D.P. 2 highlights a myriad of social issues in South Korea relating to mandatory military service. Namely bullying, mental health-related issues, societal expectations, victim blaming, internal corruption in both the military and government, a lack of accountability, and a constant disregard for justice. With dramas such as D.P. and the complex issues it brings to light, it can be hard to see the bright side, especially for those who have had similar experiences and those who have been through their mandatory military service. The bright side I discovered in D.P. is pure human connection and friendship —a willingness to lay one’s life down for another.
Ahn Jun Ho & Han Ho Yeol
If the term "two peas in a pod" was manifested in dramaland it would be these two. I love a good bromance. I loved Sherlock and Watson, so Jun Ho and Ho Yeol and how they’re portrayed stole my heart. You can really see the affection they have for each other. In fact, the beginning of both seasons appear somewhat dark until Han Ho Yeol makes an appearance. This seemingly indicates that having a good, genuine friend around, really can brighten up your circumstances and that one can be strong, but two together are always better. Ho Yeol didn’t even need to be present for most of the season because he was discharged but he loved what he did so much and it's evident that he thought of Jun Ho as a brother and someone he deeply cared for. The rhetoric between the two and the dynamic of the group (Jun Ho, Ho Yeol, Ji Sup, and Beom Gu) builds confidence in the audience. This story is more than just social issues - it's about camaraderie, empathy, a genuine understanding of someone else's hardships, and a journey to work through those hardships together.
Humanity, sacrifice, and symbolism
Can people resonate with and feel other people's pain when they are also in an extreme situation?
Im Ji Sup and his wife Seo Eun make somewhat drastic changes in their perceptions of the situations relating to the deserters. Im Ji Sup generally had a sense of doing the right thing from season one but his attitude and respect for the D.P. team changed significantly nearing the end of the season. He had visibly switched sides and realized the detriment at hand. The same happens with Seo Eun, she begins season two with a determined mindset towards following her superiors and covering up for the military and government, however, she pivots quickly when making the decision to shoot Kim Ru Ri. This is made to appear as a weakness but it really was a portrayal of strength and her going against what she knows, to do what is right, by regarding the situation as herself and as a mother. She loses her job for this and is belittled for her "weakness" but uses her strength to fight for justice by opposing the government and military.
Why do people’s hearts change? What makes them change?
A Lack of Accountability: K-Dramas Portrayal of Korean Society & The Need For a Scapegoat
I respect that when it comes to bullying and retaliation against it - violence against violence isn't the best way, but why are those who are bullied empathized with so little?
This theme presents itself a lot in Korean dramas/movies, where people who hurt others don’t seem to take responsibility for what they’ve done, they exhibit a severe lack of empathy and think that they can blame others when things go wrong in their own lives. This was portrayed in D.P. 2 in the scene with Kim Ru Ri’s mother and the other parents of the children who got shot. In this scene, Ru Ri's mother is condemned and blamed for Ru Ri's actions. This is where their need for a scapegoat comes in. I understand that grief can be a factor in placing blame, but Ru Ri was essentially fighting violence with violence, he believed that if he didn't attack first the bullying would have eventually killed him. Losing a child is a difficult circumstance to be in, however, was it fair to Ruri’s mother? No, I don’t think she deserved to be bullied for this just like her son.
Mental Health: Generally Mentally ill or Mentally ill as a result of Circumstances?
Themes of mental health flow throughout this season too but not in the right way. As the government basically deems each victim “mentally unfit or ill” for deserting or retaliating against harsh treatment in the military, this is the main focus of mental health this season. In season one Jun Ho asks Beom Gu “do you think he would have deserted if he didn’t have to join the military?” Beom Gu replies “does that even matter now?” maybe not now because the situation has passed and that character was out of the picture at that moment, but it does matter. Mental health is not acknowledged enough in Korea, I fear. Just recently with the stabbing attacks in Seoul and the reason as to why these happened, I don’t think harming others is the right solution to mental illness or if someone’s life is going badly. I feel like there is a lot more that needs to be addressed. I understand the perception. I come from a culture where mental illness with the generations above mine thinking it doesn’t exist or that depression isn’t natural but in reality, we know it is a very real thing and something that needs to be dealt with in the right ways.
Looping back: Sacrifice and Friendship
At the end of season two we are here:
Han Ho Yeol wants to save Jun Ho
Jun Ho wants to do the right thing this time
Im Ji Sup and Seo Eun want to fight the system
Beom Gu sacrifices himself to save his D.Ps and be an example
In conclusion, for me, the moral of the story is a damn good friendship can save your life. A true and genuine friend is worth so much more than we can comprehend, so I want to say thank you to those in my life who are my Jun Ho or Ho Yeol. Do you have a good friend in your life you'd like to say thank you to?
Having the right people around you can make a difference. I feel that having a true, genuine friend would have made a significant difference for those who experienced bullying and social isolation in this drama. There are a lot of recurrent themes throughout the premise of D.P. 2 and a lot of social issues, what stood out to me the most this season was friendship and loyalty. I’d really like to hear what you think about D.P. 2 and what stood out for you. Comment below!