When we think of Korean legal dramas, we think heavy or dark plot with maybe graphic crime investigations, serial killings and innocent people dying horribly. It’s a genre we’ve watched a number of times and have found a couple of them interesting: we thought I Hear Your Voice starring Lee Jong Suk and Lee Bo Young was good and so was Suspicious Partner starring Ji Chang Wook and Nam Ji Hyun. But these kinds of dramas with their heavy storylines, foreboding events, elusive serial killers on the loose can be so hard on the heart. They’re the kind which has us hesitate to call a favourite despite thinking it was a good drama.
Miss Hammurabi, though, we can finally say we love it. There’s no heavy storyline with serial killers and graphic crime scenes. No loved characters are in danger of being killed.
Miss Hammurabi is a light legal drama with a very interesting story about the corruption and power imbalance between the weak and powerful; and how the cold, unfeeling and sometimes corrupt handling of cases by judges prevent justice from being served, sustaining the injustices suffered by the citizens, especially those in weaker positions.
Park Cha Oh Reum: sympathetic judge with soft-spot for weak and powerless
Park Cha Oh Reum (Go Ara), the new Left Associate judge entering Department 44 Civil Affairs at Seoul Central District Court, is the one to take on the place to try right the wrong through her judicial powers as well as change the way the court deals with cases.
She arrives with a past of having suffered more than her fair share of injustices. She was a victim of sexual harassment when she was a high schooler. She watched powerlessly as her mother received beatings from her late father. She had once lived in the upper class, but bankruptcy saw her and her grandma live more averagely and more modestly. So she understands what it’s like to be in a weak and powerless position.
Because she understands it so well, she is particularly sensitive to any case which involves crimes and wrongdoings committed against the weak and powerless. As such, she won’t hesitate to take a stand, to approach them, hear them out and do her best to get to the bottom of the cases with hope she can help them obtain justice.
She creates a whole lot of headaches for the courthouse. As a judge, she is supposed to remain impartial, not communicate privately with litigants or do anything that might affect people’s confidence in the justice system. But she goes against it all. When she’s called up for it by the Chief Presiding Judge (Ahn Nae Sang), she defends herself as being no different than offering free counsel which she has seen the Chief Judge (Kim Hong Fa) do one time.
Im Ba Reun: cold, unfeeling, clinical judge
Im Ba Reun (Kim Myung Soo, aka L from K-pop group Infinite), Department 44 Civil Affairs’ Right Associate Judge, eventually joins Park Cha Oh Reum in her fight and becomes her strength when things get tough, but it’s a clash of views and approaches at the beginning.
Im Ba Reun’s view is that feelings and sympathy have absolutely no place in court, and a judge with such won’t last long. He sees no point in getting worked up, taking sides and fighting to change anything either. To him the world is so messed up, it’s impossible to change. So, he sees his duty as one where he protects what’s left of the world by following rules to a tee and using only facts and evidence to make judgements, not challenge the world and cause trouble in trying to change it.
Im Ba Reun’s cold, unfeeling approach to cases seem to come from his lack of understanding of other people’s hardships and the obstacles they face. Im Ba Reun doesn’t come from a privileged family: his father is often passed out drunk at home after going out saving the world the whole day (like donating blood many times the amount in his body, agreeing to be a guarantor when he has no ability to be), while his mother is left holding the fort selling insurance, make-up and anything else she can to make money. However, he has never struggled in his studies and it looks like he won’t be struggling in his career.
He was a top student in high school, a top graduate in the training institute for becoming a judge, and even whilst being a judge, he had offers from law firms wanting him to pay him industry’s best to switch his profession (Episode 1). Im Ba Reun is talented, very capable and has a very promising career. He can support and protect himself, he doesn’t need to rely on people or bother people to help him because of that.
His ability to support and protect himself has him forget that not everyone is as capable as he is and need others to rely on. Park Cha Oh Reum points out that this is a kind of power which the weak don’t have and so they must rely on others to survive (Episode 4).
Emotional judge versus unfeeling judge
The two associate judges sets up the two sides to an argument relating to judges who allow the heart to be present whilst handling cases and judges who don’t. The headaches and trouble which Park Cha Oh Reum creates when she enters the courthouse, the impression she gives off is that she is too aggressive, too emotional and not like a judge at all. She comes off more like an advocate for the weak and powerless than a judge.
Using a lawsuit involving an elderly lady being sued for not paying back the money she owes her lender, we see the issues of her emotion-driven responses to cases (Episode 2). In the trial, an elderly lady adamantly claims she had paid the money back, only that she lacked the promissory note to prove it. She claimed in the trial that she had assumed that once she paid the money back, it was the end of it and had never thought to get the promissory note back from the lender.
As it turns out, this was a lie, but Park Cha Oh Reum took the elderly lady’s word for it. She went to hear the elderly lady’s story out in more detail to see if she could help her in the way of getting a settlement somehow. She never thought to go to the other party to hear out their side of the story, though. Consequently, she missed the truth of the situation and had mistaken the perpetrator for a victim and the victim for the perpetrator.
But in what seemly is this drama’s style of providing a counter argument, the drama turns to feature a case which sees her sympathies resolve a lawsuit. The second lawsuit involves a mother suing a restaurant owner for a waitress’ mistake of grazing a barbecue grill pan over the side of her son’s face (Episode 2). The case didn’t have evidence to prove the incident occurred as there was no proof of damage or injury was suffered, yet the mother had filed a lawsuit against the restaurant. Her superior, Presiding Judge Han Se Sang (Sung Dong Il), saw little the court could do and instructed Park Cha Oh Reum get a settlement from the two parties. Park Cha Oh Reum got it, but ended up refusing to have it processed because of a gut instinct which told her there had to be a reason for the lawsuit.
Against the instructions of her superior, she forced the hearing to continue, and managed to uncover the truth. The incident did occur. No physical injury had been suffered, but a deep emotional injury. The son had a fear of flames which he developed from a traumatic experience with hot pots. He also had a mental disability and an issue with shouting. His mother told the court the restaurant owner’s angry reaction reminded him of the times his father would yell and beat his mother. Without living this young man’s life, no one would understand and see the emotional injury the grill pan inflicted was much greater than what the eye could see.
Not all emotions should be erased in court
All this mother wanted was for the restaurant owner to acknowledge the incident had happened, apologise and see that his mistake was getting angry instead of just asking whether her son was okay at the time. This was the injustice the mother suffered, and the above was all she wanted. So, in cases where evidence lacks, a judge who allows the heart to feel and sympathise can actually guide the judge to making decisions which lead to uncovering the truth.
Following this case, Im Ba Reun, who had been so firm about needing to be cold and emotionless when handling cases and whilst in court, now sees the value of having some emotions in court. He notes that while a judge mustn’t show any emotions in order to remain objective, it doesn’t mean a judge should erase all emotions as there are things only the heart can see. He admits that it was his lack of sympathy towards the litigants that had prevented him from discovering the truth which Park Cha Oh Reum managed to do all because she didn’t stop her heart from being present during the hearing.
A judge must not only listen, but listen well and until people are done talking
Han Se Sang admits to a failing during this case, too. This failing is forgetting to listen. His presiding judge had given him some wise words when he started as a judge, and that was that a judge must not only listen, but listen well and continue to listen until people are done talking. His presiding judge had told him that even after 30 years of being a judge, he still didn’t know what was right and what was wrong. In order to figure this out, listening well was the key. Seeing Park Cha Oh Reum refusing to end the hearing saw Han Se Sang realise that even after 20 years of being a judge, he was still struggling to heed to that advice well.
