No rest for the wicked(ly talented) Namgoong Min as he’s on his second headlining drama this 2017 with Falsify, which premiered yesterday and led the race ratings-wise. Despite premiering a week later than its competitors, Falsify got double the ratings. I don’t know if it’s the Namgoong Min magic, as his previous drama Chief Kim was also a hit in Korea, or if the audience just wants to tune in to a drama about journalists fighting off corruption, or this star-studded ensemble cast. Either way, I’m curious to see if Falsify lives up to its ratings. Let’s check it out!
Reason for Watching
I have only one reason for trying out Falsify and that’s Namgoong Min. I mean, I didn’t really think I’d enjoy Chief Kim because it’s nothing of the sort I usually watch but I tried it because of him and good thing I did because I love it so much. It seems like Namgoong Min is singlehandedly broadening my kdrama horizons and I thank him for it. Without him in it, I would have easily passed on this drama because I tend to gravitate towards rom-coms but if someone is gonna make me tune in to a drama about journalists fighting off corruption, it’s gonna be Namgoong Min.
In a well-shot, well-scored opening worthy of being in film, a man carrying an envelope walks towards a dimly lighted room with a phone on a table. Another man waits in another office in the dark. He answers a ringing cellphone; it’s the other man carrying documents asking if this is Aeguk Newspaper and if he’s talking to Han Moo-young. The man in the office confirms that he is Han Moo-young (played by Namgoong Min). The other man tells Moo-young to just focus on writing and quit threatening people if he’s a journalist, to which Moo-young counters that he never said he’s one and that he’s more of a media jackal. We now learn that this man is a detective, specifically Lieutenant Jeon. This detective seems to be a dirty one as Moo-young blackmails him so he won’t leak his photographic evidence. Despite not wanting to play by Moo-young’s rules, the detective has no choice but to cooperate. The lieutenant leaves the envelope, which Moo-young looks into later; it’s the profile of Park Eung-mo.
Moo-young disguises as the owner of a three-story bar in Busan and goes to the docks. Moo-young positively looks like a mobster and he’s a bit nervous to enter the lion’s den, with so many gangsters outside. But he earns an audience with Park Eung-mo, who notes that he usually doesn’t work with strangers because his business is built on trust. Moo-young tells him that he’s in a rush so he really pulled all the stops on this one and we can assume that he came with a referral from Lieutenant Jeon.
Moo-young then tries to make the mobster talk and he definitely talks, even going so far as to saying that human rights should be abolished and that’s how the country will prosper. Park Eung-mo is involved in prostitution and human trafficking and finally offers 8 girls to Moo-young and Moo-young gives him the suitcase he brought as payment. And as he opens the briefcase, he sees himself on a screen, and we see that Moo-young has been taping and recording this.
Eung-mo asks Moo-young who he is, if he’s a cop. Moo-young then shows Eung-mo a drawing of an icon and asks if he knows someone with that tattoo on his wrist. He tells Eung-mo that he won’t report him to the cops if he’ll just answer and help him. Eung-mo tells him he doesn’t know anyone but Moo-young continues to threaten him, telling him he could wreck Eung-mo with his pen, to which Eung-mo now realizes that he’s a journalist, the popular media jackal. They get into fisticuffs, along with some of our mobster’s personal guards. Moo-young gains the upperhand against four men as he fights smart, even sliding an ashtray on the table to attack. He asks Eung-mo again but he doesn’t budge and they end up throwing themselves to a window and crashes it.
Cut to a group of three being shocked. This is Moo-young’s team (Sang-ho, Na-rae, and Yong-sik), watching his camera feed. Na-rae argues that they should help him but Yong-sik tells them that they’re not supposed to butt in. While another man, in an office, tells them to stop their crap and they should call the police immediately.
Moo-young and Eung-mo end up in front of the whole gang and Moo-young grabs Eung-mo in a chokehold to prevent the mob from attacking him. He puts him inside a closet and turns the closet down and escapes the room while the whole mob is busy trying to save their boss. Moo-young locks the warehouse from the outside while Eung-mo tells his cronies to go catch Moo-young.
Outside, Moo-young’s team uses a crowbar to open another warehouse and they successfully see the group of women from earlier, who doesn’t understand them. They try to speak English and tell them that it’s not safe and that they should follow them when another guy catches them and turns on the light. Sang-ho and Na-rae escape, leaving Yong-sik to deal with the guy. They fight and while it’s obvious that Yong-sik is losing, he kicks the guy on his groin, gaining the upperhand. They continue to fight, ending up with Yong-sik throwing the guy to the wall, which leaves a hole on it. Yong-sik sees something inside that makes him pass out. Na-rae, Sang-ho, and Moo-young rush in and they also see and wonder what’s that inside.
