‘Goodbye Earth’ Recap (Episodes 1-12) & Breakdown: Is Se-kyung Dead Or Alive?


Goodbye Earth is a Korean dystopian sci-fi that unfolds in the city of Woongcheon in the year 2025. Panic started to spread all across the Korean Peninsula when it was found that an asteroid was headed to Earth. Collision was imminent, and the impact would destroy the country. Moving out of South Korea seemed to be the only option for most, but because of martial law, there were a significant number of restrictions. Also, there were too many people wanting to leave and barely that many aircraft. While some could afford to fly out of the country, most were either bound by their duties or financial situation to accept their fate. The chaos also resulted in momentary lawlessness, and criminals took to the streets and kidnapped children for human trafficking. The school teacher, Jin Se-kyung, could not recover from the incident, and she made it her life’s purpose to ensure that her three remaining students were safe and the criminals were punished.

Spoiler Alert

Why were the influential people disappearing?

Ha Yun-sang was surprised when he found out that the research he had been working on could become one of the most highly funded ones after the asteroid crisis. He was designing genetic variation, something that would gain all the more importance later on. The plan was to relocate the lab to a safety zone, and naturally, the researchers were expected to leave as well. Elites all over the globe were interested in investing in the research, and Yun-sang had the opportunity to make it out of the crisis alive. But in the end he chose not to leave to be with the woman he was in love with. While discussing the research and its potential, his senior from California, Gi-pyo, pointed out how the most influential people, including Yun-sang’s godfather, Father Baek, had gone missing soon after the possible catastrophe was announced. The sudden disappearance of the father had left the people of the town quite concerned, but they never assumed that he had abandoned them. The common people were expected to fend for themselves while the influential class escaped to the safety zone. It was eventually revealed that Father Baek had joined a cult founded by Do Jeong-a, a businesswoman who was previously involved in a pyramid scheme.

What went on at the Wooyang Training Center?

A training center was designed where the cult followers started to live after they donated everything they owned to the cult in the hopes of being saved before Doomsday arrived. They were made to believe they were the chosen ones and that they would live a splendid life after they sacrificed everything they had for the cult. It was through Jeong-a’s daughter, Chae Young-ji, that Jin learned about her brother, Young-Han, who was held captive by their mother at the Wooyang training center. While Young-ji had managed to escape, she was worried about her brother. Jin figured out that the cult targeted families with young kids. The children were later separated from their parents, and they were drugged and made to work at adult entertainment establishments. Even though Father Baek knew everything, he prioritized saving himself over doing the right thing. Thanks to Jin and Captain In-Ah’s efforts, the cult scam came into the limelight. The children were rescued after the facility was raided. But even after telling the parents the truth, they refused to believe the military and instead trusted their cult leaders. After all, they had already given up their assets in the hopes of moving out of the country and starting a new life. They continued to support Jeong-a and hoped that she would arrange a way for them to escape.

What happened to Father Baek?

Jin had enough and more evidence to prove that Father Baek was a member of the cult. She had his address and was ready to confront him when Yun-sang joined her. Father Baek was not ashamed of his actions; he simply believed he deserved to be saved, and he was convinced that was why the opportunity presented itself. He was neither interested in returning to his church nor did he have any regrets about the choice he made.

It was eventually discovered that the cult was planning to take off from the emergency airstrip. While In-Ah and the rest focused on stopping the plane from taking off, Yun-sang and Se-kyung devised a plan to trap Father Baek at the church. Yun-sang lied to the priest about wanting to leave the country and requested that he convince Se-kyung to join them as well. Se-kyung and Yun-sang soon revealed their actual motive to the priest—they wanted him to consider rescuing the children of the town, but of course, he did not care. By the time Father Baek reached the US military base airstrip, the aircraft had already taken off. He begged them to stop, but it was already too late. Within a few seconds, he was stripped of all his pride, and he joined the thousands who had nowhere to escape. This was not the ending Father Baek had in mind. At the end of Goodbye Earth, it was evident that Father Baek had lost his memory as a result of trauma and immense guilt. He had no recollection of his actions, and he had completely forgotten about the crisis ahead. Whether or not his memory loss can be considered his punishment or the Lord’s mercy depends on how one perceives it.

Did the “chosen few” manage to escape to the United States?

In Goodbye Earth, the members of the cult headed by Jeong-a boarded the US military aircraft to escape a possible catastrophe. When the military transport aircraft took off, it was assumed that even after all the crimes they had committed, the privileged few managed to get a second chance at life. But soon we found out that the plane never made it to the safety zone in the United States since it crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The preliminary reports stated that there were no survivors. Even after investing all their assets for a new beginning, fate played a trick on them. Not that everyone on the aircraft deserved to be punished, but maybe it was a result of extreme greed and desperation. Instead of coming up with a solution, keeping in mind the entire city or at least helping the children escape to the safety zone first, it turned into a betting game where the highest bidder could have a chance at life. It was almost a divine intervention, a punishment even the wealthiest could not prevent.

