it felt like closure for her. 

My favorite Jung Oh moments would be whenever she stood her ground against abusive superiors and the unreasonable policies they were subjected to. 

Although short-lived, I also loved watching Jung Oh's relationship with Myung Ho. They really looked good together. And I loved their amicable break up. 

I really wish Yu Mi would do more mainstream dramas so we can watch her more. 

Lee Kwang Soo as Yeom Sang Soo

We've seen Kwang Soo in The Killer's Shopping List and his cameo in Descendants of the Sun. But I enjoyed watching him here because his character as the always unfortunate in life Sang Soo had more depth. 

The drama shows us the different sides of Sang Soo - the desperate guy who needed to find a job after he lost his family's life savings in an investment scam, the goofy side he's most known for, and the angry and confrontational guy who is always very defensive whenever his bosses criticize him. 

There were just so many things to love about Sang Soo. My favorite would be his confrontation scenes with his mentor, Yang Chon. The power struggle between the two was so evident. 

And of course, the best thing about Sang Soo was his undying love for Jung Oh. How he never gave up even if he knew she was dating Myung Ho. How he commiserated with Jung Oh when he found out that she was raped in the past - he slept outside her room, ran with her, and comforted her by saying he was sad that he had a hard time telling her how proud he was of her for enduring that difficult thing. 

While I was happy that Jung Oh and Sang Soo ended up together, I admit that I found Sang Soo's confession/kiss quite distasteful. I believe he should have treaded more carefully knowing that Jung Oh was assaulted in the past and she might be sensitive about being physical. But I guess all's well that ends well because Jung Oh kissed him back. 

I enjoyed watching Kwang Soo in this drama even if Oppa said that he'd always think of him as a comedian because he's watched him a lot in Running Man. 

Bae Seong Woo as Oh Yang Chon and Bae Jong Ok as Ahn Jang Mi

It would seem like Kwang Soo and Yu Mi are the main actors in the show. I admit, however, that Oh Yang Chon and Ahn Jang Mi were more impactful characters for me. 

I am now a Bae Seong Woo fan! He was so, so great as Oh Yang Chon. It didn't matter whether he was angry with the rookies, being a jerk around his colleagues, guilt tripping his dad (Lee Soon Jae of Do Do Sol Sol La La Sol), begging Jang Mi to take him back, having light moments with Sang Soo, or showing his soft side by comforting Jung Oh after the taser incident. He pulled off everything so well. His eyes are so expressive that he does not need to do or say anything. You can just look at his eyes and you'll know how he feels. 

I loved the back story about how passionate and intense Yang Chon was as a police officer, which was an effect of a victim dying because they let a suspect get away. 

I hope I'd get to see more of Bae Seong Woo on TV. 

We've seen Bae Jong Ok in Worlds Within. And while we didn't really like her there, we thoroughly enjoyed watching her in this drama. She's really aging gracefully. 

She was perfect as the feisty detective Ahn Jang Mi who has to push back against the discrimination she experienced as a woman in the police force. 

Yang Chon and Jang Mi's story was one of my favorites in the show. It was so realistic and relatable even outside of the police context, with their marriage being a casualty of their careers. 

Yang Chon expected things to be okay because he was providing for his family, without realizing that Jang Mi was working too on top her duties to her family. How Yang Chon easily (but erroneously) assumed that because Jang Mi is strong, she can do things on her own and she does not need him. But as she pointed out, while she did things by herself, it would have still been nice to have Yang Chon beside her. 

Despite Yang Chon's flaws, I was really rooting for them because it was very evident that they still loved each other so much. Like when they had their final divorce discussion at home where despite all the bad feelings she probably had, Jang Mi still comforted Yang Chon and told him he did nothing wrong in his mentor's death. Or something as simple as when she fixed his tie before they filed their divorce papers. And Yang Chon's lamentation about how the police are considerate of criminals by giving them warnings before arresting or shooting them, yet Jang Mi couldn't afford him the same privilege when she told him she wanted a divorce without a warning. Although I highly doubt if a mere warning/ultimatum would have made him change. The onus was still on Yang Chon to be more sensitive to his wife's needs. She didn't need to say everything all the time. 