Change towards more time spent and investment in uncovering the truth
It’s a small win in Park Cha Oh Reum’s fight for justice because the next case that follows sees Han Se Sang allow more time and investment in looking over trial details before making a ruling. Im Ba Reun seemed to expand his focus to beyond just the evidence and arguments presented, too.
In this next case, an advertising manager sues his former employer (a marketing company) for firing him over what his attorney argues as just some racy texts meant to be taken as jokes to an intern (Episode 3). The argument that a middle-aged man who hadn’t quite caught up with the times to know his jokes were inappropriate seemed pretty convincing, especially when all the female character witnesses testified in support. The fact that the advertising manager only sent texts using song lyrics to form the racy texts plus one photo of his unattractive hairy chest, and not actually physically touched her, was also used to support the argument that it was a tasteless joke and that the dismissal was unjustified.
In the beginning, Han Se Sang was able to sort of see the point the attorney was making and scolds Park Cha Oh Reum to not react so rashly as it involved the suffering of his whole family. A man fired from his job is like the death of his family he argues. This is a point which the advertising manager tries to convey as well when the trial continues again, and it’s what sways Im Ba Reun towards seeing Han Se Sang’s reason for being so cautious about this case.
But then the defense’s lack of fight in defending the company’s firing of the advertising manager has all three judges questioning the legitimacy of the case. When the defense was asked to defend their side, they only had his witness (an intern/the victim of the advertising manager’s racy texts) confirm the truth of her statement and that the way the advertising manager lost his job was after the texts were published on social media after her boyfriend posted them online. It was like the defense didn’t want to win the case and have the dismissal ruled as justified.
Following this, all three felt there was something off about the case. Han Se Sang likened it to a rigged baseball match which he wanted to look over again. So, he does that. He ends the cross-examination, but allows an extra day to follow a suggestion Im Ba Reun makes to exercise a judge’s right to question witnesses directly. (Throughout this trial, Park Cha Oh Reum as well as Im Ba Reun seemed to have noticed this one character witness who kept looking back at the distraught victim of the sexual harassment, and that was Witness Number Four. She would be known to us in a later episode as Kim Da In.)
They call back Witness Number Four on the stand, and through this witness, she reveals all the character witnesses were threatened with losing their jobs if they didn’t go along with plans to make the intern look like a psycho. Though it’s not explicitly revealed to be the case, the fact the witnesses were threatened with losing their jobs, it suggests the plaintiff and the defense were working together. Through the witness, she also reveals the former advertising manager’s habit of abusing his power and sexually harassing interns. She was one of his victims and still have the texts from when she entered the company as an intern.
With the revelation of this new information, the plaintiff’s claims are rejected by the court. Han Se Sang rules that any suffering the advertising manager took as a result of the dismissal was due to his own actions, and it is his to bear.
So, another win for the weak and powerless. It’s an example of what the court can do when time and attention is given and genuine desire to get to the bottom of cases is present. Park Cha Oh Reum had worried Han Se Sang was going to close the case when nothing in the character testimonies or the defense’s argument justified the dismissal, but he was watching and listening; Im Ba Reun was also watching and listening; and in the end got to the bottom of the case.
Stand up and fight or turn a blind eye
After this win which sees all three judges on the same page, Park Cha Oh Reum is back to trying to seek justice on her own. This time, the injustice involves Presiding Judge Sung Gong Choong (Cha Soon Bae) of Department 49 overworking his associate judge, Hong Eun Ji (Cha Soo Yeon), to the point of wanting to take her own life (Episode 4). Fortunately, Park Cha Oh Reum showed up before Hong Eun Ji made up her mind to go through with it. However, because of Sung Gong Choong’s unreasonable demands, Hong Eun Ji, who’s pregnant, loses her baby from miscarriage.
Park Cha Oh Reum’s emotions get the better of her again. She goes straight to petitioning for disciplinary action against Sung Gong Choong instead of following proper channels of reporting issues, like going to Han Se Sang where he will then speak to the Chief Presiding Judge about the issue.
Park Cha Oh Reum’s latest rashness has Im Ba Reun worried and in a dilemma. Before this violation of human rights incident, there was another incident which saw Sung Gong Choong plagiarise Im Ba Reun’s thoughts on housing safety and the effect of leasing on the housing market in a paper the presiding judge published (Episode 4). Im Ba Reun had thought to take Park Cha Oh Reum’s suggestion to make a formal complaint to the Chief Presiding Judge, but when he brought it up with Chief Presiding Judge, Im Ba Reun was asked to think of Sung Gong Choong and turn a blind eye to the plagiarism. The Chief Presiding Judge’s reason for the request is that people who aren’t as talented as Im Ba Reun, people who work hard just to try to catch up, people like Sung Gong Choong, need chances and hope to keep them motivated.
Im Ba Reun has been criticised for being cold, not thinking of others and acting individualistic by Park Cha Oh Reum, and now, the Chief Presiding Judge, too. The only difference between them is that Park Cha Oh Reum’s saying to stand up and fight for others who have been wrongfully treated, while Chief Presiding Judge is saying to let things be and show compassion for people.
Respecting elders was a point Chief Presiding Judge had made to convince Im Ba Reun to let things pass, too. In a society where respecting hierarchy and elders is of high importance, this kind of action against a senior judge is a serious matter; but then, so is Song Gong Choong’s violation of human rights. Should Im Ba Reun challenge the world and strive for change and a better world like Park Cha Oh Reum is trying to do; or standby, watch and maintain status quo like he has been doing?
A judge is most powerful when doing things by the law
After feeling conflicted by what to do, Im Ba Reun chooses to stand up and fight, cause ‘trouble’ and side with Park Cha Oh Reum to go against Sung Gong Choong (Episode 5). Rather than going around collecting names of those in support of disciplinary action against Sung Gong Choong like Park Cha Oh Reum was doing, Im Ba Reun suggests and proceeds with sending a courthouse-wide email wanting to hold a collective judges conference to address gender discrimination in the workplace. It’s a conference which, firstly, requires at least one-fifth of all judges agreeing that a discussion needs to be held for a conference to be scheduled, and second, at least half of all judges must actually show up to the conference for the actual discussion to take place.
With help from Jung Bo Wang (Ryu Deok Hwan), a very sociable associate judge from Department 43 who knows everything about everyone in the courthouse, Im Ba Reun and Park Cha Oh Reum do well with the first condition by getting over one-fifth to agree that a discussion needs to take place. However, they don’t quite make it to meeting the second condition, falling short by 20 judges.
Not the result expected, but a first step
Still, it wasn’t a total failure. The fact that so many judges did show up, it was a first step, and as Park Cha Oh Reum puts it, they can withdraw with a smile having at least gotten so many to show up. Park Cha Oh Reum was also able to express her hopes for better work conditions where judges don’t have to work around the clock, fear failure and have to be so competitive. She hoped that they can all work together and care about each other, to treat each case like they were human beings and not focus on the number of cases they take on and complete. She says all of this with an unspoken reference to Sung Gong Choong who is exactly all of the above. (Episode 5)
In an indirect way, she hopes that everyone can be more like Han Se Sang by confessing that she actually likes her presiding judge. Han Se Sang is not afraid to admit his shortcomings, which is suggested through her comment about his tendency to lose his temper, but he does regret it. She also mentions that she likes him because he treats each case like they are a person even after being a judge for over 20 years.
