Joseon Attorney: A Morality – K-drama Episode 1 Recap & Review

 Attorney Kang Han-soo of the Foreign Branch

Joseon Attorney: A Morality episode 1 starts with Kang Han-Soo landing in Hanyang and watching the daily activities at the port. He narrates why he finds the law fascinating and why people from all walks of life need an attorney.

He is travelling with his servant, Dong-Chi and they set off to establish their attorney’s office. It seems their finances are a bit lacking but Han-soo is hopeful to turn things around in Hanyang.

Elsewhere, things are looking lively at the merchant’s house where Lady Hong is offering some financial help to a poor man. She is running the merchant house on behalf of Lee Yeon-joo, who is a princess in hiding. Lady Hong is not comfortable with the plan but they have no choice and Yeon-joo acts like her loyal servant.

Outside the merchant’s house, a man is attacked by a group of bandits for selling plum wine in Hanyang without giving the Jang Build some commission. His mom helps him escape and he runs into Han-soo and asks for help.

Unfortunately, Han-soo intentionally sells him out and watches as the drama unfolds. Lady Hong and Yeon-joo intervene and save the man. The man laments about the way the Jang Build is oppressing small merchants in the city. Yeon-joo asks Yoon to look into it.

That night, Mr Park feels frustrated but spots a sign for an attorney for hire and gets hope. He visits the office and finds Han-soo. He feels slighted that Han-soo exposed him when he was running and failed to help him. He refuses to hire Han-soo as his attorney and leaves angrily.

Dong-chi is similarly angry with Han-soo for losing a client but Han-soo tells him that Mr Park is not ready, they need to push him to the edge of a cliff.

In the meantime, Mr Park tries to get another lawyer to take his case but no one is willing to go against the Jang Build. After trying and failing, Mr Park loses hope and decides to leave Hanyang. He visits the merchant’s house and asks for a loan from Yeon-joo. Yeon-joo is heartbroken by his anguish and decides to ask for help from the King (her brother).

She gives him a taste of Mr Park’s plum wine and the King finds it refreshing. Yeon-joo asks him to intervene and stop the Jang Build from oppressing other businessmen. The King is not sure if he can help. He knows that his powers as a regent King are limited and feels guilty for being on the throne. He, however, promises to do what he can to help with the situation.

The King tries to have a meeting with the Executive Minister Yoo Je-se but he is stood up. Yoo Je-se is trying to remind King Lee Hyul who has the true power and undermine him. In the end, the King sends word to Yeon-joo that he is unable to help with the matter.

Concurrently, Han-soo tries to get the word out about his legal services. Sadly, rumour has already spread out that he is a piece of work and no one wants his services. Dong-chi adds to his troubles when he informs him that Mr Park is planning to leave Hanyang.

Han-soo decides to use the cover of the night to set Mr Park’s house ablaze and is spotted by Yeon-joo. Mr Park is left with no choice but to return to Han-soo and ask for his help after the fire.  Yeon-joo tries to stop him but Mr Park sees no other way out of his predicament. Han-soo also mocks Yeon-joo for her belief in how justice works in Joseon. He assures Mr Park that he will win the case and makes him sign a contract.

Later, Yeon-joo confronts Han-soo about burning down Mr Park’s house and says she will report him. Han-soo asks her to think carefully about whether it is important to punish him first or to save someone. Yeon-joo is unable to answer and decides to wait until after the case.

Master Jang is not happy to hear about the lawsuit but plans a way to win the case. He bribes the judge and hires Jo Cheol-Joo as his lawyer. The day of the court hearing approaches and the related parties appear in court.  Among the people watching the hearing is Ji-sun (the son of Yoo Je-se. )

During the hearing, Han-soo uses Jo Cheol-Joo against him and Dong-chi works the crowd to support Han-soo. In the end, the judge feels cornered by Han-soo’s argument. If he sides with Jo Cheol-Joo he will be considered a traitor because Jo Cheol-Joo used a precedent from the Ming dynasty. The judge rules in favour of Mr Park and orders Master Jang to pay for the damages he caused.

