The Ending of ‘The Whirlwind’ Makes A Mockery of Morality

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 28, 2024
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The Whirlwind Episode 12 Recap and Ending Explained
The Whirlwind | Image via Netflix


The Whirlwind is a bit preachy throughout, but its ending expects you to swallow a lot. In it, former Prime Minister turned Acting President of South Korea Dong-ho wants to make a point and make a point he does, though not without a degree of personal compromise that is somewhat brushed under the rug. Episode 12 of the Netflix K-Drama wants you to believe that you can rise above the system and make a difference – but only if you lose some of yourself along the way.

If this is true, is the outcome worth the cost? We’re led to believe so, but I’m not so sure. While democracy is a noble goal, one questionable decision after another to get there somewhat undermines the idea. It’s the old argument of the many versus the few. If we can so readily make sacrifices for what we perceive to be the greater good, aren’t we losing something essential in the here and now?

Dong-ho Makes Himself A Martyr

Dong-ho’s goal throughout the series was to expose the Blue House’s corruption, wherein former President Jang had cozied up to the snaky Gaejin Group and allowed rot to seep through various levels of government. It’s a tale as old as time, and one we’re living through now in the U.S. and the U.K., but Dong-ho was additionally motivated to seek revenge for the death of his friend, Assemblyman Gi-Tae.

Dong-ho believes in exposing this corruption so strongly that he’s willing to make himself a martyr. The difficulty of getting the truth out through proper legal channels proves too circuitous, so he throws himself to his death as a last-minute power play to get Soo-jin arrested. He deliberately incriminates her in his death.

Soo-jin is left with a choice. Dong-ho has written a will that exonerates her, but if she doesn’t admit to all the corruption charges it’ll disappear. She can either go to prison for murder, or for her real crimes. It isn’t much of a choice, but it’s the only one she’s going to get.

Justice Is Hard To Come By

While Soo-jin names and shames all of the corrupt politicians and officials, she denies direct involvement. Most of the truth is out, though crucial aspects of it – namely Soo-jin’s role – remain hidden. This is the way of things in politics more often than not, but The Whirlwind manages to contrive an unusually happy ending.

Despite Soo-jin riding high on becoming Acting President of South Korea, she’s undone once again by Dong-ho, who had Jeong-yeong bug her office with a hidden camera. When Man-gil, who is being publicly blamed for murdering President Jang, begs Soo-jin to reveal that she was really the culprit, the whole thing is live-streamed. Soo-jin incriminates herself.

Was Dong-ho Right?

The main question floating around The Whirlwind is whether Dong-ho was right to do the things he did to secure the outcome he wanted, a classic twist on the old “do the ends justify the means” dilemma.

As I suggested above, I’d argue that Dong-ho’s martyr ending and general preservation of his reputation is him getting away with things, in a sense. Yes, he managed to expose Soo-jin and everyone else involved in the corruption, but he had to play a similar game to do it. That game comes at a cost, and it was one that Dong-ho, regardless of his goals, was happy to pay.

Soo-jin, too, claimed to have dreamed of democracy. In her prison cell, she reflects on the idea, and on what Dong-ho did, seemingly concluding that he had a point. It’s a little late for that though, isn’t it?

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