When the Devil Falls in Love

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, experience great sorrow on Earth.”

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime & Punishment

If you follow me on social media or online, you are probably aware of my fascination with the Korean drama The Devil Judge and my belief that it’s inspired by the classic novel Crime & Punishment. I talk in-depth about why that is here, but one of the more interesting reasons for this is the fiery dynamic between our two male leads, Kang Yo Han and Kim Ga On. For me, they are my Sonia and Raskolnikov, two characters whose great love story arose from a chaotic, vengeful, and unjust world. The same reason I love Sonia and Raskolnikov so much in Crime & Punishment is the very reason I am invested in every single heart-stirring plot twist in The Devil Judge.

Although The Devil Judge isn’t technically a BL drama, what these two leads represent for each other is significant in a truly profound way. What Yo Han and Ga On share is much deeper than a love story, for it isn’t romance that ties them together; it’s suffering. Suffering, especially shared pain or grief, binds people together on a soul level. Nothing screams destiny like a matching emotional scar.

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime & Punishment

I feel like every time I talk about The Devil Judge, it comes across like a book report, but the similarities between Kang Yo Han and Kim Ga On’s relationship with Raskolnikov and Sonia’s relationship are uncanny. This drama is already relatable to us living in this pandemic era marked by political unrest and rising anger over injustice. In many ways, The Devil Judge feels as prophetic as Raskolnikov’s dreams in Crime & Punishment. At one point in the book, Raskolnikov has a dream about a plague that sweeps humanity, leading to war and famine because the plague made everyone believe they were hyper-intelligent, causing them to kill each other off. In The Devil Judge, this plague is a reality, the disease causing desperation, poverty, and distrust in each other. This plague-exhausted world is the one Yo Han and Ga On inhabit; both judges on a live broadcast show that allows the public to participate in the outcome. Yo Han is the true star of the show, an alluring man who both draws the eye and manages to capture his audience with persuasive speech and persuasive ideals. He’s a man with a dark past who has literally risen from the burning ashes of tragedy to seek vengeance. This dark but compelling justice is the tempting vortex that Judge Kim Ga On falls into.

“Break what must be broken, once for all, that’s all, and take the suffering on oneself.”

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime & Punishment

Like Sonia in Crime & Punishment, Kim Ga On is the polar opposite of Kang Yo Han. Though they share a past that is full of suffering, they view justice and the world differently. Ga On sees goodness and redemption, where Yo Han simply sees madness. Ga On has more trust in humanity and the law than Yo Han does. Yo Han has lost all faith in people. Although he does believe in the law, he also considers himself to be above it, that his goal of saving humanity is righteous enough that he can break the rules to make it happen, much the same way Raskolnikov does in Crime & Punishment.

This difference is where their love story begins. Whether you are watching The Devil Judge for its plot twists, mystery, or interesting dystopian theme, it is impossible to deny the chemistry between these two male characters. There’s a lot I could say about what these characters represent, a complete in-depth analysis explaining why they fit together, but instead, I will keep it simple.

An actual romantic relationship aside—because that’s not a focal point in this drama and doesn’t seem to be something The Devil Judge would explore (especially with Soo Hyun as a female interest in Ga On’s life)—Ga On and Yo Han’s feelings are built on an innate need for each other that is electric.

It begins with pity.

“Do you understand, sir, do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?” Marmeladov’s question came suddenly into his mind “for every man must have somewhere to turn…”

~Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime & Punishment

Interestingly enough, one thing that draws Ga On and Yo Han to each other is pity. They pity each other for different reasons. Yo Han pities Ga On’s naivety, and Ga On pities Yo Han’s loneliness. They share suffering and a deep intellect (an intellect that wholly attracts Yo Han to Ga On in the first place). Although they circle each other warily in the beginning, this pity grows into understanding and then affection. Both of them are angry at the world for different reasons. And even though they express this anger differently, no one understands Yo Han better than Ga On, and no one understands Ga On better than Yo Han.

