The Legendary Police Woman

SYNOPSIS:

Long time ago in Korea, during the time of Cho-Sun Dynasty, there was a group of women called “Damo”. “Damo” is the name of the job meaning the police woman. Damo was regarded as thd low class but they had the privilege to investigate lady’s private room and interview ladies of the high society where no man could approach. Damo who are working in the Palace were even exposed to undergoing political intrigue.

But Damo, being the low class and women, they were treated no better than the humble servants in the society. They were not free from the suffocating society full of prejudice on class and sex.

This drama depicts one life of Damo name Chae-ok(Ha Ji-won). She possesses the advanced idea for living which could not be accepted by the convention of the society and this is where the touching story of the drama “The Legendary Police Woman” comes.

damo

Details

  • Title: 조선 여형사 다모(茶母) / Joseon Yeohyeongsa Damo
  • Also known as: Female Detective Damo (KBFD-TV) / Damo: The Undercover Lady Detective (DVD) / Damo, the Detective in Chosun / The Legendary Police Woman
  • Episodes: 14
  • Genre: Historical, Crime, Romance
  • Broadcast network: MBC
  • Broadcast period: 2003-07-28 to 2003-09-09
  • Air time: Monday & Tuesday 21:55

Synopsis

A long time ago in Korea, during the time of the Chosun Dynasty, there was a profession for women called ‘Damo’. The Damo were regarded to be of the lowest class status and work as policewomen but they had the privilege to investigate ladies’ private room and interview the ladies of the high society whom no man could approach. However, due to their low social status they were treated no better than the humble slaves in the society. They were not free from the suffocating society that is full of prejudice towards their class and their sex.

This drama depicts the life of a Damo named Chae-Ok. She was of noble birth, but was downgraded to be a slave due the downfall of her family when she was seven. Her father committed suicide due to the persecution of the court, and she was separated from her brother and mother when they were trying to escape the imperial guards. She was captured and assigned to serve in the Hwangbo residence as a servant, and specifically to look after the young master Hwangbo Yoon. They were put under the tutelage of a highly skilled master.

She is undefeatable when it comes to using the sword. She is straight, honest, courageous and upright. She possesses the advanced idea for living that could not be accepted by the conventions of the society. She finds herself trapped by the injustice of the world and the prejudice of society, which makes life unbearable for her. Her only motivation in life is to assist her young master to achieve his ambition. She shares a complex relationship with Yoon, who is also the superior of the police team that she works under. Yoon is her closest kin since she was separated from her brother and mother.

Yoon’s mother was the concubine of an honorable man and this has been his scar since he was small. He adores his people like his own brother but would not outwardly express his feelings. He yearns to achieve more than what society has assigned him. He is in love with Chae-Ok. But they are from two different classes, and his father had instructed Yoon at his deathbed never to choose Chae-Ok as his partner as she is the daughter of a disgraced family.

While working undercover on a counterfeit case, Chae-Ok finds herself drawn to Jang Sung-baek, the mysterious and charismatic leader of a gang of bandits she has infiltrated. Sung-Baek is also an outstanding swordsman. He takes care of his people but he also has a ruthless side that would never forgive anyone who does not share his thought. He feels himself falling for Chae-Ok and tries to convince her to join him. Chae-Ok cannot betray her loyalty to Yoon and turn against the law for Sung-baek, yet she is not able to arrest Sung-baek during the crucial moment of the police attack. This eventually leads to dire consequences as the rebels, in their plot to topple the Emperor’s rule, use Chae-OK as a pawn to double-cross Yoon and his team during their investigation of the counterfeit ring.

Chae-Ok and Yoon eventually realise that Sung-baek is not a common thief/bandit, but the leader of a guerilla army training to overthrow the Emperor. Sung-baek’s gang is protesting against the the prejudice brought about by the caste system, which is suffocating the people.

Sung-baek decides to forget Chae-Ok as he knows that loving her will ruin his big dream of destroying the old world order and to set up a new justice to the world. Chae-Ok also resolves to arrest Sung-baek to redeem herself for her betrayal to Yoon. Yoon on the other hand, seeing Chae-Ok slipping away from him because of Sung-baek, unleashes his feelings to her with heart-breaking consequences as well. How will it all end for Yoon, Chae-Ok and Sung-baek who are entangled together by love, loyalty and betrayal?

