11 December 2012

Prosecutors in Korea

Here's what I know about what happens to you if you break the law in Korea: you either get prosecuted by an uber rich party girl who has a way overdeveloped, inappropriate  fashion sense or you get prosecuted by vampire.  Personally, I'm not sure which is worse.

Somehow, Netflix has decided that I am Korean and keeps recommending Korean TV series to me.  So far, I have only watched two, Prosecutor Princess and Vampire Prosecutor.  I'll let you figure out which one centers around a fashion maven and which one has a troubled stalker of the night fighting against his primal urge to snack on the people around him.  Well, okay, maybe I'll fill in a few details for those of you who can't figure it out on your own.

Prosecutor Princess starts out cute as we see the normally stoic, reserved and cookie cutter prosecutors having their lives disrupted by this out of control party girl who wears suits that each cost more than a prosecutor earns in a single year.  It develops into a decent drama involving the manipulation of this girl by outside forces using her as a pawn which becomes increasingly aware of her situation as things play out.

I have not finished Vampire Prosecutor yet, but it's about a guy who has been turned into a vampire and now uses his powers for good.  In some ways he's the typical modern tortured-soul vampire we've been seeing in modern TV at least since Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  He fights off his urge to eat somebody in just about every other episode and he is haunted by something that happened in his past.  On the other hand, he doesn't seem to be affected by sunlight in the least and he has some nifty powers I've never seen in a vampire before.  He can come to a crime scene and just by looking see from the moment that the first drop of blood hit the ground to the moment that drop of blood left the body.  If he actually drinks some of the blood he can even see back further and gets glimpses of the perpetrator or other important bits of evidence.

To be honest, I enjoyed Prosecutor Princess more than Vampire Prosecutor - although that may be because I watched Princess a while back and have forgotten its flaws and I am currently working my way through Vampire.  Anyway, there seemed to be actual character development in Princess as the main character realizes there is more to life than fashion and then begins to realize even more.  In Vampire the only character who seems to grow is a female assistant prosecutor whose main purpose in many of the episodes is to run around filling in time with a fruitless investigation until Vampire Guy can swoop in to save the day.  Oh, and she's also one of the girls who gets tied up every second or third episode.  Koreans don't seem to be particularly shy about that sort of thing; it's almost like one of those old Detective Magazines.

Beyond the stories, we also get a glimpse of what being a "prosecutor" is like in Korea.  It seems quite different than what we have here in the States.  The prosecutors seem to be more along the line of investigators, calling in victims and suspects to question or even going to crime scenes to try to figure out what happened.  As a side note, it appears that defense attorneys are specifically disallowed while the prosecutor questions the suspect in Korea.  In fact, it appears that the prosecutor gathers all the evidence, makes a determination of the facts, and offers a disposition.  After that, if the defendant ne suspect rejects the deal he can have a defense attorney.  I'm not sure if I've gotten that exactly correct, but it appears to be the way the process works.

There does not seem to be a jury, although it appears that there are three judges in a trial.  I don't know if they rule by majority vote or whether unanimity is required.  In the shows the only person who talks much is the man I assume is the chief judge (the judge sitting in the center of the bench).  Other than that, the process seems to progress much as a bench trial might here.  However, there does not appear to be double jeopardy in Korea.  In at least one of the Vampire episodes a person is brought back before the judges more than once after they dismiss the charge.

All-in-all, the two series are worth taking the time to watch.  So far, Netflix has pointed me toward British and Korean lawyer dramas.  I wonder which ones it will pop up for me next.  Indian?  Brazilian?  Egyptian?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prosecutors in Korea are actually quite prestigious. The bar passage rate in Korea is very low to begin with. On top of that, only the best of the best can become prosecutors. All of the prosecutors I met in Korea were much smarter than me, and they all worked ridiculous hours.

You are correct, they take a more active role in investigations and are not completely separate from the cops. Trials are non-adversarial, so the main actors in the courtroom are the judge and prosecutor, with the defense attorney being more of a third wheel. It's weird.