CONTENT WARNING: This article contains mentions of abuse, violence, self-harm, and suicide. It also contains spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of Netflix’s D.P.
Almost two years after its initial release, Netflix’s hit Korean original series D.P. is back for a second season, promising to carry on the harrowing, eye-opening narrative of its predecessor. Since the show’s premiere in August 2021, D.P. has captivated global audiences by pulling back the curtain on the dark side of the South Korean military. The series follows Ahn Jun-ho (Jung Hae-in), a conscripted soldier who serves as part of the deserter pursuit (D.P.) team responsible for capturing runaway soldiers. D.P. tells the stories of Jun-ho’s harrowing encounters, both as a witness and a victim, with the dark side of South Korea’s military culture, where corruption, bullying, and abuses abound.
D.P. is based on the Lezhin webtoon D.P Dog’s Day (2015-2016), written and illustrated by Kim Bo-tong. Set in 2014, the show’s plot heavily borrows many of Kim’s own experiences during his time in South Korea’s notorious mandatory military service. Kim co-wrote the Netflix adaptation alongside director Han Jun-hee (Hit-and-Run Squad), who returns to the helm for the second season.
D.P. 2 is a direct continuation of D.P.’s first season, which comes to a disturbing climax with the public attempted suicide of captured deserter Cho Suk-bong. His case is the horrifying culmination of a season rife with violent hazing, desertions, manhunts, and rampant abuses of power by senior officers. D.P. 2 explores the aftermath of this terrible incident as higher-ups scramble to save face, more soldiers go rogue, and the D.P. team fights to expose a deeply corrupted system.
Jung Hae-in and Koo Kyo-hwan reprise their roles as Private Ahn Jun-ho and Corporal Han Ho-yeol respectively, with Kim Sung-kyun returning as D.P. Commanding Officer Park Beom-gu. Son Seok-koo also reprises his role as Captain Lim Ji-seop. The new season will also introduce some new faces, including actor Ji Jin-hee (Designated Survivor: 60 Days) and actress Kim Ji-hyun (The Smile Has Left Your Eyes). D.P.’s six-episode second season premiered on Netflix on July 28, 2023.
Cast and Characters
Jung Hae-in stars as Private First Class Ahn Jun-ho, a conscripted member of the D.P. team assigned to the 103rd Division of the Military Police Investigation Department. Quiet and reserved by nature, Jun-ho is a soldier who initially sets out to play by the rules. Despite a passive, unassuming demeanor, he has a strong sense of justice which soon proves to be a source of serious internal conflict as he discovers the true colors of the people around him. Jun-ho is both a witness to and a victim of the violent bullying, which drives conscripted soldiers to desert the army. He is continually torn between duty and conscience, a battle which comes to a head in D.P. 2 as the D.P. team’s cases grow more and more severe.
Corporal Han Ho-yeol (Koo Kyo-hwan), later a Sergeant, is head of the 103rd Division D.P. team and Jun-ho’s immediate superior who has almost completed his military service. Free-spirited and quick-tempered, he’s the livelier half of this unlikely duo, acting as Jun-ho’s mentor, older brother, and partner-in-crime. While initially appearing indifferent to the tumultuous military environment, Ho-yeol is incredibly effective on the job, bringing invaluable experience to the D.P. team’s investigations. He is close colleagues with Cho Suk-bong, whose suicide attempt triggers a severe case of PTSD.
Sergeant Park Beom-gu (Kim Sung-kyun) is the D.P. team’s strict yet sympathetic commanding officer. Well acquainted with the fraught nature of military life, he runs a tight ship, always emphasizing that Jun-ho and Ho-yeol ensure deserters are captured without major incident or injury. Despite his rank, Sergeant Park remains under significant pressure from his superiors to cover up some of the military’s most heinous cases of abuse. His place in the military is the product of a delicate balance of silent complicity and carefully calculated resistance. Sergeant Park faces a continuous dilemma as both a victim of and a bystander to the corruption he witnesses.
Rounding out the main characters is Captain Lim Jiseop (Son Seok-koo), a hot-headed officer who ends up aiding the D.P. team as the military’s cover-up efforts intensify. Captain Lim first appears as a power-hungry, rather unscrupulous character willing to suck up and punch down in order to climb the ranks. He is heavily results-oriented and judges the D.P. team rather harshly, though as more and more abuses come to light, he becomes more empathetic. Following the Cho Suk-bong incident, Captain Lim is both conflicted and convicted by what he sees, and becomes one of the D.P. team’s most important allies.
