Is “D.P.” Realistic? Here’s What Korean Men Think About The K-Drama’s Portrayal Of Military Service
The Netflix original D.P., short for the “Deserter Pursuit” unit of the Military Police, is a webtoon-based K-Drama featuring actors Jung Hae In, Koo Kyo Hwan, and Cho Hyun Chul. When the first full six-episode season dropped on Netflix, D.P. received global viewership—not only for its star-studded cast but also for its gritty plot portraying the South Korean mandatory military service.
In an awed review, NME claimed “From brutal beatings to sexual assault to dehumanizing humiliations, these fictional depictions of hazing are sadly far from exaggerated—Just look up news articles about bullying in the South Korean military.” And NME is right. In 2020 alone, there have been 946 reported cases of violence and harassment in the military. There are, without a question, countless more cases that have gone unreported.
D.P. also does a great but disconcerting job at depicting what happens on the rare occasions when these cases do come to light. At best they are ignored by callous higher-ups who have normalised this sort of behaviour and bemoan the softness of the new generation, or at worst they are outright covered up by career senior officers who are more concerned with how a scandal might affect their promotions.
Korean men, who are in their 20s to 40s and who have already completed their military duties, have been flooding social media platforms with their own experiences with violence in the military.
The show reminded me of all the corrupt, unfair, and plain wrong things that I, too, personally experienced while serving my military duty back in the day.
— Korean Citizen
Dubbing D.P. to be “PTSD-triggering,” these men have unanimously agreed that the show’s depiction of Korean military service is bone-chillingly hyperrealistic. Those who have enlisted between the years of as early as 2000 to as recent as 2020 have all stated that “Nothing has changed over the decades: The South Korean Military is still riddled with problems.”
I used to have superiors who picked on me for no reason. I wonder where they are now… if they’re doing well. [The show] reminded me [of them] and made me curious.
— Korean Citizen
D.P. director Han Jun Hee revealed in an interview that the neverending news on incidents inside the military bases is proof that the show is based on true stories. He pointed out, “Just because we don’t see it with our own eyes (or have it happen to us) does not mean these incidents are not real.”
Kim Bo Tong, the webtoonist behind the original D.P. Dog Days who actually completed his service as a part of the D.P. unit, also shared via a social media post that “D.P. came to life as a way to challenge the idea that ‘things have gotten better since.’ It came to life to help those who are still fighting in the dark by themselves.”
With not only Korean viewers but also international viewers sharing thoughts about the show, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense stated it is “concerned by the show and how it conveys the wrong idea that the Korean military is still this way.”
The show is an exaggerated collection of the most extreme incidents that may have happened 10-15 years ago at the bases where the ‘military culture’ had been at its worst.
— Chun In Bum, a retired South Korean Army Lieutenant General
Viewers are not convinced by the lieutenant general’s comment, as D.P. continues to trend upward on Netflix all over the world.
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