A man is always desperate for something. Money or power, we all have our weaknesses. In “A Model Family,” drug dealer Ma Kwang-chul explains that there is one kind of person who is more desperate than others. He gives the example of Professor Park Dong-Ha, who is not only the breadwinner in the family but also has to arrange money for his son’s heart surgery. Professor Park is in desperate need of money, but more than that, he wants to protect his family, and for that, he is willing to do anything. Anything.
The Netflix Korean drama, “A Model Family,” is not just any other crime thriller series. It brings in a fresh air of realism that is achieved through the minute details that the creators have incorporated throughout the series. Professor Park is not just an innocent common man. He is a desperate man. It is his greed that breeds evil. He is not looking for anyone’s sympathy but is an epitome of a flawed protagonist that makes one feel more connected to his character. On the other hand, Kwang-chul is not just a drug dealer or a menacing criminal. He is an orphan who understands the value of family because he never had any. Just a simple glance at Professor Park playing with his son makes Kwang-chul realize the fatherly love that he missed his entire life. He wants to exploit these human emotions and desperation to fulfill his goals. Though Kwang-chul is a criminal, many may find him the most heroic character in the series because of the choices he makes. It is these two prominent characters, Kwang-chul and Professor Park, that make “A Model Family” one of the best Korean series of 2022. Let’s continue further.
‘A Model Family’ Season 1: Plot Summary – What Is The Series About?
Professor Park Dong-Ha is an assistant professor at a university who desperately wants a promotion so that he can take better care of his family. He is convinced by his school friend and fellow professor, Byeong-gu, to bribe Professor Kim, son of the director of the Korea University Foundation, to get a promotion. Hence, Professor Park discreetly takes out money from his savings fund and hands it to Professor Kim. At the beginning of the series, Professor Park finds out through a news report that Professor Kim has been arrested for sexual assault allegations. Soon, Byeong-gu informs him that he won’t be getting back his money or the promotion. Professor Park’s wife, Kang Eun-Ju, has been saving that money for their son, Hyun-woo’s heart surgery, who was born with a weak heart that could stop at any moment.
After losing all his funds, Professor Park feels completely devastated. His family is breaking apart, and he can do nothing to keep it afloat. He parks his car on an isolated road and wants to scream out loud when suddenly a car hits him from behind. As soon as he comes out of his car and checks the other car, he finds lots of money inside it stained with the blood of two people lying dead in the seat. In a desperate need for money, Professor Park quickly stuffs the money in a bag and puts it in his car while driving it to a different location. Then, he brings the SUV and the dead bodies to his house in Yongbong village, where he cleans the car and buries the dead bodies in his backyard. Later, he drives the car and parks it near a lake in Deoksong-Ri Village, and he throws one of the dead men’s cell phones into the lake.
The money that Professor Park has stolen belongs to the Yongsoo Ring, a drug organization that distributes drugs across South Korea. The Yongsoo Ring gets its supply of drugs from a cartel called Sangseon Ring, and thus, after taking their cut for the labor, the head of the Yongsoo Ring, Hwang Yong-soo, sends the money back to the Sangseon Ring in a delivery van, the same SUV that Professor Park had found. After the money was stolen, Yong-soo calls in his muscleman, Ma Kwang-chul, and orders him to locate the money, without which the Sangseon Ring will kill them all. Searching for money, Kwang-chul reaches Professor Park’s neighborhood, as that was the last location where the SUV had stopped, and thus he believes that money has been taken away by someone in the neighborhood.
A narcotics officer, Kang Joo-Hyun, who has been investigating the Sangseon Ring, reaches the neighborhood too, following Kwang-chul. Later, it is revealed that Joo-Hyun has planted an undercover officer named Yoo Han-Cheol in the Yongsoo Ring. Han-Cheol was discovered dead in the SUV by Professor Park, who buried him in his backyard. Joo-Hyun blames herself for Han-Cheol’s disappearance and thus begins a rigorous operation to give him appropriate closure. Meanwhile, Professor Park has bundles of notes and enough money to give a luxurious life to his family, but being an ordinary family man, he has no idea how to launder the money, and thus the money just rots in his garage until someone finds it.
Why Did Kwang-chul Hire Professor Park As His Delivery Guy?
Choi Kang-jun, the mischievous brother of Hwang Yong-soo, wanted to get rid of Ma Kwang-chul so that he could take over the distribution network. Through his cunning words, he kept on poisoning Yong-soo’s ears and tried to convince him to either kill or kick out Kwang-chul. One day, Kwang-chul overheard their conversation, after which he decided to go independent and betray Yong-soo. When Kwang-chul found out that Professor Park had stolen the supply money, he didn’t recover the money from him, but instead asked him to keep it safely in his garage. Kwang-chul wanted to hand over the money to the Sangseon Ring so as to cut off Yong-soo and deal directly with the suppliers.