What makes Yo Han and Ga On so powerful is the same reason Sonia and Raskolnikov are so powerful. Ga On, like Sonia, becomes Yo Han’s anchor. Ga On is Yo Han’s moral compass in a mind saturated by vengeful madness. Ga On becomes the only person Yo Han trusts infinitely and the only person he least wants to distrust, even when he questions Ga On’s loyalty. Yo Han is comfortable with Ga On, so comfortable that he allows Ga On into his home, into his personal sanctuary. It’s here inside his house that Yo Han also permits Ga On to see something he doesn’t let anyone else see; his weaknesses. Ga On is given a front-row seat to Yo Han’s nightmares, his deep protective love for Elijah, and the affectionate, warm part of himself he doesn’t let others view. Yo Han opens his heart to Ga On in a way he’s never done for anyone else, and that is powerful.

“I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity.”

~Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime & Punishment

For Yo Han, Ga On represents the suffering of humanity, and his wanting to help Ga On is the same thing as him wanting to save the world. Although Yo Han’s sense of justice is considered extreme to those close to him, his actions are full of heart and soul. Episode 12 of The Devil Judge broke me. Even though I understood Ga On’s need to distance himself from Yo Han because he fears becoming something he never expected to become, my attachment to Yo Han’s character made Ga On’s exit from Yo Han’s house extremely hard to watch. It felt like having my soul ripped out of my chest. Yo Han doesn’t mind judgment. He doesn’t care what other people think of him. He has, after all, always believed himself to be above humanity, to be more extraordinary than the average man. But it is different with Ga On. For Yo Han, seeing Ga On stare at him with judgment in his eyes is the same thing as being stabbed in the chest.

“She said nothing, she only looked at me without a word. But it hurts more, it hurts more when they don’t blame!”

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime & Punishment

I have no idea where this drama is headed. As a Kdrama, I dread the possibility of a tragic ending, a pivotal moment where Yo Han possibly sacrifices himself for humanity or loses Ga On to the same fate. I can only hope it ends the same way Crime & Punishment does. Although the book doesn’t have a necessarily happy ending, it has a satisfying one where Raskolnikov confesses to his sins after Sonia implores him to do so. He serves his time and grows from it, garnering respect from other key characters in the book. In the end, it is Raskolnikov’s love for Sonia that is his salvation and her love for him that transforms him into an even greater man. In the novel, Raskolnikov tests Sonia to see how much she can bear, and I see much of that in Ga On and Yo Han. Yo Han is constantly pushing Ga On, but he himself begins to grow as a person in the process.

I don’t expect romance or a BL storyline in The Devil Judge, but in my heart, Yo Han and Ga On are fast becoming one of my favorite love stories. What they mean for each other and the redemption that Ga On represents for Yo Han is so much deeper than a typical romance. In the end, I hope both of them are still standing, and I sincerely hope Yo Han is smiling because he realizes his love for Ga On and his deep devotion to protecting Elijah led to his redemption.

And if it doesn’t end that way, that’s okay, too. In my head and in my heart, these two men will forever be my Raskolnikov and Sonia.

Who knows? Maybe all of this is my own version of a fever dream and there is no connection to the book or these characters. Truth is, it doesn’t matter. Yo Han and Ga On are still a beautiful love story.

May they both find justice and peace.

“They wanted to speak, but could not; tears stood in their eyes. They were both pale and thin; but those sick pale faces were bright with the dawn of a new future, of a full resurrection into a new life. They were renewed by love; the heart of each held infinite sources of life for the heart of the other.”

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime & Punishment

3 thoughts on “When the Devil Falls in Love”

  1. Such a great article! I think you put (beautifully) into words what I feel about their relationship, and why I found them so compelling.

    Since this post was more focused on Yo Han, I’d really love to read your take on what he means to Ga On and the impact he’s had on him. They changed each other on such a deep and fundamental level I just- *starts vibrating*

    Reading this article while listening to “The Nights” did things to my feelings. Thank you for sharing!


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