Episode 1 'Designated Survivor: 60 Days' establishes the local flavor of the South Korean show, distinguishing it from the Netflix original
'Designated Survivor: 60 Days' is a South Korean adaptation of the American show 'Designated Survivor' and aired on July 1
This article contains spoilers for 'Designated Survivor: 60 Days' episode 1
'Designated Survivor: 60 Days' episode 1 paints an interesting set-up for the show inspired by American 'Designated Survivor'. The lead characters stay the same, however, their characteristics don't. For instance, we have a president, the survivor who is named the next president and he has no choice but to accept, and an agent who begins to investigate the bombing that resulted in a major loss of life; but their stories are different.
It is influenced by a reality that Koreans would be able to connect to. So the backdrop that we get is that of a peace treaty between South Korea and North Korea, which will be cosigned by the U.S. and China. Minister of Environment Park Mu-jin (Ji Jin-Hee) is not the calm and collected politician that one would expect. He is all over the place, lost in a world of science and numbers amid a major political event - a diplomatic discussion between South Korea and the U.S. about the import-export of diesel cars and how much pollutants they emit.
He, in fact, causes an international incident which is a result of his clumsy behavior and that is not all... the otherwise comic situation leads to a diplomat's nightmare that is shared on social media instantly. However, Minister Park is slow to realize the consequences of what had just occurred. He gets into trouble with president Yang Jin-Man (Kim Kap-Soo) who names him the person solely responsible for the incident.
By painting this picture of Minister Park, it becomes clear he is not someone who is capable of running a government, not even remotely. This is what helps us understand the magnitude of the situation that he is put in the later part of the episode, that of taking on the role of the president of South Korea for the next 60 days.
The National Assembly has just gone up in flames, and the situation shocks the population of South Korea. It dawns on them slowly that they just lost the majority of their leaders, who have just been killed in a bomb blast and the backdrop to the blast is the peace treaty that President Yang Jin-man along with leaders of the U.S., China and North Korea had planned to sign.
Herein lies the local color that makes 'Designated Survivor: 60 Days' an all-new experience. Even while the main characters are adapted from the original series, each character has a new story to tell. For instance, Minister Park has no clue that he will be the next President, he is unaware that the position that he held was next in line for the chair following the death of many leaders at the National Assembly bombing.
The only survivor in the line of succession had to take oath as the next president, and this was possible only because he was reprimanded for the international incident. NIS Terrorism Task Force member Han Na-Kyung (Kang Han-na), who we can consider the equivalent of FBI agent Hannah Wells in the original, is seen trying out a wedding dress before she sees news of the bombing and hurries to the scene of the incident.
She is chewed out for not stopping the terror attack in the first place, which is what her team is expected to do. We also have Minister Park's family - his wife Choi Kang-Yeon (Kim Gyu-Ri), son Park Si-Wan (Nam Woo-Hyun) and daughter Park Si-Jin (Ok Ye-Rin) - none of whom have a clue that he is the next President of the Republic of Korea.
"Based on Article 26, Paragraph 1 of the Government Organization Act, you have been entrusted with all the authorities and duties of the President of Republic of Korea," reads out Han Joo-Seung, who was one of the close advisors of the previous president. All Minister Park can do at this point is to try to register what was happening as he is sworn in.
He also has to face the biggest question as president; should South Korea take quick action against North Korea when there is no proof that the bombing was orchestrated by them? This is something the coming episodes will address.
By limiting the show to 16 episodes and portraying the 60 days that follow the bombing, the Korean adaptation has also put a cap to its plotline. The next episode of 'Designated Survivor: 60 days' will air Tuesday at 9.30 p.m. KST on tvN (8.30 a.m. ET) and Netflix.