38사기동대 (38 Task Force)

Ma Dong Seok plays Baek Sung Il, chief of Seoul City Hall’s tax collection department. Upright civil servant, Cheon Sung Hee (Girls’ Generation’s Soo young), works on the same team.

Seo In Guk plays Yang Jung Do, a guy gifted with good looks, flowery words and overflowing charms that could con his way out of any situation. He just got out of prison but doesn’t seem to worry about getting locked up again as he started conning immediately and even simultaneously the moment he was released. Obviously, he’s an expert in the world of deception and naive Baek Sung Il, vexed at his work situation, felt how it was like to get scammed by Jung Do firsthand.

In accordance to the Constitution of the Republic of Korea Article 38 : All citizens shall have the duty to pay taxes under the conditions as prescribed by Act. But what happens when powerful men dodge this responsibility since the law seems to work on the side of money? Time to give these tax cheats a taste of their own medicine as Baek Sung Il decides to get into the most unlikely team -up to get these affluent businessmen pay (literally).

When conning a small fry, Jung Do can do the job in no time but when you’re up against the wealthiest, most influential men in the society, there’s a need to assemble a formidable team to pull off such grand and complicated schemes. Thus: curly Hak Joo, hacker Ja Wang, gorgeous Mi Joo and classy Ms. Noh all got on board for the big con.

My Korean student who isn’t quite sure of how to express  38사기동대 in English calls this “Seo In Guk’s drama”.  I told her it’s funny how she calls this “Seo In Guk’s drama” when Ma Dong Seok is actually the lead. I can’t blame her though. Ma Dong Seok convincingly portrays the clumsy, straight-laced officer but Seo In Guk does not need to con us to like him because he shines and owns the show even as a second lead. He totally nailed the Neal Caffrey-ish role and he’s swoonworthy both in casual clothes with his hair down and a suit with his hair perfectly coiffed. Regardless of broadcasting stations and ratings, Seo In Guk has never disappointed me with his project choices. Though I’m sad that 38 Task Force has reached its end, I’m glad that there’s another SIG drama called Shopping King Louis lined up right after the awesome W-Two Worlds.

If Descendants of the Sun has a Kim Tae Hee look-alike, 38 Task Force has Song Hye Kyo version 2.0 in Lee Sun Bin. She played Ma Ri in Han Ye Seul’s drama, Madame Antoine. Her 38 Task Force character, Mi Joo, is the “Yenicall” of this team. (Yenicall is Jun Ji Hyun’s temptress role in The Thieves movie.) I wish she and Jung Do became more than just friends since Seo In Guk and Lee Sun Bin are equally sexy and IMO seem to have more chemistry than the Seo In Guk-Soo Young pairing. The problem with Soo Young’s character is that she can get completely written off and it won’t even make a difference in the story. She was borderline annoying when she meddled into Sung Il’s activities, only to have a change of heart 2 years later and decide to support the great con after all. Even with a bitter end to their relationship, Jung Do and Sung Hee seem to still have mutual feelings for each other but their love story wasn’t rekindled which is ok because I can’t see the spark when they’re in a scene together. Sung Hee’s conflicted relationship with her powerful father could’ve been more dramatic, but I also felt nothing watching their interactions. Soo Young’s not that terrible but her performance just bored me the entire time.

38 Task Force, from the same writer and director of another OCN original crime drama, Bad Guys, lived up to high expectations.  I had White Collar feels from the get-go and this one’s a well-written, moderately-paced, smooth-flowing, entertaining and character-centric show. I like that ‘how the whole plan plays out’ is only secondary to the motivations of the conmen and the reaction of the tax evaders. It is not completely unpredictable but the twists, reveals and double-crosses are still exciting. I thought this drama is going to be episodic but the writer made it as one with an entire solid story, with characters’ lives intertwined. The tone is more on the comedic side which makes it a sleek one and an entertaining watch. The villains are greedy, remorseless and mostly stereotypical but at least they don’t go as far as killing off every single person who opposes them. Did PD Yoo Ho Jin take a break from 1N2D to play Bang Pil Kyu? LOL. Kidding. But I swear, I can see the resemblance. Bang Pil Kyu’s words left a great impact when he said, ” The best thing about our country is: poor people kill each other for us.” That’s one harsh reality that we have to deal with everyday. ( Read: extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.)

Bang Pil Kyu is not even the biggest baddie in this series. There’s Choi Chul Woo who owes the country a whopping 100 million dollars in back taxes. With the kind of money and power these old moguls have, they could simply hire some ruthless gunman to silence Sung Il and Jung Do forever. But the show gives us exactly what Jung Do wants to witness too: the time we get to see how the poor fights back. To prove that being rich doesn’t come with a privilege; that conmen sometimes do bad things with good intentions so justice can be served.

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