Why were Sergeant Kim and his gang after Jeong Ha-yul?

Ha-yul’s father, Jeong Su-geun, owed 800 million won at the gambling bar, and as a result, he was forced to sign a blood agreement confirming that from then on he waived his right over his body and that of his daughter. Maybe he could have repaid the debt over time, but Sergeant Kim was more interested in exploiting his daughter than getting his money back. When Su-geun realized that he had made a deal with the devil, he could not live with his conscience, and he died by suicide. The thugs arrived at the church in search of Ha-yul, and the entire community protested against their sudden entry and disruption. Ha-yul hid in the confession room with her friends, while the adults got into a fight.

Se-kyung was reminded of the day her students were kidnapped by the outlaws in front of her eyes, and she had no choice but to helplessly watch. This time, she refused to let them win. She had acquired a gun in the very first episode, and she held onto it, knowing that one day or another she would use it. Se-kyung pulled out her gun and shot at the thugs, thereby helping Ha-yul escape from the church. She believed pulling the trigger was a necessity, but she was left shaken after the incident. Her best friend, Kang In-Ah, knew what she was going through, and she helped her cope.

During Goodbye Earth‘s ending, Se-kyung met Ha-yul, who was hiding with her friends at an apartment. They had set buzzers at the door to keep strangers away. So-min complained about having to constantly lookout for the bad guys who continued to hunt for Ha-yul. They were afraid of stepping out of the apartment, fearing that they would be targeted. Se-kyung also found out that Hyeon-sik tried to lure Ha-yul with the promise of leaving Korea and begged her to bring along her two best friends as well. It was evident that the human trafficking business had not stopped, and Se-kyung decided to do something about it.

Was Se-kyung shot in the end?

Se-kyung had made it her life’s purpose to put an end to the rampant human trafficking that was taking place during the asteroid crisis. There were sergeants involved in the trade, and with only a few days of the collision left, they were desperate. Instead of accepting money to buy tickets to the last ship leaving Woongcheon, they demanded children. They knew people were desperate to stay alive, and they took advantage of the situation. Parents were in jeopardy—allowing the kids to stay with them would result in their deaths, but sending their children away was equally scary knowing that there were thugs who would not miss a chance to take advantage of the helpless kids. Some took the chance, while others chose to stay put together as a family.

Se-kyung had made up her mind to seek revenge on the perpetrators, but she did not communicate with Yun-sang about the same. She knew he would be worried, and he might as well have stopped her from taking a drastic measure. As much as she loved him, she knew she had to confront the men for the sake of the students who were mercilessly killed or trafficked. During Goodbye Earth‘s ending, Se-kyung walked out of her apartment with her gun in hand. At that moment, Se-kyung knew deep down that she might die in the shootout. She bid goodbye to everything she had fallen in love with on Earth—be it her students, her family, her neighbors, her friends, her lover, the inanimate objects with deeper meaning, and the multitude of emotions she had experienced as a mortal being.

Goodbye Earth ended with Se-kyung walking into the gambling room, shooting one man after another. Meanwhile, after waiting for Se-kyung to return home, Yun-sang decided to leave, and he had a bag full of Molotov cocktails ready, perhaps because he could sense that Se-kyung might need an extra hand. Se-kyung pointed her gun at the gang leader, and he too pulled his gun out. We do not know if Se-kyung survived the confrontation or not, but we do get to hear the sound of a gunshot. Even if Se-kyung survived that night, the approaching asteroid confirmed the fact that death was inevitable. Yun-sang’s dream of dying together with his wife by his side might not come true, but he would be proud of her for choosing to protect the vulnerable until the very end. Goodbye Earth came to an end with the acceptance of death. Death had always been the inevitable ending, but what mattered was how one chose to spend the last few minutes of their lives. For some, it was traveling; many enjoyed community service; there were those who preferred spending all their time with their lover; and there was Se-kyung, who chose to fight for justice. While she only had a few days on Earth, she could not live with her conscience, knowing that the perpetrators would live and thousands more would fall victim to them. Se-kyung thought beyond her own happiness, she did not care about dying in the process; for her, it was important to at least try. 

Final Words

Goodbye Earth fails to live up to its hype. It’s not a particularly memorable dystopian drama. There are just too many unrelated subplots, and the series has a meandering quality that detracts from the viewing experience. When there are twelve-hour-long episodes, one would expect compact storytelling worth sitting through it all, but unfortunately, the series comes off as quite directionless. The characters are not explored to their full potential, and the pace of the series is quite messed up. Maybe the storyline was affected after a significant portion of Yoo Ah-In’s scenes were edited out, but that cannot be an excuse for a sub-par show. Overall, Goodbye Earth had the potential to be remarkable, but it ended up becoming a drag.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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