A Model Family ending explained: Does Dong Ha save his family?

A Model Family is a South Korean crime thriller about a financially struggling professor, and his accidental entry into a world of crime and drug trade. The series is now streaming on Netflix.

Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers

Plot summary

A Model Family follows Park Dong Ha and his family as they go through a financial crisis. With a sick son, a wife on the verge of divorce and a teenage daughter to take care of, he does his best to make ends meet.

The circumstances surrounding them have proved to be difficult, and his son’s medical bills occupy much of his income.

Dong Ha even tries to bribe for a promotion to a full-time professor, but this plan falls apart and he loses all the money he had placed there. Their situation turns even direr until he comes across a van with two dead bodies and a lump sum of cash.

Taking this as a sign from the universe, he buries the bodies and disposes of the van, subsequently getting entangled in the world of crime, murder and drugs. 

Soon after, he has two rings of drug traders along with the police trying to find out who took the money that Dong Ha was now in possession of.

One of the men he had buried was an undercover police officer, Han-cheol, and shocking revelations about him follow soon enough. Dong Ha’s wife, Eun-ju, had some kind of involvement with him.

To uncover the truth about the murder and the buried bodies, two people shift into the neighbourhood- Detective Kang Joo Hyun, a part of the police force and Kwang-chul, a member of one of the drug rings responsible.

Dong Ha is remarkable in the sense that he does not have any particular skills that would help him escape the situation, so he takes every incident as it comes. This air of cluelessness with a sense of emergency follows the plot throughout.

Soon enough, Kwang-chul discovers that it was Dong Ha who had buried the bodies. He contemplates killing him, but then decides to take advantage of the situation and threatens him to work for him.

There also comes a time when Yeon Woo, Dong Ha’s teenage daughter, comes across the hidden stash and runs off with it. This is eventually retrieved, but not without raising tensions about getting caught.

His wife starts to get suspicious as well and tries to follow him around to piece together information. A man also shows up at their doorstep, claiming to be the children’s grandfather. 

With messy ties, shocking revelations and a hunt for the money still in progress, the thrilling adventure reaches its final stages.

The series constantly questions ideas of morality, and right or wrong by putting the characters in a lot of hopeless, morally grey situations.

A Model Family ending explained in detail:

Who killed Han-cheol?

Towards the end of the season, Dong Ha finally tries to uncover the truth about Han-cheol’s death, and seeks out the van’s dash cam.

The footage reveals that Han-cheol and his partner, Myeong-su were together until the latter received a call, most likely from Kang Jun.

He asks Han-cheol to pull over for a break and attacks him. A fight ensues, and both men died in the encounter. Han-cheol’s last words were to Eun-ju.

Who shifted the dead bodies from the backyard?

Dong-Ha returns home after Kang Jun is killed to see police officers digging up his backyard. He starts stressing about the evidence they are bound to find, but mysteriously enough, they don’t find anything.

It is then revealed that Dong-ha’s father was the one who shifted the bodies into the neighbours’ backyard to save his son.

What politics are at play within the police department?

It is revealed that Joo-Hyun held feelings for Han-cheol. Over the course of her investigation, she also discovers that there was an informant on the police force who dished out information on Han-cheol.

This informant turned out to be Jung Kook, and she is the one who suggested doing away with Han-cheol. Once she realises her cover is up, she shoots at another police officer who records the entire fight.

Joo-hyun becomes overcome with her emotions, hands over all the evidence to other trusted officers, and sets out for revenge, shooting Jung-kook.

What happens to the Yongsoo drug ring?

After the deaths of Yongsoo and Kang Jun, the Yongsoo drug ring is completely broken apart. 

Kwang-chul helps to protect Don-Ha from a messenger from the second drugs gang, and he eventually takes over some of the drug distribution business.

Does Dong-Ha manage to save his family?

The ending is ambiguous and ends at a cliffhanger, raising expectations for more seasons to follow. 

Dong-Ha’s son is unable to get a heart transplant as there was no match for him at that time. The rest of the family is disappointed, but his son says that at least this event brought the whole family together in one place.

Dong Ha has a talk with his wife, and also manages to patch things up with his father. Things seem to finally be safe for the entire family again.

After a bit, Dong Ha decides to turn himself in to the police, but gets a phone call as he stands at a red light. The speaker delivers an ominous message, threatening the safety of his family once again as the season ends.

He manages to save his family, but only for a while before another disaster stands in his way, more of which we will hopefully get to see in subsequent seasons.

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