Kwang-chul believed that Professor Park had that desperation that he needed in his delivery guy who wouldn’t betray him, and in addition to that, Professor Park had a family for which he cared the most. Kwang-chul warned Professor Park never to stab him in the back, or he would lose his entire family, and thus Professor Park followed all his orders with sincerity. It was the beginning of a new association between Kwang-chul and Professor Park. While carrying out dangerous cartel operations, Professor Park was slowly transforming from the nerdy Dr. Henry Jeky to the more cunning Mr. Edward Hyde. His wife wanted him to become a man for his family. A person who would stop apologizing for himself and take control of his life, and in Kwang-chul’s shadow, Park was slowly turning into one. His rage and violence were slowly coming to the surface, and we will see more of it in Season 2 of “A Model Family.”
What Happened To The Stolen Money?
At the end of “A Model Family” Season 1, the messenger of the Sangseon Ring made it clear to Ma Kwang-chul that whoever brought them the stolen money would gain their favor and the future supply of drugs. In desperation, Hwang Yong-soo, the leader of Yongsoo Ring, joined hands with Mr. Kim, a petty drug supplier, to fight against Kwang-chul. However, the messenger saw Mr. Kim and Yong-soo’s association as an act of betrayal and thus wanted to teach him an appropriate lesson. Choi Kang-jun, on the other hand, wanted to double-cross his brother and bring the money to the messenger so that he would be able to take over the business and kick out Yong-soo, who never respected his efforts. Officer Kang Joo-Hyun, too, had been keeping an eye on the money hidden in Professor Park’s garage, as it was because of this blood money that she lost one of her officers.
There were too many vultures keeping an eye on the money and were waiting for Kwang-chul to move the money so that they could seize it immediately, so Kwang-chul designed a complex plan of action to deliver the money to the messenger. He used Professor Park and his wife, Kang Eun-Ju, as pawns who would distract the police and the enemies while Kwang-chul brought the money to the dockyard where the messenger was waiting for him. However, after the deal was completed, the messenger put Kwang-chul in a difficult position when he asked him to get rid of Professor Park. For sentimental reasons, Kwang-chul didn’t want any harm to come to Professor Park. He wanted to protect Park and his family at all costs, and thus he decided to go against the messenger itself to protect Professor Park. There was one more reason for this betrayal. Kwang-chul was fed up with dealing with mediators who treated him like a dog and wanted to get into the inner circle of the bosses or the supreme suppliers, and for that, he was ready to enrage them a little.
What Happened To Choi Kang-jun And Hwang Yong-soo?
The messenger of the Sangseon Ring was a corrupt police officer who worked for the Special Investigations Units. The leaders of the cartel had ordered him to get rid of Hwang Yong-soo for betraying them, and thus, through his sources, the messenger found out Yong-soo’s whereabouts. He brought Yong-soo and Kang-jun to a construction site, where he gave them both a chance to survive. Kang-jun was not a person to be trusted from the beginning of the series, and he eventually shot his own family for his survival. The messenger let him go, but before leaving, he ordered him to get rid of Kwang-chul and Professor Park.
Even at this point, Kang-jun was unsure that the messenger would let him live after he had carried out his orders, and so he made a deal with Kang Joo-Hyun and informed her about the corrupt cop who had ordered him to kill Yoo Han-Cheol. It was Narcotics Squad Lieutenant Moon Jung-kook, Joo-Hyun’s senior, who asked Kang-jun to kill Han-Cheol and bring the supply money, and as soon as Joo-Hyun found out about the deal, she decided to gather evidence against Jung-kook.
Meanwhile, Kang-jun contacted Professor Park and offered to help him get rid of Kwang-chul, but Professor Park could see through his cunning words. He tricked Kang-jun and brought him to an isolated warehouse, where Kwang-chul’s men killed Kang-jun and put an end to his evil. He was later buried in the lake near Deoksong-Ri Village.
Is Yun-Seok Dead?
Kang Joo-Hyun and her junior officer, Yun-Seok, had developed an unlikely bond while investigating the Sangseon Ring. It was only Yun-Seok whom Joo-Hyun trusted, and thus she revealed to him that Moon Jung-kook was a dirty cop who had been helping Kang-jun from the beginning and was also responsible for Yoo Han-Cheol’s death. At the same time, Professor Park found out through Joo-Hyun that one of the men that he had buried in his backyard was a police officer. By now, Professor Park knew all about Han-Cheol. He was his schoolmate and was also having an affair with his wife. He had kept Han-Cheol’s cell phone and, through it, found out all about him except for the fact that he was a policeman, because this information was kept hidden as he was working as an undercover agent.
