I’ve come a long way as a Criminal Minds fan ever since my 14 year old self stumbled across an episode of the first season airing on my local channel. In most ways, I consider the BAU team a part of my family so, when I heard that Korea was doing a remake of the series for their own network; I immediately went, ‘Oh, hell nawwww.‘
It’s not that I have anything against remakes. Some remakes are wonderful but there are some that just kinda seem to have miss their mark. So, after having seen the first 3 episodes of Criminal Minds Korea (which is currently airing on the cable channel tvN), I have a sufficient feel of the series to deliver my verdict.
I. STRUCTURE & PLOT.
As Korean dramas go, we are rarely treated to a continuing series of a particular title. Almost all of the Korean dramas produced are based off a one-time story line that plays out in 50-60 mins spanning a 20-30 episodic run. The time duration that the Koreans had was looking good for a possible replication of the American ‘one case per episode’ scenario but it wasn’t the case. Instead of wrapping up the case in one episode, it was dragged into the next episode; taking up about 3/4 of the episode duration.
In terms of the cases, they were similar. CMK’s first investigation was into The Seattle Strangler. However, in place of the FBI, we have the NCI – National Criminal Investigation. Unlike the usual protocol whereby the BAU needs to be called in to assist, it seems like the NCI picks up cases that cross their radar and comes in to take the case from the local police station.
Now, to fans of the original CM like me, CMK is a lot more dramatic with dull moments that added to the already slow build-up of the series. While I can understand that it may have been done intentionally with the idea of properly introducing the concept of criminal profilers to a culturally different audience, I felt that they could have followed CM’s structure in delivering the summary of the concept before the introduction of the characters. Their effort in trying to introduce the characters amidst the plot felt unnecessarily long-winded which often overshadowed the situation at hand. It somehow seemed like time wasn’t a key factor for their team – something that the BAU in CM takes priority in.
Another thing that was jarringly present in the series was the lack of proper character development. While my initial thought was of CMK being a remake of CM’s season 1, I was pretty surprised when The Reaper made an appearance, becoming the next major development in episode 3. Since there wasn’t a proper lead-up to this big fish, the introduction of the Reaper felt lackluster and a tad bit rushed.
It’s alright to pick and choose cases to replicate for CMK. But it isn’t right to jump to one of the most antagonizing unsubs in CM history this quick.
CM’s characters are the heart of the show. Alongside the cases they encounter, each tend to have a sort of personal connection with the victims and unsubs they face. And what really worked with the characters was the unity they bring whenever they all share a scene.
While it had been fun trying to guess which were the Asian counterparts of the BAU, it was disappointing to see the disjointed feel of the team and how some portrayals didn’t live up to the traits of the original characters.
*The following are my guesses of which personality they are assuming from the OG Criminal Minds. May or may not be accurate.
Kang Ki Hyung aka Asian Jason Gideon / Aaron Hotchner
It was pretty obvious from the get-go that Kang could be our unit chief, Aaron Hotchner. From his calm demeanor to the eyebrows game, we were looking at a pretty decent Asian counterpart. But, it turns out that he seems to be a blend of two characters (Gideon & Hotchner) in one.
Similar to Gideon, Kang suffers PTSD after dealing with the Korean version of The Boston Shrapnel Bomber where he assumed responsibility for the loss of 4 men from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal. He goes off sabbatical (or medical leave) to teach Criminal Profiling. He is asked to come back to the unit when their version of The Seattle Strangler surfaces. Kang’s embodiment of Hotchner comes in his role as the unit chief (or team manager as they call it in Korea), and his seemingly happy family life (Hotchner had that in the beginning).
Portraying Kang, Son Hyun Joo, who had been cast for this role seems to be the best out of the rest of the team. Perhaps it’s to do with him being a seasoned actor in Korea but at least his expression and mannerisms were on-par with the character he was playing. His dramatic moments were not over-the-top and felt just right to elicit the reaction needed from the audience.
Ha Sun Woo aka Asian Aaron Hotchner / Elle Greenway
This is the only character that still has me baffled. While Ha seems to embody the bad-assery we’ve seen in Elle, she’s also portrayed the mannerisms of a calm and serious Hotchner. I’m not sure if this was what CMK was aiming for but if it isn’t their intention, then the character is lacking some serious personality.
Portraying Ha, Moon Chae Won seems to be the only one that almost always uses the same sort of expression. She felt a lot like the Kristen Stewart of Korea with her few expressions that always seems hard to interpret. While she may be another seasoned actress in her own right, it seems like the complexity of this role may be hindering her performance in one way or another.
