I never expected myself to say I’d enjoy Cheo-yong II, given how disappointed I was with Cheo-yong I. But…yes, Cheo-yong II is pretty well crafted. Unlike in Cheo-yong I, the ghosts here serve a major purpose — to contrast against the more evil humans.
We open on a rainy night, as a man (Lee Dong-chu) drunkenly staggers home. Unnoticed by him (obviously, in his state), another man (Kim Yong-chul) trails behind …holding a knife. Yong-chul is about to run forward to stab Dong-chu, when a little girl pops up with an umbrella, calling out to Dong-chu as her Ah-pa. Yong-chul hesitates, and drops his hand.
Behind him, Rogue Lawyer observes Yong-chul. He taps him on his shoulders. Yong-chul recognises Rogue Lawyer as the evil guy who released Dong-chu in Court. However, Rogue Lawyer tells Yong-chul to follow him. He brings Yong-chul to his Sa-rang Cult, where his group of vigilantes are hanging another criminal set free by the law. Rogue Lawyer tells Yong-chul to approach him if he wants Dong-chu to suffer the same punishment.
In the present, Ha-yoon introduces Rogue Lawyer as Han Gui-hyeong. Inspector Kang briefs the team on Lawyer Han’s background. Many years ago, while out with his kid sister (who was 6 then), he was distracted by his friends and left his sister alone for a while.
His kid sister (Sa-rang) was lured away by a predatory paedophile and brutally raped. Although the paedophile was later caught, he was only given a light sentence on account of him “being drunk” that day. Young Sa-rang (who was juz a tiny kid then), couldn’t bear the trauma, and tried to take her life. Although she didn’t die, she lived out the rest of her life in a hospital in a vegetative state. (oh dear)
Years after the paedophile was released from prison, he disappeared. And Inspector Kang guesses that Lawyer Han has something to do with his disappearance. Subsequently, many criminals who are deemed to have escaped from the law disappeared in the same way. Interestingly, Lawyer Han acted as their lawyer and was pivotal in setting them free. Inspector Kang points out that Lawyer Han may have made use of the victims’ families to operate the kidnapping and later, possible (private) execution.
Ha-yoon lists down 2 recent criminals whom Lawyer Han had helped defended during their trials, and who may be Lawyer Han’s next possible victims. They are chaebol Kang Jae-hyeon, who killed a person while drunk driving, and Lee Dong-chu, known to have a list of previous assaults, kidnappings, and robberies. His latest victim was a pregnant lady, who got ran over by a truck while escaping him. Ha-yoon and Cheo-yong are assigned to trail after Dong-chu, while Jong-hyun and Tae-gyeong will tail Jae-hyeon.
Meanwhile, Na-young is busy with her “own” case. Thinking that she muz put in more effort to show her relevance since the team now knows of her existence, she has volunteered to look for clues to Inspector Kang’s failed assassination. However, the stretch of road where the “accident” happened has been swept clean. Juz as she is about to give up, a police patrol car stops by. Piqued, she decides to take a look.
A patrol police (Officer Ha Seok-gyeong) steps out of the car and starts poking about the nearby bushes. He pockets something in his shirt, which Na-young doesn’t notice, and calls someone to tell him/her that he “found it”. Curious, Na-young follows him back to the station, and sees him giving a tattered notebook to his colleague, who informs him to follow up on his own. Na-young is annoyed to have wasted her time.
In the evening, Cheo-yong/ Ha-yoon and Jong-hyun/ Tae-gyeong are out tailing their respective targets. However, both their missions fail. Jong-hyun/ Tae-gyeong lose Jae-hyeon after a bunch of road hogs stop their car. Similarly, a group of small time gangsters decide to harass Ha-yoon and Cheo-yong, causing them to lose sight of Dong-chu.
Dong-chu gets on the bus alone, and not long after, a man in a black coat boards. He sits next to Dong-chu and stabs him with a needle. Dong-chu passes out. The black coated man then hauls him out with another passenger. As for Jae-hyeon, he is making out with his latest squeeze in his convertible, when a man approaches the car. Annoyed, he gets up to shoo the peeping tom away, only to be tasered. His “girlfriend” looks on and smirks at the man, before helping him toss Jae-hyeon into a black van.
