Directed by Kim Jin-woo, ‘A Model Family’ is a South Korean thriller series. It tells the story of the Park family, whose desperate pursuit of survival and safety draws the attention of a drug lord. Park Dong-ha (Woo Jung) is a mild-mannered assistant professor who loses the money his family has saved for his son’s treatment to secure a full-time professor job. Dong-ha faces financial ruin. His wife is about to divorce him, forever cutting him off from his family. One evening, he comes across a van on his way home with two dead bodies and an enormous amount of money inside. Dong-ha subsequently hides the money, buries the bodies in his yard, and dumps the van. But as he is not a career criminal, his actions soon draw both the police and criminals to his neighborhood.
While ‘A Model Family is ultimately a show about the Parks, it offers a candid depiction of the seedy underbelly of Seoul. If that has made you wonder whether ‘A Model Family’ is inspired by true events, we got you covered.
Is A Model Family a True Story?
No, ‘A Model Family’ is not based on a true story. The series has been developed from the script penned by Lee Jae-gon. According to Kim Jin-woo, the series is about challenging the concept of a perfect family. Speaking to the Korea JoongAng Daily at JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul in eastern Seoul, he stated, “The meaning of the word ‘model’ is given by others based only on your exterior elements. People often use the word to describe others without really knowing their inner thoughts or circumstances. In some ways, the word is irresponsible.”
As humans, we are hardwired to perceive families as a microcosmic representation of our society. As a result, the concept is idealized even when we know from our own experience that every family has its share of pain, trauma, and even dark secrets. “Family is something that we are innately born into, we cannot be pre-educated or know in advance how to form a family,” Kim added. “Particularly regarding our local culture, we have a distinctive social stigma on what defines a family, and what kind of family is considered to be exemplary. By seeing the story of Dong-ha’s family, I wanted viewers to think about how can we really define those two words.”
In terms of the premise, if not execution, ‘A Model Family’ shares resemblances with ‘Ozark,’ a Netflix crime drama series created by Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams and starring Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. In both shows, the wife has an affair, and the narrative involves the drug trade and money laundering.
Kim was aware that people compared the script for ‘A Model Family’ to the other Netflix show and carefully avoided watching the latter. “I have heard from people who’ve read the script that [it is similar to] ‘Ozark,’ and though I believe the two series use similar elements, I haven’t seen the series before I heard such opinions,” he said. “Then I purposefully did not watch the series because I thought it would involuntarily affect me.” Clearly, ‘A Model Family’ is not based on a true story. However, it’s perfectly understandable if someone thinks it is.