D.P. 2 kicks off not long after Cho Suk-bong’s suicide attempt leaves him comatose and the military scrambling to save its reputation as human rights organizations start asking questions. There’s a military-wide attempt to cover up the abuses leading to the incident, writing the entire ordeal off as a consequence of mental instability. Captain Lim and Sergeant Park, under pressure from their superiors, are forced to choose between justice for Suk-bong and protecting the D.P. team. With Ho-yeol hospitalized, Jun-ho is assigned a new partner, a spoiled recruit who views D.P. work as a chance to regularly get off base. Things go from bad to worse when Private Kim Ru-ri (Moon Sang-hoon), a friend of Suk-bong’s and yet another victim of relentless bullying, opens fire on his fellow soldiers before deserting. As always, the D.P. team is dispatched, with Ho-yeol returning when the cowardly new recruit drops out.
The D.P. squad goes up against Brigadier General Gu Ja-woon (Ji Jin-hee), who needs Kim dead so he cannot testify against the military. The task is assigned to Lieutenant Colonel Seo Eun (Kim Ji-hyun), an experienced military strategist and Captain Lim’s estranged wife. She uses the media to label Kim Ru-ri armed and dangerous, portraying him as a violent criminal. Kim is quickly baited out of hiding, as broadcasts show protesters and victims’ families converging outside his mother’s restaurant. Jun-ho and Ho-yeol, who arrive earlier that day, are met with a horde of soldiers flocking in, ready to kill the deserter on Colonel Seo’s orders.
That night, Kim Ru-ri takes a soldier hostage, threatening the troops gathered with a handheld grenade. Jun-ho tries and fails to deescalate the situation. Moments later, a triggered, conflicted Ho-yeol, driven by memories of Private Cho’s incident and Sergeant Park’s desperate commands, makes a risky decision to try to save the deserter’s life. He livestreams the standoff, speaking for the first time to urge an anxious Jun-ho to do something. Jun-ho acts as a shield, barring the two into the restaurant as soldiers attack them, trying to end the stream. Colonel Seo, on seeing Captain Lim’s frantic plea to save Kim Ru-ri’s life, hesitates to give the order to shoot.
It is Kim Ru-ri’s mother who manages to get him under control while a disgruntled, disappointed General Gu strides in to play hero, removing the grenade from Kim’s possession. While the D.P. team breathes a sigh of relief at having completed their mission, the higher-ups spin the narrative in the military’s favor. Jun-ho and Ho-yeol are inexplicably awarded medals of honor for what was seen as a flagrant act of defiance, while Colonel Seo’s decision costs her her job. Emboldened by her dismissal, she decides to become a lawyer representing victims of the military’s abuses, armed with a USB that could make or break the entire organization.
“If I want things to change, I should at least do something.”
If there’s one line that summarizes the entirety of D.P. 2, it’s these haunting words by Private Cho Suk-bong, whose dramatic desertion and suicide attempt form the catalyst of this season. We jump right back into the action, and within the first two episodes, are quickly brought to a deeply unsettling realization: nothing has changed. Jun-ho and his fellow juniors are still bullied, soldiers are still deserting, and the military’s still trying to cover things up.
In some ways, things have only worsened as those in power become increasingly desperate to hide their crimes at the expense of their subordinates’ safety, security, and even their lives. In the midst of an organization-wide reckoning, we meet a D.P. team forced to navigate their personal convictions regarding what they see, know and do – or in many cases, don’t do.
Trauma, Guilt, and Taking a Stand
D.P. 2 dials up the drama in a way that keeps viewers constantly on edge; it’s equally, if not more, as dark, graphic, and intense both in its cinematography and its storyline as its predecessor. While the first season focused on deserters and their stories, D.P. 2 hones in on the four-man D.P. team thrown into the thick of the military’s latest reputational crisis.
