'The Devil Judge' writer Moon Yoo-seok shares creating dystopian society - Korea Times
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'The Devil Judge' writer Moon Yoo-seok shares creating dystopian society

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TvN series
TvN series "The Devil Judge," starring Ji Sung and Jin Young, ended last month. Courtesy of tvN

By Lee Gyu-lee

Judge-turned-writer Moon Yoo-seok, who created and scripted tvN's recent series "The Devil Judge," recently shared the thoughts his creative mind came up with that were behind his writing of the dystopian, dark hero series.

Writer Moon Yoo-seok / Courtesy of tvN
Writer Moon Yoo-seok / Courtesy of tvN
"With everything that has been going on in the world, I started to wonder what our future would be like if such patterns continued. So it led to the idea of bringing up a thought experiment, in a way, by setting the concept of this series in a near-future dystopian world," Moon said in a recent interview with The Korea Times.

The series, which ended last month with an 8 percent viewership rating, is set in a fictional dystopian Korea, two years after the country has been swept by a mysterious plague.

The government implements a new justice system in which court trials are proceeded with as a live show for the public and rulings are made based on votes by citizens.

Kang Yo-han (Ji Sung) is the star senior judge, who ruthlessly punishes those found guilty. Despite his image as a just, crusading judge, rookie judge Kim Ga-on (Jin Young) starts to question his methods and legal boundaries.

The writer said the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic gave him the idea to write the story about a dystopian society.

"It was terrifying to see how the world has changed so fast since the coronavirus pandemic began, like elderly patients in Spain's nursing homes being found dead after staff abandoned them, or the global economy nearly collapsing and putting many people out of job," he said. "In a world like this, it's inevitable for extremist groups, who seek to express their dissatisfaction through hatred and exclusivism, to emerge."

He added that such a concept made the story more universal for global viewers to appreciate the series.

"Because I applied such an unsettling phenomena happening around the world into the story, I have been getting reactions from overseas viewers," he said. "As Korea's content is getting more popular globally, I believe that (the Korean) creators should also expand their interests to more global topics for a broader audience to sympathize with."

A scene from the series / Courtesy of tvN
A scene from the series / Courtesy of tvN

Yo-han is a vigilante-style judge who comes up with harsh punishments for the criminals and takes down corrupt powers. Filled with discontent for their reality, citizens express appreciation for his merciless punishments, such as public whippings or being placed in an electric chair that increases the voltage according to citizens' votes.

Moon said the craze for dark hero-style stories, where bad defeats bad, is due to people's anger toward injustice.

"The craze is an expression of the citizens' anger toward a system that has failed to operate properly. But the problem is that when that rage begins to surge, and media and political power exploit that rage, society turns to full violence and hatred, and produces extremists," he said.

"So, the dystopia in The Devil Judge has already reached the peak of such a nightmare to the point that its citizens can't come together in solidarity to solve issues. It's scary and sad how they come to rely on the outrageous measures taken by Yo-han."

The writer emphasized that he wanted to send a message that "it is not too late" to stop the world from turning into such a society.

"The series ends with Ga-on's narration: 'To make the world that doesn't need Yo-han, what should I do.' And I think that's the genuine ending of the story," he said.

Moon, who has also wrote the JTBC legal series "Ms. Hammurabi" in 2018, said that he is interested in various genres other than legal dramas.

"I'm also a consumer with a huge passion for different cultural content. So I would like to tell stories in various genres that I love such as comedy, drama, thriller, sci-fi and animation," he said. "Because I worked on a dark series this time, I'm thinking of writing a light-hearted, feel-good story for my next project."

Lee Gyu-lee gyulee@koreatimes.co.kr

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