Na-young, who has been tailing Officer Ha (out of boredom?), ends up in Yong-chul’s apartment. She sees him grieving over the pic of his dead wife…and also sees the ghost of his wife hovering by. Yong-chul’s wife passes her last memory of being chased by Dong-chu and subsequently being knocked down by a truck to Na-young, wordlessly pleading with her to help stop Yong-chul from becoming a monster.
Officer Ha tells Yong-chul to “get ready”. He offers to drop off Yong-chul “at the place”.
Frustrated that Dong-chu and Jae-hyeok have both gone missing, Cheo-yong storms into Lawyer Han’s office, and lays it out that the police knows what he has been up to. Lawyer Han doesn’t deny the accusations, but throws back a question at Cheo-yong — whether he thinks the current legal system is incorruptible enough to ensure all criminals are given just punishment. He cites the case of Yang Yoon-moo — the pharmacology owner who tested drugs on innocent children. Yang has been let off on a light sentence, but thanks to his vigilante group, he has received his due punishment. Cheo-yong has no reply.
Lawyer Han leaves for his Sa-rang Cult, where we witness Jae-hyeon being hung to death. The next criminal on trial is Dong-chu, and the switch for the noose is passed to Yong-chul. Thankfully, Yong-chul hesitates, and finally gives up. He tells Lawyer Han tearfully that “this isn’t what he wants”. The vigilantes murmur restlessly. However, Lawyer Han agrees to Yong-chul’s decision and lets him go with a warning not to tell anyone what he has experienced today. As for Dong-chu, Lawyer Han’s henchman slits his Achilles tendon, but also releases him with a warning never to turn to crime again.
However, not long after Dong-chu staggers out of the forest, he is killed by the same men who kidnapped him.
After parting ways with Lawyer Han, Cheo-yong senses people tailing after him. The two happen to be prosecutors. Inspector Kang brings this up to Prosecutor Nam the next day, and the latter apologises for harassing Cheo-yong. He proposes that they work together, and shares info on Lawyer Han. Both Prosecutor Nam and Lawyer Han were students in the same law class. One day, their professor had posed the question on the legal system’s adequacy. Lawyer Han was rather controversial in his thinking, as he felt the legal system is flawed, and only those who are powerless and poor get punished. Prosecutor Nam was disturbed by his viewpoint.
Inspector Kang agrees to pool resources and info with Prosecutor Nam. He introduces Prosecutor Nam to his team. While reviewing the CCTVs around the area where Jae-hyeon went missing, Jong-hyun spots a familiar face — Jae-hyeon latest girlfriend, Min Ji-hyeon, happens to be a good friend of Jae-hyeon’s hit and run victim.
Jong-hyun and Team Leader Byeon traces Ji-hyeon’s oppa and tries to find out her location from him. However, he claims to have lost contact with her long time ago. Luckily, the police are not so easily fooled. Right after Team Leader Byeon + Jong-hyun leaves, Ji-hyeon’s oppa hurriedly leaves his shop. Tae-gyeong tails after him.
And yep, the leads them to the massage parlour where Ji-hyeon is working. Ji-hyeon’s oppa tries to persuade her to leave “that cult”. When Ji-hyeon hears that police are at the door, she threatens to slit her throat if her oppa gives her up to them. Her oppa thinks she is over reacting and approaches the door — Ji-hyeon swipes the knife across her neck. Luckily the slit isn’t deep, but Jong-hyun and the rest are shaken by the extent the victims’ friends/ families are willing to protect Lawyer Han and their group.
Ha-yoon and Chae-yong separately follows up on Yong-chul/ Dong-chu’s case. Ha-yoon picks up a pregnancy diary in Yong-chul’s wife studio, and Cheo-yong drops by Yong-chul’s estate, to see him getting dead drunk and beaten up by thugs. Yong-chul clearly is still in pain, and half regrets his decision to let Dong-chu go. However, he refuses to divulge info on Lawyer Han’s Sa-rang Cult and staggers away. Cheo-yong notices a suspicious looking man overhearing their conversation, but he drives off before Cheo-yong can confront him.