They were bones, whole skeletons of four women. The police are here, along with the forensic team. The police catch all the mobsters and mob boss Park Eung-mo, while Prosecutor Kwon So-ra (played by Eom Ji-won) works on the field too. It looks like the police received an anonymous tip because they don’t even know why there was a fight in the first place. She then proceeds to ask one of Eung-mo’s personal guards what happened and he tells her that a journalist came in a disguise to ask about a guy with a tattoo, even so far as telling their boss that it would be as if nothing happened if he can only find the guy with the tattoo. Prosecutor Kwon So-ra gets introduced to Lieutenant Jeon Chan-soo, the one in charge of the case. This is the same lieutenant that Moo-young blackmailed. Lieutenant Jeon basically tells Prosecutor Kwon to butt out of this investigation as she’s way up in the ladder.
A van from Daehan Newspaper comes to the scene, while a junior reporter tries to persuade his senior to leave this reporting to them. The sunbae chides his junior that he’s the one who got him this job but the junior reporter even tells him that he probably lost his touch now, which seems to imply that he’s not an active reporter but is still hanging on. Lieutenant Jeon sees the horde of reporters clamoring for a scoop and he irritably blames Moo-young for making this case a big one. The sunbae sees Lieutenant Jeon while Prosecutor Kwon notices how nervous Lieutenant Jeon is. She wonders why and looks at the drawing of Eung-mo’s personal guard, the tattoo Moo-young is looking for.
Moo-young arrives at his house, black and blue from bruises. He stands in front of his wall of articles and profiles and all its connections (a bit similar to a serial killer’s lair, to be honest) and he crosses out Park Eung-mo. This scene is interspersed with scenes from the past, of him with his older brother, and him being stabbed in a dark alley. He thinks that he’s sure his brother’s article has something to do with human trafficking, while we get a shot of his wall of articles with lots of X marks in them. They are articles written by his older brother Han Chul-ho. And at the center of it all was the tattoo.
We flash back to five years ago inside a judo gym. Moo-young is looking from the outside and looks for the coach, but is told that he’s busy. He’s told to just wait for news from the association and as he leaves, his teammates muse that he’s so talented to be expelled. Han Moo-young is a member of the National Team and he won the silver medal in judo in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
His brother Chul-ho leaves him a voice mail and tells him that he’s out covering a story but it’s taking longer than expected. He reminds Moo-young to keep exercising and not to worry too much about what’s going on as it will get better soon. He then tells him that he trusts that the world will give him a chance to fix what’s wrong, while increasingly being on the verge of hysterical. Chul-ho gets a ticket to Sangjoo and he’s followed by a guy with a wrist tattoo similar to the one Moo-young is now looking for in the present.
Somewhere in Seoul, outside a building flocked with so many reporters, the sunbae reporter we saw earlier is inside a van labeled Team Splash. This is Lee Seok-min (played by Yoo Joon-sang), who gets a call from Chul-ho. He then berates Chul-ho for not being there because of a story he must cover, but he does it in a friendly way to show us that he understands. We do see that Chul-ho doesn’t look like he’s covering something, more like he’s hiding out. Chul-ho tells Seok-min that he’ll tell him everything when he gets back. Chul-ho asks about Moo-young and they both wonder how things have come this far. Chul-ho defends his brother, telling Seok-min that he’s sure there’s a misunderstanding because they both know Moo-young and he’ll never do such a thing. We now learn that Moo-young is being accused of using drugs and is in danger of getting expelled from the National Team. Seok-min tells Chul-ho not to worry as he’ll take care of everything, being the one who first wrote about his first victory. A photojournalist goes inside the van and this is Oh Yoo-kyung (played by Jeon Hye-bin). She complains about Chul-ho being gone at a time like this (as it looks like there’s a big scoop) but Seok-min explains that Chul-ho has a story to chase. They then both wonder what’s taking so long for the prosecution to say something and Seok-min tells Yoo-kyung that he’s sure the prosecution will take their bait.
