The popular crime drama "Signal" has ended with a double-digit viewership, defying the long-held notion that romantic comedies and family dramas are the only genres that can command such popularity in Korea.
The finale of the 16-part series was open-ended on Saturday, with criminal profiler Park Hae-young (Lee Je-hoon) and detective Cha Su-hyeon (Kim Hye-soo) learning that officer Lee Jae-han (Cho Jin-woong), who has been missing for 15 years, may actually be alive at a hideout in a nursing facility.
That episode garnered a 13.4 percent viewership and at one point peaked at 15 percent, according to data by Nielsen Korea, a performance practically unheard of for a non-romantic, non-familial -- and not to mention -- cable production.
It was also better than all three terrestrial networks on the same time slot -- MBC's "Happy Home" was the second-best with 12.7 percent. SBS's "Yeah, That's How It Is" trailed at 7.5 percent and KBS 2TV's "Entertainment Weekly" came up short with 6.7 percent.
With its pilot episode collecting a 6.3 percent viewership on Jan. 22, "Signal" showed early signs of success, threatening to beat its producer Kim Won-seok's previous tvN hit "Misaeng," which is credited with bringing the network its terrestrial-grade reputation.
In the crime thriller, Park communicates with Lee, who lives in the past, via a walkie-talkie to solve cold cases together.
Along the way, Park learns that his brother, who died in an apparent suicide when he was little, was actually killed by a ranking National Police Agency official (Jang Hyun-sung) who was trying to cover up a systematic corruption in the police organization.
Park asks Lee to save his brother, but Lee fails to fulfill that request after being seriously injured in a separate manhunt.
Prior to the finale, it had remained to be seen whether Lee survives until present-day Korea where Park lives. Had the communication between the two never started, Lee would have been killed by Kim in the power-hungry official's quest to commit a perfect crime.
"Signal" also offers a heart-wrenching study on "han," a uniquely Korean sentiment best summarized by theologian Suh Nam-dong. He defines it as a "feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one's guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong -- all these combined."
In "Signal," the trio of Park, Cha and Lee vow to never give up because doing so is what perpetuates injustices in society. And though pervasive these injustices may remain today, their story offers a glimmer of hope that justice is obtainable, that is, if we don't give up. (Yonhap)