Miss Hammurabi: Life Off The Bench

So I have just completed a Korean drama which I talked about in my previous post after a month i.e. Miss Hammurabi. It is considered as the first drama which I managed to complete after few years of watching Kdramas halfway hahaha

I’d have to say that this drama is very different from all legal Korean dramas I’ve ever watched as it’s about judges’ lives on and off the bench, instead of the lawyers’, hence the review. It’s not really a review on the drama but this is more like a post to talk about the drama as well as introduce you to the judiciary system that basically formed the theme and main setting of the drama.

Theme: Legal drama

What’s unique about this drama is that the script was written by the Judge Moon Yoo Seok, a judge of Central Seoul District Court, which explains why the storyline is so relatable to the real world of judicial and legal practice, especially the nature of the cases.

Leading couple –  Park Cha Oh Reum and Im Ba Reun

Full of fluttering moments between the two. Despite different ideals which makes them constantly argue, that has never changed Ba Reun’s feelings for Oh Reum, in fact, it’s what making him likes her more. There’s something lovely about Ba Reun liking Oh Reum for 12 years despite not knowing much about her characters back in high school, and I love the final 2 episodes when their relationships began to develop, especially when Ba Reun took Oh Reum on an “Im Ba Reun’s tour” around his neighbourhood and gave Oh Reum the chance to get to know him more, and that’s when she finds out how Ba Reun had been liking her enough to know where she lived, the piano piece she’d always played.

Throughout the drama, I can’t say that their relationship is totally one-sided, because I noticed that after Bareun confessed to Oh Reum, Oh Reum slowly reciprocated his feelings without even realizing it herself. In the last few episodes, she did say that whatever difficulties she had to endure at that time, they all became bearable because Bareun stayed by her side through it all, and it was because of him that she could make it through the hurdles.


Finally a kiss!

For me, a story on first love that lasts even after 12 years have passed, this drama has done it great.

Park Cha Oh Reum – has strong sense of justice, passionate, strongly determined and fragile

Oh Reum has a traumatic experience on being sexually harassed by her piano tutor when she was young, which shapes her character to be feminist in some ways. She wanted to become a judge in order to protect herself from those kinds of harm but still finds herself becoming very timid and scared at times. Her traumatic experience had somehow affects her judgment when she handled cases as she could feel the pain felt by those in weaker position, and in Bareun’s eyes she was that fragile, innocent and honest judge who just couldn’t hide her emotions. I love the scene where she talked with the cold smart lady judge (can’t remember her name though) and admitted her soft spots for the weaker class of society who came to court for help. In the end, she thrived as a daring judge who used and applied the law in order stand up against injustices and to protect the powerless people in the society. She has her own principles to live by, and has a strong determination to make the legal system a better place, but humble enough to admit her weaknesses when things go wrong. She constantly doubted her decisions, especially during criminal trials, but in the end she learnt that past is past and she should not be dwelling so much on her past decisions.

The last 2 episodes where she wanted to give up and resign from being a judge was something I could relate when I was a struggling law student and even now that I’m doing my pupillage. There’s always a constant fear of failure or not doing well enough, constant feeling to give up law school, give up everything and look for other non-legal jobs whenever things get rough. It’s human nature though, that we would always see the grass to be greener on the other side. But in the end, all is well and whatever difficulties that we went through, they all shall pass. It’s part and parcel of our bumpy ride in our career journey, and that’s what I think how Oh Reum viewed her job as a judge at the end of the day.

Im Ba Reun – individualistic but realistic, makes him change his views on his surroundings through times

Oh Reum was seen as being fixated into making the world a better place, but somehow Ba Reun is more realistic, due to his own past experience. Initially he just thought of surviving in his career as a judge, and he detests people. But ever since he met Oh Reum he kept on questioning his beliefs and he began to be more open and more observant towards the different classes of society and the level of influence that they have. For example, he realized that ordinary class of people who have no connections to the higher ups will have to wait in a long queue in order to get treated at a hospital, and there are people who can get everything that they want (even to have judges to side in their favour during trials). He became utterly frustrated when he found out that a businessman was sentenced to only 5 years in prison for embezzlement of money and corruption, which is the same amount of imprisonment he just sentenced on an old alcoholic man.

