This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film No Mercy / Yongseoneun Eupda (2010). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Kim Hyeong-jun, the 2010 South Korean thriller stars Sol Kyung-gu as Kang Min-ho and Ryoo Seung-bum as Lee Sung-ho.
No Mercy (2010) – Plot Summary
Kang Min-ho, one of the country’s top forensic pathologists is about to retire. His daughter, Hye-won is finally returning from overseas and he wants to spend more time with her. Meanwhile, the dead body of a woman named Oh Eun-ha appears at the local river. Kang decides to delay his plans.
The primary suspect of this case is Lee Sung-ho, an environmentalist activist. Lee confesses the crime to detective Min Seo-young (Kang’s former student). However, the police is struggling to find strong evidence that puts Lee at the crime scene. Meanwhile, Kang finds out that Lee is behind his daughter’s kidnapping and he rushes to the police station to interrogate Lee. The man proposes the following deal to Kang: tamper the evidence, get him out of jail and he’ll release Kang’s daughter. A desperate Kang complies.
Suspicious of Kang, Min does some research on his past and finds out Kang’s connection to Lee. Many years ago, Kang was a witness at the trial of the three defendants who allegedly raped Lee’s sister (Soo-jin). He omitted certain facts in his autopsy report, which led the jury to believe that Soo-jin was a promiscuous girl, hence, dismissing the rape allegations. In addition, Oh Eun-ha was one of the key witnesses at that trial and she lied too in her testimony. Due to reasonable doubt, the three defendants walked free from charges.
Kang eventually tampers enough evidence to get Lee out of jail. After he’s released, Kang follows Lee to his house. Min does some further research and finds out that Soo-jin’s alleged rapists are all dead. These facts led her to believe that Kang is the next target, since Oh is already dead. Kang physically confronts Lee and demands to know where his daughter is. He eventually tells him the location: the old house where Lee used to live with his father and sister.
At Lee’s old house, Kang finds his daughter covered in a pile of roses. When he reaches to lift Hye-won, her torso is missing. Kang realizes that Eun-ha and Hye-won’s bodies were swapped. Therefore, the initial autopsy that Kang performed, was actually on Hye-won. This realization triggers pure agony in Kang. Meanwhile, Lee is outside waiting for Kang. Min begs Kang not to kill Lee and leave him to the authorities. Enraged, Kang ignores Min’s plea and uses her gun to kill Lee. Then, he proceeds to shoot himself in the head. The film ends with Lee saying that hating is easy, while forgiving is hard.
No Mercy (2010) – Ending Explained
Lee never intended to teach Kang a lesson, he just wanted to hurt Kang as much as he could. It wasn’t never about redemption. So what was it all about? Revenge. That’s why Lee killed Hye-won. Having said that, Kang never had a chance to get his daughter back. She was dead before the game started.
So, let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Did Kang deserve to have his daughter killed? At this point, Kang’s daughter was just collateral damage. The main target here was definitely Kang. No matter how many times Kang apologizes to Lee, he will never know the pain and anger that haunts Lee everyday since his sister’s death. First, his sister is raped, then she is defamed. Soo-jin is clearly the victim here, she didn’t do anything wrong. However, the town was quick to judge her. The trauma and the aftermath, led Soo-jin to commit suicide. Although Kang says and firmly believes that he’s always been unbiased regarding that forensic report, that’s not completely true. Kang omitted things in the final report. As a matter of fact, he wrote two reports.
The first report that Kang wrote about Soo-jin’s death contained his true opinion. The second report had omissions, certain details were not included to create reasonable doubt. At the time, Kang was desperate because of his daughter. He knew the defendants’ parents were powerful and wealthy. In addition, Kang knew that bending the truth would help him get the treatment that his daughter needed. But at what cost? Soo-jin killed herself because the whole town was pointing fingers at her and calling her a whore. Now, Kang’s report kills any chances of Soo-jin’s name ever getting justice. That’s unethical. Having said that, Lee has a legitimate reason to hate Kang.
What about Oh Eun-ah? Did she deserve to die? Just like Kang, Eun-ah did something very shady at the trial, she lied. In addition, she probably got some money from the rich parents to lie in court. Her statement made Soo-jin look “guilty”, because she implied that Soo-jin wanted to be with the rapists.
Does Kang dying brings any justice to Soo-jin? At his point, what Lee is doing to Kang is no longer justice. It’s an eye for an eye. However, what can Lee do? The court justice system has flaws and the trial that he witnessed years ago proved him that. Therefore, Lee had no other option but to do justice with his own hands. Taking the rapists again to court would be a waste of time, because they have enough money to get away from justice. Even going against Kang would be difficult. He’s one of best forensic pathologists in country, people respect him. Having said that, Lee didn’t have many other options. Moving on and forgiving would be an option, but he couldn’t do that.
Kang’s motivation in life is very simple: to live for his daughter. From the moment he found out that she was dead, he died inside. Therefore, he didn’t care about killing Lee and then, himself. In addition, Kang killing Lee has a deeper meaning. Let’s state the most obvious first: Kang killed Lee out of anger. However, killing Lee was also an act of mercy.
Lee was an individual in pain. The hate, just like he said, was like a cancer growing inside of him. Therefore, the only way to free himself and get peace was death. That’s why Kang killed him. At this point, Kang doesn’t have many options either, he’s going to jail for tampering evidence. So he thought: he might as well kill Lee to avenge his daughter and then, kill himself to escape life in prison. That’s what happened.
No Mercy / Yongseoneun Eupda is a moving thriller with a well-balanced antagonist. Behind Lee’s fake smile, lies a very broken individual. His plan was never to get out of it alive. Though, he has killed the most people, he might be one of the most innocent characters in the story.
Kang is not a bad person, but he did something really bad. Although, Kang didn’t write lies in the reports, he omitted certain key details that might have put the rapists in jail. Soo-jin was already dead by the time of the trial, but Kang dragged her image to the mud with his testimony. When he alluded that it was consensual sex instead of rape, he basically set the rapists free.
What makes the story of No Mercy so unforgettable? The plot twist. It’s so original and poignant. It’s a really heartbreaking scene, the one where Kang realizes the first body belonged to his daughter. He must have felt disgusted at himself for doing what he did. However, that was Lee plan’s all the way, the grand finale.
In a way, both Lee and Kang are individuals that are able to do anything for their family. Lee killed five people (the three rapists, Oh Eun-ah and Hye-won) to avenge his sister’s death. Kang cut his dog’s leg, tampered evidence and almost put an innocent man in jail to save his daughter. It’s safe to say that both are very loyal and very committed to their families.
Overall, No Mercy (2010) is one the best films within its genre with really strong performances from Sol Kyung-gu (Kang) and Ryoo Seung-bum (Lee). The actor that played the antagonist is superb because he makes the audience emphasize with the character’s pain and anger.