Lee Jin Pyo and Lee Yoon Sung, multigenerational badasses
"[Park] Mu Yeol is dead. I will take the child and support him... Start all over again. You must be happy."
— Lee Jin Pyo, after taking Lee Yoon Sung as a baby in Seoul, 1983.
"Whose revenge is this for? I'm suddenly curious. Is this for the death of your comrades who were betrayed by their own military? Or is it a form of self-destruction because you feel guilty as a survivor?"
City Hunter (시티헌터) is a 20-episode Korean Series that aired on SBS from May to July 2011. It shared very few details with theJapanese work of the same name. There were also reports that the mangaka himself was involved in the production of the South Korean version after he personally refused other TV adaptations for City Hunter in the past few years.In 1983, 20 South Korean commandos were deliberately killed by friendly fire after a successful raid on North Korea in retaliation for the attempted bombing in Burma. The sole survivor, Lee Jin Pyo, swears revenge on The Council of Five, a group of high-level politicians that ultimately made the decision to abandon the team in order to avoid any political backlash. To that end, he kidnaps the newborn son of his best friend, who had died in the raid to save Jin Pyo's life. He molds the child into an instrument of Revenge, teaching him martial arts, firearms and other military tactics before sending him abroad to learn electronics and surveillance techniques.Flash forward to 2011 in Seoul. The child has grown into Lee Yoon Sung, a talented graduate from MIT, hired by the Blue House (presidential palace) into their IT department. After gaining immense wealth as a drug lord, Lee Jin Pyo has acquired the cover identity of a respected businessman specializing in antlers for the Asian medicinal market.Kim Na Na is a female Presidential Security Service agent and part of the Protection Team for the Blue House. She also has a mysterious link to the past in the form of Lee Yoon Sung's good friend and assistant, Baek Shik Joong.Investigating corruption with idealist fervor is Kim Young Joo, a prosecutor with the police department. His father is also one of The Five.As Yoon Sung funnels the evidence of wrongdoing through Young Joo, he is given the persona nickname "City Hunter" by the police, as a shadowy vigilante, who skirts the law but also helps to destroy those in power who feel above the law. The corruption may even go all the way to the Blue House itself.
Both Na Na and Yoon Sung stand still in a plaza in Seoul, while the crowds and cars rush by.
Young Joo when his fellow prosecutors learn of his father's corruption.
Alternate History: Partially on the response to the Burma bombing. No commando attack/infiltration was initiated as the Americans, Chinese and South Koreans condemned the bombing via media. Chinese officials including the President did not want to meet any North Korean official due to the perpetrator's links to the country and to the military. It's either this trope or possibly a secret history/conspiracy theory.
Bavarian Fire Drill: Shik Joong enters the control booth of a conference hall in order to access one of the computers and makes orders that are immediately followed by the staff. It's only when they notice he's using a fake badge that he has to make an escape.
Beta Couple: Ki-joon and Eun-ah, although not until the end.
Big Fancy House: Jin Pyo's place in Thailand is paid for with drug money and includes his own terrorist boot camp. Yoon Sung too thanks to the drug money as well. His Blue House colleagues were amazed at his place.
Kim Jong Shik , aka Target #3 and Young Joo's father to Young Joo.
Also, Yoon Sung when he finds out about his kidnapping as a baby by Jin Pyo.
Young Joo to Na Na after she finds out exactly why he has been secretly watching over her for so many years.
Bumbling Sidekick: Young Joo's assistant prosecutor Pil-jae, who gets himself locked in a bathroom stall by the suspect he's supposed to be following in one episode, loses a suspect in another episode when Na Na blocks his car, and stupidly unties Chun Jae-Man in episode 19, facilitating his escape.
In Episode 2 Na Na, serving as a designated driver for Yoon Sung, indignantly pulls the car over and ends the ride after Yoon Sung makes a fool of himself snogging on a girl in the backseat. In episode 10 the same thing happens again.
In the final episode Yoon Sung has a flashback remembering all of his targets and how they were exposed.
Yoon Sung has a nightmare where he and Na Na shoot each other and then wind up bleeding on the ground as they reach for each other. This is what happens in the end, but with Jin Pyo, not Na Na.
On three different occasions, bad guys spring a trap on good guys by telling the good guy that there's a gas leak at their house.
Yoon Sung to Jin Pyo in episode 10. And again after he discovers that Jin Pyo kidnapped him as a baby. And again after Jin Pyo frames Kim Jong Shik for running over Shik Joong.
