Stranger: A Hidden Gem with a Fascinating Perspective of Reality

The Korean drama Stranger, written by first-time screenwriter Lee Soo-yeon, captivates its audience with its complex plot driven by multidimensional perspectives and outstanding performances by its actors. In this drama, a prosecutor and a policewoman make an unorthodox duo as they search for the truth behind a serial murder case. However, as they delve deeper, they reveal that the entire society the show is set in is not as honest as it seems.


Stranger revolves around an unlikely partnership of Hwang Si-mok (Jo Seung-woo) and Han Yeo-jin (Bae Doona). Hwang is a scintillating prosecutor who is unable to express emotion, and Han is a passionate police officer compelled to do what is right. Throughout the series, Hwang Si-mok drives the plot by his keen observations and his motivation to discover the truth. Fearless and straightforward, he challenges the system, including people with immense power. Hwang Si-mok’s unbiased point of view separates himself from the system and empowers him to observe the systemized corruption.


Han is his foil – a woman who prides herself in the integrity of the police force. Most women in Korean dramas are stereotypical damsels in distress, but Han radically defies that stereotype. She can stand her own in all kinds of conflict, and her intelligence and insight rivals that of Hwang Si-mok. Although she showcases courage even in adversity, Han is notably kind and good hearted. More than a search for the logical answer, Han considers justice as a fight for all people affected by crime. After her colleagues behave in a questionable manner, she asks Hwang Si-mok, “Do you think they did this because they were born evil? They’ve become like this because they can get away with it. They know people will turn a blind eye. If one person keeps his or her eyes open and speaks up, this can change.”


The case that Hwang Si-mok and Han Yeo-jin take on involves the killing of Park Moo-sung, a corporate broker who fell from power some time ago. It is full of complicated twists, one right after the other. Although the episodes are long, they leave the enthralled audience on the edge of their seats, waiting in anticipation for what comes next. Another advantage that the audience has is their ability to see the entire situation from many distinct perspectives. Through conversations between business tycoons and government officials to the inner framework of Hwang Si-mok’s beautiful mind, the audience is able to grasp the reality of the situation.


There are even heartwarming moments within the drama that develop a strong friendship between Hwang Si-mok and Han Yeo-jin. They meet by serendipity while chasing a murder suspect through the streets of Seoul and slowly begin to trust each other. By the time they are formally investigating together, they find themselves relying on each other for information and support as they solve the case. Hwang Si-mok even finds himself able to express his emotions around her, something that he was previously incapable of doing. He keeps simplistic drawings given as gifts from Han Yeo-jin, and he even smiled once around her as they were eating dinner together.


Most importantly, Stranger gives a perspicacious perspective into corruption. It becomes clear that people can do anything if they have power, and the only way to fight against that ideology is to go against the system. Throughout the series, Hwang Si-mok exemplifies this mindset with a fervent perseverance to reveal what really happened. He boldly defies his superiors and even goes out of his way to reenact the crime scene. The drama also provides social commentary on corruption, especially in South Korea. Considering the nation’s tumultuous history and its past scandal involving former president Park Geun-hye, it is possible that the show wanted to inform the public about how justice and honesty are skewed in the microcosm of politics and legal affairs. Further, this is applicable to America and its issues surrounding our current president – the line between politics and business are incredibly thin.


Ultimately, Stranger is a joy to watch – its stuns with its breathtaking performances, driven plot, and compelling, well-developed characters. Although its leads Hwang Si-mok (Jo Seung-woo) and Han Yeo-jin (Bae Doona) dominate the screen, supporting characters like Lee Chang-joon (Yoo Jae-myung), Young Eun-soo (Shin Hye-sun), and Seo Dong-jae (Lee Joon-hyuk) carry their own weight. Moreover, its social commentary makes this show exemplary – for it not only entertains, but also gives the audience a look into the world of universal political corruption.


NOTE: Stranger is available on Netflix. Its Korean title is Bimilui Soop, or Forest of Secrets. It won the Grand Prize for Drama at the Seoul Awards, which honor outstanding achievements in film. Its creators have suggested that there may be a second season.