Compared to Oh Reum, he is more rational and does not act rashly. He would think of the consequences before doing something. For example, there was a scene in the earlier episodes where he objected to a group action led by Oh Reum against Presiding Judge Sung and suggested for a judges conference to be held instead, which was  more proper.

The second couple – Jung Bo Wang & Lee Do Yeon

I’m always up for drama series that have second couple for me to ship on, and in this drama the cute courtship of Jung Bo Wang over Lee Do Yeon has deeply captured my heart. This couple is so cute! Jung Bo Wang is the lively judge who knows almost everything that’s going on around the court but somehow he finds Lee Do Yeon very mysterious and intriguing, and soon fell in love with her. It all started with a 10cm distance between animalistic instinct and human reasoning lol


And omg Lee Elijah is sooo elegant and poise! She’s like the Korean version of Astrid in Crazy Rich Asians!

Presiding Judge Han Se Sang


Man of wise words indeed

Presiding Judge Han is the Presiding Judge whom Oh Reum and Ba Reun worked with. He was the senior judge with lots of valuable experience, which the two learnt a lot from. He was always seen as the loud, grumpy, disorganized old man who becomes a judge for the sack of pension lol, but he is full of wise words and wisdom, which he learnt so much from his bittersweet past experiences. He has soft spots for cases where old men with children are involved because he would think of his children. He is a loving father and even though he looks like he’s controlled by his wife, his wife is sensible and would be there for him during his hard times.

He was fearless in his judgment and even to the other presiding judges. He believes in Oh Reum despite all of his scoldings. When he found out that Oh Reum led a group action against Presiding Judge Sung for poor treatment on his female associate judge, he scolded her not because he sided with the other presiding judges who simply disapproved of her action, but he wanted to make her realize that she should have heard from both sides before she came to a conclusion rather than to judge blindly. In some ways, he shared similar characteristics with Oh Reum;  firmly believes in his own principles, which led him to report to the Chief Presiding Judge on the corrupted misconduct of his closest fellow Presiding Judge Gam in court.

I actually cried when he decided to resign from his position! We all know that he resigned not because he gave up, but because he knows his time is over and partly because he knows that the court and the judiciary is now in good hands. And I couldn’t agree more with what he said to the Chief Presiding Judge when he asked the Chief Presiding Judge to look after Bareun and Oh Reum,  saying that they are the people of the past and that they should let the laws of nature takes its course in making way for the young ones to pave their way towards a better legal system.

Drama’s unique features

Focused on civil trial

Except for the last 3 episodes of the drama where they handled criminal cases, the rest of the episodes in the drama mainly focused on civil trial, which makes it unique and different from other kdramas. This drama is more on the ordinary suits between parties and touch on issues such as sexual harassment in workplace, medical negligence, breach of contracts and basic human rights. It’s interesting to note that the parties were mostly between elites/corporate and old people who are absolutely the laymen who have no idea on the workings of the law, which shows the imbalance of power that gives rise to such lawsuits.

This drama somehow opened the public eyes on how civil litigation works actually. When people ask me what’s my major back in law school and I answered, civil and criminal litigation, most of them would ask what civil litigation is. So people, if you want to know more about civil litigation, you have to watch this drama.

Focused more on judges’ lives

This is what makes this drama different from other legal themed Kdrama series where most drama mainly talk about lawyers. This drama is different because it tells a story about judges’ lives and the dilemma they had to go through, and as someone who’s practically living in the legal lexicon, I can somehow relate to this drama. Judges are often seen as living a lonely and boring life, given the responsibilities that they have to carry on their shoulders for the sake of the country. But as we can see here judges do have their own ways to entertainment; they go to bar, drinking wine and all whilst still managed to have a civilized conversation (lol) and other things, just like any other people would do. I’m not sure if judges in Malaysia would do that but they surely were invited to lawyers’ gatherings and annual dinner with bar/legal associations. During a recent dinner to welcome our newly appointed Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, the Honorable Chief Judge entertained us with a Karaoke performance!

