Hang in your seat folks. This episode is an intense roller coaster ride. While there were plenty of up’s and developments in this episode, there were also plenty of drops and low’s for everyone.
Miss Hammurabi: Episode 4 Recap
Episode four starts off with two older ladies handing out flyers and promoting products to passerby’s near the subway station. Upon seeing the two ladies, Ba-reun puts on his earphones and walks past them. However, he notices one of the lady’s depressing mood and goes back to ask for one of her flyers out of pity. She hesitates upon giving him a flyer and there’s a reason why.. her flyer has information about lingerie! AHHHH. BA-REUNNNN. Ba-reun’s face turns red upon finding out, but he accepts the flyer timidly. Oh-reum watches Ba-reun the entire time from afar and approaches him once he accepts the flyer. She takes one of the flyers as well and teases him about it. This draws the attention of other women around them and it’s not until Oh-reum gushes about the products on the flyer that the other women are interested in buying it as well. Oh-reum and Ba-reun leave together while the rest of the women swarm for a flyer of their own. Oh-reum works her magic and attracts like a magnet. She saves the day again!
Oh-reum’s social skills exists not only outside of work but even inside as well. While walking in the hallway at work, Ba-reun comes across Oh-reum hanging out with a few other custodians. She is pretty social Ba-reun notes.
He enters the restroom only to find Judge Jung inside washing his hair. Seems like he stayed another night at his office. Ba-reun suggests that Judge Jung stop coming to visit their office and use his time to work instead. Maybe he wouldn’t have to pull any all-nighters at the office then. HAHA. Someone finally told him. But Judge Jung argues back and says his visits is what helps Oh-reum tolerate Ba-reun’s boring and dry personality. If it weren’t for him, Oh-reum would be so bored. The jabs they take at each other are too hilarious.
Back in the office, Oh-reum tries to recruit Ba-reun to join her in attending a presentation by a Presiding Judge from another department. She’s trying to gather people to go to the presentation to help out the associate judge from that same department who she’s also in a social group with. Ba-reun resists at first, but eventually gives in when Oh-reum pressures him.
They arrive at the elevator only to find a group of other judges and workers there waiting. When the elevator does open, no one moves. Everyone waits for the eldest of the group to enter the elevator first as hierarchy is strict within the workplace. But the eldest invites the one female employee to enter first as it’s common courtesy. This “clash between two cultures” as Ba-reun calls it goes and back forth for a while until Oh-reum steps up to the plate. She volunteers to enter the elevator first and is followed by an embarrassed Ba-reun. Finally, the eldest enters next and then everyone else follows. Oh-reum is so brave and funky I love it.
Everyone squeezes into the one elevator and Oh-reum is stuck in the corner. They all arrive on the floor the presentation is going to take place at and face a dilemma as to who’s going to exit out of the elevator first this time. Unlike before, Oh-reum remains stuck in the corner thanks to Ba-reun and the eldest of the group who are both blocking her. The eldest makes sure he leaves first this time and then everyone else follows.
The presentation – which is for the newly created Civil Justice Research Group – begins with remarks from senior Presiding Judges. Ba-reun isn’t too impressed with all the talk though and grows impatient. When asked if anyone has any questions, Ba-reun unconsciously raises his hands. After asking his question and raising his concerns, his question is met with a general response from one of the Presiding Judges. They quickly move on to plans about having lunch in the cafeteria.
During lunch time, the senior Presiding Judges sit with the Chief Justice up in the front of the room. Judge Jung wants to utilize this opportunity to make some good first impressions on his Sunbaes, but loses the chance thanks to Presiding Judge Sung (Cha Soon-bae). At that moment, Presiding Judge Sung raises his glass to make a toast: for the dominance of men over women and for the idea that men exist to please women. AHHH. I’M SCREAMING. This is a mess. Oh-reum’s colleague and associate Judge Hong (Cha Soo-yeon) sighs at the thought of her Presiding Judge. Work is difficult and she barely has time to breathe, but it’s okay because she’s not the only one going through hard times.