Sung Gong Choong: human rights violator, Bad Guy Number 2
Miss Hammurabi doesn’t have a serial killer antagonist to get us itching to get to the end of the drama and see them face their crimes, but with Sung Gong Choong’s sexist views, his lack of remorse when he’s done wrong, he’s as good a stand-in as that kind of antagonist.
To go into some of his sexist views and demands, when Hong Eun Ji was looking to work for him, he suggested she not date or get married, that they work Sundays on verdicts as that is when the office is quiet. Working till 11pm isn’t enough for him. He was shown to call her about it when he saw her office lights out at that time. Then when Sung Gong Choong lands himself in hot water for working Hong Eun Ji to the point of losing her baby, he’s more concerned about it hindering his chances at a future promotion than feeling remorse for his demands (Episode 5). He even blames the situation on young judges—women in particular—because they were being too concerned about their health.
He claims they have no sense of responsibility or duty and aren’t willing to sacrifice themselves for the company, the people or the country. Yet, in order to look good in front of the Supreme Court, he will pressure attorneys to convince their clients to settle just so he can be first in the number of settlements and mediation processed because the Supreme Court prefers this. He shows no sense of duty or responsibility to the people just himself and his ambitions. Let’s not forget: he plagiarised Im Ba Reun’s comments about housing safety for citizens through law to appear like (we suppose) he has some great ideas (Episode 4).
He is not made to take any responsibility for his wrongdoings, though. In Episode 10, he even gets promoted to Supreme Court Justice because he happened to be from an average background and has no great credentials to his name. In an attempt to improve the public’s view, the judiciary puts Sung Gong Choong within their ranks to show that someone like them can be amongst them.
Promoted and in a position to make demands, Sung Gong Choong forces his former superior, the Chief Presiding Judge, to take disciplinary action against Park Cha Oh Reum for her attempt to have him face disciplinary action during the Hong Eun Ji incident in Episode 14. He does so in a rather cocky, ‘I don’t need to bow down to you anymore because I’m a Supreme Court Justice’ kind of way. He has no guilt, no remorse and no idea when to count his lucky stars. He feels a bit clueless, too. It feels like this Sung Gong Choong acts the way he acts because he genuinely believes he’s done nothing wrong and that his ways are examples of how a hardworking person who sacrifices themselves for the company, the people and the country is supposed to be. Taking an idea from a junior seems to be okay in his books since juniors are supposed to respect elders. * shrugs *
Min Yong Joon: enemy of justice, Bad Guy Number 1
Sung Gong Choong takes the title for most detestable character, but he’s not the bad guy in Miss Hammurabi (not the main one anyway). Min Yong Joon (Lee Tae Sung) takes this title. He is NJ Group’s Head of General Affairs, rich and powerful with connections in powerful places—places such as the media, politics, the courts and a top hospital.
He enters the scene appearing to offer his help during a medical malpractice case, a case which Park Cha Oh Reum was trying to help an elderly lady prove (Episode 5); however, his interest and help is an attempt to stop Park Cha Oh Reum from encouraging the elderly lady from pursuing the matter. The truth of the matter is a member of his own family is behind the surgery which killed the elderly lady’s son, and he’s behind the cover-up. The truth doesn’t get revealed until near the end of the drama, though.
Until then, Min Yong Joon appears as Park Cha Oh Reum’s alternative means of achieving justice—or, as Min Yong Joon says to her, she can use his power and wealth for revenge against those who do wrong if she wants. His power and wealth is something Park Cha Oh Reum never ends up taking up, but for the medical malpractice case at least, she acknowledged Min Yong Joon’s ability to provide something she couldn’t despite her efforts: he was able to help the elderly lady get a sizable payout from the hospital despite having lost the appeal. If only she knew the reason, she wouldn’t be acknowledging his help as anything but an attempt to stop the truth from being exposed.
A look into the family backgrounds of Park Cha Oh Reum, Im Ba Reun and Han Se Sang
The drama takes a break from the main story following the introduction of Min Yong Joon to feature a few cases which reveal some of the main character’s family backgrounds. Episode 6 features a lawsuit on a congressmen’s want to remove a photo from his college days believing in a right to be forgotten. It brings in the past of Park Cha Oh Reum and her mother’s. It’s a past which sees her mother being beaten by her father, the family bankruptcy and her late father commit suicide because of the bankruptcy. This past is one which her mother seems to want to forget so much that even her mother’s memory of Park Cha Oh Reum is disappearing. (Episode 8 reveals her mother is at a care home having no recognition of Park Cha Oh Reum.)
Episode 7 features an inheritance lawsuit which sees siblings fight over some land which they each claim was agreed to be theirs before their father got Alzheimer’s. It brings in the subject of family and redefines it to not only include people who are blood related, but also a group of people who go through hard times together (like Park Cha Oh Reum and her group of street market ladies who she and her grandmother now lives with).
Episode 7 also reveals Im Ba Reun’s sensitivity to the subject of family because he seemingly looks down on his dad because of his lacking sense of responsibility to provide for the family. His dad comes off as a good-for-nothing kind of dad, but through a misunderstanding Im Ba Reun’s had ever since he was a boy, Im Ba Reun discovers a saintly side to him. It doesn’t matter what it is people ask of him, whether it be blood donations, being a guarantor, looking after a deceased colleague’s young boy, he’ll willingly offer to do it. His dad doesn’t take care of his family well, but he is always there to help others in need.
Episode 8 features a case which sees a man’s parents sue their son’s employers thinking his workplace is behind the depression, suffering and failed attempt to commit suicide. However, as Im Ba Reun rules, the pressures appear to come from his personal life, too. His wife’s expectations, his parents’ expectations, and even the man’s inability to speak out against all these expectations looked to have played a part in the man’s deteriorated state.
The case seems to touch a little on the family pressures Im Ba Reun faces. It’s because of Im Ba Reun’s own experience with such states of living, he rejects mediation and orders the case go to trial so the court can find out exactly who should be taking responsibility. (Im Ba Reun is starting to act a little like Park Cha Oh Reum!)
A second case involving a custody battle in Episode 8 has Han Se Sang rule in favour of the children staying with the mother despite the extramarital affair she had resulting in a divorce and the custody battle. The reasoning behind it is, firstly, the divorce was caused by the father’s obsession with obtaining that countryside dream, causing his wife to become lonely and seek the love of another man. The father was always away from home as he worked as a construction worker, traveling to wherever the building site is. Second, and most importantly, the diverging dreams between father and his daughters was a deciding factor, too. The father’s dream is to live in the countryside with a house and big backyard for his children to run around in; the girls’ is to meet their K-pop idols, BTS, and meet a guy who looks like Park Bo Gum. Despite his obvious love for his daughters, Han Se Sang did not believe the father could afford to protect his children’s world on the basis that they clashed.
The second case looks at Han Se Sang’s own love for his own two daughters and how his long hours at work sees him arriving home late, often after they’ve gone to bed. Gone are the days where they are dependent on him as they now have their own worlds which are separate from his.
Preferential treatment and corruption in the judiciary
Episode 9 to Episode 12 moves back into the main story of corruption and power imbalance. In Episode 9, it looks at another problem within the judiciary: judges showing preferential treatment to the powerful and using what Im Ba Reun labels as “groundless” reasons for release or leniency. An example of a groundless reason used is the common “having made great contributions to the economy”.