Back to Chul-ho’s room, someone outside his room keeps on flicking his lighter (a sound we now associate to the tattooed guy), but when he goes out, no one is there. Director Gu Tae-won (played by Moon Sung-geun) calls Chul-ho but he doesn’t hear it and the director talks to Chul-ho in the group photo on his desk to not stress himself out over something simple and to just think about what he can take responsibility for. A secretary tells the director it’s time to go out and so he does.
While walking through the lobby, news plays about Chairman Min Young-ho disappearing before his trial for bribery. In a press conference, Chairman Min pled his innocence and some of the public have voiced out that maybe the prosecution used excessive force, causing him to leave a will and disappear. This building is apparently Daehan Newspaper’s office and Director Gu Tae-won its director.
In another office we see Chief Prosecutor Cha Yeon-soo on a phone call, telling someone that she didn’t use excessive force on Chairman Min. Her boss unceremoniously ends the phone call, which angers her. In comes Prosecutor Kwon So-ra, where she’s tasked to talk to the leader of Splash Team Lee Seok-min of Daehan Newspaper, to find out if his information on Chairman Min’s case is good or not. Prosecutor Kwon is not so sure about talking to the press but Chief Prosecutor Cha counters that if they find Chairman Min dead, they wouldn’t be able to investigate anymore. So they have to divulge everyone who’s related to this corruption scandal.
Prosecutor Kwon talks to Seok-min and he asks her first if she’s willing to investigate this case and see it through its end, not getting scared of going against big people. She says that she knows she’ll be scared but that she has her principles on straight and will act according to her principles. Satisifed, Seok-min drops the deal: Chairman Min left them his real will before he went off the grid as he wanted to expose the people who left him by the ditch. He gives the prosecution 24 hours to think about his offer of working together.
In his house, Moo-young gets woken up by someone complaining about how it’s freezing and we see that it’s Seok-min, who Moo-young calls hyung. Moo-young asks Seok-min why he keeps on barging to his house when this kind of visits are only reserved and done between close friends. Seok-min then tells him that he’s the one who discovered that he’s a promising judo player when he’s little and he’s the sunbae his actual hyung Chul-ho looks up to. He then goes tsk-tsk at Moo-young. Ha!
As Seok-min is eating ramyeon, he catches up with Moo-young and asks about his appeal to the association. Moo-young doesn’t seem bothered by it and tells him some of the players are willing to testify for him. Seok-min gives him advice that it’s actually the doctor’s testimony that’s more important as that doctor injected the drug that Moo-young didn’t approve of. Moo-young tells him he hit the road ages ago but Seok-min counters that the doctor didn’t get rid of his clinic and apartment so he’s just around. Moo-young is really not worried as he’s sure that this scandal will go away and that the coach will help him. Seok-min tells him to get a grip as his life would be over if he trusts people too much and that no one is on his side now.
Moo-young realizes that this is true when his teammate informs him that he can’t testify anymore because he doesn’t want to be attacked too. Moo-young gets angry that his teammate doesn’t believe him now too but his teammate counters that that’s not it. He doesn’t want Moo-young to get kicked out but he also wants to save his ass. His teammate then asks him why did Moo-young go up against his own and that he’s the one to blame for bringing this on himself. Moo-young is baffled but his teammate explains that he’s being punished because Moo-young reported their coach for manipulating matches to the prosecution. He’s then informed that their coach is the Attorney General’s cousin and that he should have just stuck to judo if he didn’t know this is how the world works. Moo-young looks visibly shocked and devastated that this is indeed how cruel the world is.
Moo-young then calls Prosecutor Kwon and asks about his case, to which she informs him that it looks like his case would be passed on to another team. Moo-young asks her if she’s not confident enough to handle his case and she gets irritated at him and tells him that the only witness is being accused of having used drugs and that her superiors wouldn’t trust her. He gets huffy that she could just tell him that his case is hard because the suspect is close with the attorney general. He tells her she’s responsible for this case and should continue pursuing it. She ends the discussion by telling him to bring her evidence so she can prove that he’s innocent and to stop begging her, as that’s what kids do.
Moo-young then finds himself in the company of Yang Dong-sik of Aeguk Newspaper (the one we saw a while ago who ordered Moo-young’s team in the present to call the police), after both were turned away by guards when they try to get inside the prosecutor’s office. Dong-sik asks for the interview Moo-young put off before but he refuses him as he’s an unknown journalist. Dong-sik scoffs that he’s still cocky even though he was played, which interests Moo-young. Dong-sik then dangles his bait and tells Moo-young that he knows he’s been played by Dr. Kim of Good Hospital and Moo-young is shocked that he knows. In exchange for telling Moo-young where Dr. Kim is, Dong-sik scores a deal: he’ll only do exclusive interviews with Aeguk Newspaper.