Do-yeon enters Oh-reum and Ba-reun’s office to remind Ba-reun of his appointment with the Chief Justice. It’s custom for the Chief Justice to invite judges into groups to sit down and have some tea with him and it’s Ba-reun’s turn today. Ba-reun had totally forgot about the meeting, but Do-yeon reassures him by giving him a suggestion of what to talk about during the meeting: the map of the office building.
It’s time for the meeting and everyone gathers in the Chief Justice’s office. However, they’re clearly intimidated and nervous to death and no one wants to speak. The Chief Justice doesn’t seem all too impressed either by any of the suggestions or ideas that the associate judges are brave enough to share. Do-yeon’s idea about the map is quickly stolen and addressed by others in the meeting so Ba-reun is left with nothing. The hour long meeting that felt like a decade ends with no good results.
Ba-reun’s day couldn’t get any more fun. He, along with Oh-reum and Judge Jung, discover that Presiding Judge Sung had plagiarized his work! Presiding Judge Sung wanted to prove to people his value and worth because he didn’t succeed in the conventional route of becoming a judge. It’s clear that he cares more about his image and reputation as a judge, hence, overworking all his associate judges, than about his work. This largely contrasts with Presiding Judge Han who can care less about the Chief Justice and the rest of the Presiding Judges (haha, people did say that he wasn’t close to any of the other judges) and only focuses on work. He doesn’t care about promotions and about impressing the Chief Justice.
Judge Jung doesn’t blame Presiding Judge Sung for wanting to get promoted, but Oh-reum and Ba-ran doesn’t understand. Regardless, he should be punished accordingly for plagiarizing Ba-reun’s work. Ba-reun agrees to meet with the Chief Presiding Judge the next day to address not only the plagiarism issue but also the issue about Presiding Judge Sung overworking his associate judges.
Judge Hong is busy working in her office when the assistant clerk offers her some snacks. However, Judge Hong kindly rejects the offer and goes back to working. She grows worried for her growing stomach and is reminded of the warnings that Presiding Judge Sung gave to her on her first day of work: she cannot date or get married once she’s hired. Not only that, she will also have to work on Sundays as it’s quieter and easier to work because there’s less people and noise. Back in the present, Judge Hong is afraid of what Presiding Judge Sung’s reaction will be upon finding out about her pregnancy.
Presiding Judge Han has lunch with his colleague and is joined by Presiding Judge Sung. He quickly asks Presiding Judge Han how many cases he’s working on to which Presiding Judge Han answers 400 (400??? SAY WHAAAAT). After asking the question, Presiding Judge Sung leaves and the two are left alone. Presiding Judge Han’s colleagues warns him about Presiding Judge Sung. He’s just spying on Presiding Judge Han and wants to lower the number of cases he’s working on to 300. He wants to make sure he gets that promotion.
We clearly see Presiding Judge Sung’s tricky and lazy attempts to lower the number of cases he has to deal with. With his trials, he encourages both sides to just mediate and reach a settlement even though it’s clear that both sides don’t want to. Because the Supreme Court has been emphasizing the importance of mediation, Presiding Judge Sung has been working to become the top judge with the highest rate of mediation success.
Judge Hong returns home after a long and exhausting day of work. She can barely breathe for a few seconds when Presiding Judge Sung calls her and scolds her for leaving work early. How dare she leave her office at 11PM? If she wants to succeed and be better than the other judges, she needs to work harder. Ugh.