Korean legal system and judicial features:

What I noticed about this drama (and probably Korean legal system):-

Unrepresented parties

I didn’t know that Korean court allows parties to represent themselves. In Malaysia, all parties must be represented. I’ve seen a Court of Appeal judge who was reluctant to allow a party to represent himself in court, reason being that there are documents such as affidavits, submissions, bundle of authorities and record of appeal that can only be done through legal service and there are also time limitations that need to be observed in order to submit those documents, which only lawyers are familiar with.

There are of course pro bono lawyers who would act for those who couldn’t afford to pay the legal fees, but nevertheless, the bottom line remains on the fact that in Malaysian lawsuits, all parties must be represented by a lawyer. Only lawyers are allowed to communicate directly with a judge except during examination of witnesses. I guess for unrepresented parties, judges play an active role in assessing evidences and examining witnesses, which brings me to the next point;

Judges played active roles in examination of witnesses

The world’s trial system is divided into two types, inquisitorial system (where judges play an active role in the investigation of the case, which includes assessing evidences and examining witnesses, even site visit) and adversarial system (where judges are mainly the impartial referee between the claimant/prosecution and defendants and delivering verdict after weighing arguments and submissions from both sides). I guess South Korea practiced inquisitorial system or maybe a combination of both systems, but I don’t really check on this.

Jury system in Korea

I keep on wondering why they do not have jury trials in this drama, until I watched the final episode, when they were conducting a criminal trial. I’m not sure if jury system is also available for Korean civil trials upon request. In Malaysia though, we once had a jury system but was abolished, and it’s interesting to note that the LAST case that used a jury trial was the case of Pendakwa Raya lawan Maznah Ismail, Mohd Affandi & Juraimi Hussin, also known as the Mona Fandey case. The trial took the jury the longest time to deliver a verdict and it somehow became the reason to abolish jury trial.

I have never experienced any jury trial before and I only saw it on TV, but jury trials are time consuming and can be biased sometimes, considering the fact that the jurors came from different backgrounds in the society so as to represent the views of ‘the ordinary/common man of the society’ in court. They assist the court in determining facts rather than law because of their backgrounds (which explains why some jurors are emotional), whereas the legal part of the case would be determined by the judge after listening to lawyers’ submissions at the end of the trial. Things would often lead to a deadlock when jury and the judge have clashing views as jury analyses cases based on facts, whereas judges analyse cases based on law.


I just looveee their OSTs. Combination of ballad and jazz that just suit a slow romance drama like this. Not many Kdrama have English music as their OSTs so this drama has basically nailed this.

The reality

Go Ara’s overzealous, over-emotional, over ambitious character

In reality, to find a judge like Oh Reum is very rare, to an extent that I’m not even sure if such a judge exists in real life. In fact, the way she conducted herself as a judge is considered quite unsuitable especially in our society. She’s too kind and noble to be a judge. I’m not saying that a judge should be mean, but a judge is a profession with huge responsibilities. A judge has a duty to remain impartial and that includes a duty not to conduct oneself in such a  manner that would show inclination towards any of the parties, otherwise there would’ve been an allegation of bias. In this drama, she interfered with the case so much even outside the courtroom, which makes everything looked wrong. For example the scene where she was smiling to the defendant party during a trial for that defendant’s case. From what I see, her characters would suit her more if she becomes a lawyer instead.

No contempt of court?

Koreans are generally depicted (in their drama) as aggressively expressive and this was shown in the drama, on most of the scenes in the courtroom. I’m not sure if they really do have that in Korea, but in Malaysia, people with such aggressive behaviors can be charged for contempt of court – a crime for disrespecting the court.

Watching the trial somehow reveals a slight similarity with that of American trial, where everyone is free to express their views, which might be the reason why they are free to criticize the judiciary openly. In Malaysia, court etiquette has to be observed strictly. There are proper channel to address the issue of judge’s biasness and others without involving protests and media influence.