As soon as Professor Park found out that Han-Cheol was a police officer and deserved a proper burial, he sent an image from Han-Cheol’s cellphone to Joo-Hyun and revealed to her the spot where Professor Park’s father had buried him. But while Joo-Hyun was digging Han-Cheol’s dead body out of the ground, Jung-kook arrived at their rented apartment, from where the officers were keeping an eye on Kwang-chul and his men. As her car dash-cam memory card was missing, Jung-kook had gotten suspicious that Joo-Hyun was gathering evidence against her. To leave no evidence of her crimes, she brutally shot officer Yun-Seok and destroyed the memory card on her way out.
At this point, Joo-Hyun was already struggling with Han-Cheol’s death, and the death of another friend/officer devastated her completely. She lost her trust in the judicial system and took the law into her own hands. She shot Jung-kook at the Yongnam police station but refused to comment. The chief of police, Nam Gi-ho, told the reporters that, according to their investigation, they suspected that Lieutenant Moon Jung-kook was working as a double agent. Hence, Lieutenant Moon’s crimes would eventually come to light, but Joo-Hyun would lose her job for shooting a fellow officer and taking matters into her own hands. If she is released from prison early, we may see her again in “A Model Family”, carrying out her own investigations to catch the leaders of the Sangseon Ring.
‘A Model Family’ Season 1: Ending, Explained: Will Kwang-chul Let Professor Park Leave?
After Choi Kang-jun failed to kill Ma Kwang-chul, the messenger decided to finish the job himself. He called Kwang-chul to the salt flat to settle the books, but Kwang-chul was already aware of his intentions. He had visited the salt flat earlier and, through a punk, found out how the leaders contacted the messenger and other people. He recovered a cellphone from the homeless man and thus didn’t need the messenger anymore. When the messenger arrived at the salt flat, Kwang-chul was already hiding inside the house and attacked the messenger from the back. After an intense fight between the two, Kwang-chul finally took the messenger’s gun and shot him to death. He burned down the house so as not to leave any evidence behind. In the salt flat fires, the homeless man died along with the messenger, and soon Kwang-chul contacted the leaders of the Sangseon Ring to deal with them directly.
Professor Park, on the other hand, had hidden a portion of the stolen money, the same amount that he took to the laundry guy to turn the black money into white. He had told Kwang-chul that the money was stolen/lost, but he kept it aside for his son’s operation and his family’s well-being if something happened to him, as he was the only breadwinner in the family. Though the doctors couldn’t find a suitable heart for Hyun-woo’s surgery, the entire operation brought the family close once again. Kang Eun-Ju was probably ready to give one more chance to Professor Park and reconsider the divorce, while Professor Park promised to do everything to keep the family together. He finally found the reason for Eun-Ju’s decision to break off the marriage.
Eun-Ju got pregnant with a daughter while she was still in college, and because of it, she had to drop out of college. She had big dreams and huge ambitions, but because of an early pregnancy, she failed to achieve any of them and had to take petty translation jobs to make herself feel worthy. She eventually revealed to Professor Park that after their marriage, she transformed into an invisible ghost and that her entire life had revolved around her husband and children since then. Probably, it was the reason why she contacted Kwang-chul to supply the money to the supplier so that she would be able to contribute something to the family. Although in “A Model Family” Season 1, we didn’t witness what Professor Park would do to solve his wife’s existential crisis, we could speculate that she would probably become one of the delivery guys for Kwang-chul, as he had no intention of letting the family go so easily.
What To Expect From ‘A Model Family’ Season 2?
Kwang-chul had been eagerly waiting for a reply from the leaders of the Sangseon Ring, and at the end of “A Model Family” Season 1, he finally received a call from them. It wasn’t revealed whether Kwang-chul picked up the call or what conversation the leaders had with Kwang-chul, but soon after that scene, a man contacted Professor Park. Here, Park was going to turn himself in to the police before he got a phone call on his way to the police station. The man on the call asked him to keep the phone safe as his family’s life depended on it. He told him that he would contact him soon, the same way Kwang-chul had promised him early in the series before turning him into a delivery guy for the cartel. Hence, we could speculate that the leaders of the Sangseon Ring agreed to deal directly with Kwang-chul, and Kwang-Chul’s men or someone else from the cartel contacted Professor Park to distribute the drugs once again, thus creating a new plan of action for the Yongsoo Ring that was now being controlled by Kwang-chul. The stories of these two characters would continue in “A Model Family,” Season 2, and it would be interesting to find out whether Park would ever be able to free himself from the shadows of a drug lord. On the other hand, Kwang-chul has been planning a huge conspiracy to take over the drug supply, which is going to be further revealed in the next season. He had developed a soft side for Professor Park and his family and would probably not let anything happen to them, but was he going to let them go ever?
“A Model Family” is a 2022 Drama Thriller series directed by Kim Jin-woo.