Meet Shin Sung Han, a divorce lawyer with a talent for settling even the most complicated cases. His name, which amusingly means "sacred" in Korean, seems at odds with the messy situations he has to deal with on a daily basis. But Shin Sung Han finds solace in the company of his two closest friends, Jang Hyung Geun and Jo Jung Sik, who are fellow "40-year-old youths." Despite the challenges he faces with his clients, Shin Sung Han continues to excel in his field with his expertise and sensitivity. (Source: Soompi; edited by CK Warrior at MyDramaList) ~~ Adapted from the webtoon “Sacred Divorce” (신성한 이혼). Edit Translation
Where to Watch Divorce Attorney Shin
Cast & Credits
The story being told in an unagitated & well-rounded way unfolds its unique (I´d say: high) quality"Divorce Attorney Shin" is actually based on the webtoon of the same name by Kang Tae-kyung. The KDrama comes with the handwriting of the same screenwriter as i.e. "Thirty Nine", "Always" and "Encounter" – Yoo Young-ah. In the case of "Divorce Attorney Shin" once again shows off her strengths: drawing true-to-life, sensitive portraits of friendship and relationship dynamics with plenty of ordinary life of ordinary people. In "Divorce Attorney Shin" you get (also thanks to marvelous actors/actresses!!) authentic, lifelike characters and circumstances. In this case with sometimes maybe a bit weird, but loving details. With characterful esprit. Unagitated. At times a joy to the heart. Almost soul food.
"Divorce Attorney Shin" tells stories from the red-hot everyday life of many people in South Korea, which is increasingly about divorce. The number of divorces in the country is currently going through the roof. The topic becomes almost normal madness. KDrama understands this just as such. Divorce is normal. Not nice. Not desirable. Not originally intended. But often unavoidable as the next step. And sometimes maybe...
(A bit tongue-in-cheek: the title. Attorney Shin's name "Shin Seong-han" literally means "sacred" in Korean. Thus, his name tag "Shin Seong-han, Divorce" becomes a provocative play on words. Attorney Shin is also the man for the cases when the ´holy state of marriage´ has faltered...)
There are many reasons and circumstances behind such a momentous decision as divorce ( ... and it may always accompanied by a bit of shame and feeling of failure, which needs to be digested emotionally). Some of them come along enrobed in different cases. They are weaving their way around the frame of the story, the main focus of which are three old friends – above all, however, divorce lawyer Shin Sung-han. One of the recurring scenes is the small but finely drawn retro lawyer's office with a wooden sliding door that sometimes gets stuck, which you quickly grow fond of. Also, Shin's apartment with retro-style hi-fi, where he spends his evenings listening to loud Trot music, preferably singing and drinking soju from a wine glass. And then the cozy Ramyeon restaurant around the corner from the office. Added to this is the special relationship between Shin and a client who ultimately joins the team and another young lawyer, who somehow stumbles over Shins piano skills into the office. And then there's his own past as a gifted pianist and the reason why he's no longer one.
Kudos to the layered nuances that paint the complex environment in which divorce tends to be embedded. No divorce is like the other. But most of the time, divorce hurts or hurt started before and therefore led to it. "Divorce Attorney Shin" touches on a multifaceted assortment of backgrounds and triggers over the course of 12 episodes short-term critical circumstances and long-term effects, emotional suffering and opportunities, economic chains and hopes, social stigmas and societal prejudices, and then, too, self-doubt, as well as collateral damage and sacrifice. It's not always just 'the others' who are affected, but the controversial issue of divorce is getting very close to almost all of the protagonists. JTBC attacks a hot social topic with the KDrama.
"Divorce Attorney Shin" offers all this embedded in a variation of slice-of-life. Leisurely, cozy and enjoyable – and therefore digestible. But it's not at all harmless. There is plenty of law-and-order with a comprehensive arc of suspense. On the one hand, this is the professional talent of our protagonist – although not his only one. On the other hand, there is his own family history, marked by the pain of separation and divorce, which is unexpectedly stimulated anew. The dramaturgical dynamic of the story is increasingly gaining momentum and ultimately steers inevitably towards Shin's very personal showdown, where justice is fought – not with firearms or fists, but according to the law, with evidence and with a sense of proportion, heart and mind.
In my opinion, the story finds an extremely fine nuance on all levels, which shows an ever deeper effect over time. Subtle but lasting. I would associate (not timbal, but) Koshi chimes – depending on topic and episode, sometimes more in the timbre of Aqua, sometimes more in the timbre of Aria, sometimes more in the timbre of Ignis, and sometimes more in the timbre of Terra... The story being told in a coherent and well-rounded way unfolds its very unique (I´d say: high) quality.
SIDE NOTE: --- Trot ---
KPop is a 2000ff phenomenon in Korean music history and by now even most non-KDrama fans are familiar with it. ´Trot´ however probably is less known. But beware: maybe in the not too distant future there will also be a KTrot, who knows...
