The Devil Judge takes place in an imaginary dystopian Korea where the country is recovering from an epidemic. The economy is poor and riots are a common sight. The Social Responsibility Foundation holds all the power in the society with the rich, corrupt and the powerful governing it.
As a means to gain political popularity, the government sets up a Live Court show where the criminals are subject to trials that are broadcasted live for the entire nation to see. Judge Kang Yo Han (Ji Sung) is appointed as the presiding judge as he is known for his righteous rulings. He is popular among the people hailed as a just Judge. Oh Jin Joo (Kim Jae-Kyung) and Kim Ga-on (Jin Young) join his bench as the associate judges.
What the government thinks is going to be a distraction from the struggling economy, backfires for them as Kang Yo Han has an agenda of his own. Yo Han starts putting the rich and powerful to trial. Ga-on has his reasons to suspect Yo Han’s intentions. What follows next forms the rest of the story.
The series wastes no time in taking the viewer into a fast paced and thrilling story.
The plot is clear and is spearheaded by the trial scenes. Every trial in the series is noteworthy and dramatic. The defendants are usually ones with a powerful background and the chances of them getting convicted is almost impossible. The trials involve a people’s poll where the public acts as the jury and they vote through an app. The vote count keeps fluctuating between guilty and innocent charge throughout the trial and it depicts the power and effect that words have on the public. The action out of the courtroom is equally thrilling. The moves made by the characters both in and out of the courtroom is like that of a chess game. The series is filled with a lot of action packed thrilling scenes.
Judge Kang Yo Han (played by Ji Sung) comes across as a magisterial personality. He is a master manipulator and a crowd-pleaser. He has as a mysterious air around him as he doesn’t say much about himself. His close acquaintances dislike him as they feel he is psychotic and selfish. Yo Han doesn’t bother to explain himself and lets them assume what they want. On the other hand, he is an extremely good judge of character and he knows how to get his enemies to react the way he wants. Yo Han is unflinching even when the whole Government is pitted against him. He has a tragic past where he lost his brother to a church fire. He deeply cares for his niece Elijah and is extremely protective of her. Yo Han has a soft spot for Kim Ga-on too. Ji Sung has delivered a stellar performance as Yo Han easily takes up the centre stage amidst the many strong characters in the drama.
Kim Ga-on (portrayed by Jin Young) is a headstrong and righteous judge. He has a tragic past where he lost his parents. He comes across as a calm and composed personality. He is planted in Yo Han’s team by Professor Min to keep a watch on Yo Han. Throughout the series he is caught in a dilemma whether to side with Yo Han or not. He believes that the public are innocent and has extreme trust in the system. Jin Young has portrayed the role well.
Jung Sun-A (played by Kim Min-Jung) works as the secretary to The Social Responsibility Foundation’s Chairman. She puts on a coy demeanour that at first seems out of place in a serious drama. Slowly one realises that her personality is that of a Woman-Child where she is like a child in a woman’s body. Coming from a poor background, she has an obsession with twinkling things. Soon, one finds out that beneath the coy exterior she is no less than any of the other antagonists. Yo Han tops her list of twinkling things which she wants to obtain and she is obsessive over him. Kim Min Jung has done an excellent job in delivering this role as Jung Sun-A is a complex personality.
Yoon Soo Hyun (played by Park Gyu-Young) is a detective and Ga-on’s childhood friend. She is Ga-on’s confidante and plays his romantic interest. She is hostile towards Kang Yo Han and his methods. She disapproves of Ga-on’s association with Yo Han. Soo Hyun is the reason why Ga-on didn’t go down the path of revenge after he lost his parents.
Elijah (Jeon Chae-Eun) is Kang Yo Han’s 16 year old niece. A church fire left her losing the use of her legs. She has spent most of her time at home after the accident. At the beginning, she comes across as a cold and angry teenager but as the series progresses one looks forward to the scenes where Elijah is present.