Criminal Department 48‘s Kwan Se Joon (Kim Jung Hak) is a presiding judge who is shown to use this reason to release the chairman of Daeryung Group. He came to this ruling based on a belief that it is representative of the people’s wants. He had considered listening to some of the people’s thoughts regarding the Group to arrive at his ruling. However, his error is his failure to see that the people he talked to are probably all privileged, educated people in society. Park Cha Oh Reum had pointed out that the people the presiding judge talked to probably didn’t include the average Joe/Jane, the renters, the small business owners, bus drivers, or the factory labourers. His ruling only considers a subset of the population, with none of them affected the same way as those Park Cha Oh Reum mentioned. (Episode 9)
There’s denial that preferential treatment exists in the judiciary, but a well-liked Presiding Judge serves as that example. Presiding Judge Gam Sung Woo (Jeon Jin Ki) has been cluelessly requesting judges to review case files well. It’s a request that should go without saying, yet he asks it of Park Cha Oh Reum in Episode 9. With a bit of investigation, Park Cha Oh Reum as well as Han Se Sang and the Chief Presiding Judge could only conclude it was a request to look favourably on the case and show preferential treatment. This saw him guilty of serious judicial misconduct and was arrested and charged.
Gam Sung Woo is one of the nicer, agreeable presiding judges, and someone who came to Park Cha Oh Reum’s defense when all the other presiding judges were criticising her. So, it was bit of a sad moment to see Park Cha Oh Reum faced with no choice but report him.
Park Cha Oh Reum showed an improvement in her handling of the misconduct. Unsure whether she had misunderstood the request, she went and checked with fellow associate judges to see if a similar request had been made in the past. When she confirmed such request had been made in the past, she then went to Han Se Sang about it to seek his view on things. After Han Se Sang had a talk with Gam Sung Woo, Han Se Sang concluded the same thing and was left with the tough decision to report Gam Sung Woo to the Chief Presiding Judge, leading to bring taken away in front of a crowd of dejected fellow judges.
The courthouse of judges weren’t all too happy with Park Cha Oh Reum when the investigation into Gam Sung Woo’s judicial misconduct began (Episode 10). They agreed that Gam Sung Woo said some strange things, but they were vague. Because of that, they dismissed his requests as ones from a judge who’s a little foolish. She’s accused of doing all of this for some kind of recognition. But if that was all it was, Han Se Sang wouldn’t have reported it after speaking to Gam Sung Woo.
Many might be criticising her again, but she’s slowly gathering more support. Han Se Sang expresses his support by telling her to keep going despite the chorus of disagreeing voices. There seems to be support from one of the few female presiding judges, too. Presiding Judge Oh, who Jung Bo Wang had said she would never support Park Cha Oh Reum’s cause during her efforts to hold a general judge’s meeting about gender discrimination in Episode 5, sends her words of encouragement, too.
When Park Cha Oh Reum talks about the possibility that maybe her becoming a judge is out of revenge which was born from wanting to get back at her father, Presiding Judge Oh tells her to give herself some time because after she’s healed, she will make a great judge because she has suffered so much and it is this suffering which will make her a great judge because she is more attuned to people’s pain than others.
Im Ba Reun, too, is starting to recognise Park Cha Oh Reum’s ways over his own. He tells her that instead of his way of searching for solid answers that already exist, her way of making mistakes whilst in search of new answers might just be what the courthouse needs in order for a fairer, more just courthouse.
Return of Kim Da In
Corruption and preferential treatment seems alive and well in the marketing company, too. Kim Da In, the character witness who testified against the advertising manager wanting to pass off his sexual harassment of interns as racy jokes, returns to fight her wrongful dismissal (Episode 10). Since the court case, the company claims of having lost business and a restructure was necessary. This had her let go.
It all comes off sound, only that it was only her (and the intern) who was truly let go after her team, Advertising Team One, was disbanded. They even found a way to rehire the advertising manager who was guilty of sexual harassment. He was transferred to another company. This company isn’t just any company, it’s a subsidiary of the marketing company. All the work Advertising Team One did is being done there.
There was even a plot with the labour union to have her charged with lack of ethics and dignity so they could fire her in a lawful way. Apparently, the advertising manager has a great relationship with the union. There was no way for her to remain at the company, and at the end of the lawsuit, there was nothing Department 44 could do for her, despite their best efforts to trace the connection between the marketing company and the subsidiary.
Despite losing the lawsuit, Kim Da In leaves the courthouse thanking Park Cha Oh Reum and her team for doing everything they could. It is a favour she would return in the exact same way when Park Cha Oh Reum finds herself in need of support during her toughest fight against injustice, one which will see Park Cha Oh Reum attacked from every side and every corner by her childhood friend Min Yong Joon because of a rape case which his brother-in-law is involved.
The attack is so strong, it will have Park Cha Oh Reum consider quitting as a judge, but good judges don’t go down easily. Park Cha Oh Reum’s sincerity, willingness to do everything in her power to help and stand up against injustices for people who don’t have the power to do so is what will draw people like Kim Da In (who later returns for a third time) to stand up and fight against the attacks on Park Cha Oh Reum.
Change from Civil cases to Criminal cases
Department 44 is not a department which deals with criminal offenses such as rape, since it is a Civil court; so, to move the drama towards taking on criminal cases, the Criminal Department is mentioned as being so inundated with cases the associate judges are working till early hours of the morning and thinking of setting up a camp bed in the corner of the office. This has Han Se Sang against such work conditions (this is like a swipe at work conditions which is very Sung Gong Choong’s style), saying there had to be alternative ways to relieving the pressure off the department. Before he knew what he was saying, he suggested sharing the load across departments, causing him to inadvertently put up his hand for his department to take on some criminal cases (to Im Ba Reun’s displeasure). (Episode 12)
Department 44 set up with taking on criminal cases, Miss Hammurabi has Im Ba Reun and Park Cha Oh Reum take on a couple of minor criminal cases first before Park Cha Oh Reum is assigned the rape case which would be Park Cha Oh Reum’s toughest fight in her fight for justice.
Be unyielding to the powerful and merciful to the weak
The first set of criminal cases sees both Park Cha Oh Reum and Im Ba Reun exercise the suggestion Park Cha Oh Reum made during a judges’ meeting discussing ideas on restoring the public’s faith in the judiciary (Episode 12). The public’s view that preferential treatment towards the powerful and former judges-turned-lawyers exists (as seen in Episode 9) seems to have created a bit of concern. Park Cha Oh Reum’s suggestion was to be unyielding and harsh to the powerful and mild and merciful to the weak. She says it quite easily, thinking the solution to be as simple as that. Not everyone shares the same confidence in the approach as the suggestion brings about another question: what would be considered unyielding and harsh and mild and merciful?
Through a couple of alcohol-related cases involving a couple of elderly men, Park Cha Oh Reum and Im Ba Reun try to answer this question. In Park Cha Oh Reum’s case, an elderly man is charged with riding his motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol. He is already on probation and have yet serve the full period before committing the offense again. In Im Ba Reun’s case, an elderly man is charged with theft and assault while intoxicated and have 26 previous criminal charges relating to assault and theft. As a way to try understand the motivation behind his wave of crimes, Park Cha Oh Reum and Im Ba Reun visit the place of residence for the defendant from Im Ba Reun’s case, and learn the elderly man lives in pretty desperate, desolate conditions and also is suffering from a recent death of his mother who committed suicide.