Kim Hyun Joon aka Asian Derek Morgan / Elle Greenway
Despite the basic similarity of Morgan’s explosive expertise and being employed by the police before the big leagues, Kim’s character had more striking character traits with Elle especially with the rash behavior. And, similar to her situation, Kim is also given the chance to join the NCI team, filling the remaining spot on the team.
As a widely renowned actor, Lee Joon Ki’s portrayal of Kim often sees him stealing the scenes from his fellow co-stars; which leads it into a rather precarious position of becoming an idol drama. In scenes like these, the
disjointed feel of the team can be felt which definitely loses the ‘team effect’ that CMK is trying to replicate. At one point, I felt like it was Kim Hyun Joon and the NCI team.
Lee Han aka Asian Spencer Reid
Lee Han, or ‘Korean Reid’ is almost similar to Reid sans the personality. And I feel that this is very much to do with the actor portraying Lee. Often, instead of delivering his lines with depth and the endearing awkward mannerisms of Reid, Go Yoon portrays Lee like an automated fact robot devoid of feelings. His understanding of the character seemed very much a surface thing which gave an annoying vibe instead of an endearing vibe. The Dr. Reid that we know and love definitely wasn’t a nerd with a blank expression – which Go seemed to think was how the character functions 99% of the time. I particularly disliked the scene where he used his gloved hands to touch his chin while they were at the crime scene. No one in the BAU does that. No one in the real police force does that unless they want to contaminate evidence.
Yoo Min Young aka Asian Jennifer ‘J.J’ Jareau
While Yoo and JJ were similar in most ways, I felt that Yoo wasn’t really given much time to shine. As I’ve mentioned before, the characters seem to find a very hard time coming together as a team and in most cases, characters like Yoo become overshadowed by the other characters. Even when they did give Yoo a somewhat featured role of importance in the remake of the case on the train (aka Derailed, S01E09 – which was originally meant to be Elle), she once again blends into the background.
I’m not really sure how I feel about their choosing of Lee Sun Bin to play Yoo but as my assumption is leaning towards the ‘just-another-pretty-face’ reason. Yes, J.J. is super pretty but there is more to her character than just being pleasing to the eye.
Na Na Hwang aka Asian Penelope Garcia
Loud accessories ✔
Colorful glasses and brightly colored clothing ✔
Decorated computer room with personality ✔
Quirky personality ✘
I applaud CMK for their attempt at the very fun-loving and quirky Garcia. But they definitely fell short in the personality department. Her Korean counterpart, portrayed by Yoo Sun, definitely tried her hardest in recreating the speech identifiers of the OG Garcia but it all came out differently. Instead of the endearing aspect, I get the overcompensating ditsy effect. I can see that Yoo is trying her best to do justice to Garcia but her portrayal could stand to gain if she dropped the over-excited reaction by a notch or two.
III. THE ISSUE WITH DERAILED
Like I’ve mentioned before, the heart of the show is essentially the BAU team which I’ve come to love over the course of the series. And, with Reid being my favorite character, I was particularly peeved with the remake of ‘Derailed’ in CMK which lasted less than 30 mins of the 1-hour episode.
Aside from the alarmingly short duration of the case, they had changed the agent who went onto the train to assist in defusing the situation. What was meant to be a case that led to a better understanding of Spencer Reid in CM;
became an opportunity for the newly-minted NCI agent to show off his skills in CMK. The switch-up made the case feel very much like a filler and I was utterly annoyed with the lines they gave Korean Reid to recite after the apprehension of the unsub.
Reid didn’t tell anyone about his mother or his worry about becoming a paranoid schizophrenic until Season 2, Episode 1 where he confides in Garcia. So the decision to summarize Korean Reid’s mother and mental health worry into just 3 lines in CMK was frustrating to me. They managed to take a complex character and downplayed it so much that their version of Reid seemed like an awkward block of wood with a high IQ.
Kudos CMK. You managed to make me dislike a character that I would have otherwise loved in this remake.
Despite the many glaring differences that would make any CM fan (like me) grimace, CMK does have elaborate settings that isn’t confined within the studios; which had me wondering what was the budget for the series..
Ultimately, CMK still pales in comparison with the slow pace, poorly constructed episode structure and almost non-existent character development. While CM provides the excitement and anticipation in every episode, CMK loses these essential factors which made Criminal Minds the success it is today.
As I mentioned previously, Korean dramas rarely have a case-by-case episode and I guess they are not going to start that trend anytime soon. With that said, it’s pretty clear that CMK is not my bowl of kimchi. I’ll continue to watch the upcoming episodes though they’d have to work doubly hard to impress me.
Until then, my profile remains as it is – Criminal Minds USA for the win.