Professor Min (Ahn Nae-Sang) is Ga-on’s mentor. He places Ga-on in Yo Han’s camp to an eye on Yo Han. He distrusts Yo Han and he feels Ga-on will be useful as a spy. Ga-on has huge amount of respect for him.
Minister Cha (Jang Young-Nam) and Heo Joong-Se (Baek Hyun-Jin) are easily the strongest antagonists in the series. They are cold-hearted and ruthless. Minister Cha comes across as a vile character instantly. Apart from coming across as a misogynist, Heo Joong Se takes a while to make an impression and one easily underestimates him at the start of the series. He turns out to be a handful by the end of the series.
There is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots in this drama and that has been portrayed very well. The political aspect of the plot is showcased well. The antagonists form a major part of the storyline. They feel they are entitled to grab anything they want just because they are in a powerful position. They outdo themselves at every opportunity which makes them an interesting watch.
The series shows every characters background story which serves as a strong basis for the plotline.
Kang Yo Han hails from an affluent family. Having had a rough childhood he is well equipped with the means to handle the powerful and corrupt. This also enables him to think on the lines of the enemy. This leads Ga-on to question Yo Han’s morality. Yo Han believes Everyone is equal under the eyes of the law. He believes innocent people do not exist. He maintains the there is no justice in reality but it’s just a dreadful unfair game
Ga-on on the other hand, grew up among loving people like Soo Hyun and Professor Min after losing his parents. He and Yo Han are polar opposites when it comes to judicial ideologies. He believes that the world is black and white.
As it is a live trial, the scenes are more dramatic than the other legal dramas out there. Yo Han is ruthless when it comes to sentencing the rich and powerful. And this works in his favour as his popularity grows with the public. Often, Yo Han resorts to unorthodox means to obtain a guilty verdict. With his unconventional verdicts, his trials turn out to be death traps for the corrupts. One finds it easy to side with Yo Han because he often punishes the defendants who most deserve the punishment.
The corrupt fight using their power and money while Yo Han counters it with his intelligence and determination. Often, it is the Prosecutors who deliver the arguments against the defendant. In this series, it is intriguing to see the judges doing the prosecutor’s job when the prosecution succumbs to the power of the corrupt.
The relationship between Sun-A and Yo Han is a dark unrequited love (from Sun-A’s side) which turns into an obsession on Yo Han. Both of them are similar in many ways but the contrast in their characters is striking. Whenever the two share screen space, the atmosphere is hostile and volatile. Their scenes make a great watch.
At the start of the series Yoon Soo Hyun nurses unrequited love for Ga-on. She cares for him deeply and fusses over him whenever she is around him. Ga-on reciprocates her feelings later on in ther series. Though the pair have a significant amount of screen time, their chemistry lacks depth. The couples’ relationship takes a backseat as their conversations are always centred around Soo Hyun’s suspicions about Kang Yo Han. She comes across mostly as a detective pursuing Yo Han than as Ga-on’s love interest.
The scenes at Yo Han’s household are commendable as they effortlessly weave emotion into the plot. The scenes with Yo Han and Elijah are a pleasant watch. Yo Han is fond of Ga-on. He undergoes a change in personality after Ga-on comes into his life. Their scenes are a good watch.
Kang Yo Han, Kim Ga-on and Jung Sun-A have had a rough childhood. It is interesting to see how each one of them turned out to be as adults.
The series is filled with strong as well as weak characters. Every character sketch has been wonderfully written.
Though the drama is set in a dystopian world, the problems addressed in it are prevalent in every society. The legal aspect of the plot is flawless and a great watch.
One should not judge a book by its cover and the same goes for the title of series The Devil Judge. When the evil are too powerful, one must turn into a devil to fight them. This doesn’t make the person evil.
The drama is much more than just a revenge story. The series has cliff-hanger episode endings, foolproof plotline, great cinematography, well-written dialogues, great music and noteworthy performances by the cast. Topped off with a satisfying happy ending, The Devil Judge is a must watch.