And yet again when Yoon Sung confirmss who his real birth father is—uncovering yet another lie Jin Pyo has been telling him all these years. Let's also not forget Young Joo's frustrated attempts to reason with his own psycho dad. If we had a 100 won coin every time this trope appeared...
The Captain: Shik Joong calls Jin Pyo that after he allowed him to stay in his Thai compound. Same with Sang Kook.
The Casanova: What Yoon Sung pretends to be and what Na Na thinks he is. In reality he's just using his charm on women to extract information important for his plan.
Chekhov's Skill: The character of Sae-hee (Young Joo's ex-wife) seems pointless, and her job (veterinarian) even more so—until Yoon Sung takes a bullet in the shoulder in Episode 8 and goes to her for medical help.
Clark Kenting: Yoon Sung. He plays the part of a wimpy MIT-graduate communications worker in the Blue House, but is secretly the City Hunter.
Combat Pragmatist: Unlike Yoon Sung, who wants to expose each of the Five's wrongdoings to the public and destroy their reputations, Jin Pyo just wants to snipe them all. Deconstructed in that Yoon Sung's method of revenge is shown to be the more logical and moral choice. Their actual fights also use this trope
Conspicuously Public Assassination: The opening scene in 1983, where the Aung San Mausoleum in Burma is destroyed by North Korean assassins via bomb in order to kill the South Korean president and the Burmese Ambassador.
Cool Car: Yoon Sung has several of these. He seems to switch cars every two episodes.
Corrupt Corporate Executive: Chun Jae-Man is this; his chemical factory uses unsafe toxins that are poisoning his workers, and the factory's waste is polluting the environment as well. He doesn't care.
Cycle of Revenge: Yoon Sung's argument for why he wants to humiliate the Council of Five and force them to be punished by the law is that if he just kills them, he will continue a cycle of blood-for-blood revenge and one of their family members could end up just like him.
Twice in Episode 13. First played for laughs, when Na Na declines Yoon Sung's command to stay at home but instead hides in the backseat of his car when he's going off for a mission. And then played straight when Yoon Sung ambushes Kim Jong-shik, the third member of The Five (and Young Joo's father).
Then in Episode 14 Chun's henchman catches Young Joo in the back seat of his car.
Young Joo when he confronts Yoon Sung, accusing him of having a hand at his father's attempted murder.
Young Joo: “Don’t you dare get caught by anybody else. I’ll be the one to do it.” Yoon Sung: “You must really feel wronged to take your anger out on a random person. You’ve wrinkled my clothes.”
Young Joo confronting Jin Pyo in his Seoul residence.
Jin Pyo: "Why did I make up a new identity? Because of the incident that happened many years ago, I buried my soul in the seabed." Young Joo: "That incident many years ago?" JP: "That incident many years ago... Why don't you look into what happened, Mr. Prosecutor?" YJ: "You must have a reason for getting close to Chairman Chun Jae-Man, right? Do you plan to stop running and finally stand in the sunlight?" JP: "Sunlight? I have always been standing in the sunlight."
Kim Sang Kook to Jin Pyo, once Sang Kook learns that one of his relatives was one of the commandos killed in the 1983 Pyongyang raid.
Suk Doo-Shik, Chun Jae-Man's personal bodyguard, assassin and ex-amateur boxing champion.
Dragon with an Agenda: Sang Kook questions Jin Pyo throughout, i.e. not telling Yoon Sung's mom that her son was actually alive, but doesn't appear to have a totally separate agenda until later in the series. When Jin Pyo starts meeting Chun Jae Man, Sang Kook is even willing to assist Yoon Sung secure the top secret 1983 Pyongyang raid documents.
Dramatic Shattering: Na Na shoots a bullet that goes through a window and into Yoon Sung's shoulder.
Dramatic Unmask: Young Joo whips off Yoon Sung's mask at the end of episode 18.
Chun Jae Min tells his assistant to make Young Joo's death look like he was driven to suicide since his father was revealed as corrupted and is in a coma while Young Joo's own reputation has been tarnished.
The President attempts to facilitate his own assassination by Jin Pyo at the end.
Drives Like Crazy: Yoon Sung and Young Joo are often speeding, making illegal-looking U-turns, and cutting off traffic.
Eating Lunch Alone: Young Joo after it is revealed to all of his coworkers that he knew about the truth about his father bribing the witness to his car accident ten years ago.
Even Evil Has Standards: Jin Pyo won't allow his henchmen to export drugs to South Korea (the rest of the world is perfectly fine though). So he executes one of them to prove his point.
Evil Laugh: Jin Pyo after he finds out that Yoon Sung and company were able to secure the money away from him.