'Trot' dominated the Korean music scene – as the earliest form of popular music in the peninsula. Trot is less well known to the rest of the world, but has experienced an enormous revival in its own country in recent years, which is now taking the genre even beyond national borders, too. "Divorce Attorney Shin" presents one of the hits, which was released brand new in 2020 on the CD "9 Stories" by Trot old master Na Hoon-a. The 72-year-old landed a megahit, with its YouTube video being viewed 25 million times and thus temporarily relegating the superstars BTS and Blackprint to their places. Korean cultural export strategists are smart and quick. The song promptly finds its well-staged place in the appropriate KDrama with "Divorce Attorney Shin", which also takes the direct route to the international audience via the Netflix streaming platform…
'Trot' grew on Korean soil and is quite retro in its foxtrot and slowtrot beat derived from standard dance. 'Trot' goes back to the time during the Japanese colonial period and the import of the 'enka', mixed at that time with the folksy, epic pansori lamentations (at least for me often reminiscent of flamenco), as well as the traditional aesthetically harmonious, lyric poem form Siga. However, due to its entangled roots with the Japanese 'enka', 'Trot' fell under censorship from the 1960s onward and only resurfaced in the 1980s. However there was also J-pop , hip hop and rap allowed to reach the masses and with that influence the then upcoming new and hip KPop pushed 'Trot' into the background.
Only now, when KPop is firmly established, does interest and space for something 'new', identity-establishing traditional obviously open up again. There may be something old-fashioned about ´Trot´, since young people are more familiar with it via their grandparents generation. However, the music triggers a nationally rooted, melodramatic emotionality... It's quite possible that a contemporary, new variation of internationally hip KTrot will develop over the course of the next few years. At least the trot is rediscovered – not first – but also by "Divorce Attorney Shin"...
So, what’s this drama about again?When you look at the drama pedigree of a writer you get an insight into what to expect. Yoo Young Ah likes to lay on the pressure from the outside and watch her characters squirm. She went from one sparse, filmic idea in “Encounter” to an overabundance of heavy melo themes in “Thirty Nine”, so where is this one going to land?
Well, “Attorney Shin” falls somewhere between “Encounter” and “Thirty Nine” which is sort of unfortunate because it fails to find a distinct voice for itself. The heavy melo is pulled right back as it progresses but returns to wallow a little at the end. It all feels too weighty for the context that carries it. Is that just me and my Western preferences? The real problem however, is that there is no obvious driving force for the plot, no real central core idea or theme. The result is that it ambles along with the pacing of at least a 16 part drama if not a 50 part one and I suspect that this is what Yoo Young Ah finds difficult to master in her transition from film to drama.
You have to wait until the end of Episode 6 for any substantial theme to really get going. But what is it? Is it revenge? Is it guilt? Well sort of maybe… Then towards the end it finally emerges from the peep show that it’s been playing with you, but far too late in the piece to compensate you for the wait. If Yoo Young Ah is aiming for the type of territory that Park Hae Young likes to inhabit (My Mister, My Liberation Notes) which is incisive, insightful, slice of life with limited plot, then it’s not quite got the daring that her sunbae so ably plays with. The characters are too close to conformity to really strike the depth and thoughtfulness required and the melo is forced.
In a drama that homes in on believability the antagonist was the least convincing character and needed way more airtime early on to make her motivations and underlying emotions more credible. Because she was the weakest character the quasi revenge plot had no real anchor-point and instead became an untethered buoy tossed about by the waves.
Sorry guys, but I do just have to get something off my chest at this point about the melo. The first episode plunges you right into it and winds on up getting more hysterically tear-fuelled in Episode 2. Then we sail merrily on to the obligatory wringing of hands and instant about-face of a truly obnoxious, self-serving asshole who suddenly sees The-Light-on-the-Road-to-Damascus and falls to their knees as a penitent sinner aspiring to sainthood. Hallelujah! It’s a miracle!! Praise the Lord!!! Such false and hypocritical sentimentality is unfortunately the bain of these dramas and it really hacks me off. Listen up guys, obnoxious, self-serving assholes don’t change overnight if they ever change at all. And yes, I too wish that they did, but really, truly, they don’t.
Okay rant over, let’s find out what I liked.
There’s a beautifully realised vein of humour running throughout that centres around the camaraderie of three middle-aged men. Both the script and the actors bring it to life delightfully and it is the beating heart of the story.
Cho Seung Woo makes a wonderful job of the sincere but bordering-on-dorky lawyer with an execrable taste in trot music that his 100% slather-over-desirable stereo system is (surely) mortified and embarrassed to play. (I think my musical taste would honour you far more sincerely and I am quite happy to pay for shipping costs if you should ever have the desire to re-home yourself.)
Second up is the character actor, Jung Moon Sung, whom I have a soft spot for. He can play anything well, from a gangster to this current incarnation as a clueless but fiercely loyal real-estate agent with a reprehensible taste in shirts.
Finally there is Kim Sun Kyun who warms your cockles by playing the bumbling, oblivious heartthrob in desperate need of a razor.
Unfortunately, Han Hye Jin fails to convince as the embarrassed radio host. She plays the part as though she’s trying to imitate how she imagines someone might act, rather than grabbing the internal reality of it. As a result she looks awkward in all the wrong ways.
It was a pretty nondescript OST. And to whoever did that bloody awful rendition of the Moonlight Sonata (obviously not Lim Yun Chan…) the accent in the first movement, if anywhere, should be on the first note of the triplet not banging away on the last one causing all sorts of rhythmic chaos.
Overall there was enough in this drama to make it watchable and immersive for the viewer. But it was like having a few tasty components in a meal that doesn’t leave you feeling satisfied afterwards.
(For those in the know) Beware! Classic Trebuchet Incident Alert…
What my rating means: 7+ A watchable drama, but nothing exceptional. Good enough to qualify for the race, but finished with the pack. The sort of thing that promises more than it delivers.