The Whirlwind Ending, Explained: Does Dong-ho Die?

The Whirlwind,’ a K-drama revolving around tense politics, follows the story of Park Dong-ho, a self-righteous prime minister who undertakes a quest to deliver justice to his fellow politicians at any cost necessary. His mission is set into motion after he learns about President Jang Il-jun and his administration’s hidden deals with corrupt Chaebols. As a result, Dong-ho carries out an assassination attempt to put himself in power as the Acting President and hold others like Il-jun accountable. However, Deputy PM Jeong Su-jin proves to be a devastating rival, prepared to play dirty at a game of her own making.

Thus, the country’s future relies on the brutal battle between these two headstrong politicians, who mold and bend the rules to their own benefit at every turn. Naturally, once Dong-ho begins fighting fire with fire, he risks the well-being of his legacy. SPOILERS AHEAD!

The Whirlwind Recap

Despite remaining by President Jang Il-jun’s side for a decade, Prime Minister Park Dong-ho finds himself standing opposed to his mentor once he uncovers his shady dealings with the Daejin Group. The last straw comes when Il-jun’s efforts to keep his corruption under wraps lead to the arrest of numerous people on false charges as well as the death of Assemblyman Gi-tae, Don-ho’s close friend. Therefore, after the President continues to stand his immoral ground, the PM decides to go against him. Naturally, it results in false charges of bribery against Dong-ho.

However, hours before the prosecutors can come for Dong-ho’s arrest, he visits Il-jun at the Blue House. During their conversation, he covertly swaps the President’s vape, effectively poisoning him. When Il-jun has a heart attack on the heels of the other man’s departure, it’s easy to blame it on his pre-existing heart condition. As the President goes under, requiring surgery, Deputy PM Jeong Su-jin realizes the gravity of the event. If the nation’s leader dies, Dong-ho will become the acting President and undoubtedly come after her and the Daejin Group leader, Kang Sang-un.

Consequently, Su-jin tries to delay the surgery until Don-ho’s arrest, but to no avail. As Il-jun enters a coma, Dong-ho becomes the acting President, rendering the arrest warrant against him useless. Even so, Su-jin attempts to get him out of the presidency through a forced resignation by blackmailing and bribing ministers. Nonetheless, Dong-jo manages to hold his ground with the help of Choi Yeon-sook, the Blue House’s Chief of Staff. He earns her trust by handing her a confession of his involvement in Il-jun’s murder and asking her for a month to dole out justice before he reports himself to the authorities for his actions.

Therefore, Dong-ho begins cleaning up corruption within the government, starting by hiring his friend, Lee Jang-seok, an incredibly honest man, as the Prosecutor General. During this time, Sang-un attempts to back the PM-turned-President into a corner but ends up failing after Dong-ho frames him for Il-jun’s attempted assassination by orchestrating an assassination attempt on his own life. Meanwhile, Jang-seok investigates Il-jun’s family and their connections to a corrupt PE fund, inviting public backlash. Once Dong-ho bounces back and continues his hunt after Su-jin, she ends Il-jun’s life herself to bank on the nation’s emotional connection to the man.

With the ministers and the public turning against him, Dong-ho realizes he has no option but to resign. However, rather than giving up, he decides to run in the upcoming Presidential elections. In the following election, Su-jin plays into the voters’ sentimentalities while Dong-ho resorts to deceitful dealings with other candidates and the opposing party’s politicians. In the end, the latter emerges victorious, but Su-jin’s help is required to win against the conservative party. Su-jin uses her newfound closeness to spy on her rival, earning leverage on him.

Yet, it isn’t long before Dong-ho turns the tables on her, keeping his position secure. The two continue their rivalry, making moves against one another in a hybrid game of chess and a cat-and-mouse chase. Ultimately, things reach a turning point as conservative party leader Jo Sang-cheon bands with Su-jin and calls for an investigation into Il-jun’s murder, which leads to the passing of Dong-ho’s impeachment motion.

Even though Dong-ho manages to evade the same by partnering with Chairman Kang, civil unrest persists. In the end, Su-jin prepares to lead a protest against her rival, with people and former prosecutors awaiting her orders to march to the Blue House. Thus, as one last trick, Dong-ho invites her to the cliff near the Blue House and attempts to bluff her. Nonetheless, she catches him in the lie, leading the other man to assert he can still bring her downfall before he jumps off the cliff, hurling to his death.

The Whirlwind Ending: Why Did Dong-ho Jump off the Cliff?

Dong-ho makes several complicated decisions during the course of the show, willing to cross any and every limit to reach his end goal. Gi-tae’s unjust death greatly affected the man, and he’s now prepared to pay any price to actualize the former’s idea of justice by bringing down the most corrupt officials in the country’s political landscape. For the same reason, he attempts Il-jun’s assassination and spends the following weeks doggedly trying to bring Chairman Park, Sang-cheon, and Su-jin to justice. Of them all, Su-jin remains his biggest adversary.

Dong-ho backs Su-jin into a corner by nominating her as the Prime Minister to give Sang-cheon and a Democratic party leader, Chang-Sik, a chance to dig out her past misdeeds. Still, she swerves the attack by teaming up with Chairman Park and unearthing evidence that could implicate Dong-ho. Furthermore, it pushes Jang-seok to move against his friend and launches the impeachment motion. However, Dong-ho masterfully turns the situation to his benefit. Nine constitutional justices were meant to preside over the impeachment motion, compelling Su-jin to bribe six of them.

