Netflix’s Hierarchy Ending, Explained: Who Killed In-han?

Netflix’s academia-centered K-drama, ‘Hierarchy,’ follows the stories of a group of high schoolers whose lives are defined within the halls of the private school Jooshin High, attended only by the most elite kids from wealthy families. Consequently, the school sports a highly toxic culture where queen bees like Kim Ri-an and Jung Jae-i and their cliques consistently get away with their misdeeds— from bullying and drugs to even bloodier crimes. However, the arrival of a recklessly gutsy scholarship student, Kang Ha, threatens to change the social ecosystem within the school as he aims to unravel the institution’s most well-kept secrets. As the narrative unfolds with each character holding their secrets, viewers must be on edge to witness the cresting conclusion. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Hierarchy Recap

The Jooshin High School oversees a tragedy when one of its students, Kang In-han, dies in a car accident at another student’s house party. Nevertheless, the incident gets swept under the rug over break with the students returning for another term. A new student, Kang Ha, is among the old batch, replacing In-han’s empty scholarship spot. The boy carries bright enthusiasm for the school year only to quickly realize the gross economic hierarchy within the institution that puts scholarship kids at the lowest rung. Inversely, Kim Ri-an, heir to the Jooshin group, whose ancestors built the school, sits at the social ladder’s top with his friends, Jae-i, Woo-jin, and He-ra.

However, a complication emerges within their group as Jae-i returns from her vacation in America and promptly ends her long-term relationship with Ri-an without any explanation. Meanwhile, Kang Ha refuses to keep his head down like the rest of the scholarship students and catches the eye of Ri-an and his friends. While others are infuriated by his insolence, He-ra remains amused and invites him to a party. Predictably, the party proves disastrous as the others mistreat Kang Ha, even drugging him momentarily as a joke. Still, the boy refuses to be made into the butt of the joke and turns the tables by kissing Jae-i on a dare. The same makes Kang Ha a clear enemy to Ri-an, who has consistently tried to win his ex back.

Only as it would turn out, Kang Ha had planned to become a pebble in Ri-an’s shoe from the start. Kang Ha is actually In-han’s fraternal twin brother. Since he was on the phone with his brother moments before he died, Kang Ha knows his twin’s death wasn’t a simple hit-and-run accident. Therefore, he has joined Jooshin High to investigate the misconduct unfolding within the school and reveal its reality to the world. According to school rumors, Ri-an was involved in In-han’s death since the latter had become a close friend to Jae-i during his time at the school— a fact Ri-an hated.

Jae-i also has a secret about In-han, who secretly recorded her during an incredibly vulnerable moment. Moreover, the recording ended up in the hands of another person, who is using it to blackmail Jae-i through anonymous DMs. While the girl keeps the same secret from everyone else, she employs her best friend He-ra’s help to find a way to track down the account. In turn, He-ra is actually conspiring against Jae-i by attempting to fill the now empty place beside Ri-an. Things drastically change during an off-campus trip to the Healing Forests, wherein Kang Ha and Jae-i get closer. Nevertheless, once Ri-an learns about the same, he attempts to have the other boy expelled for breaking into Ri-an’s room.

As such, Jae-i ends up claiming Kang Ha as her boyfriend to save him from expulsion. In fact, she even stands up to Ri-an, declaring Kang Ha under her protection. Thus, Kang Ha’s bullies— primarily working under Ri-an’s orders— instantly back down. While things improve for Kang Ha, Jae-i continues to suffer under her controlling father’s thumb. Jae-i’s father, Mr. Jung, wants to use her as a pawn to expand his business and plans to send her off to New York with another Chaebol heir. For the same reason, Jae-i remains jaded and guarded, refusing to let her real emotions show in front of others.

Eventually, Kang Ha’s secret relationship with In-han comes out in the open. Even though the school attempts to get rid of him by offering him scholarships to different institutions, Kang Ha refuses, making it clear he wants to expose Jooshin for its toxicity. In the end, Kang Ha finally finds the perfect tool to do the same once he discovers the identity of Jae-i’s anonymous blackmailer, who holds valuable photographic evidence of the misdeeds occurring in the school and its student’s lives.