The whole Splash Team goes to the prosecutor’s office and presents their offer to the prosecutors. Seok-min shows Chairman Min’s interview with them and tells them that he was given the ledger with the names of those he had bribed. Chairman Min cut a deal with the Splash Team that he’ll provide all the evidence until the scandal gets solved and his co-conspirators punished. Included in this is the Deputy Manager Kim of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Seok-min asks if the prosecution can work with the press on this one. The prosecution knows they’re at a disadvantage because printing the story won’t be of help with the case but they agree to Seok-min’s offer as they certainly need the evidence.
Moo-young, along with Dong-sik, goes to the golf course frequently visited by Dr. Kim. Dr. Kim runs away from Moo-young but Moo-young doesn’t back down and follows him, ending up assaulting him and getting the police involved. He’s taken to the precinct and is told to spend the night at jail for assault, damaged property, and obstruction of police business. He’s incredulous of why he’s the one in jail when an actual criminal, Dr. Kim, isn’t.
In Director Gu’s office, Seok-min shows him the article on Chairman Min’s bribery case and informs him that he’ll release it tonight. We’re shown awards for Director Gu for being an exemplary journalist and we learn that Seok-min sees Director Gu as his idol, even telling him he’s learned everything about being a journalist from him. Director Gu tells Seok-min that he can’t wait to see his article and that no one would be able to touch his article. Seok-min informs the director that from now on, he wouldn’t report about his articles anymore to keep it secret and safe. After Seok-min leaves, an Attorney Cho goes inside the office and an ominous score plays. Director Gu is bad, isn’t he?!?!
Back at the precinct, we see Detective Jeon get Dr. Kim out of there, saying Dr. Kim is a witness on one of his cases and that he can vouch of him. He then talks to Park Eung-mo, who’s inside a car, and tells him that they’re done with each other. Eung-mo tells him that they have a rare relationship they both can benefit from and that he can even make Sergeant Jeon a lieutenant, if he continues to work for him. Dr. Kim then asks Eung-mo what is it this time, faking someone’s medical records to prevent military service?
In Director Gu’s office, Attorney Cho informs him that their plan is going smoothly with Dr. Kim. He is indeed evil! Attorney Cho is worried that if Chairman Min’s funding source is revealed, it will only take a matter of time before everything goes to shit. Director Gu is not worried and basically establishes himself as the bad guy as he’s even willing to sacrifice the Splash Team, the team he started himself. In a forest, inside a car, an unconscious (or dead?!) man is set-up with pills, a letter, and a bottle of liquor. We then see Seok-min and the Splash Team overjoyed at the printing press with their headline scoop on Chairman Min’s confession.
The country is abuzz with the news and Chul-ho sees the scoop on a newspaper. Moo-young is released from jail and taunts the police officers that this is on them for letting an actual criminal go. A guy approaches Chief Prosecutor Cha and asks her if she isn’t scared of arresting the Deputy Manager of Prosecution. Prosecutor Cha says if there’s a reason for suspicion, everyone must be investigated, regardless of rank. The guy clarifies his question and tells her that he heard that Deputy Manager Kim knew that a warrant was going to be issued for him and isn’t it fishy that he’s doing nothing if he knew?
Prosecutor Kwon goes to Deputy Manager Kim’s office and presents him with a seizure and search warrant. He’s not worried and asks her if she’s ready to cross the line, as he’ll never see her as a prosecutor again once she does. Chief Prosecutor Cha then calls Prosecutor Kwon and orders her to stop, which Prosecutor Kwon does not listen to. She defies order and continues the arrest and they discover that the whole office is devoid of everything — files, hard drive, everything. Meanwhile, Chul-ho calls Seok-min, who’s over the moon with his big scoop. A panicking Chul-ho tells him to retract the article on Chairman Min.
Director Gu ominously tells Attorney Cho to get on with the plan and we see Chairman Min being discovered by the woods. News of Chairman Min’s body being found reaches Seok-min while reporters were trying to interview him, and according to the report, Chairman Min was suffering from dementia, making Daehan Newspaper’s scoop a false report, as his confession is now discredited.