I loved it when Jang Mi told her admirer, Kyung Mo, that she still had feelings for Yang Chon. And I loved that poignant moment Yang Chon and Jang Mi shared while they were lying down on the carpet, hugging, with her complaining about how she was discouraged by her cases and with him singing to cheer her up. 

I'm glad that despite the difficult things they had to go through, they got back together. 

Other Actors/Characters and their Relationships

This was a very, very good ensemble of actors. Oppa's right, they're all so good you can't pick one who really stands out. Even the actors with smaller roles were stellar. 

I loved how everyone could be very emotional, bordering on violent, when needed but they can act with restraint too. The transitions were amazing like when Han Sol explained why he took in Yang Chon even if everyone hated him or Jong Min confronting Myung Ho for being a rat. 

Among the characters, my favorite pair would have to be Yang Chon and Sang Soo. I super loved their bromance, which started with Yang Chon always berating Sang Soo. How Yang Chon would always make a scene when correcting Sang Soo. But when you strip those corrections of all the drama, you'll see that the mentor actually made sense and he was really reasonable. He cared for his mentee and he didn't want him to get into trouble. I loved how Yang Chon takes command responsibility seriously like when he said there are no dumb mentees, just dumb mentors. I'm glad to see how their relationship evolved and how their bond was made unbreakable by Sang Soo saving Yang Chon's life. 

I also loved Yang Chon's relationship with his dad. It was mostly problematic. They never agreed on anything. But you can clearly see that they cared for each other. Like when dad kept on calling Yang Chon without speaking because he just wanted to hear his voice and make sure he was okay and alive. And dad getting emotional when Yang Chon said his own kids didn't respect him, with dad saying he's never done anything bad as a father to merit that kind of treatment. I loved how they've come to accept and live with each other's shortcomings. 

And Yang Chon's relationship with his daughter Oh Song I (Go Min Si). It's funny how kids often think they are capable of protecting themselves like Song I enumerating the things she's done to defend herself but with Yang Chon having a rebuttal to everything she said. I loved how Yang Chon catching Song I being assaulted by her boyfriend paved the way for the two of them to grow closer and be more caring for each other. 

I also loved how despite clashing all the time, Sam Bo and Hye Ri were actually a perfect fit for each other. His maturity was helpful in tempering her youthful rage. And she was good in teaching him things like using politically correct words. I found Sam Bo's pet name for Hye Ri as My Last Rookie sweet. And how she changed his name to My First Mentor later on. I loved how they treated each other like father and daughter and how Hye Ri grew to trust him like when she told him about how she caused her father's accident. It was bittersweet to see her take him home for the last time after his retirement. 

I also liked Sam Bo's way of comforting the rookies after another police officer was shot and killed. He let them practice shooting and told them to do it at least once a week for their safety. 

And while he was mostly quiet, I loved how Sam Bo let the junior officers in to his life when he asked them to put his eyedrops after he was assaulted by a suspect. 

And how his relationship with Nam Il was mended when the latter finally admitted that he was slacking off because he was exhausted from helping his pregnant wife run their pizza business. Sam Bo was proof that people can be understanding and accommodating as long as you tell them the truth. 

I also loved Jang Mi and Jung Oh's relationship and how they go way back with Jang Mi saving Jung Oh from an illegal abortion. I loved how they've come full circle with Jung Oh comforting Jang Mi when the latter was being investigated for an allegedly botched up operation. 

I loved the rookies' bond too. No matter how hard they argued and competed with each other, I loved how they were always there for each other when needed. They always knew how to comfort whoever was having a difficult time. 

And of course, I loved the Hongil Patrol Division. They all had huge egos. They had a lot of differences. But they protected each other and they celebrated their victories, big and small, together. 


As with all ensemble dramas, it was challenging to remember all of the characters in the beginning because there were too many of them. But with 18 episodes, the show made sure you'll have time to know everyone. 

I loved how the show balanced everything really well - the funny, the serious, and the heavy stuff. And this drama was definitely an expert in leaving us with cliffhanger endings. 