After winning the case, Mr Park is grateful to Han-soo and Dong-chi but they demand their payment as per the contract they had him sign. Unfortunately, Mr. Park has no money at the moment so Han-soo and Dong-chi opt for another form of payment. They go to Mr Park’s house and start taking the best utensils they have. Mr. Park is angry but his mom tells him to allow Han-soo to take whatever he wants as he saved their family from the oppression of the Jang Build.

Yeon-joo arrives and confronts Han-soo about his attitude. Han-soo states that he doesn’t work for free and he deserves to be paid. As they argue, Yoon arrives and points out Han-soo as the culprit who burned Mr Park’s house and he is arrested along with Dong-chi.

Once they are in prison, Dong-chi loses it when he learns that Han-soo is guilty of the crime. Han-soo asks him to calm down and claims the fire was accidental. He reminds Dong-chi that their fates are tied so they will go down together if he doesn’t stick to the plan.

Meanwhile, Mr Park’s mother confesses that she was trying to commit suicide when the house started burning. She believes the fire saved her life as it forced her to rethink and Han-soo also scolded her for trying to commit suicide but kept it a secret. Yeon-joo realizes that she might have judged Han-soo too harshly.  She admits to Lady Hong that she feels frustrated, she has been trying to help the people but couldn’t do much. Meanwhile, Han-soo was able to guarantee a family their livelihood.  She starts understanding what he late father meant when he said the law is what ultimately rules the people.

While in prison, looking at his purse, Han-soo has a flashback of returning home to find his mom’s lifeless body hanging from the ceiling. It looked like she committed suicide and their house was catching fire. Han-soo managed to escape with nothing but the red purse in his hands. He was also being chased by men on horses and to escape, he jumped off a cliff into a body of water.

The next morning, Dong-chi and Han-soo are spanked as punishment for burning Mr Park’s house. Mr Park had a change of heart and tried to get them freed but the Office of Punishment insisted on punishing them. After 20 spankings each, they are set free and they head to the courtesan house to get treatment and relax. Dong-chi is still angry with Han-soo but Han-soo promises him that the real outcome is yet to come. He was merely throwing bait by taking up Mr Park’s case.

Master Jang is also treating Park Je-Soo to a night of fun and relaxation at the courtesan house.  Mr Jang wants to supply goods to the Royal Academy of Paintings which is run by Park Je-Soo. However, after the outcome of the suit, Park Je-Soo changed his mind about working with the Jang Build. Master Jang blames Jo Cheol-Joo for how the case turned out.

He soon learns that Han-soo is at the Courtesan house as well and has his men follow him when he leaves. Han-soo is aware that Master Jang will try to come after him and is anticipating it. However, he didn’t anticipate Yeon-joo following him to apologize. He is moved by her apology and says this is the first time someone has apologized to him. He teases her to give him a kiss on his cheek as an apology but she refuses.

As they talk, Han-soo notices that Master Jang’s men are approaching and they try to hide. Unfortunately, Choo-Sal spots them and kidnaps them.  The scene cuts to Han-soo being held upside down in a cave. Below him, there is a basket full of snakes waiting to bite him if he is lowered further.

Master Jang is also present and Han-soo tells him that he has been waiting for him to make his move. It turns out Han-soo had a plan from the moment he landed in Hanyang. He planned to come for Master Jang, who was one of the officials who stormed his house when he was young and proceeded to beat him and his mom.

The Episode Review

This is the introduction to Han-soo’s story and he makes an interesting protagonist but I am not sure it was a good idea to turn him into an arsonist. I think the writers pushed it too far with that storyline. There were many ways they could have made their point without having Han-soo burn a poor man’s house so he can get the case.

It is clear that Han-soo is just starting his revenge plan and has been plotting since his family was ruined. Let us see how this revenge journey will unfold.

Yeon-joo is another character that is interesting, I like that she is willing to get involved and help her people.  We still don’t know why she left the palace and moved to the merchant’s house but I am sure we will know with time.

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