After hearing their trials, considering their situations, arguing out the idea of taking responsibility for one’s action and not using alcohol as an excuse to behave in such a way, they both considered having the elderly defendants serve each of their sentences in a treatment facility.
The alternative sentencing was possible with Park Cha Oh Reum’s case. The defendant’s son agreed to foot the bill. So, with the elderly man drinking while riding his motorcycle, Han Se Sang signed off and handed down a ruling where he would serve the rest of the 10 months of his existing probation in a treatment facility instead of a jail term. He will then be put on probation again. Jail term will be considered if he reoffends again after this.
However, with the violent defendant in Im Ba Reun’s case, he receives three years and six months jail term with one year and six months probation, totalling five years. Im Ba Reun had initially looked into going the same way as Park Cha Oh Reum as a show of compassion, but because the defendant was not in a position to pay for the treatment and required hospital funding, the only option was going with the prosecutor-suggested maximum jail term of five years.
Whilst deciding on the sentence, Im Ba Reun had considered reducing it with the reason of weak-mindedness born from the desolate conditions he was living under and the shock suffered from his mother’s suicide. In the end, though, he couldn’t justify it. Im Ba Reun believed the defendant had a high chance of reoffending judging from his 26 previous charges of assault. Such people must take responsibility. What’s more, unlike Park Cha Oh Reum’s case where the elderly man have yet to hurt anyone, the elderly man in Im Ba Reun’s case has.
Im Ba Reun exercises compassionate and is slapped with deception
In a surprise turn of events, after handing down the ruling, the true identity of the elderly man in Im Ba Reun’s case is revealed to be a previously powerful individual. He is Chairman Kim Jung Soo who is guilty of not fulfilling his duty as a chairman and embezzling billions of won (millions in US dollars) from his company. This elderly man didn’t just steal a few boxes of soju as the case stated and barely missed a woman’s head when he swung a bottle at her. This former chairman stole from his company. According to Im Ba Reun, burglary and assault was subjected to at least seven years imprisonment. We’re not sure what embezzlement and dereliction of duty is subjected to, but the former chairman was pretty thankful he got 5 years in total instead of life imprisonment.
The deception drives Im Ba Reun to drink. He normally doesn’t drink because he hates that drinking can lead to bothering and inconveniencing others. (His sensitivity to drunkards seems to come from his father’s often drunk state.) However, this revelation looked to have made Im Ba Reun so devastated and disgusted with what just happened, he needed the drinks to help him swallow the revelation. He drinks so much he ends up in the men’s room vomiting over a toilet. Heavy sobs escape him before he passes out there on the spot and becomes one of those people who inconveniences people.
The person he ends up inconveniencing is Park Cha Oh Reum. He’s seen asleep on her lap whilst riding home on the train; Park Cha Oh Reum soothingly stroking his hair whilst he lay there unaware. This scene is the first time Park Cha Oh Reum shows some affection for Im Ba Reun. Im Ba Reun actually likes Park Cha Oh Reum and has liked her since high school (they weren’t friends but they talked back then) and has confessed to her, but he was rejected (Episode 6). More on the couple later.
Park Cha Oh Reum’s toughest fight against injustice
The fight of all fights in the fight against injustice begin in Episode 13 and runs right through till the end of the drama. This time the injustice is against Park Cha Oh Reum and Min Yong Joon is the perpetrator. When Park Cha Oh Reum and her team convicts Min Yong Joon’s brother-in-law for rape, Park Cha Oh Reum becomes the target of Min Yong Joon’s attacks. He has connections all over the place—in every form of the media, in the courthouse, in politics and the hospital—and spares no effort in using the connections to try reverse the ruling.
He uses the media to spread stories about Park Cha Oh Reum having a bias towards women and being a man hater. Connections in the courts are used to assign more rape and murder cases to Park Cha Oh Reum to support his accusation further. He uses his high position at Sejin University Hospital to threaten the rape victim to change her story. Then, to take care of his desire to have Park Cha Oh Reum removed from her position, he tries using a congressman to demand the removal of problematic judges. The congressman fails, though. So, Sung Gong Choong, who recently got promoted to Supreme Court Justice, is hinted to have been used by Min Yong Joon to do it. Unexpectedly, the appeal case is reassigned to Sung Gong Choong, who Min Yong Joon knows through internal access to information, that he will do his best to send Park Cha Oh Reum out of the courthouse. (Episode 14)
As mentioned earlier, Sung Gong Choong uses this to approach his former superior, Chief Presiding Judge, to demand Park Cha Oh Reum face disciplinary action (Episode 15). His reason is for damaging the reputation and dignity of the judiciary. His real reason is revenge against her for humiliating him when she took collective action against him.
The Chief Presiding Judge had considered disciplinary action against Park Cha Oh Reum before Song Gong Choon approached him about it. However, it’s not because he thinks she did anything wrong—especially concerning the rape case—but he believes for this fight to end, someone must take responsibility. Not willing to feed the judiciary to the angry mob outside, he leaned towards throwing Park Cha Oh Reum to the mob despite feeling the action to be wrong but haven’t moved to actually do it. But with Sung Gong Choong threatening to go to the Ethics Office of Supreme Court, the Chief Presiding Judge have no choice but to proceed as demanded (Episode 15).
It’s all going exactly as Min Yong Joon wants. He’s got the citizens fooled and calling for Park Cha Oh Reum’s resignation, the court to take disciplinary action against her, the defense council to lose trust in her ability to handle cases objectively, and Park Cha Oh Reum to break down and wanting to give up being a judge.
The attacks might not have been so potent had Park Cha Oh Reum not also seen Min Yong Joon’s brother-in-law collapse before her right after the ruling was made. Even though the ruling was made with both Han Se Sang and Im Ba Reun agreeing, it had her doubt whether the ruling was right. Not only did it have her doubt this ruling, but every verdict she made in the past. Add this to seeing cases change from a normal trial where judges decide on the verdict to a jury trial because of her, she saw little she could do, but resign. A judge who couldn’t be trusted can’t remain a judge.
Park Cha Oh Reum’s close to being down and out at this point, but during her time at the courthouse, she’s gathered a small contingent of her own supporters to stand-up against Min Yong Joon’s attacks. Small as it is, it’s one that is strong enough to turn the tides and see the drama’s two bad guys brought down.
Min Yong Joon’s crimes exposed
Kim Da In, the victim of the wrongful dismissal case in Episode 10, returns for the second time. This time as a small online reporter who starts off publishing a story about Park Cha Oh Reum being a just judge who cries with the people (Episode 15). She then tracks down the elderly lady in the medical malpractice case to expose Min Yong Joon’s involvement in the cover-up, one which suggest his brother-in-law’s alcohol addiction to be behind the medical malpractice. A younger doctor had taken over because the brother-in-law was apparently intoxicated (the drama doesn’t stated this, but it suggests it with the mention of the brother-in-law’s red face), indirectly causing the death of the elderly woman’s son.
Kim Da In also learns that the rape victim had changed her testimony because the rape victim was threatened with her mother’s life. In exchange for a change of testimony in the appeal case, Min Yong Joon offered pushing forward the surgery for the infection.
With this information, Kim Da In and the elderly lady gatecrashes Min Yong Joon’s NJ Social Welfare Foundation inauguration ceremony to bombard him with questions regarding his crimes and corruption in front of a room-full of other journalists (Episode 16). No arrests were made before the drama ends, but the questions have been asked, investigations can start rolling and no longer can Min Yong Joon avoid answering them.