Most of the scenes were done really well. My favorites would be the investigation of the raped sisters case which was done with some sort of reenactment. The police scenes in the handmade gun suspect case were also great with the perfect balance of drama and the police stuff. 

I loved how the show covered various social issues. Oppa complained that the show had too many things to say about too many topics but I'm fine with that. I'm happy when dramas use their platform to raise awareness about socially relevant matters. 

Like unemployment as seen during the pilot episode where both Sang Soo and Jung Oh were struggling to find or keep jobs. 

And gender inequality in hiring and in the workplace. I loved Jung Oh's gritty takes on how she was being treated unfairly as a woman and how she bravely verbalized those before employers and her male friends. And how Jung Oh pushed back when Nam Il was insinuating that she should take the fall for the taser incident because he had a family to support, as if Jung Oh didn't and as if her job was less important. Or something as simple as how Hye Ri corrected Sam Bo about how derogatory the term chick was for women. 

And before you complain that the show was too feminist, I also liked how the drama tried to present both genders fairly. Like when they emphasized that we should avoid gender stereotypes in crimes such as not always assuming that women are the victims in sexual assault cases. 

I also loved how mental health issues were widely covered in the show. That was helpful in making people understand them. That it was wrong to simply label them as not normal, nuts, etc. because they actually have disabilities that prevent them from functioning the way neurotypical people do. 

And I liked how the show tried to present the perspectives of the victims and criminals alike. How some criminals are forced to commit crimes because of the circumstances they're in. Like the guy who slashed Sang Soo's face because he didn't want to be arrested otherwise no one will protect his younger sister. Or how overbearing parents cause their children to rebel and commit crimes like Sam Bo's attacker. And how kids are never to blame because it's always the adults that ruin them and how they're often the collateral damage to their parents' crimes like the kids of the serial rapist who were now being attacked and bullied. Or how lack of education contributes to crimes. I liked the sex education angle where parents were in denial that their kids could commit sexual assault or could be victims and how learning about how to cope with these things could help prevent more serious consequences like unwanted pregnancies and illegal abortions. Or how stringent laws push people to commit crimes like how the difficulty in adopting kids force single mothers to abandon their babies. 

And from the victims' perspective - how their primary concern most of the time is protecting their loved ones and their reputation. Like the battered mom who didn't want to divorce her husband because she had no means to support her kids. Or the sexual assault victim who was worried about her fiance. Or the raped sisters who were to embarrassed to admit that they were raped. 

And in an aging society like South Korea, it was sobering to see the stories of the elderly opting to die by themselves when they feel they've accomplished their mission and there was nothing left for them to do in this world. Like Yang Chon's dad turning off his mom's life support system. Or Yang Chon finally agreeing to let his mom die with dignity. 

Anti-police viewers might not like this show and say it romanticizes the police. But I beg to disagree. I believe the show did a good job in humanizing the police. Helping us see things from their perspective. This might even be a good orientation course for people who want to be part of the police force. 

I liked how the show realistically depicted that for some police officers, joining the force is just an escape route from poverty and unemployment like Sang Soo and Jung Oh. So understandably, their hearts are not really into their jobs. As Jang Mi said, it's just a job for some people who don't feel any sense of duty. And while some develop that sense of duty later on, some don't like Jung Oh when she was thinking of studying overseas. But then again, Yang Chon was right that that sense of duty is not that important because what matters most is that you have a good heart with a willingness to help anyone in need. And you can lose that sense of duty anyway despite having it when you first start like how Yang Chon felt disillusioned when Sang Soo was being investigated for saving his mentor. 

And how police work is not always glamorous. Like how you have to start with the dirty work like cleaning up after drunk people. And how even a small beat like traffic work/DUI checks can blow up when you encounter problematic people. And how no training can ever prepare you for your first homicide case, the way Jung Oh was traumatized with her first one. And that there won't always be big cases. There will be chill traffic days that are actually necessary for the officers' mental health. 

And I liked how the show spewed out police facts like how they had shorter life span at 63 years old and how they had higher suicide rate than other professions. 

I really loved how the show presented the challenges that police officers face on the job. This was probably the most enjoyable part for me. 