Presiding Judge Sung ends his phone call and returns to his meeting with the Chief Presiding Judge (Ahn Nae-sang) as well as other senior presiding judges. He gives a toast to Chief Presiding Judge and flatters him with compliments. The Chief Presiding Judge doesn’t seem to impressed though. Why hasn’t Presiding Judge Sung move up to work in the Court Administration yet despite all his years of being a judge? Presiding Judge Bae (Lee Won-jong) defends Presiding Judge Sung and argues that it takes a little while for others to get there. Of course, we all know the real reason why though. #whogonnatellem
Ba-reun bikes his way to work instead of taking the subway like he usually does. Do-yeon notices the new bike and calls it cute… the bike of course. She totally wasn’t talking about Ba-reun at all. Hehe. Ba-reun enters his office to find Judge Jung (OMG FOR THE 1029302th time) and Oh-reum inside. They also notice the new bike and are curious about it. It must be nice to ride it near the Han River right? That then gives Ba-reun an idea: he invites Oh-reum (and Judge Jung after a two second pause) to ride bikes with him at the Han River one day. Oh-reum accepts while Judge Jung finds Ba-reun suspicious.
Do-yeon heads out to the hallway only to find Judge Jung helping out an assistant clerk from another department with an errand. They walk together to their destination and pass by Do-yeon in the process. Judge Jung nervously greets Do-yeon before walking off with the assistant clerk. Do-yeon small smile widens when she overhears two female employees kindly speaking about Judge Jung and how respectful and kind he is. Maybe Do-yeon’s image of Judge Jung is starting to change?
Ba-reun quickly researches on rental bikes before his meeting with the Chief Presiding Judge. He quickly shrugs off Oh-reum’s question about his search before heading out to the meeting. Ooh, someone’s shy.
In the meeting, Ba-reun is quick to addressing the plagiarism issue concerning Presiding Judge Sung. However, Chief Presiding Judge recommends that Ba-reun not worry about it. He defends Presiding Judge Sung and compares him to a tortoise who should be given hope and time to catch up to the hares within the organization. People like Ba-reun are competent and intelligent, but not everyone is like Ba-reun. Presiding Judge Sung should not only be given the opportunity to learn and grow, but he also is older than Ba-reun and serves as Ba-reun’s senior judge. These two reasons alone should be enough to excuse Presiding Judge Sung. Plus, Ba-reun’s plan to file a complaint against Presiding Judge Sung could backfire and hurt his own reputation too. Ba-reun is stunned at this response and struggles to say anything back.
At the same time, Oh-reum meets with Judge Hong to discuss about Judge Hong’s pregnancy and Presiding Judge Sung. Judge Han shouldn’t be working too much since she’s pregnant, but Judge Han has no choice. And plus, it’s not only her struggling with work right now but all the other associate judges too so it’s not too bad. She’ll be fine. Even if what Presiding Judge Sung is doing is bad and horrifying, Judge Jung makes excuses for it one after the other. But this doesn’t stand with Oh-reum. She plans on doing something about Presiding Judge Sung.
Meanwhile, Chief Presiding Judge shares with Ba-reun his concerns about Oh-reum’s recent behavior. She’s been causing controversy with her actions and it’s been placing the court in a bad light. Ba-reun is known to be strong, confident, and intelligent, but she can also be very emotional and responsive. Her participation in helping protesting Mother file an appeal didn’t help either; in the process of helping, she broke some rules as a judge that she shouldn’t have. Chief Presiding Judge asks for Ba-reun to guide Oh-reum well and to teach her a lesson. Failure to do so could result in severe disciplinary actions.
While Chief Presiding Judge voices his concerns about Oh-reum to Ba-reun, Oh-reum is shown talking to many different female employees from different departments in an attempt to form a support group for Judge Hong. But this exact determination and persistence that makes Oh-reum a rebel is also what makes her stand out so much. Continuation in breaking the rules will lead to harsh consequences.
Two male employees in the restroom gossip and badmouth Oh-reum, Ba-reun, and Presiding Judge Han. They go on and on until they discover that there’s someone in the restroom with them. Right at that moment, Judge Jung opens his bathroom stall and approaches the two guys. He pretends to slip and smacks the two guys in the head while performing his little body gag (“oh! why is the floor so slippery today?”). He leaves the two guys in the restroom behind as he exits. Or at least that’s what they thought. They bad mouth Judge Jung, but stop upon seeing Ba-reun open his bathroom stall. He was also in the bathroom too! Once again, he pushes the two guys while blaming the slippery floor for the sudden footwork. Outside, Ba-reun and Judge Jung exchange fist bumps before heading to their respective offices. Haha, I could see myself supporting this bromance.