When you can’t stop the rain falling on them, stand in the rain alongside them
“When you can’t stop the rain from falling on someone, you should stand in the rain alongside them”, this is what Department 44’s stenographer, Lee Do Yeon (Lee Elijah), had told Jung Bo Wang when the couple talked about Park Cha Oh Reum having to face this tough fight alone (Episode 15). This had Jung Bo Wang take this quote and put it into practice.
Jung Bo Wang is a well-liked associate judge amongst his senior judges, and have helped fight some of Park Cha Oh Reum’s battles against injustice (like when Park Cha Oh Reum and Im Ba Reun were trying to get judges to agree to a general judge’s meeting to discuss gender discrimination), but has been careful not to go too far out of fear of getting out of favour with the senior judges. This latest battle, though, he forgets all of that to fully stand on Park Cha Oh Reum’s side when he suggests a petition opposing Park Cha Oh Reum’s disciplinary action.
In an unorthodox way, Jung Bo Wang, with Im Ba Reun, go around asking the courthouse to sign a petition requesting he and Im Ba Reun be punished first for starting this collective action against Park Cha Oh Reum’s disciplinary action.
Han Se Sang also shows his support by calling out what he thinks is the disgraceful behaviour of the Chief Presiding Judge who claims being someone who sacrifices himself for the judiciary (Episode 15). In his view, it is just a claim, because the Chief Presiding Judge’s willingness to sacrifice his juniors in this fight shows no sacrificing on his part.
The greatest show of support comes from Im Ba Reun, though. His support comes in the form of a resignation and going wherever she goes. This might be because Im Ba Reun likes Park Cha Oh Reum, but it seems his actions is also because he’s come to truly believe the courthouse needs someone like Park Cha Oh Reum.
In Episode 10, he’s expressed this view of his. In Episode 14 he expresses it again. Although the first time he said it (which is the time in Episode 10) was a knee-jerk, jealous response to Park Cha Oh Reum’s aunties suggesting she quit her job and marry Min Yong Joon if being a judge is too difficult, Im Ba Reun means it. In Episode 14, whilst visiting Min Yong Joon about the attacks on Park Cha Oh Reum, Im Ba Reun tells Min Yong Joon that if it means he needs to quit to have Min Yong Joon stop, then he will. He believes there are plenty of judges like him, but no one like Park Cha Oh Reum and that is why she must stay.
To show how serious he is about resigning and supporting Park Cha Oh Reum, he prepares a resignation letter for the time Park Cha Oh Reum finds herself needing to leave the courthouse (Episode 15). This letter is shown to Park Cha Oh Reum to let her know that he will quit and go with her if she finds the place too hard to bear, too dirty and too cheap, no matter where it is she chooses to go.
With such great moral support, Park Cha Oh Reum’s spirits return sky-high and ready to face the disciplinary action upon her. No longer is she thinking of quitting like she had been before Im Ba Reun had shown her the extent he’d go for her. In fact, she is prepared to fight till the very end, even if it meant fighting against the Supreme Court.
Sung Gong Choong’s downfall
Park Cha Oh Reum didn’t need to go that far. She didn’t even need to attend her disciplinary hearing as Chief Presiding Judge had cancelled it after Hong Eun Ji published her experiences working under Sung Gong Choong on the courthouse’s online bulletin board (Episode 16). This started a wave of other associate judge’s speaking out about their experiences working under Sung Gong Choong.
No longer was this just an incident that could be excused as giving a lacking presiding judge who needed a chance to shine. With so many associate judges speaking out and banding together, there was now reason to bring in Sung Gong Choong for investigation. This is exactly what the judiciary does. After announcing the cancelling of Park Cha Oh Reum’s disciplinary hearing, Sung Gong Choong is informed that a disciplinary hearing is set for him.
Yes! Sung Gong Choong gets what he deserves, Min Yong Joon is made to face his crimes. Park Cha Oh Reum wins. Justice is served! So satisfying!
Han Se Sang resigns
Closing up the drama is Han Se Sang’s resignation! He’s gone and taken responsibility for the whole situation. Should the public still want someone to take responsibility for what’s been in the media, Han Se Sang tells Chief Presiding Judge he can use him. He also sees he has a lot of shortcomings and thinks he’s holding his young judges back. He seems to be suggesting it was time for a new kind of judiciary and Park Cha Oh Reum and Im Ba Reun are the way of the future. Before his meeting with Chief Presiding Judge ends, he requests Chief Presiding Judge to protect them.
So sad. Han Se Sang is one of the good judges. He loses his temper, scolds in court, but he’s quick to admit his shortcomings and take responsibility. It’s a stark contrast to Sung Gong Choong who tries to hide his shortcomings through any means possible, even if it means violating human rights or stealing others’ ideas to make himself look good.
Extra bit of information: Sung Gong Choong is actually Han Se Sang’s opposite. They are both similar in that they both went to an unknown university, graduated late and didn’t do well in the bar exam. Han Se Sang didn’t care about buttering up to superiors and promotions. He just wanted to be a judge. Sung Gong Choong was all about being promoted. We would’ve loved to see Sung Gong Choong actually face punishment. He was just so despicable and cocky. But this is where the drama ends.
Main Romance Arc
We haven’t focused much on the romance storyline between Im Ba Reun and Park Cha Oh Reum. We only pass-mentioned the confession at the beginning of the recap and Im Ba Reun’s willingness to resign for Park Cha Oh Reum just above, so it might look like we’re missing out what is actually a very cool part of the drama and another reason we love Miss Hammurabi. The developments are small and minor that they are almost not worth mentioning, and the kiss between the two is far from the passionate kind; but, we still we love it.
It’s a little bit different from what we’ve seen in Korean dramas. Usually it’s the girl who likes the guy first; but, in Miss Hammurabi, it’s the guy who likes the girl first. Below are the developments and how it started.
Im Ba Reun’s high school crush on Park Cha Oh Reum
Twelve years, 9 months and 10 days. That’s how long it’s been since the last time Im Ba Reun has seen Park Cha Oh Reum. Im Ba Reun’s feelings started with a high school crush. He and Park Cha Oh Reum weren’t friends back then, more schoolmates as Im Ba Reun appears not to know much about Park Cha Oh Reum back then. He looks to have spoken to her a few times only and developed a crush on her.
Reunited as judges, Im Ba Reun still likes her and recognises her straight away when he runs into her again on the subway. However, he pretends he doesn’t remember her initially and lets Park Cha Oh Reum recognise him first. He has her address him by his job title despite being the same age and having known each other since high school. (Im Ba Reun and his strict adherence to rules even outside of work.)
Looking out for Park Cha Oh Reum
Im Ba Reun is not the kind of person who believes in teamwork. He thinks that everyone works for themselves, making him look selfish and the kind who won’t bother with worrying about others and offering his help. But, his actions contradicts his words.