Like how the officers' personal views can interfere with the tasks assigned to them. For instance, Jung Oh probably didn't agree with removing the student protesters in the university but she had to do it anyway because officers need to be subservient without asking any questions. 

Or how some have to deal with old age and illnesses like Sam Bo and Han Sol, where they feel insecure that they're not as useful as the young ones. Like how Sam Bo initially refused to report that he was beaten up by kids. 

And of course there's that ever present problem of political interference in police work. Like the congressmen Sang Soo arrested for refusing to undergo the DUI test and who continued to refuse to cooperate with them and even belittled them. 

Or the entitled citizens who think they own the souls of the police just because they're paid with taxpayers' money. Which emboldens them to abuse police officers both verbally and physically. 

And going into something deeper like the need to strike a balance between doing what is right and respecting the rights of the people. I understand that the police sometimes need more leeway to conduct their operations but there is also that risk of abuse when you give them unbridled discretion because unfortunately, there will always be power trippers. Like that temptation to use extrajudicial measures to achieve justice based on facts known to them like that desire to cover up the case of their colleague beating up an abusive politician because they knew he just wanted to get his revenge. Or the desire to get information from telcos right away without warrants during emergency situations, which has to be balanced with the people's privacy rights. Or investigating Sam Bo's case on their own. Or prosecutors refusing to issue warrants, which impedes police investigation. 

And the moral dilemmas they face. And how unfortunately, things are not always black and white. Like having a strong sense of justice to report a colleague who beat up someone versus being accused of being a disloyal rat. Or using a taser on a person versus letting her harm another person. Or lying to Internal Affairs for Jung Oh who is a competent police officer and to save Nam Il from losing his job. Or striking a deal with a suspect for a lighter sentence to convince them to drop charges against a weaker party like the bar assault case where Jung Oh tasered a pregnant woman. Or Jung Oh refusing to apologize to parents about her sex education speech knowing that she was speaking from experience. At the end of the day, it's all about choosing your battles and using your energy wisely on things that can benefit more people. And of course, always being mindful that one wrong move can ruin your career. 

And of course that big problem when the victims refuse help like the sisters who were raped. And the unfortunate solution that the police just need to wait for another victim to come out to help them solve the case. 

And how it's difficult not to be attached to their cases. I liked how the show masterfully used cases that paralleled the life stories of the officers. Like Sam Bo and Han Sol being overly emotional from the suicide of a victim they saved from the past. Or how Sang Soo, who was neglected by his mom when he was young, solved the case of the neglected kid whose mom did nothing but play computer games all day. Or Jung Oh handling the case of the suicidal boy who had a panic disorder like her own mom. Or Jung Oh handling the rape case of the sisters. 

And as with any job, there will always be rotten tomatoes. And how much more difficult it is for them to investigate one of their own like Yang Chon's mentee who was involved in gambling and prostitution. And how demoralizing it must be for them to see these crooks get away with light punishments because of their connections. 

And because police work is highly stressful, it's so important to have a strong support group in your family. Otherwise you might get lost along the way like what almost happened to Yang Chon. Although there's that risk that when you work with too many criminal cases, you tend to be desensitized which can lead you to ignoring the warning signs before you when it involves your family. Like what almost happened to Yang Chon and Jang Mi's daughter. 

And how fate can be tricky. You get sick, you have a chance to move to a less stressful post, yet you get shot and killed before you transfer. (Honestly though, I think the police officer here should have taken a more defensive position when approaching the suspect. He was a veteran and he should not have let his guard down.)

And the biggest challenge probably for the senior officers is their tendency to become jaded as time goes by. How as they grow older, they would opt to save their assess first before risking their lives and their careers. Unlike the zealous rookies who would do everything to protect the victims and their colleagues. And how they differ in approaching urgent situations. Which probably makes for a good argument on why they should be paired up. 

