- Ha Jung-woo as Gang Rim. One of the Grim Reapers who had a memory of his life before Death, he is referred to as “Captain” by the other 2 reapers due to his seniority.
- Cha Tae-hyun as Kim Ja-hong. The 48th Paragon, who will be protected and defended in the trials of the Afterlife by the 3 Guardians.
- Ju Ji-hoon as Haw Won-maek. The 2nd Grim Reaper, who unlike Captain Gang Rim, tends to be more brawn than brains.
- Kim Hyung-gi as Duk Choon. The 3rd and most junior of the Reapers sent to guard over Ja-hong. But she has a mental link with Captain, and like a good paralegal, is able to memorise Ja-hong’s case file.
To give some background: in order for souls to be reincarnated in the Afterlife, there is a sort of “queue” system. Basically, the nicer people get q-ed in front (cos the not-so-nice people have to spend a few millennia in Hell’s various levels before they can proceed). So someone like Ja-hong, who has been living a virtually spotless life and died trying to save a person (cos he’s a fire fighter), is deemed a “Paragon”, and the perks also include having 3 Guardians who will defend him (physically and legally) in the trials he will face.
Cos in Along, the Underworld 15 levels of Hell system is one large legal entity. Ja-hong easily passes through the first few levels — Murder, Indolence and Gossip, since his actions prior to his death were pristine. Ja-hong had been working tirelessly to support his younger brother and his mute mother. In another incident, where he was judged to be circumstantial to a murder, it was cos his colleague urged him to save another person trapped in a burning building before coming back for him.
Only when he stepped into the Hell of Betrayal, things started looking ugly. And not cos of something he did. Gang Rim suspects someone close to him could have died in grievance, and the vengeful soul (with links to him) has decided to stir shit in Hell. Gang Rim temporarily leaves Ja-hong with Hae Won-maek and Duk Choon while he investigates the mortal world.
Turns out the vengeful spirit is Soo-hong (Ja-hong’s younger brother). He was shot in a misfiring incident, and his Captain decided to hide the accident (in order to prevent his promotion chances from being affected). However, Soo-hong wasn’t dead when Captain and Private Il-byung (the guy who misfired the shot) buried him.
Gang Rim manages to eventually persuade Soo-hong to leave quietly with him, until Soo-hong witnesses his Captain roughing up his mute mum who came daily to camp to get answers on her missing son (deemed a deserter). At this juncture, Ja-hong is also at his last level of Hell — his final trial. That of filial impiety.
In the trial, we find out that Ja-hong actually tried to murder his mum (and wanted to commit suicide with Soo-hong after the act), in a fit of depression. Luckily Soo-hong prevented him from committing the act. Guilt ridden, Ja-hong left home, and worked himself nearly to death to provide for his family.
Thanks to Gang Rim’s intervention by sending Soo-hong into his mum’s dreams, the King of Hell learns that their mother was aware of what transpired that night, but has forgiven her sons. Since a crime forgiven cannot be tried, Ja-hong attains immediate reincarnation.
On the other hand, Soo-hong surprisingly also receives a Paragon card, and will be guarded by the same trio.
I find the idea of mapping a legal system over the 15 levels of Hell pretty refreshing. There’s even a Hell Act (the characters were all quoting Section (X) of which Para, etc)…so funny. And that our Grim Reapers are not your traditional souls gatherers but actually have to be lawyers as well.
Otherwise, the storyline of Ja-hong and his life before death, is pretty straightforward. You kind of expected a twist to the whole Paragon thing — cos like the King of Hell himself said, no humans can live without sins in their entire lives. But what matters is the severity of the “crime” committed, and whether the victim forgives you for it.
Which then brings me to this question — it appears that there are very few Paragons being escorted through Hell (Ja-hong being the 48th in 19 years of the trio’s service), so…er…the scary thought that the majority (even though they did not commit dire crimes) may be spending their time in one of Hell’s 15 levels of punishment….