Im Ba Reun offers to divide up inheritance for a case Park Cha Oh Reum is working on and lies about having a spreadsheet he uses which will allow him to complete the task for her in 30 minutes. Jung Bo Wang reveals that dividing up inheritance is a complicated task and there is no spreadsheet to do it in that short amount of time. Im Ba Reun finishes the task overnight, but usually it takes two days. The reason he does all of this is out of concern for her health and wants her to go home and rest. (Episode 2)
Im Ba Reun also went and got some things for her health, which he gave her during a team volleyball game which he attended for Park Cha Oh Reum. At this same volleyball game, he also saves her from being hit. Park Cha Oh Reum seems to feel pretty happy about the kind act. She was seen smiling at a photo which captured that moment. She wasn’t about to let Im Ba Reun know he was behind her smile, though. When he approached her desk, she quickly closed the window to replace it with a photo of cheesecake. (Episode 2)
After hearing the story about a man preying on her in the elevator, Im Ba Reun runs to accompany her home. He was so worried about her safety, he didn’t have time to remove his thumb tack. Turns out Park Cha Oh Reum was quite fearful about heading into the elevator, so it was lucky he ran after her. (Episode 3)
Im Ba Reun confesses and is rejected
Im Ba Reun confesses about liking her since they were teenagers and gets rejected. Park Cha Oh Reum tells him honestly she’s never had feelings for him—not then and not now. She tells him she had made her heart flutter, but she was just grateful she had such a caring colleague (Episode 6).
That said, it seems to be an unwillingness to start a relationship than not liking him. She lets Im Ba Reun know how she can’t afford to have feeling for someone she currently works for because she has to survive in this place in order to pay off the debt her late father left her. She also has a mother who is ill and a grandmother who’s health is deteriorating to consider.
Im Ba Reun, acting cool about the rejection, tells her to not worry about surviving or not surviving. If he thinks she’ll get in trouble, he will nag her and stop her.
Awkwardness, meet love rival Min Yong Joon and “he’s not my type”
It’s silence, awkwardness and the two unable to speak to each other for a couple days. Things do get back to normal eventually with Im Ba Reun speaking up about the awkwardness and apologising for making things uncomfortable for the two. (Episode 7)
Min Yong Joon shows up as a love rival to Im Ba Reun and has Im Ba Reun learn just how uninterested Park Cha Oh Reum is in Im Ba Reun. For Park Cha Oh Reum’s birthday, he showers her with expensive handbags. He also shouts Park Cha Oh Reum and her family and colleagues (Im Ba Reun, Jung Bo Wang and Lee Do Yeon) dinner at Park Cha Oh Reum’s favourite restaurant. At the end of the night, after everyone including Im Ba Reun takes their fill of alcohol, Im Ba Reun hears Park Cha Oh Reum tell her street market aunties that he’s not her type after being teased about preparing for wedding gifts for the two. (Episode 7)
Im Ba Reun was not a happy man the next morning and even changes his mind about Park Cha Oh Reum being someone his type. Obviously, he’s saying this out of jealousy. He’s not serious about it. Her conversation on the phone with Min Yong Joon had brought it on. It didn’t matter she was scolding Min Yong Joon for buying the bags and that she was returning them in the conversation. Im Ba Reun had been rejected, she was talking to Min Yong Joon and it annoyed him enough to take back his feelings. (Episode 7)
Park Cha Oh Reum might be serious about not liking Im Ba Reun, but when Im Ba Reun gives Park Cha Oh Reum his birthday gift to her, the response is completely different to her response to Min Yong Joon. The bottle of perfume wrapped in red gift wrap and ribbon is received with a subtle surprised look before a small smile spreads across her face. Park Cha Oh Reum who doesn’t normally wear perfume (according to Lee Do Yeon) wore Im Ba Reun’s perfume the very next day. (Episode 8)
It looks like Park Cha Oh Reum totally loves Im Ba Reun’s gift; that or as we like to think, Im Ba Reun’s gift means more to her because he gave it.
Park Cha Oh Reum is bothered by Im Ba Reun’s indifference
Im Ba Reun visits Park Cha Oh Reum’s mother in the care home and looks to have captured a bit of Park Cha Oh Reum’s heart at the end of Episode 8. Park Cha Oh Reum’s mother—who’s memories of the past, of her own family are all disappearing—showed no response to anything or anyone around her, but a song Im Ba Reun decided to play on a guitar he found in the room got her humming happily.
Through a voiceover, Im Ba Reun is heard telling Park Cha Oh Reum that her mother’s memories of her will never be forgotten, because she is the apple of her eye (Park Cha Oh Reum is someone precious to her mother). When Park Cha Oh Reum gazes into her mother’s eyes, she sees a reflection of herself; and when her mother gazes into Park Cha Oh Reum’s eyes, her mother sees a reflection of herself in Park Cha Oh Reum’s eyes. So it’s as if Park Cha Oh Reum is always in her mother’s eyes.
He suggests her mother would’ve looked at her countless times since she was born. She would have had Park Cha Oh Reum embedded in her eyes. So, no matter what the doctors say, somewhere deep down, her mother’s memories of her is there. It will never be forgotten.
Im Ba Reun may be a cold, clinical judge, but he’s quite a deep person!
After this visit, Park Cha Oh Reum seems to receive Im Ba Reun in a different way. There’s no reciprocated feelings yet, but she is warming up to Im Ba Reun, such that his cool, indifferent response to her (acting normal, like what he did for her the night before was no big deal) now bothers her:
“This is about a friend of mine who works at a company. She’s suffering a bit because of an indifferent senior,” Park Cha Oh Reum tells Lee Do Yeon. “Friend” equals Park Cha Oh Reum. “Indifferent senior” equals Im Ba Reun. : oD : oD (Episode 9)
Park Cha Oh Reum’s captivated by Im Ba Reun’s smile
Park Cha Oh Reum notices Im Ba Reun’s smile whilst watching Im Ba Reun play with some children at a church whilst she spoke to their caregiver (they were visiting it for a case involving teenage guys snorting glue). Park Cha Oh Reum tries to get him to show her that smile again, but fails to bring it out both times he consciously tried to smile for her. After the request passes, that smile comes out naturally, and it has Park Cha Oh Reum captivated. (Episode 11)
Although this is the first time Park Cha Oh Reum showed herself as being attracted to Im Ba Reun, she’s never hid the fact she thought Im Ba Reun was good looking. Episode 6 she told Im Ba Reun he was better looking than a congressman who is quite attractive. Episode 3, she had him walk around the street market in a hanbok to get more sales. She clearly thinks his look sells. In Episode 11, she again uses his good looks to hand out flyers about protecting the youth from glue and varnish.
Love rival Min Yong Joon isn’t really much of a love rival
Min Yong Joon shows up Im Ba Reun again with a trip to Cambodia for the teenage guys in a case Im Ba Reun and Park Cha Oh Reum were working on. Using his wealth, Min Yong Joon tries to illustrate how he might be the person more suitable for Park Cha Oh Reum’s desire to serve justice (or revenge, whatever she likes).
It does look like Min Yong Joon can get things done more easily and quickly, but this power which he holds was gained through some unfair means (as Park Cha Oh Reum points out). These means of achieving things and people like Min Yong Joon are what Park Cha Oh Reum is often trying to fight against through the court of law.
So, although Park Cha Oh Reum seemed happy to accept Min Yong Joon’s plane trip—something the guys have never experienced—his criticisms of the “uncivilised” behaviour of the people (leading her to pick out the above) sees her leave Min Yong Joon and return to the office.
Min Yong Joon’s been saying to Im Ba Reun how Park Cha Oh Reum didn’t belong in the courthouse, how a place within his family is more suitable (Episode 10). He got it all wrong. It looks like the courthouse (and Im Ba Reun) is the more suitable for her.
“It’s okay to inconvenience others sometimes, especially me.”