Judge is a lonely and boring profession

This drama has somehow reversed the stigma or the perception/stereotypes general society would have on a judge, even someone like me used to think that being a judge is a lonely and boring profession. But it certainly is the most noble job and is highly paid for a reason – they have huge responsibilities being someone on the bench. It is one of the most highly respected entity after the court (when you bow, you’re not bowing to the judge, but to the court and the sanctity of the judiciary). 

As much as Presiding Judge Han’s quote touched me deeply when he said “the most powerful person in the courtroom is none other than the judge”, I must say that the most powerful entity in the courtroom is none other than the law, that even the judge is below the law and the constitution.

Judge is a slow growing profession 

In real life, it is very RARE to find a judge that’s as young as the ones in the drama in Malaysia (not sure about the other countries). There’s only a few magistrates or lower court judges that are young. This is because being a judge is a slow process, sometimes it may take up to 10 years. Most judges started with being a Judicial Commissioner or Deputy Registrar for certain years before they can become lower court judges and superior court judges.

Final thoughts

What I like about this drama is that it has the ability to attract viewers on how judiciary and legal system is viewed from different perspectives. How the law is applied in different situations, and it does not have to be mean towards the weaker class. As what my law professor used to say, “sometimes we have to temper justice with mercy”

This drama opens the public eyes on the harsh reality about the unjust treatment of different classes of society. But at the end of the day, as cliche as it seems, the good guys always win. As quoted from my favourite movie ‘Becoming Jane’, vice leads to difficulty, virtue to rewards, bad characters come to bad ends!

There’s not much romance in this drama, only cute progresses which only occurred at the end of the drama. But I like it, mainly because the drama focuses more on the law, and the writer decided it should remain that way despite the growth of feelings between Bareun and Oh Reum. The victorious moment in this drama in my opinion is when Ba Reun came to see Yong Jun to stop whatever he’s doing to Oh Reum but in the end, he did not foolishly give in to Yong Jun’s request to have him kneel and beg. Instead, he rose and said that Yong Jun would be the one to kneel before the law some day. In that sense, it’s not like he choose his pride over the girl he loves; but more like protecting the dignity of the law and his undying faith that the law will save both him and Oh Reum against Yong Jun’s power.


I was screaming in my heart during this scene!

The ending of this drama is beautiful, especially on several scenes of the people whom Oh Reum have stood up for in the past showed up during Oh Reum’s moment of despair and helped her clear her name. Ba Reun’s monologue throughout the episode couldn’t be  any more truer.

I love the conversation that takes place between the Chief Presiding Judge and Presiding Judge Bae who said that he despised Oh Reum, but somehow could not stand seeing her being ripped apart. I feel like that’s the good cute side of Presiding Judge Bae in considering Oh Reum as part of the family despite the things she’s done, and that’s when we see unity in protecting the sanctity of the judiciary and the legal system.


And last but not least, the cute funny scene just before the credits of the last episode that shows their encounter at the school library. Do Yeon and Bo Wang with their brief encounter and also Bareun, Oh Reum and Han Se Sang arguing on the seat at the library, and how, with amazing twist of fate, all of them met again in court.


Withdrawal syndrome/fangirling over L!

Well thanks to this drama, not only that I am back with a post-Kdrama withdrawal syndrome, I’m now fangirling on L/Kim Myung Soo from the Kpop boy group INFINITE! It’s been a while though cause my time with Kpop was during the 1st generation of Kpop where there were DBSK, Super Junior, SS501, 2PM and Big Bang lol~ Then came the other groups like BTS and Exo along with INFINITE which I initially find it hard to recognize each and everyone (cause they all looked the same to me).

The setting

I really love their court, such tall buildings which consists of courts of all levels, and public prosecutors offices. I’ve been there when I was in Korea, and it felt so surreal that I actually get to be there, unexpected and unplanned, although it is not really part of the recommended places to visit when in Seoul, but what do I care, I can soo relate to everything legal and hence, a picture of me in front of Korea’s court offices. Since it was an unplanned visit during winter and it was almost dark, the picture’s quality is somehow poor:


Im Ba Reun Pansa, oediya?


Pictures sources: Ahjummashies, Google


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