Oh-reum asks Ba-reun how her meeting with the Chief Presiding Judge went. Ba-reun brushes it off and answers that it’s not a big deal that Presiding Judge Sung stole his idea and plagiarized his work. He uses the same excuse that the Chief Presiding Judge did to Ba-reun to explain himself to Oh-reum. But Oh-reum isn’t buying it. How can Ba-reun be okay with it? How can a Presiding Judge plagiarize his Hoobae’s work just to get promoted?
She then moves on to discussing about Judge Hong. She plans on filing a petition against Presiding Judge Sung to protest against his unfair and cruel mistreatment of Judge Hong. Ba-reun warns her of the risks it could impose on not only her but everyone else involved as well; she could get hurt if she moves forward with the petition. If Oh-reum wants to stay as a judge and change the court system like she originally planned, she needs to survive instead of going around and causing trouble. But Oh-reum can’t seem to wrap her head around it. How can she just stay still when her friend and co-worker is drowning? When her friend is struggling?
The intense argument ends and the two exit off work together that night. While walking out together, Oh-reum encounters her college senior/Sunbae who came to pick her up from work to go to a meeting together. He exchanges greetings with Ba-reun and introduces himself as Min Yong-jun (Lee Tae-sung) from the company NJ Group. He’s also childhood friends with Oh-reum and their families are close to each other. Oh-reum leaves with Yong-jun while Ba-reun takes the taxi back home while carrying his bike with him.
Ba-reun has a conversation with the taxi driver while heading home. As a civil servant, he shouldn’t be working so late into the night, but that’s the thing. Civil servants do work late into the night and that’s something that not many people know about. The taxi driver ends up sharing his life story and details about his family with Ba-reun which causes him to reflect on his own hardships in life. Meanwhile, Oh-reum is consumed with thoughts about what Ba-reun told her earlier during their argument: he warned her to just survive and stay still or else she could get hurt. She’s distracted by these thoughts until she catches a young girl crossing a busy street full of passing cars. Oh-reum fortunately prevents any incidents from happening by blocking the other cars with her car (PHEW, FINALLY FOR ONCE. Someone who doesn’t jump out onto the streets to use their own body to shield another person. Smart thinking Oh-reum, smart thinking. She isn’t a judge for nothing).
The next day at work, Presiding Judge Sung furiously yells at Judge Hong for failing to completely write her report. He’s not satisfied with it and demands that she write it again. Judge Hong breaks out into tears and heads to the roof of the building. If she jumps off the building, she won’t have to be yelled by Presiding Judge Sung one more time. It’ll just take a few seconds for everything to end. Oh-reum arrives just in time to stop Judge Hong from jumping over. Judge Hong – overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed with life – falls into Oh-reum’s arms and faints. She also starts to bleed from below. OH NOOOO.
Judge Hong is transported to the hospital with Oh-reum by her side. Upon finding out she had suffered a miscarriage, Judge Hong weeps and cries out in fury, sadness, grief, and pain. Oh-reum can’t bare to watch her friend cry; she sheds her own tears while looking away. But that’s not the only thing that’s on her mind.
Oh-reum storms into her office and grabs the petition that she had been working on. Just as she’s about to march to the Presiding Chief Justice’s office, she’s stopped in her tracks by Presiding Judge Han (GAAAAAAAH. This is so intense I can’t watch this right now. Holy smokes). Presiding Judge Han demands for the document that Oh-reum’s hiding behind her back. Oh-reum eventually gives in and Presiding Judge Han discovers that it’s a petition against Presiding Judge Sung for violating Judge Hong’s human rights. He’s not happy with it and rips the petition apart right in front of Oh-reum. But Oh-reum’s not going to give up. She prints out the petition again and threatens Presiding Judge Han to rip it apart again.
