Death is the fundamental element that holds life together, and we know that we won’t live forever. The sense of urgency helps us wake up every morning and explore our purpose for living. Without mortality, people will lose their humanity, and the fear of death is what makes us human. Seo Bok explores the question of immortality and death through its humanoid clone, who would cure our fear of death, but may also lead to extinction. How? Lee Yong-Ju’s film answers these questions through an enchanting tale.
‘Seo Bok’ Plot Summary
In a terrorist blast, an American scientist, Carl Anderson, loses his life. Soon after, an agent of the Korea Intelligence Agency, Chief Ahn, investigates the terrorist attack and pleads with the authorities of Seoin Research Institute to hand over their classified project to the Intelligence Agency. Chief Ahn wants to secure the project of national importance before it falls into the hands of terrorists.
Chief Ahn tasks his ex-agent, Min Gi-heon, to finish the job. However, Min is an insomniac suffering from a brain tumor who spends days under the influence of medical drugs, yet Chief Ahn entrusts him with the job.
Upon his arrival at a ship research lab, Min discovers the classified project, Seobok, is a cloned human specimen created through stem cloning and genetic manipulation. It is named after Emperor Qin’s servant, who was sent off to search for the elixir of immortality, and Dr. Shin considers Seobok an undying being who can revolutionize human mortality. Seobok’s bone marrow can also cure Min’s brain tumor, so he personally gets interested in the mission.
However, before Min can transport Seobok to a secure bunker, a few mercenaries attack them and kidnap them both. On a journey with Seobok, Min will find the answers to his life and the questions he has avoided for a long time.
Why did Chief Ahn want to kill Seobok?
Chief Ahn feared Seobok’s existence and its purpose to achieve immortality. American theorists told Chief Ahn that immortality would only create unsatisfiable desires and continuous conflicts in human beings. If people became immortal, they would design their own extinction. Chief Ahn wanted to destroy the clone before it got exposed to the real world. Otherwise, every nation would desire to create a superhuman from the experiment.
Chief Ahn associated with the Americans to hand over the clone and Min to them. But before the transfer, a few mercenaries abduct the payload.
Was Seobok immortal?
Seobok had special genes, which Dr. Shin underlined. Through genetic manipulation, these genes were artificially inserted into his DNA, and Seobok’s bone marrow produces IPS cells that are able to cure any human disease. However, the clone had a rapid cell division that would kill him if it was left unchecked. This was the reason why he was given an inhibitor to control the process. Hence, Seobok wasn’t entirely immortal; instead he was just able to cure the disease that might cause death.
Alarmingly, Seobok had a powerful brainwave power through which he was able to control pressure around him. In simple words, he was able to deflect things thrown at him or twist things near him. He was not invincible, but he was really powerful. The brainwave power made Seobok a threat to humanity.
Why did Seobok want to go to Ulsan?
Seobok grew up in Dr. Lim’s womb, who was in charge of the Seoin Research Institute. She lost her husband and her young son in a car accident. After the loss, Dr. Lim decided to use the genetically modified embryonic stem cells to artificially fertilize an egg through nuclear replacement. Through this process, Seobok was born.
In Ulsan, under the house of Bethany church, memories of Dr. Lim’s lost son, Han Kyung-Yoon, and her late husband were stored. Seobok wanted to see them by himself because it was the reason he was created. Dr. Lim was the only living relative Seobok had, and he would have done anything for her.
‘Seo Bok’ Ending Explained – Did Min kill Seobok?
Even in the early stages of his existence, Seobok showed a lack of purpose. He had nowhere to go and therefore asked Min to drop him off at the Seoin Research Institute. Min wanted Seobok to survive so that he could find a cure for his brain tumor.
Meanwhile, Chief Ahn discovered that the chairman of Seoin Research Institute was behind the terrorist attack on American scientist Carl Anderson. The chairman wanted to safeguard his prized experiment from getting destroyed by Chief Ahn. Chief Ahn tried to stop Min and Seobok from reaching the ship lab. But, the mercenaries destroyed the police vehicles and assisted the clone on the ship.
Inside the facility, Dr. Shin started extracting Seobok’s bone marrow and IPS cells. However, Min got so attached to the clone that he interrupted the process. Min wanted Seobok to live a normal life, like a normal teenager. Seobok was calm and normal until he discovered his mother, Dr. Lim’s dead body. The chairman got her killed because she tried to terminate the experiment.
In his blinding rage, Seobok went out of control and killed everyone on the ship except Min. The super clone got attacked by Chief Ahn and his army, but with the help of his brainwave power, Seobok crushed them all. Seobok even killed Chief Ahn. Min experienced the annihilation that was going to exterminate mankind. However, Seobok was aware of his existence as a dangerous and unstoppable weapon. He compelled Min to shoot him and give him eternal sleep. A protagonist in a dilemma opted for humanity over his own attachment to the clone. In the end, Min shot Seobok.
In the last moments, Seobok told Min that no matter how afraid he was of death, he could never run away. Death is inevitable. If not brain tumor, then some other disease or mishap would end his existence. “The best thing we can do is live in the moment and exercise our actions for a better future.”
Seo Bok is a 2021 South Korean sci-fi action film directed by Lee Yong-Ju.