K-Drama Premiere: “Designated Survivor: 60 Days” Offers Insights On The Dangerous Yet Exhilarating World Of Politics
A tragic incident pushes one man to take on a huge role that will test his leadership skills.
Designated Survivor: 60 Days premiere began to provide glimpses into the dangerous and messy political environment.
The power that could literally influence a country’s fate rests on the hands of someone; a person who is inexperienced and who is very hesitant to participate in the power play.
Faced with a huge challenge, scientist-turned-politician Park Moo Jin is clearly way in over his head. However, while he is confused and seems lost in the situation he is in, he proves that he has what it takes to make hard decisions. But his way is so unconventional that the people around him still doubts whether he is up to the task.
Pilot Week Rating:
Pilot Week Recap
Park Moo Jin (Ji Jin Hee), the Minister of Environment is meeting with the representatives from the United States regarding importing a large number of cars. Just when both parties seem to reach an agreement, he blurts that the numbers they present are inaccurate. Based on his findings, the actual result exceeds 50,000 cars, and it will be very harmful to the environment.
After making a scene at the free trade agreement meeting regarding US car imports, the Blue House requests for Park Moo Jin’s presence. While President Yang Jin Man sees the logic in his argument, he wants him to concede and give his approval. Shocked by this, Park Moo Jin respectfully argues with the President and state that he can’t risk it.
As a result, the President fires him from his job. While in their car with his wife and son, she questions him the reason he is not at the National Assembly when he should be as the Statement to the Nation is currently happening. Unable to answer right away, they are all startled when they almost bump into the car in front of them.
As Park Moo Jin and the others get out of their car, the huge monitor broadcasting the event suddenly cuts off and the National Assembly building engulfs in flames.
He runs towards the direction of the National Assembly as his daughter is currently in the vicinity having taken a field trip. The rescuers prevent him from going through as the building is still collapsing. Fortunately, he sees his daughter, but she is injured. They rush her to the hospital. Unable to get on the ambulance, Moo Jin and his son are left behind but much to their surprise, security men start to gather around them and they are taken to the Blue House.
Chief Presidential Secretary Han Joo Seung (Heo Joon Ho) and other Blue House staff surround Park Moo Jin. To his surprise, he is designated as the interim President after all high-ranking politicians died in the attack on the National Assembly. As he is still thinking about the situation and the events succeeding it, he sees the generals having a heated argument in the situation room.
The NIS (National Intelligence Service), rescuers, and the police gather in the scene. Through the rubble, one of the firefighters finds a bomb which thankfully is a dud. After the initial analysis, Officer Han Na Kyung states that the components of the bomb are the same as the one used by the North Koreans. In addition to this result, a North Korean submarine that the authorities are keeping an eye on suddenly disappears from radar.
The North vehemently denies its involvement in the explosion of the National Assembly. But the South Korean generals are on edge and refuse to believe their neighbor. A Japanese war ship is also in motion near the border which alerts the people from the North. A US officer and the Joint Chiefs of Staff want Acting President Park Moo Jin to raise South Korea’s defense readiness condition to level 2 (DEFCON 2). This means that armed forces will be ready to be deployed within hours if needs be.
Park Moo Jin is hesitant to give out the command. He wants them to locate the ship first and make sure that its disappearance is in preparation for war. They tried to contact their North Korea counterparts, but they are unable to get a response. Meanwhile, Park Moo Jin is also doing some investigation of his own using scientific methods. While looking at the data, they see the fishing activities in a certain area has ceased.
According to Blue House speechwriter Kim Nam Wook (Lee Moo Saeng), a North Korean defector, fishing is the main livelihood in the North. However, they will gather all fishing boats just to build a submarine. This gives Park Moo Jin an idea and he requests for some data surrounding the area. Further investigation reveals that the area has a case of dead fishes. It is the main reason no one is no longer fishing. Park Moo Jin surmises that it is where the missing submarine is located. And because of the lithium in the batteries that powered the ship, the fishes suffered lithium poisoning.
Park Moo Jin unwillingly activates DEFCON 2 after the North fails to respond to his missive. The Joint Chiefs of Staff suddenly become alert when they receive information that North Korea has also initiated their level 2 combat readiness. One general tells the US Commander to call Washington, but before he is able to, the hotline phone rings.
With bated breaths, Park Moo Jin answers the call from the North Korean leader. Promising to send the location of the sunken submarine, Acting President Park Moo Jin requests to lift their level 2 combat readiness. The North’s highest authority reminds him that it was the South who violated the peace agreement. He reiterates that the South initiated DEFCON 2 and called Japan’s war ship as well as agreeing with the US forces. Park Moo Jin appeals to him and says that the submarine’s crew are still alive, but if he does not call off his battalion, he will compromise the lives of his people.
The North Korean Leader hangs up without saying a word. Park Moo Jin and the rest of the people inside the situation room anxiously wait. One of the generals spots a movement in the North Korean side. Thinking that it is a signal for war, the general panics. They soon find out that the ships are turning back, not towards the border. Keeping his promise, Park Moo Jin sends the coordinates to the submarine’s location.
NIS agent Han Na Kyung finds his boyfriend’s cellphone among those collected from the rubble. When she managed to unlock it, she sees a recorded simulation of National Assembly bombing. As she gets out of the tent, a man collides with her and she lets go of the phone. The uniformed man picks it up from the ground but exchanged it into a different phone. Park Na Kyung searches the crowd, but she is unable to find the guy.
Meanwhile, Secretary Han offers Park Moo Jin words of advice. While he commends him for finding out the truth about the submarine, he reminds him that he can’t just sit and watch someone, who has no prior political experience, runs the government through some luck.
Pilot Week Afterthoughts
It was a great opening week for Designated Survivor: 60 Days. The overwhelming responsibility of calming a nation that faced a tragedy was well-expressed in the first two episodes. Ji Jin Hee was absolutely delightful to watch in his character. You could actually feel how confused and stunned he is at the turn of the events. He was able to convey all the conflicting emotions in every scenes. It was engaging to watch him slowly realize the weight of the obligations and see that everything is indeed happening.
I love how the remake presents the conflicts in a way the audience can fully understand. The impact of every decision is felt as it is so close to home. The fragile relationship of the North and South is at the forefront of these conflicts. Added the somber mood that the whole country is in due to the tragedy, it’s clear to understand that a lot is in store for Park Moo Jin.
While the entire country tries to understand and find answers, people from the government also try their best to keep the peace and operate as usual. As well as honor agreements to strengthen the country’s international relations. Park Moo Jin has been exposed to the convoluted aspects of politics, which solidifies his resolve to escape it and go back to the world of academe.
External and internal forces are all questioning his qualifications and doubting his ability to lead. With all these, I am curious to see how this affects him. Will the power he suddenly holds change the man he is and alter his principles? Or will he find that, as much as politics is dirty and dangerous, there is so much he can do with the power that comes along with it?
Will he willingly play the game, or will he continue with his unconventional approach? Given the limited time, will his actions truly change and influence a nation for the better? Or will he actually make it worse?
I guess we will find out in the succeeding episodes as Designated Survivor: 60 Days air on tvN on Mondays and Tuesdays at 9:30PM KST. The episodes are also available on Netflix an hour after the Korean broadcast.
Screengrabs from tvN.