Cast

Production Credits

Review

Before writing a review for a drama, I usually allow my obsessive streak settle down first. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’d be far too swayed by the present emotions at the time, writing a biased, slightly exaggerated (only slightly) review. It’s surprising how, in retrospect, how many dramas that seemed amazing at the time, seem a bit stupid and a bit dragged out a few months down the road. So after I watched Damo, I decided to let my hyped-up emotions take a breather and watched several other dramas after it, including all of Mianhada Saranghanda (Sorry I Love You) and random episodes of other dramas. Yet, 3 months down the road, I am -still- as much in love with the drama as I was then. That must say something.

One of the most impressive things about this drama was the ability for the director to make the audience fall in love with both of the male leads. Too often there is a distinct separation between good or bad, powerful or wimpy. The audience can usually draw a clear-cut attachment to one character only, and you are left often feeling little pity for the other (eg. ….every single korean drama out there.) There is always a character that is a wimp, who holds onto the girl for dear life; the one you want to strangle. The line is usually so evident: black & white, not much of a challenge. Yet in Damo, the two male leads are equally righteous and passionate, equally perfect in their own right. Hwangbo Yoon (Lee Seo Jin) plays the commander who upholds the law and government; Jang Sung-baek (Kim Min Joon) is the rebellious leader who fights for the people. Both work for a better society and both strive for the same ideals, through different means. In that way, they clash viciously, but both have a vision.

This grey area that exists between what is right and wrong brings out the conflicted feelings of Chae-Ok (Ha Ji Won) who, against her intent, falls in love with Jang Sung-baek. Ha Ji Won is extremely successful in bringing out the raw and utterly pained feelings of Chae-Ok, a lowly Damo who cannot fall in love with Hwangbo Yoon because of her status in society. At the same time, she cannot fall in love with Jang Sung-baek because he is the enemy that she seeks. This constant fight and battle between two sides, neither of which are exceedingly wrong, causes the pain and torment that vibrates throughout the drama. She truly shines as the strong, intelligent, and beautiful heroine in this series. The integrity and the strength Chae-Ok finds in herself immediately draws the attention and admiration of the audience; although she is eternally confined to the status of a servant, she is able to garner the respect from officers much higher than her through her cunning detective abilities, and her fearless (and sometimes reckless) personality.

Furthermore, the beautiful cinematography distinguishes Damo from other dramas. It serves to heighten the raw and incredibly touching emotions present in the most subtle of ways. There is no dramatic spinning camera-work during a particularly heated kiss, nor a slow motion scene where the two main characters just miss each other, setting off a chain of misunderstandings. Each scene in Damo is significant to the plotline, but unlike many other dramas, it is used not to further the plotline, but to deepen it. Damo demonstrates the loyalty, the passion, and the heartbreaking pain of impossible love. It is undoubtedly my favorite drama to date.

Musical Accompaniment: The entire OST is absolutely incredible. Although I have heard some complaints that the “poppy” music is out of place for an ancient drama, I found it fitting to the drama. The mixture of ballads and fast pop music perfectly complemented the mood and scene changes. Just the other day, I was listening to the soundtrack again, and it brought tears to my eyes triggering a few extremely memorable moments. It was then when I knew I had to write a review about this one-of-a-kind korean drama.

Ha Ji-won

Ha Ji-won Profile

Name: Ha Ji-won
Birth name: Jeon Hae-rim
DOB: June 28, 1979
Place of birth: Seoul, Korea
Height: 168cm
Blood type: A
Education: Dankook University
Profession: Actress

Ha Ji-won Biography

Ha ji-won is popular Korean actress that made fame with both TV dramas and big screen movies. Ha Ji-won is also a singer, but her singing career is far less outstanding than her acting.

Ha Ji-won started acting in some low budget TV drama before making the breakthrough in 2000 with her debut movie Truth Game, which won her best newcomer at the Grand Bell Awards.

Ha Ji-won’s acting career didn’t prosper as expected though; her next success came more than a year later with blockbuster hit Phone, which makes Ha Ji-won a really famous star in Korea.

TV drama Damo was another great breakthrough for Ha Ji-won in 2003. Damo received high ratings not only in Korea, but across Asia as well, making Ha Ji-won an international star.

It’s also in 2003 that Ha Ji-won released her only music album, Homerun, which achieved decent success.

Ha Ji-won followed up with another highly rated TV drama Memories In Bali in 2004, which won her multiple awards as best TV actress.

Ha Ji-won starred in a couple of popular movies in 2005, Daddy Long-Legs and Duelist.

Ha Ji-won is back to TV screen again in 2006 with highly anticipated TV series Hwang Jin-i.