Martin S. Hussey Jr. For Horizons
By Martin S. Hussey Jr., Correspondent
In the spring of 2021, I got hooked on the first two seasons of “Designated Survivor” on Netflix. “Designated Survivor” was an American series that lasted for three seasons, two on ABC and the last on Netflix. After watching the first two seasons, I was recommended “Designated Survivor: 60 Days,” the 2019 South Korean 16-episode series based on the American show. Although I had never watched a Korean show before, nor do I understand Korean, I decided to watch the show anyway, because why not?
The protagonist, Park Mu-jin (Ji Jin-hee), formerly a chemistry professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), was the South Korean Minister of Environment before being fired by President Yang Jin-ma (Kim Kap-soo) following the former’s screwing up free trade negotiations with the United States rather hilariously. The next day, and before Park’s firing became effective, the building of the National Assembly suddenly exploded, killing President Yang and the line of succession. Park is suddenly sworn in as the Acting President for the next 60 days, a position he never intended to be in.
While leading his country through uncertain times, Park encounters and works with a variety of people, including Chief Presidential Secretary Han Joo-seung (Heo Joon-ho), Presidential Office Senior Administrator Son Seok-koo (Cha Young-jin), Park’s secretary Jung Soo-jung (Choi Yoon-young), Acting Press Secretary and North Korea defector Kim Nam-wook (Lee Moo-saeng), the leader of the opposition Seonjin Republican Party, Yoon Chan-kyung (Bae Jong-ok), and last, but most certainly not least, Oh Yeong-seok (Lee Joon-hyuk), former Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy Lieutenant Commander, independent member of the National Assembly, and the sole survivor of the National Assembly attack.
At the same time, the secondary protagonist of the show, Han Na-kyung (Kang Han-na), a National Intelligence Service (NIS) Terrorism Task Force Analyst, is tasked with uncovering the identities of the perpetrators of the bombing. The investigation is personal for her, as there is evidence that her fiancé, fellow NIS agent Kim Jun-oh (Lee Ha-yool), was a victim of the attack. Aiding her are NIS cyber specialist Seo Ji-won (Jeon Sung-woo) and NIS Task Force Chief Jung Han-mo (Kim Joo-hun). The trio’s investigation will lead them down a rabbit hole that no one truly expected.
Overall, despite the language barriers, I really enjoyed watching “Designated Survivor: 60 Days.” In all honesty, I found the Korean version superior to the American version in several ways. Many of the background characters in the American version are more developed in the Korean version. For example, all we really know about the American version of the previous President, Robert Richmond (Richard Bekins) is based on the pilot episode and a few small conversations in subsequent episodes, and can be summarized as that although he may have been a sleazy politician, he loved his son, the latter of which is the side-plot of one episode. In contrast, President Yang appears in multiple episodes as flashbacks and has actual conversations with those around him, mainly Park and Han.
I also find the plot of the Korean version to be better than the American version. While the Korean plot is initially like the American plot at the start, it diverges in an unpredictable way. In fact, the true villain in the Korean version was revealed by the final half of the last episode and I was shocked with who it was and what their motivations were. However , in the American version, once the main villain is introduced, you kind of know it is them, but there is not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Overall, I really enjoyed “Designated Survivor: 60 Days.” If anyone who is reading this has Netflix and is interested in the political-conspiracy realm, this is the show I would recommend to you! Between the characters, the plot twists, and the cliffhanger on whether we’ll get a second season or not (no word yet), I just could not stop watching!