Who Is Blackmailing Jae-i?

The Jooshin High blackmailer picks Jae-i as his initial target, sending her incriminating proof in online anonymous messages. However, the blackmailer refuses to ask for anything in return, seemingly content with just making the girl suffer from her anxiety. Jae-i’s secret is big and can potentially ruin her entire life. On the night of Woo-jin’s birthday party— the same night when In-han died— Jae-i discovered that she was pregnant with Ri-an’s child. In-han found her after she took the test and attempted to comfort her. Nevertheless, the boy wore a spy pen to gather information against his cruel classmates.

Consequently, Jae-i freaked out, leading to a peculiar scene when Ri-an’s crew found the two in a room together. In the subsequent chase that followed between Ri-an’s friends and In-han, the latter met his ultimate death. However, someone managed to get ahold of the boy’s spy pen footage, leading to Jae-i’s current predicament. Jae-i’s father is an incredibly controlling man who detests his daughter’s biological mother, who likely birthed her outside of wedlock. In fact, the man only adopted Jae-i as his heir to use for later business dealings in collaborating households.

As such, Jae-i knows that if the video is made public, her father will take her life away from her— either through banishment, abandonment, or worse. Things worsen even further after the blackmailer reveals that they have more footage of Jae-i hooking up with Ri-an— a relationship neither kids’ parents knew of. Jae-hyeok, Jae-i’s half-brother who hates her, secretly filmed the video. Even so, the girl knows he isn’t the one behind the secret account since he has already blackmailed her with the footage to her face.

While her brother’s actions were aggravating, Jae-i knows the footage is even more dangerous in her online blackmailer’s hand since they also possess the video about her pregnancy. Thus, if they release both footage, Ri-an’s name would also be tarnished despite the boy not knowing anything about the same. Jae-i reveals all of this to Kang Ha after learning about his connection to In-han. She also tells him that over the break, she traveled to America, considering an abortion. Even though she decided against the procedure in the end, she ended up losing the baby in a miscarriage. With the confession, the girl also asks for Kang Ha’s help unveiling the blackmailer’s identity, knowing it was someone from Jooshin High.

However, the same puts Kang Ha in an impossible predicament. Earlier, during another party, Kang Ha had already discovered the identity of the person holding Jooshin’s numerous secrets: the Headmistress’ son, Nam Ju-won. Ju-won, known by his nickname Moss, was the student body president and had earned a reputation for unproblematically existing in Jooshin’s every corner. As a result, he was privy to numerous conversations around the school. Furthermore, he had access to the Headmistress’ numerous files that kept tabs on the students.

Do Things Change at Jooshin High?

Moss was sick of the violent hierarchy within Jooshin and has been collecting incriminating evidence against the students for a while now. Therefore, In-han’s death pushed him to the edge, compelling him to begin blackmailing Jae-i. The boy knew releasing footage of the violent bullying that takes place in the school wouldn’t attract widespread attention. Therefore, he wants to expose Jae-i’s secrets to cause a scandal that will tarnish Jooshin’s name. Yet, once Kang Ha learns about the same, he categorically prevents Moss from carrying out his plan.

Even though both students partner with other scholarship kids to take down the social hierarchy in Jooshin, Kang Ha insists on not hurting Jae-i’s personal life. For the same reason, Kang Ha ends up going to the police alone with all the evidence against the school’s drug and bullying problems. While most students attempt to utilize their parents’ fancy lawyers to evade consequences, Jae-i advocates for everyone to take responsibility for their actions. In the end, the cops launch an investigation against Jooshin, which inevitably leads to the Headmistress’ resignation. Although the class disparity problems within the school likely persist, the gross mistreatment of the scholarship kids and the staff’s ignorance of the same changes.

How Did In-han Die?

As it would turn out, the footage about Jae-‘s pregnancy isn’t the only secret that In-han’s spy pen reveals. Since In-han had a habit of carrying the pen with him everywhere, he wore it to Woo-jin’s party, too. Consequently, while running away from Ri-an’s crew, the boy stumbled into a stairwell, where he found Woojin making out with one of Jooshin High’s teachers, Ms. Han. Woo-jin and Han had been engaging in a scandalous affair with each other for some time now. However, Woo-jin— the heir to a wealthy family— was much bolder about his intentions, knowing he wouldn’t have to face consequences for his actions one way or the other.