Adding to what we already mentioned above about Im Ba Reun inconveniencing Park Cha Oh Reum after learning that the elderly man in the assault while intoxicated case was a chairman and getting drunk, Park Cha Oh Reum reveals that she doesn’t mind if Im Ba Reun relies on her. (Episode 12) She hadn’t meant to blurt out the last part it seems, but something in her subconscious must be wanting him to feel like he can rely on her. ^^ ^^
“Why do you like me?”
Park Cha Oh Reum is emotional and rash and it makes her curious about what exactly it is that Im Ba Reun likes about her. He tells her it’s because she makes him uncomfortable. Because she’s quite different from the way he thinks and acts, it makes him question views he once thought were correct. At first he found their butting of heads frustrating, and thought he liked her despite this; but now, he likes her because of it. She gets him out of his comfort zone, challenge his views and gets him to take a hard look at himself. (Episode 13)
Park Cha Oh Reum’s response to that: “Back then I told you that I had to survive here, and because of that, I wasn’t sure that I had the luxury to harbor such feelings, right? But in truth it was because you were by my side that I was able to withstand everything and manage to survive here. I didn’t even realise it.” (Episode 13)
Park Cha Oh Reum is just short of accepting Im Ba Reun’s feelings from the sounds of it! : oO : oO.
Im Ba Reun and Park Cha Oh Reum’s unofficial date
It’s not an official date, but it stands in as one. In Episode 15, in an attempt to try recover Park Cha Oh Reum’s fighting spirit, Im Ba Reun asks her to meet up with him in the weekends. He tells her that he wanted to tell her about how he grew up. Park Cha Oh Reum had said she liked knowing her colleagues outside of the office. But his goal is to end up at the spot he first met Park Cha Oh Reum so he can remind her of that time when she was shaking in her boots telling off an old man in the library who had taken her seat and how determined and strong she was.
So, with Park Cha Oh Reum dressed up in a pretty floral print dress (she made an effort just for Im Ba Reun!), they spend the day riding bicycles through his old neighbourhood, eating ice cream, going to his own bookstore, and as planned, they end up on the grounds of their high school where he met ‘that’ girl (Park Cha Oh Reum). He jokes about having confessed to that girl already, so there was no need to say that he liked that girl. This gets a grin from Park Cha Oh Reum (she’s not shying away, good sign!).
At the final destination of Im Ba Reun’s tour, he goes into talking about the time she stood up to an old man for taking her seat at the library (this turned out to be Han Se Sang) and took her seat back despite being a shy, introverted girl back in high school. He reminded her of that girl who never backed down, especially when it came to going up against an injustice.
Im Ba Reun will resign for Park Cha Oh Reum
It has Park Cha Oh Reum thinking, but she shows hesitance in returning herself to that strong and determined state. Im Ba Reun notices it immediately and brings out a white envelop for her to read. It’s a resignation letter. His resignation letter. Im Ba Reun tells Park Cha Oh Reum that he hopes Park Cha Oh Reum doesn’t quit being a judge and hang on, but if she finds that she really can’t bear it any longer then he intends to resign and go wherever she is should she find herself forced to leave the courthouse. (Episode 15)
Wow, Im Ba Reun is too cool! For Im Ba Reun to be willing to resign is the ultimate display of support for her as a judge as well as Park Cha Oh Reum herself. It had been a dream of his to get a job which he couldn’t get fired from easily. Because he has debt which his father racks up from trying to help others instead of his own family, leaving his mother to pick up after him through odd jobs here and there, Im Ba Reun needed a super secure job. That job is being a judge.
No one, not even if that person held great power and connections, can fire him simply by wanting his removal. The unskilled Congressman Min Yong Joon brought in had tried suggesting that happen to problematic judges like Im Ba Reun and Park Cha Oh Reum in Episode 14, but was quickly corrected by Im Ba Reun that the only way he will lose his job is through impeachment and being convicted of a serious crime. So, Im Ba Reun resigning is quite a big sacrifice.
Im Ba Reun captures Park Cha Oh Reum’s heart
Touched by Im Ba Reun’s support, Park Cha Oh Reum leans in to kiss him (Episode 15). This kiss is just a press to the lips, but it brought such happy smiles to our faces!
They really are the perfect couple. Park Cha Oh Reum challenges Im Ba Reun to see things from other people’s perspective and act; while he, with his great comprehension of the law, keeps her from going too far and fighting for justice as opposed to revenge. Together, they form a powerful team to fighting injustice and change the world.
Slightly off on a tangent, we think this might be a reason why Im Ba Reun is so sort-after by law firms. Even Min Yong Joon has asked he leave the courthouse and join his legal team (Episode 14). Min Yong Joon probably had an ulterior motive (which is to get him away from Park Cha Oh Reum), but he probably knows how good Im Ba Reun is as well. His ability to pull up rules and legislation and put them to effective use would probably get some corrupt official or powerful person off if he joined.
Fortunately, Im Ba Reun went into this profession for its security and not for money. It seems he also went into this to defeat the evil, protect the weak and do good. In Episode 12, his mum revealed he was a fan of a TV courtroom series featuring a judge he loved so much he imitated him; and after watching an animated movie, he ran around shouting “we will defeat the evil and protect the weak”. Despite appearing like he didn’t like being a judge, it looks like it was something he always wanted to be since he was a boy.
With that, we end our series recap of Miss Hammurabi. We mostly focused on Park Cha Oh Reum’s fight for justice and corruption as the enemy of achieving justice; but, within this main story, there’s also a small look at Korean work culture, workplace bullying, rigid hierarchies, sexism, systemic issues which are responsible for some of the injustices people are made to suffer. It all relates to telling another story about punishment and responsibility, action and inaction, change and status quo, sympathy and compassion—both good and bad sides to it.
All of this is told through an interesting and sometimes quite a funny way, too. For example, the rigid hierarchy was shown through a group of judges waiting to get into the elevator. The group was made up of presiding judges and associate judges who were of different ages, ranks and gender. Out of respect for this hierarchy and courtesy, the young must give way to the elders, associate judges must give way to the presiding judges and men should give way to the women. No one was just one or the other. There were male presiding judges—younger and older—and associate judges—female, male and probably younger and older. Applying the social rule, it’s a rule which majorly clashed in this particular situation. No one dared to go in out of respect and courtesy. It was only until Park Cha Oh Reum dared to break this rule, earning disapproving stares, the clash was solved. The scene was quite funny.
Miss Hammurabi can be quite funny, not like laugh-out-loud funny, but there will be moments where a giggle or grin escapes. Han Se Sang’s outbursts and total lack of care for the social rules is hilarious at times. The one we remember is when he yelled at the Chief Presiding Judge for using “lastly” three times in his speech. He was getting bored listening to him go on and on despite having used “lastly” multiple times.
Im Ba Reun, as much as he sounds like a stiff follower of rules, he can be quite rebellious. He’ll mutter words of dissatisfaction or criticism about Han Se Sang under his breath, point out Han Se Sang’s temper, and openly scold him and be unhappy with him. This presiding judge-associate judge pairing is so entertaining and sort of cute!
If you haven’t watched Miss Hammurabi and you’re looking for a drama to watch, we’re totally recommending this one. We started this drama after not finding much else interesting, expecting not much from it, but it turned out to be a fantastic drama. This legal drama is just so full of goodness: interesting cases, great set of characters and character development, awesome themes, and although the main relationship arc is on the light side, the developments are still super sweet and super satisfying. We’re pretty glad we clicked in. We just love it!