Train to Busan: Does Sang-hwa Die?

The 2016 action horror film, ‘Train to Busan,’ utilizes an apocalyptic zombie breakout narrative to essay a story about the love and sacrifice that make up humanity. Seok-woo, a busy divorced father, helms the narrative as he attempts to follow through with his promise to take his daughter, Soo-an, to Busan to see her mother. However, while the father-daughter embarks on their journey by train, a lethal zombie virus breaks out into the country, endangering everyone’s lives. As such, Seok-woo must defy all odds and find a way to get his daughter to Busan’s safe quarantine zone as numerous passengers around him succumb to mindless death.

On their journey, Seok-woo and Soo-an cross paths with a few other survivors, fighting for their lives. Among them, Sang-hwa, a tough but kind-hearted father-to-be, becomes a crucial part of the story, endearing himself to the audience with his kind and loving personality. Therefore, within this zombie-infested film, Sang-hwa remains one character whose predicament people are bound to witness with bated breath. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Sang-hwa and Love’s Sacrifice

From Sang-hwa’s introduction into the plot, as a fellow co-passenger aboard the Busan-headed train, the narrative establishes the man has an intimidating presence with a soft center. Despite his towering physicality, Sang-hwa is kind and helpful to Soo-an. Furthermore, once Seong-kyeong, his pregnant wife, enters the storyline, her presence only enhances Sang-hwa’s likability.

Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong’s endearing relationship adds to the former’s appeal as the man remains besotted with his wife, equal parts respectful and protective. For the same reasons, viewers are compelled to root for his survival when the first zombie outburst unfolds aboard the train, putting the couple in a direct line of danger. Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong survive the instance, thanks in no part to Seok-woo, who attempts to abandon them in a feat of self-preservation.

However, the momentary safety is short-lived, as the train’s arrival at the Daejeon Station sends its ill-informed passengers, including Sang-hwa, to venture outside the train cars. Outside, an actual army of zombies awaits the passengers, hungry for blood. During this interaction, Seok-woo receives a broken-hearted reality check from his daughter, who hates her father’s self-serving tendencies.

Meanwhile, Sang-hwa repeatedly puts himself in the line of danger to ensure others’ safety. In fact, the man even rescues Soo-an when she is out of her father’s reach and later saves Seok-woo’s skin despite their earlier dispute. In doing so, Sang-hwa unwittingly embodies the perfect example for Seok-woo, whose selfishness stands in sharp contrast against Sang-hwa’s selfless nature.

As such, upon Seok-woo and Sang-hwa’s second boarding on a Busan-headed train, wherein both men end up several zombie-filled train cars away from their families, the duo form a more understanding bond. Thus, they’re able to fight through the swaths of zombies on the train as a team alongside Yong-guk, a high school teen. While Sang-hwa brings brute force to the dynamic, Seok-woo comes up with clever schemes, and ultimately, both men are reunited with their loved ones.

In a moment of respite, Sang-hwa even offers comforting words to Seok-woo, which sticks with the man, further reinforcing the former’s significance in the story. Yet, as the group is on their last leg of danger, about to reunite with the other surviving passengers, things take a fatalistic turn. While Seok-woo and the others have been fighting for their lives, the other passengers have barricaded themselves inside a compartment.

These passengers, under Yon-suk’s misguided leadership, adopt the opinion that anyone on the outside poses the threat of infection. For the same reason, once Seok-woo and his friends arrive at their door, barely keeping the zombies on their tails at bay, Yon-suk and the others condemn them to their deaths, refusing to open the doors for them.

Yon-suk’s compartment is the only safe exit available. As a result, his insistence on turning the survivors away traps them against a horde of bloodthirsty zombies. While Yong-guk attempts to break the doors open, Seok-woo and Sang-hwa attempt to keep the door on the other side closed to hold off the zombies.

Nevertheless, with time, the zombies gain the upper hand. Thus, Sang-hwa realizes that the survivors, including Seong-kyeong and their unborn child, need more time to be able to scatter to safety. As a result, he orders Seok-woo to leave his side and help the survivors escape while he holds the zombies off for as long as possible. Sang-hwa knows his wife loves him and won’t be able to watch him die. However, he desperately needs her to remain safe.

For the same reason, Sang-hwa makes his impossible choice. In the end, with Seok-woo’s promise to keep his family safe, Sang-hwa sacrifices himself for the other survivors, especially Seong-kyeong. Standing as the last wall of defense, the man holds off the zombies’ attacks long enough for Seok-woo to force a way into Yon-suk’s train car, taking Seong-kyeong along with him.

Ultimately, Sang-hwa, suffering from an onslaught of Zombie bites, meets his bitter end. Nonetheless, his love and legacy continue to live on after Seok-woo keeps his promise and ensures Seong-kyeong and her baby’s safety. In the end, Sang-hwa dies, but his family, Seong-kyeong and baby, who would be named Su-yun, as per their father’s dying wish, survive.

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