He doesn’t take it this time, but rather expresses his disappointment. If Oh-reum walks out of the office with the petition he’ll take it as a sign of disrespect. Oh-reum bows to Presiding Judge Han before exiting the office to recruit other employees to sign the petition. Though unsuccessful at first, she manages to get a few people to sign the document.
Presiding Judge Sung is called into Chief Presiding Judge’s office to discuss about Judge Hong’s current situation. He tries to explain himself, but it just goes in one ear and out the other for Chief Presiding Judge. Meanwhile, the troubled presiding judge moves on to Presiding Judge Bae next who he pleads to save him. The last judge Presiding Judge Sung visits is none other than Presiding Judge Han. Once again, he makes excuses after excuses to defend himself, but Presiding Judge Han gives him a suggestion: go visit Judge Hong. She suffered because of him.
Ba-reun goes to visit his Presiding Judge from the criminal department that he worked with the year before. He pleads the Presiding Judge to help Oh-reum with the petition; none of the higher-ups want to get involved to help out so he must be the one to do it. But the presiding judge chuckles nervously and rejects the favor. He doesn’t feel like it’s his place to do so. After leaving Ba-reun with little to no hope, he calls the Chief Presiding Judge and informs him of Ba-reun’s visit. Oh no, don’t tell me something’s going to happen to Ba-reun too..
Ba-reun stops at the roof of the building to take a breath. While listening to some music, he’s reminded of the one time in high school when he approached his teacher for a mistake she made in the grading of his exam. She had accidentally marked his answer wrong when really it was right. She corrects it and gives him a 100% on the exam, but he then comments about how she should also correct everyone else’s exams since the answer changed. His teacher groans and complains that Ba-reun should stop being so selfish. He should be happy he got a perfect score on the exam. And plus, he should learn to get along with others and put himself in their shoes.
Thinking about this memory in high school causes Ba-reun to recall all the comments that the Chief Presiding Judge as well as the other presiding judges mentioned to him. He becomes furious and heads back to the office.
Oh-reum has managed to get people to fill out the first wave of the petition and prints out another empty petition for more. But she’s stopped by Ba-reun who voices his support for her. He’ll help her in her fight against Presiding Judge Sung, but they must do it the right way. As a first step, he sends the Chief Presiding Judge an email calling for an emergency meeting of all judges. They’re going to protest this time, but they’re going to do it according to the law. Chief Presiding Judge receives Ba-reun’s email and reads it; he doesn’t seem too happy with it.
OOOOOF. That was one intense hour long episode. I was at the edge of my seat the entire time and even when I was recapping, I was still at that edge. I had to take breaks in between because things got too intense for me to continue. If the last episode was satisfying to watch, this episode was the most intense yet. Everything is finally starting to stack up and the ball is rolling. What will happened to our two leads? And most importantly, who will be the Presiding Judge that will serve as their rock in this fight against Presiding Judge Sung? Psttt: I have a feeling it’ll be Presiding Judge Han and I really so hope that it will be him. I mean, he’s the best choice considering he doesn’t care about promotions and kissing the Chief Justice’s ass, but at the same time, his work is crucial to him and his family. Will he choose his associate judges’s fight for equality at work or will he choose to save himself and his work instead? I mean.. he cares for them… doesn’t he?
We clearly see that involving yourself in any type of situation at work can be dangerous because of the high risks associated with it. That could be the reason as to why no one’s said anything all these years about the inequality, harsh working conditions, and severe mistreatment of employees in the court district. People are afraid of losing their jobs and they’re afraid of risking anything. Even presiding judges seem like ants compared to the Chief Presiding Judge and the Chief Justice though it seems like they have so much power. When you think about it in this perspective, this could be the reason as to why Presiding Judge Sung committed the awful behaviors that he did just to get that promotion. Power means everything in the workplace and grants you access to anything and everything. Those who have the most power wins in the end right?