The squad makes for a rather damaged bunch: Jun-ho’s increasingly disillusioned, running on guilt, anger, and exhaustion, while Ho-yeol suffers from a debilitating case of PTSD that leaves him mute. Captain Lim Ji-seop’s crisis of conscience manifests in reckless attempts to right his wrongs. Sergeant Park Beom-gu bears the burden of overseeing a traumatized team under pressure to keep heinous crimes under wraps while fighting his instincts to play it safe. Throw in a mass shooting, an ex-wife under opposing orders, and higher-ups on a mission to shut them up, and it’s no wonder the D.P. officers are shaky on their feet.
Thanks to stellar performances from Jung Hae-in and Koo Kyo-hwan in particular, we’re directly immersed in the guilt, anger, and anxiety Jun-ho and Ho-yeol experience. There’s a very raw depiction of how trauma affects everything they believe about who they are and what they do that’s scarily relatable, even for those of us who’ve never joined the military. In the case of Sergeant Park, who has spent much of his military career choosing neutrality, standing by and watching is no longer an option.
There’s even room for the audience to sympathize with the impulsive Captain Lim, who becomes more and more volatile as the walls close in on him both personally and professionally. This season, the D.P. squad takes a stand, and as the stakes grow higher, it’s difficult not to root for them.
At its core, D.P. 2 dissects just how much the abuse and corruption we witness has been normalized and accepted as just the way things are. There’s a fair share of subtle commentary on the intersections of groupthink, conceptions of masculinity, and the heavily patriarchal, hierarchical nature of Korean society. Generations-worth of trauma have been passed down from senior officers who view the violent hazing and bullying as a rite of passage to be endured with clenched teeth and sheer will. Daring to run away, let alone fight back, is not only viewed as rebellious, but as a sign of weakness. In D.P. 2’s depiction of the military, compliance is the way of life, and to deviate, to desert, (yes, even in the face of severe mistreatment) is to disgrace one’s fellow soldier.
Do Something, Anything
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say Private Cho Suk-bong’s the real hero of D.P. 2. As things spiral out of the D.P. team’s control, it’s his words which motivate them to do something, anything to change things. Kim Ru-ri’s shooting spree, desertion, and unexpected livestream demonstrate something both he and Private Cho understood quite well: the power of spectacle. Both of their incidents demonstrate the unfortunate reality that change tends only to come when people are forced to pay attention to injustice. They serve as a wake-up call to an organization that has grown comfortable in its corruption, and as a harsh lesson on the consequences of ignoring a harmful status quo. Which, quite frankly, is a lesson we could all stand to gain from.
For the D.P. team, the incidents are a reminder that simply standing by and “just doing their jobs” have made them inherently complicit in a broken system. Of course, they’re all very aware of just how broken the system is; they are victims of it, and there’s a strong desire to change things. D.P. 2 depicts the harrowing, tumultuous journey these characters take from wanting things to be different to actually doing something to make that difference.
D.P. 2’s story is bigger than just a massive military exposé; it’s about justice and finding the courage to speak up and sacrifice for the sake of what is right. Of course, the pursuit of justice always comes at a price, and our D.P. officers are no strangers to this fact. They’ve risked their careers, their reputations, and even their lives while on D.P. duty. This time around, however, they’re taking on a whole new monster, and there are many more sacrifices to come. This time, Jun-ho, Ho-yeol, Sergeant Park and Captain Lim steel themselves to do something, because in Jun-ho’s words, “if our hands are tied, who will deal with this?”
Jun-ho’s question closes the season two trailer with a challenge for everyone hearing it, himself and his superiors and us, the show’s viewers. In this simple line, he encapsulates the show’s central message: in the face of injustice, if nobody acts, nothing will change.
Where to Watch
We won’t sugarcoat it; D.P. 2 is not a watch for the faint-hearted. It’s raw, gory and violent, and is sure to bring up lots of emotions. Thankfully, there’s just enough humor sprinkled throughout the season to give you a breather in the midst of a seemingly never ending train of bad news. We also get to see the growing chemistry between frenemies Captain Lim and Sergeant Park, who put their differences aside for the sake of the D.P. team. That said, with loads of character development, great cinematography and a solid message, D.P. 2 is well worth the watch, especially if you’ve seen the first season (read: watch it.)
All six episodes of D.P. 2 are now available for streaming on Netflix. Before you jump in, check out Netflix’s recap of D.P.’s first season here:
Want more ACT!ON content? Check out EnVi’s coverage of Netflix’s 2023 TUDUM event here!