Nevertheless, Han remained much more conscious about maintaining the secret. Since she was an adult and also Woo-jin’s teacher, the woman knew that the news of her entanglement with the teenage boy would only result in trouble. As such, after In-han learned about the pair, she tried to chase him down to speak with him and buy his silence. Nevertheless, the flagrantly wretched affair between a student and a teacher proved to be the last straw for the boy. As he ran away from Han’s advances, he made the same clear, announcing he would reveal Jooshin for its reality.

Ultimately, while escaping Ri-an’s crew and Ms. Han, In-han runs through the streets. In turn, Han resorts to chasing him with his car. Consequently, a misplaced move leads Han to drive the vehicle straight into In-han, who bleeds out to his death. Afterward, Han swiftly made herself scarce from the scene, stealing In-han’s spy pen from his dead body to get rid of her affair’s evidence. Eventually, once Ri-an’s friends found In-han, they realized they were to blame for the kids’ frantic escape.

For the same reason, to protect Ri-an’s name, the school covered up the entire affair as a random hit-and-run, with the Headmistress covering up for Han as well. As a result, Jae-i believes she’s to blame for In-han’s death since it was his closeness with her that led Ri-an’s group to bully him. Likewise, Ri-an knows he’s also to blame since he allowed people to drive the boy to the edge. In the end, Woo-jin hands the spy pen over to Jae-i, which helps Kang Ha get justice for his brother’s murder. Yet, while Han indeed killed In-han from behind the wheel, the entire Jooshin Institution remains to blame for the boy’s final demise.

Does Jae-i Leave Jooshin and go to New York?

Woo-jin’s moment of clarity that compelled him to share the footage of In-han’s death hadn’t stemmed from the kindness of his own heart. In fact, the boy had the footage with him ever since In-han died and chose to keep silent. Woo-jin’s relationship with Han wasn’t born from love; rather, it was his way of distracting himself from the girl he had feelings for, He-ra. Woo-jin always knew that He-ra had a crush on Ri-an. As a result, the boy kept quiet about his own feelings and chose to distract himself through an illicit affair with Han.

Nevertheless, as tension grew In Jooshin through Kang Ha’s arrival, stoking the complication in Ri-an and Jae-i’s break up, He-ra took the chance to get closer to her crush. Even though Ri-an always made it clear he wasn’t interested in He-ra, the girl allowed herself to believe she may be able to change his mind. Hence, a rivalry grew between the two girls, fuelled by He-ra’s family problems. He-ra’s father’s company was verging on the brink of bankruptcy. However, when she attempted to have Jae-i set up a meeting between their fathers, the latter turned her down due to their previous disagreement.

The same, paired with Ri-an publicly choosing Jae-i over He-ra, compelled the latter to declare war on the couple. Consequently, she established that Woo-jin must pick a side between He-ra and Jae-i. Through his parents, Woo-jin got information about Jae-i’s previous visits to the pregnancy care clinic in America. Therefore, he uses that information to compel Jung to send Jae-i to New York. Likewise, Jae-i signs her own death warrant by agreeing to play along with her father’s wishes for an arranged marriage if he helps He-ra’s father’s company.

Thus, Jae-i’s trip to New York seems all but certain. However, in the end, the girl chooses a different fate. All her life, Jae-i has been scared of her father’s rejection since she didn’t want to be exiled like her birth mother. Nonetheless, after Kang Ha arrived in her life, she started understanding the importance of standing up for herself. As such, she no longer refuses to be a part of her father’s plans, happily accepting his rejection. Still, Jae-i leaves Jooshin— likely as a way to escape entirely from her father’s world. Although the same takes her away from Ri-an, she remains confident the two will find their way back to each other. Ultimately, Jae-i travels to a small island, where she meets up with her birth mother. Thus, Jae-i ends the story away from Jooshin, accepting a new chapter of her life where she embraces her own choices rather than her father’s.

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