False Flag Operation: Yoon Sung went after Kim Jong Shik with a vengeance after seeing one of his personal cars run over Shik Joong. Turns out that Jin Pyo had a hand in it so that he can see Yoon Sung assassinate Kim Jong Shik. This pisses Yoon Sung off.
Faux Fluency: Particularly obvious when a supposedly American character has worse Engrish than the Korean Young Joo.
Foreshadowing: Yoon Sung meets a university student who was rude towards the canteen employee because of the high prices. An episode later, she is a student protestor demanding lower tuition.
Yoon Sung threatened Kim Jong Shik that Young Joo may be forced to stop being a prosecutor if he makes the latter arrest the former. Later on, Young Joo doesn't mind not being a prosecutor if he eventually has to investigate another corruption case after hearing the secret recording.
Yoon Sung's nightmare about trying to reach Na Na after they are both shot. The scene plays out in reality, later, except he's reaching out to Jin Pyo.
Grave Marking Scene: The 20 men and Jin Pyo are finally honored by their country for their services with a memorial in the military cemetary and their honor finally restored.
Grey and Gray Morality: The Council of Five, the main antagonists are just convinced that what they're doing is good since President Chun Doo-hwan would not allow a black ops operation without his approval. Even after most of them have become completely corrupt, they still show love towards their family. Likewise, Yoon Sung isn't a pure, squeaky clean hero; he uses some unlawful and invasive methods in his revenge. Jin Pyo is an Anti-Villain at best by this point.
Heroic BSOD: Shik Joong when he revealed to Yoon Sung that he's very familiar with Na Na because he was threatened by a politician when the man learned of Shik Joong's gambling debts prior to his self-exile to Thailand, being forced to change his witness statement to the police or face trouble.
Idiot Ball: Young Joo has traced the security leak to the IT department at the Blue House. He lets Yoon Sung's supervisor talk him into giving them three days to turn over their computers, thus allowing Yoon Sung time to delete incriminating files.
Impairment Shot: Young Joo when he's about to pass out from being gassed by Chun's Mook, and again when waking up in the hospital. Yoon Sung after getting exposed to gas at Chun's factory.
Knife Nut: All the commandos in the 1983 Pyongyang raid were armed with this alongside Type 68s (North Korean-made AK-47s). It's quite effective as they took out their targets alongside their bare hands too.
Doo-Shik has a balisong as his personal weapon.
Kubrick Stare: Jin Pyo is prone to these. So is Chun's henchman Suk Doo-shik.
The commandos in the 1983 Pyongyang raid were killed by other commandos via submarine to prevent news of the raid from leaking out and creating political backlash.
During the 1983 raid, the commandos took out their targets silently alongside their escorts. One of the targets was a high-ranking North Korean official, who was killed alongside his wife.
Kim Jong Shik tells his son Young Joo that he was lucky Na Na's mother died from the car accident and that her father was a human vegetable since that meant the truth wouldn't be revealed, and prior to that discussion orders Bae Man Duk and Kim Na Na to be taken cared of when Na Na tells Young Joo of her intentions to re-open the investigation regarding her parents' deaths ten years ago.
After Yoon Sung freezes the credit cards because of Shik Joong's overspending habits, Shik Joong packs his bags and heads over to Na Na's house. Na Na quickly calls Yoon Sung to say that Shik Joong has ran away from home. To make this even more hilarious, as Yoon Sung walks in, Shik Joong is wailing to Na Na that Yoon Sung "has changed."
Shik Joong: “You promised that you’d let me live in luxury, but all you ever do is get me beaten up by strange men. And tell me to wash high glass windows. And make me commit fraud as an insurance salesman. I’m going back to the Triangle!” Yoon Sung: “Go where? You know I can’t live without you!” Shik Joong: “What do you mean 'can’t live?' What 'can't live?'” Yoon Sung: (gently puts his arms on Shik Joong's shoulders) “I can’t live without you. Ok? I was wrong.” Shik Joong: “Was I doing it only for me? I’m just trying to feed you, take care of you ...” Yoon Sung: “I know, I know. I was wrong. Ok? I’ll unfreeze the cards, ok?” Na Na: “So ... maybe you could have your lovers' spat at home?”
Loose Lips: Yoon Sung is seen getting incriminating information about his targets from the women he flirts with and Shik Joong mentions that he received information about Kim Jong Shik's embezzlement when having a drink with his gardener.
Love Triangle: Both Lee Yoon Sung and Kim Young Joo are crushing on Kim Na Na.