The drama as a whole so far has been focusing on women and the challenges that they go through on a daily basis (sexual harassment, harsh working conditions, stereotypes and preconceived notions and judgements, staying quiet and silent, obeying higher-ups in a patriarchal society), but I think this episode highlighted one of the most prominent topics within Korean society: the strict hierarchy. It’s because of this hierarchy that Oh-reum got in trouble for entering the elevator first, it’s because of this hierarchy that Ba-reun couldn’t complain about Presiding Judge Sung stealing his work, it’s because of this hierarchy that Judge Hong has to endure the countless hours of work and harassment that her boss preys upon her. As seen with this episode, the hierarchy is an excuse to cover up the actions and decisions of those higher-up, but in no way or form does it justify what they did. Respecting one’s seniors and higher-ups in an organization or workplace is essential, but that shouldn’t allow those higher-ups to get away with their inappropriate actions and decisions. Yes, Presiding Judge Sung is Ba-reun’s Sunbae, but him stealing Ba-reun’s ideas was wrong of him to do.
In all honesty, it was so hard watching this episode. It was so challenging watching this episode because it was so real. From the dominant patriarchy to Presiding Judge Sung’s rule that women shouldn’t get married while working because it’ll cause an inconvenience to everyone else to the mistreatment and overworking of Judge Hong. Every single little detail in this episode was accurate, realistic, and honest and I think that’s why it was so difficult for me to watch this episode. It was frustrating, it was infuriating, it was upsetting, and so much more. It shouldn’t be this way, but yet it is and that’s the sad reality for many women in the workplace.
It was also painful watching Oh-reum take on the entire system by herself. She has great plans to shake the court up and to fight against the system. However, because she’s setting the precedent and is fighting primarily by herself at this point, there’s risks involved. And if she gets fired, then there’s no one left to take her role and continue her work. You don’t want her to get fired and to face disciplinary actions, but at the same time you want her to move forward with protesting because if she doesn’t then no one will. No one else working in the court is standing up against the inequalities that has been perpetuated for so long with those hallways and it’s so frustrating that the system is trying to shut down the one person who is working to make the system a better place. Oh-reum doesn’t take indifference for an answer, but doing something about it will result in harsh consequences. You root for her, but at the same time, you also know what could happen to her if she continues to keep up her momentum.
While Oh-reum remains a heroic, crucial, and determined character that she was from the beginning, I think the greatest character growth yet would have to be from Ba-reun. Although he was silent before and worked according to the rules of the system, we can see that he’s beginning to shift a little bit with the influence of Oh-reum. He had a conversation about Presiding Judge Sung with the Chief Presiding Judge, he’s pairing up with Oh-reum to fight against Presiding Judge Sung, he’s starting to slowly understand the significance of empathy, and even his small decision to pick up a flyer from the lady in the beginning of the episode – when before he walked past her – exemplified his stellar character development. I understand his concern for Oh-reum and her fight for equality in the workplace; he prevented her from protesting because that would result in negative consequences for her which he didn’t want to be imposed on her. However, since she went ahead and started fighting anyways well-aware of the risks it would take, he stopped trying to protect her and instead, teamed up with her in this battle. He realizes and understands that Oh-reum isn’t going to change regardless of who it is that she’s going up against. She’s a fighter and she’s going to get whatever it is that she wants. What’s the point in trying to stop her when she won’t be stopped anyways?
This episode marked the appearance of a few new characters, such as Yong-jun, Presiding Judge Sung, the Chief Presiding Judge, Judge Hong, and the Chief Justice. While Judge Hong’s story was effective and impactful and served as a great catalyst for Oh-reum to move forward with her fight against the system, I wonder if it would have been more impactful had we witnessed their friendship from the very first episode. Maybe that would have made the narrative a little bit more impactful than it already was in this episode.
Oh-reum continues to advocate for her others who she cares about, but in time she will be in a position where she will have to advocate for herself. However, when this dilemma arrives, I’m sure she won’t be alone in this fight. Ba-reun as well as all the others she advocated for along the way will be fighting for her in return and helping her be rescued from the very same system that tries to destroy her. She won’t be going down anytime soon.