And of course, they have to deal with the unrealistic expectations of the citizens who think they ought to fight without weapons, otherwise they will be accused of using excessive force. Or how they're expected to be devoid of emotions even if the case is something personal to them like Yang Chon finding out his former mentee was involved in corruption. And like Min Seok being investigated for shoving a suspect who was being a nuisance and who's now asking for a huge settlement amount even if he was not really hurt. Or how they're not allowed to snap even if they are so exhausted and overworked. And how they're expected to take the fall even if they're not at fault. Like Jang Mi being forced to resign for allegedly botching the rape case investigation when in fact her superiors refused to listen to her when the cases first started. And that huge difficulty of needing to balance the public's perception of the police with what actually goes on inside. 

At the end of the day, Yang Chon's daughter is right. Is it all worth it? That they sacrifice so much, including their families, yet they still get punished despite doing what is right. You can't really blame their families for asking them to quit like Sang Soo's mom (Yeom Hye Ran of The Glory, Hospital Playlist, Prison Playbook, and Guardian) who was so angry that her son was being investigated despite saving a victim and his colleague. But I loved her realization that her son did something noble and they have nothing to be ashamed of. 

Indeed, police work is a thankless job although it can be very rewarding and fulfilling too. Especially when the people you helped appreciate what you did. I loved Sang Soo's sense of duty album where he keeps photos and reminders of people thanking him for his work. 

I was hooked to this show because the drama was really well done. It was never contrived. And never over the top. Here are some of my favorites. 

The euthanasia of Yang Chon's mom. With Yang Chon shaving dad's face. And dad not wanting to wear a new suit because he wanted to use the suit his wife bought him. And dad asking Yang Chon to wear his police uniform to make mom happy because being a police officer was the best decision he's ever made for his mom. I truly felt Yang Chon's grief. How he appreciated his teammates coming especially Han Sol on his daughter's wedding day. Their hug was so heartbreaking. How hard Yang Chon tried to hide his sorrow probably because it's expected of him as a police officer. Yet he let it all out when they buried his mom's ashes. And Kyung Mo ditching his blind date to sympathize with Yang Chon. And this story line culminating with Yang Chon and Jang Mi's conversation where the latter said she wanted him back but Yang Chon said he needed to be punished more. Then Jang Mi saying he should not go too far because she can't take losing him. Then they said their I love yous. 

Dad was great here too. That scene where he was walking away from the hospital then he looked back one last time. And how he cried himself to sleep with his silent tears. 

Of course, there's Han Sol's illness. How he was leaving ominous signs to his family and colleagues. And then dramatically revealing he had cancer over the radio during an operation. That conversation with Yang Chon where the latter promised to obey Kyung Mo. And that conversation with Kyung Mo where the latter asked him to be selfish this time and not to worry about others. And of course the patrol division's jubilation after his stage 1 diagnosis. 

I also liked the Yang Chon stabbing case. How Sang Soo shot the perpetrator to save Yang Chon. How the rest of the team arrived. How Jang Mi wept and how Han Sol comforted her. Then Sang Soo's mom was asking him to quit but took it back when she realized her son did nothing wrong. How Han Sol and Kyung Mo begged (and blackmailed) the higher ups to go easy on Sang Soo. And that first meeting between Sang Soo and Yang Chon in the hospital. And the hearing where everyone was present including Sam Bo. How the civilian judges helped Sang Soo. And how both Sang Soo and Yang Chon wept as they testified. And the glorious end to it where the cases against Sang Soo were withdrawn. 

Majority of the show was compelling. But there was a tendency to prioritize the drama over the action parts towards the end. You could feel that the show was trying to wrap things up. Yes, the finale was a bit too dramatic for me but I wanted to give them some leeway because it was the end after all. But I felt that the last episode could have been done better. 

That trip to visit Han Sol could have been stretched a bit more. Instead of just featuring everyone standing on a road, it would have been nice to see them help Han Sol in his new post. 

And I found it quite sad that Yang Chon was doing traffic work. Not because I look down on traffic officers but because I felt that was a tougher job for him. Could he not have done officer work instead? But I sort of understand why the show did that. For cinematic purposes, it looked more dramatic to have everyone pass by and salute Yang Chon. 

Over-all, we enjoyed watching the show and it was definitely worth our time. And oh, the music was good too!

Oppa says...4.8.

Noona says...4.7.