Mangst: Young Joo after hearing a recording that Jong Shik wanted the City Hunter to leave his son alone. This drove him to tears. Jang Pil Jae after seeing Yoon Sung in the wake of Young Joo, blaming him for the events that led to his murder.
Married to the Job: It's implied that Young Joo's divorce is at least partly caused by him neglecting Sae Hee because of his work.
Also Yoon Sung and his mom at the hospital and the university.
Missing Mom: Na Na's mother was killed in a car accident ten years before the start of the show while Yoon Sung was stolen from his mother shortly after he was born and told that it was a case of Parental Abandonment.
No Peripheral Vision: The only possible explanation for why Young Joo and Yoon Sung don't see each other at the end of episode 10, and why everyone is so bad at realizing they're being tailed.
Nobody Poops: Averted in episode 6 when Na Na squats only to yell at Yoon Sung for leaving the toilet seat up. Also Eun-ah, after being drugged with laxatives.
Not as You Know Them: Kim Jong Shik, being the champion of student rights. But he's really a corrupt bigot who wants money, money, money and has no problem using violence to take care of his enemies. And he stores his "money" as cash, which is why Yoon Sung or Young Joo were not initially able to find any irregularities.
Na Na, on an errand for the presidential candidate, knocks on the wrong door and encounters Yoon Sung in a bathrobe and Sae Hee with his clothes in hand. Then Young Joo sees them, just to finish the square. It turns out that Sae Hee had spilled alcohol on his clothes and was washing them for him.
It happens again when Na Na witnesses Yoon Sung, who hadn't come home that night, exiting the animal hospital with Sae Hee. Obviously he had been busy recovering from, you know, being shot and avoiding being caught by the police. Sae Hee's hospital just happened to be the most convenient way to do things, and then said hospital owner had discovered him.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: One scene in Episode 10 has Yoon Sung dangling out a hospital window, nowhere to escape, Young Joo about to catch him—until we cut to Young Joo staring out the window at nothing, and cut again to Yoon Sung on the ground floor, the manner of his escape a mystery.
Oh Crap: When Yoon Sung finds out that his Blue House colleagues came to visit his place, he told Na Na to hide herself ASAP.
Bae Shik Joong, or Bae Man Dook, as he was formerly known, was the flip-flopping witness to Na Na's parents' fatal accident caused by Kim Jong Shik, who is Young Joo's father. Because of the whole incident, Baek asks Yoon Sung near the beginning of the series to take care of Na Na, and Young Joo masquerades as Na Na's Daddy-Long-Legs.
Yoon Sung helps Sae Hee out of a rough situation long before both him and the audience find out that she is 1) already friends with Na Na and 2) actually Young Joo's ex-wife.
Go Ki Joon's brother was a victim of Seo Yong Hak's corrupted business practices involving military boots.
Na Na also already knows Yoon Sung's mother Kyung Hee before Yoon Sung himself meets her.
Na Na's aunt works at Young Joo's prosecutor's office.
Our Presidents Are Different: Choi Eung-Chan. He's the only in the The Council of Five who's benevolent and all that he was willing to personally command the military to retrieve the commandos, but didn't so since the other four warned him that they would get into trouble with then President Chun Doo-hwan. President Choi wanted to publish documents about the 1983 raid, but the remaining ones (e.g. not killed/jailed) refused to do so for they will expose his ties with them back in '83. He also cares about his family that he allowed Na Na and Eun-Ah to discipline his daughter if she gets out of line.
Parental Abandonment: Yoon Sung was pissed at his mom for abandoning him. He later finds out that it's not the case and apologizes for it.
He does come off as this at first but as the series progresses it seems like he was acting more out of guilt for his father being the cause of the accident which killed Na Na's mother and put her father into a coma than romantic attraction.
Product Placement: Hyundai/Kia autos, their logos covered if an episode airs with their appearances. Iphones too.
Yoon Sung gets a lot of use out of his iPad.
Punch a Wall: Yoon Sung does this to the mirror in the male toilet after getting Shik Joong to a hospital.
The Punishment: Jin Pyo warns Yoon Sung that he'll have Na Na executed if Yoon Sung's identity is revealed to the public. Same thing if Yoon Sung doesn't kill the politicians responsible for his father's death, his mom's life may not be safe.
Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Happens unintentionally with Young Joo, whose good looks lightened the foul mood of a female forensics lab staff member and influenced her to quickly process Yoon Sung's blood sample.
Sequel Hook: Depends on how you view the last episode on whether SBS will do another one or not. So far, the high ratings it had throughout most of Asia, the ambiguous ending and the fan's campaigning will determine if the networks will do it since Korean TV shows don't have more than one season. With a few exceptions.
