Concrete Utopia (2023) Story Recap

Seoul’s concrete jungle in ruins

Just like many other big cities in the world, Seoul has turned into a concrete jungle where the desire to own a residence has led to an increase in apartment complexes. The film picks up in medias res where we see the aftermath of a terrible earthquake that has left Seoul, South Korea in ruins.

The result of the disaster has caused a large number of apartment complex clusters to shatter to the ground.

The survivors now inhabit the sole surviving complex – the Hwang Gung Apartments. At Hwang Gung, the original residents try to sustain themselves with what is left along with the many survivors from neighbouring complexes who are here to seek refuge.

Due to a scarcity of resources and a possible threat to the apartment complex, the original residents of Hwang Gung Apartments come together and finalise a plan of action.

Hwang Gung residents are superior

The core team of Hwang Gung Apartments are Guem-ae and her son Ji-hyuk, Min-seong and his wife Myeong-hwa, Do-gyun and the team leader – Young-tak. The residents decide that in order to stop their resources from depleting, they would rather try to survive for longer.

Since their apartment complex is the sole surviving building, the original residents of Hwang Gung decide they are “superior” to the other survivors.

Under Young-tak’s leadership, the residents trick the neighbours into leaving their complex and leave the young and old alike to die in the extremely cold climate. Myeong-hwa and Do-gyun are the only two people who are against this discrimination but they are left with no resort but to co-operate because of Young-tak and the rest.

Myeong-hwa bites her anger down after seeing her civil servant husband, Min-seong, follow Young-tak’s orders without batting an eye.

The members of Hwang Gung start working as a team and establish their own civilization where they group together and share the resources that the men go out to collect. The men who go out on scavenge hunts notice how the outside world is in ruins while their apartment complex is trying to maintain some order under the leadership of Young-tak. Hwang Gung residents try to live in harmony as they have celebrations and gatherings in their new reality. 

External threat to the Concrete Utopia

One day, a young girl named Hye-won shows up at the apartment complex and threatens the order that Young-tak has established at Hwang Gung. Hye-won had fled with her mother after her father was found cheating with a different woman. After the earthquake, Hye-won is separated from her mother and heads back to her house in Hwang Gung.

Coincidentally, Hye-won is Young-tak’s neighbour but fails to recognise him. As Young-tak is the new hero of Hwang Gung, he is threatened by Hye-won. One day, Young-tak shows up at Hye-won’s house and tries to intimidate her, forcing her to “recognise” him.

Meanwhile, Young-tak continues to keep the law and order in Hwang Gung in check. After learning that a few residents were hiding survivors from other apartments, he has them forcibly thrown out of Hwang Gung as they are left to die.

Do-hyun is not happy seeing this and jumps off the building killing himself. The residents give him a funeral and cremate Do-hyun’s body due to threat of cannibals showing up at Hwang Gung. 

Mo Se-beom vs. Young-tak

Myeong-hwa is shattered by Young-tak’s actions and asks Min-seong to do something about it. Min-seong wants to comply with Young-tak’s orders as he prioritizes the survival of his family. Myeong-hwa chats with Hye-won and learns that Young-tak may be hiding a secret that no one in the apartment complex is aware of.

One day, when the men go out on a hunt for resources, Myeong-hwa sneaks into Young-tak’s apartment and tries to force his bedridden mother to reveal the truth.

The old woman only asks for more food leaving Myeong-hwa heartbroken. She looks around the house and finds a freezer inside which she finds the dead body of the real Young-tak. The person pretending to be Young-tak, a resident of the apartment actually is a taxi driver named Mo Se-beom who came to the apartment complex to demand his money back from Young-tak, a lawyer.

Se-beom had been conned by Young-tak after he had booked an apartment in a similar apartment complex. The altercation between the two men ends with Se-beom killing Young-tak minutes before the disaster. Se-beom is forced to assume the identity of Young-tak in order to survive and devotes himself to taking care of the real Young-tak’s mother and living in the apartment complex in the midst of this tragedy.

Myeong-hwa’s insurgence

Meanwhile, the men who are looking for resources get into an accident after a minor earthquake rumbles causing debris to fall on them, killing Ji-hyuk and injuring many others. Young-tak and the group come back to Hwang Gung with Ji-hyuk’s dead body. Guem-ae is shattered by her son’s death and starts panicking. 

In the middle of this chaos, Myeong-hwa reveals the true identity of Young-tak and asks him to be kicked out of the apartment complex as he did with survivors from other apartments.

Young-tak/Se-beom is infuriated by this and attacks Hye-won. He throws her off the debris and claims that he paid a huge sum to Young-tak, therefore making him the rightful owner of the apartment. 

Min-seong points a gun at Se-beom asking him to back out but the latter snatches the gun and threatens to kill any resident that came in his way. Just then, more scavengers and survivors from neighbouring regions show up and wage war with the residents in order to take over Hwang Gung. 

Civil War in Utopia

As a resul of the war, Se-beom tries his best to defend the apartment complex. Myeong-hwa and Min-seong try to flee to their apartment but Min-seong is injured when the new survivors try to attack them. Min-seong sees the ongoing war between the Hwang Gung residents and the new survivors and flees away from the complex. 

The new survivors use a makeshift bomb to attack Hwang Gung residents but Se-beom throws it out of the apartment complex, leaving many injured due to the blast. The residents see Se-beom’s grit and let him go to his apartment. Due to his injuries, Se-beom passes out in his apartment. 

The End of Concrete Utopia

Min-seong and Myeong-hwa take refuge in a nearby church. Min-seong succumbs to his injuries and dies the morning after. Myeeong-hwa sobs at Min-seong’s dead body but then is forced to leave the premises of the church when a small group of people.

The group takes Myeong-hwa in with them and allows her to live with them because she is alive and deserves a chance at survival like them. 


Read More: Concrete Utopia (2023) Movie Review 

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