In turn, Dong-ho gets Chairman Park in his corner and secures three justices before converting the fourth one with Yeon-sook’s help. He takes it one step further and records his incriminating conversations with Park that confirm that the businessman, Sang-cheon, and Su-jin were bribing constitutional justices. Releasing the footage reveals that Dong-ho participated in bribery but also uncovers his enemies’ true colors. Nonetheless, Su-jin went after him with equal fervor, mobilizing her public favor to empty the President’s cabinets and demand his arrest on account of judicial foul play.

Their rivalry culminates in their final meeting behind the Blue House, where Dong-ho claims to be in possession of Su-jin’s assistant, Man-gil’s phone. The phone holds evidence that proves the woman was behind Il-jun’s murder. Since Su-jin has modeled her career after her relationship with the previous President, the revelation of her final actions against him will be an insurmountable blow to her legacy. Thus, the offer stands: either Su-jin confesses to bribery and corruption and goes down with her co-conspirators or is revealed for her participation in Il-jun’s death.

Nevertheless, even though Dong-ho does have Man-gil’s phone— procured through exploitation of the latter’s past relationship with the former’s secretary, Seo Jeong-yeon— the device doesn’t hold any real information. Su-jin manages to learn the same and calls her rival out on his bluff. As such, Dong-ho resorts to his final plan. During the meeting, Su-jin dismissed his security detail, establishing an intent to murder. From there, Dong-ho leaves signs of a forced brawl, such as a broken blazer button and her handkerchief clutched in his own hand.

Therefore, as Dong-ho hurls himself to his own death, he leaves behind fabricated evidence that will incriminate Su-jin of his murder. He may not be able to defeat her with the truth of the previous Presidential assassination, but the lie about her involvement in Dong-ho’s assassination will assign her the same punishment. Throughout the story, the protagonist remains willing to sacrifice his own life and legacy to serve justice. Consequently, he gives up his life in pursuit of the same.

Who is Blamed for Jang Il-jun’s Assassination?

Even though President Jang Il-jun’s death jumpstarts the story as the starting point, the attempted assassination remains unsolved for months without any apparent perpetrator behind it. Part of it emerges from the fact that Dong-ho stages the attempted murder to appear as a typical heart attack to ensure his own innocence. Nevertheless, even after experts find traces of poisoning, Dong-ho manages to keep it under wraps. Eventually, Su-jin finishes the job by suffocating a recovering Il-jun to save his family and their reputation, further ensuring his death appears natural.

Still, news gets out about the poison found in Il-jun’s system. For the longest time, Sang-un remains the scapegoat of this accusation as a result of Dong-ho’s plan. Nevertheless, as the story crests, the latter man finds himself needing to confess to his murderous intentions to ensure his rival’s downfall. As such, the public perception remains that Dong-ho likely had a part in their beloved former President’s death. To some extent, he’s willing to leave the narrative as it is when he prepares for his death.

Dong-ho knows he can’t bring the entire truth out against Su-jin and is content just to deliver her to punishment, even if some of her crimes go unnoticed. Therefore, from beyond the grave, he gives her the ultimatum of choosing between going to prison for her corruption and bribery crimes or for the assassination of a President. Even though she won’t be charged with Il-jun’s death, her fabricated involvement in Dong-ho’s death will ensure an identical punishment.

Alternatively, if Su-jin chooses to confess to her crimes, Dong-ho has plans in place to release his suicide note, freeing her of his murder charge. Eventually, Su-jin decides to do the same, compelling Yeon-sook to release Dong-ho’s suicide note and revealing the names of all the corrupt politicians and businessmen behind Il-jun’s original PE fund. Yet, she expertly distances herself from the same. However, just as it starts to seem like the ball is in her court, Dong-ho’s team plays their last move.

A piece of evidence fabricated by Su-jin implicates her own assistant, Man-gil, of Il-jun’s murder at the hospital while he was in recovery. Consequently, once the same hits the news, Man-gil urges her to confess to her crimes and absolve him of suspicions. An emotional altercation follows wherein Su-jin affirms her own involvement in Il-jun’s murder, recalling the instance in detail. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, Jeong-yeon, Sang-ho’s secretary, livestreams the entire conversation to news channels through a bug she had planted in Man-gil’s office. As a result, the world learns the truth about Su-jin’s hand in Il-jun’s assassination.

Does Su-jin get Arrested?

After Su-jin’s confession is broadcasted all over the news, her fate is all but sealed. Dong-ho’s mission, book-ended by the assassinations of two Presidents, held the explicit goal of Su-jin’s arrest alongside the worst of her partners in crime. Yet, although Dong-ho manages to arrest the others while he’s still alive, he has to resort to his own death to ensure Su-jin’s demise. Although she manages to slither out of his initial ultimatum, the idea of having bested Dong-ho at the game finally lures her into a false sense of security.

Since Dong-ho is gone, Su-jin believes she won’t have to look over her shoulder any longer. For the same reason, she ends up giving in to the emotional altercation against Man-gil in his office. Even though she previously fell victim to Jeong-yeon’s spying, she presumes the same won’t be an issue after Dong-ho’s death. Nevertheless, even after he dies, his mission continues to live on through his loyal associates.

Thus, after Jeong-yeon and Yeon-sook livestream Su-jin’s confession, Jang-seok uses his position as a prosecutor to bring Su-jin to justice. Ultimately, in the end, these three characters inherit Dong-ho’s mission— just as he initially did from Gi-tae. Thus, even though he dies a martyr’s death, Dong-ho’s efforts lead to Su-jin’s arrest. Yet, despite Ju-sin’s deserved predicament, the fact remains that Dong-ho had to resort to playing her corrupt game to bring her to justice.

Read More: Is Netflix’s The Whirlwind Based on a True Story?