Chief Prosecutor Cha pays a visit to Prosecutor Kwon and basically tells her she’s on her own now. She wishes this was not the case but she couldn’t protect her because Prosecutor Kwon defied her orders and acted on her own. Prosecutor Kwon asks her boss if it’s the end of the corruption case they’re working on, devastated that it is. Chief Prosecutor Cha tells her to be strong and to try her best to remain as a prosecutor and to work her way up. At Daehan Newspaper, Seok-min is trying to open Chul-ho’s drawer, suspecting him of knowing something. Yoo-kyung tries to stop him but hysterical Seok-min mentions that it’s not the first time and that Chul-ho has a history of falsifying an article on purpose, which shocks Yoo-kyung. He successfully opens it and finds a report on Chairman Min that dementia would be the likely diagnosis considering his insomnia. Seok-min wonders what did Chul-ho do?
Attorney Cho mentions that thanks to Chul-ho’s idea, it seems like everything is taken care of with regards to Chairman Min. He feels bad for discarding him because he’s capable but the higher-ups have already decided. He’s gauging if Director Gu will oppose this but he ends up agreeing that it’s the end for Chul-ho.
As Moo-young is walking home, he spots Chul-ho looking downtrodden, sitting in front of his house. Moo-young cooks ramyeon for his hyung and Chul-ho asks him how is his suspension case going. Moo-young lies that everyone’s willing to help him so that his hyung won’t worry. Chul-ho looks horrible and Moo-young notices it. Chul-ho then asks if he should quit and Moo-young is surprised. But Moo-young, ever sweet, tells his brother that it’s fine if he wants to quit. It seems like Chul-ho took journalism to avenge or clear their father’s name after he died. Chul-ho tells Moo-young that he doesn’t plan to quit working and there are a lot of alternative newspapers these days, such as Aeguk. Chul-ho lies that he’s sad because a couple of projects he’s working on didn’t work out and that’s why he’s talking about leaving Daehan. Chul-ho tries to eat but ends up vomiting by the sink, which worries Moo-young. Moo-young doesn’t understand his brother as he keeps on saying that it’s his fault for writing that article and now he has to reveal everything.
Moo-young drops by the pharmacy to buy some medicine for his brother and tries to call Seok-min while at it. Seok-min doesn’t hear his phone ringing but Moo-young keeps on calling. He even ends up dropping some of the medicine and a suited man helps him pick them up, who we hear flicks a lighter as he’s on his way out. (Omo!) After Moo-young leaves the pharmacy, he calls Chul-ho who’s on the other side of the street. Chul-ho rises and walks towards Moo-young, when a truck suddenly appears and hits him. We don’t see the truck driver but we (and Moo-young) see him flick his lighter on and off before running away from the crime. Dazed and shocked, Moo-young walks towards his brother’s body and cries in agony.
First, the cinematography and the score! Honestly, just by the first shot, even without Namgoong Min, I knew this was something good. The score was also on point at every single scene for me. Plot-wise, a lot of threads are happening, which made recapping quite difficult. But the plot is definitely interesting and I love how organic the flashback was stitched into the narrative. We now see how our main character Moo-young is now a media jackal, which in my understanding is basically a journalist who’s not so ~clean~ and law-abiding, like a hyena for scoops. We know he’s mainly motivated by his brother’s murder and finding who killed him.
The flashback was wholly serious but I feel like the Aeguk Newspaper people would bring a bit of comic relief to the present timeline, if what we’ve seen is any indication. It’s nice to see Namgoong Min reuniting with his Chief Kim co-star Kim Gang-hyun though! Acting-wise, everyone delivered so I can’t really find it in me to single out anyone for a stellar job. Aside from Namgoong Min, who’s obviously the one who went through a wringer of emotions in this episode (and believably so at that), I appreciated Oh Jung-se’s portrayal of Chul-ho, whose mania came across. He’s on the verge of breaking down and it takes talent to restrain the frantic and frenetic.
Falsify gives me Healer feelings, especially with how Director Gu, the head of a newspaper company, is actually evil. I’m curious to see how is Seok-min’s relationship with Moo-young is now and how So-ra came to stay as a prosecutor. And really, what did Chul-ho write that made people want to kill him? Who is this tattooed guy? I have so many questions and I am very much willing to follow this show to get to the bottom of this case alongside our cast.
Verdict: I am definitely watching this one, not only because of Namgoong Min but because of the plot. I do know though that I won’t be livestreaming it because it’s plot-heavy and I didn’t understand much when I did. I am intrigued and curious to see where the plot will go, especially now that we’ve established our characters and their past. So happy to have another Namgoong Min drama that seems to be great!