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Monday,March 25,2019
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What signs the TV drama Sign gave us

The TV drama Sign has finally ended.  This drama is about a favored presidential candidate’s daughter who committed several murders.  Her father attempts to hide the truth about these vicious crimes from the forensic doctors, prosecutors, and detectives who are eager to uncover the truth about the murder cases. 

In order to avoid having his reputation damaged, the father destroys evidence and bribes witnesses, including the director of the National Forensic Service (NFS), into silence.  Even during the investigation, his daughter murders a key witness.  With very limited evidence, the prosecutors and detectives try to solve the mysterious murders and bring the murderer to justice. What did this drama want to show us?

People who remember the 2007 presidential election in Korea can associate this drama with the BBK stock manipulation scandal.  The then Grand National Party (GNP) presidential candidate, Lee Myung-bak, who had overwhelming public support during his presidential campaign, denied any wrongdoing. 

Although an incriminating video showing Lee Myung-bak giving a lecture related to this scandal was released to the public, prosecutors determined that there was insufficient evidence to link him to the illegal stock manipulation allegations. 

According to prosecutors, Kim Kyung-joon, a former business associate of Lee Myung-bak, committed the crime singlehandedly.  The GNP, which was the opposition party at the time, accepted the prosecutors’ decision without considering any other evidence.  In the end, Lee Myung-bak was elected in a landslide election. 

A political scandal quite similar to the BBK scandal can be seen in the drama Sign.  In this drama, the woman’s father, considered to be the strongest candidate, coerces the media and prosecutors to conceal evidence linked to the heinous murders committed by his daughter. 

As a result, the investigations are conducted without important pieces of evidence.  Even during the investigation, prosecutors do not permit certain videos to be used as evidence.  How could a presidential candidate embroiled in such a huge scandal be elected?

Another more recent case involves the incriminating letters allegedly written by the late actress Jang Ja-yeon before she committed suicide in 2009.  On March 13, the NFS stated that the 24 letters, which supposedly contain detailed information about the company executives that she was allegedly forced to entertain, could not have been written by Jang because the handwriting samples did not match. 

However, there are still doubts about whether or not the prosecutors revealed the entire truth.  First, before SBS aired a special show about the newly discovered letters, the TV broadcaster had the handwriting verified by a private verification facility, which determined that the handwriting was indeed Jang’s.  Second, how could Jeon, Jang’s friend who is currently serving a prison sentence, know so much detailed information about the men on the “list” if she really did fabricate the letters? 

Furthermore, if Jeon did write the letters herself, the question remains as to why he would want to fabricate 230 pages.  Prosecutors simply cited mental insanity as the reason.  In the letters, a top executive at The Chosun Ilbo, one of Korea’s leading media companies, was even implicated in the scandal.  Did the prosecutors actually carry out a fair and transparent investigation?  Why was the investigation put to rest so abruptly, even though many doubts remain?

Democracy, transparency, and justice in Korea seem to be regressing.  The judiciary, in particular, but also the media, is supposed to keep other branches of government in check.  When prosecutors seem to side with the government and conglomerates, many doubts are raised about whether the truth or merely fabricated facts are revealed to the public.  The drama Sign successfully brings these important issues to the forefront.  Of course, this drama is based on fictitious events. 

However, it does raise some issues that should be looked at more carefully.  If there are no checks and balances in government, this drama gives us the opportunity to think about whether or not Korea is a genuine democracy in the true sense of the word.  Clearly, a truly independent judiciary that is capable, and willing, to erase all doubts in the hearts and minds of the people is essential.

Kim Jong-ha  keep14@dongguk.edu

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