Worried for Yong-chul’s safety, Cheo-yong decides to stake out under his apartment at night. Next morning though, Yong-chul appears to have gotten out of his depressed funk. He re-appears wearing new clothes and does groceries shopping. However, at his doorstep, a group of thugs waylay him and bundles him into a black van. Cheo-yong gives chase. He outfights the thugs, and sees Yong-chul escaping from the trunk towards a field of tall grasses.
Cheo-yong (and Na-young) calls out to Yong-chul, and hears 3 gunshots. They rush towards the sound of shots and witness Officer Ha (with his gun drawn) and a dying Yong-chul, who is shot in the chest. Officer Ha explains that a thug shot Yong-chul and he opened fire in response. He runs off to get an ambulance. Yong-chul tries to say something, but dies before he can complete a sentence.
On the other hand, Lawyer Han learns of the deaths of Dong-chu and Yong-chul, and is visibly shocked. His henchman informs him that it is likely “that person’s” doing…
At the morgue, the mood is glum as the team’s last clue (Yong-chul) is also dead. Cheo-yong leaves abruptly and in his car, someone calls him — Officer Ha’s colleague informs him that 3 (and not 2) shots were fired from Officer Ha’s service revolver that afternoon. Cheo-yong tells Na-young that he suspects someone on the team has been leaking information to Lawyer Han, allowing them to be one step ahead of the police. He decides to tail Officer Han to find out the Sa-rang Cult’s lair.
At HQ, Ha-yoon reviews the list of missing criminals again, and notices a pattern. Prosecutor Nam comes over in curiosity and praises her for her analytical skill. He then tells her to approach him if she prefers to “upgrade” to work for the Prosecution before leaving.
At Sa-rang Cult, another execution is happening. The new criminal this time, ironically, is one who has resolved to turn over a new leaf…but is kidnapped nonetheless by the group. And at the podium is…Prosecutor Nam. (what?) Lawyer Han barges in and tries to stop the latest execution but Prosecutor Nam tells him that he will be taking over Sa-rang Cult, and warns Lawyer Han not to interfere.
And back at HQ, a strange man receives a call and masks himself up. Na-young witnesses this, and thinks nothing of it…until said man approaches Ha-yoon and asks her to lead him to the electrical generator. She turns, and the man whips out a taser behind her back. Shocked, Na-young resorts to possessing Ha-yoon to save her.
Ha-yoon (Na-young) flubs that she needs to go somewhere, and pretends to take a call, while running away from the man. She hurriedly calls Cheo-yong on his phone. Cheo-yong, who has managed to track Officer Ha to Sa-rang Cult’s lair, picks up the phone…
…juz as a black van pulls up in front of Ha-yoon (Na-young) and men force her into it. Ha-yoon (Na-young) struggles and screams, and (cleverly) kicks the still-connected phone under the van’s seats…Cheo-yong, on the other line, hears it all.
Wow…what a great departure from the insipid Cheo-yong I. I like the ending story already, it has so many layers of tension that (at the moment) has nothing to do with ghosts, besides Na-young. For one, even if Lawyer Han is the baddie through-and-through, you can empathise with where he is coming from. With a flawed legal system that protects the rich and powerful, the economically vulnerable victims and their families are left to dry. Although what the vigilantes are doing is fundamentally wrong, I see it as their last resort at dealing justice to the criminals.
Of course, the twist of having Prosecutor Nam — who had appeared to be on the opposing end from Lawyer Han — appearing at Sa-rang Cult and taking such an extremist approach in “cleansing” society of crimes…it makes me wonder what made him change his mind.
It’s always never the dead victims who bear the resulting pain and loss from the crime(s), but their surviving friends/ family members. And Yong-chul embodies that, but he stops himself from stepping over the line to becoming a monster even though he wants revenge on Dong-chu.