Sexy Shirt Switch: Na Na looks fetching in one of Yoon Sung's shirts when they have to change clothes after getting caught in the rain.
Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Played straight with the order in which the first four targets appear, with each new target being deadlier and more willing to kill than the last. Subverted with the final target.
Sleep Cute: Yoon Sung fakes this, laying his head on Na Na's shoulder in Episode 5.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: While the characters are all over the scale (Young Joo and Na Na firmly on the idealism end, Jin Pyo and the Council of Five on the cynicism end with Yoon Sung and Shik Joong drifting somewhere inbetween), the show itself is more idealistic, with the public generally depicted as good and the antagonists as those who became that way because they've become Drunk with Power.
Stalking Is Love: How many time has Yoon Sung followed Na Na around without her knowledge again?
Stalker with a Crush: Da-hye is accused of being this to Yoon Sung when Eun-ah and Na Na see the huge amount of pictures she's taken of him.
Statute of Limitations: Kim Jong Shik repeatedly points out that the statute of limitations concerning the car accident with Na Na's parents has passed and that he is innnocent. Young Joo strongly disagrees and Na Na is even hoping to re-open the investigation now that she has evidence from Bae Man Duk that says he gave a false testimony.
Stealing from the Till: Kim Jong Shik embezzles 200 million won from the university funds and keeps it hidden in a secret room in his house.
Suicide by Cop: In the end this is what Jin Pyo does, deliberately ejecting the clip from his gun before turning it on the president's bodyguards.
When Yoon Sung muses out loud about hungry children, the Welfare employee shouted, "Are you stating that I embezzled the money?"
When Da Hye visited Yoon Sung at the PSS shooting range and said she wanted to fire a weapon, PSS agent Shin Eun-Ah told her that she was in the shooting range to see him. All that with a smile on her face.
Eun Ah after seeing Yoon Sung toss Young Joo over his shoulder at the Blue House parking lot. This raised her "admiration" over him. Ki Joon won't have any of this.
Sword Cane: Jin Pyo's main weapon. He never actually uses the blade, though.
Jin Pyo takes a landmine for Yun Sung in the first episode.
Discussed by the PSS agents. Later, Na Na for Yoon Sung after rescuing him in episode 11.
Na Na later Takes Rotten Fruit And Eggs for Da Hye.
Na Na does this in episode 17 for the president, but the bullet she stops turns out to be a paintball pellet.
And in the last episode Yoon Sung does this for the president.
Talking Your Way Out: Na Na in episode 11 after being confronted by policeman guarding the entrance of the NFS building by pretending to be a relative of the deceased officers.
Taking the Heat: Jin Pyo claims to be the real City Hunter in the final episode, after Yoon Sung tells him that he just wants to live a normal life after the revenge, and doesn't want to kill either his biological father or the father who raised him.
The Tell: Prosecutor Kim Young Joo knows his ex-wife, Sae Hee, is lying about the whereabouts of the City Hunter because she draws a circle on the table with her finger.
Title Drop: The nickname for the anonymous do-gooder is coined in Episode 3.
"Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: It's unknown when the following take place, but it's a long timeskip after Yoon Sung and Jin Pyo shoot each other: Eun Ah and Ki Joon announce that they're getting married, Lee Kyeong Hee moves out to America to begin a new life with help from Shik Joong, Na Na's father did not recover from his coma and passed away, Da Hye has her own coffee shop to run/manage and Choe Eun Chan has stepped down from the presidency (most likely impeached due to the controversy of the election funds brought forward by Yoon Sung), the public remembers the commandos killed in North Korea after a memorial is created with Jin Pyo being commemorated as a hero and not a killer alongside Mu Yeol and Yoon Sung has completely recovered from his gunshot wound before he meets Na Na. It's unknown if he moved with his mom to America or if he'll continue to stay in Seoul and be the City Hunter.
You Bastard: After Seo Yong-Hak took Na Na hostage with her own sidearm before tossing her over a railing. Yeah that gave him some troubles after he's brought into custody. Jin Pyo after he sees Yoon Sung take the bullet for the president.
Played with. Yoon Sung wants to take revenge against The Five for killing Mu Yeol, who is revealed to be his adoptive father, not his birth father. As an extra twist, one of said Five is Yoon Sung's real father, though Yoon Sung does not know this.
You Shall Not Pass: Young Joo does this with Chun Jae Man and his lackeys, holding them off to give Yoon Sung time to find the record book that holds the information on Operation Clean Sweep and its instigators.