Midnight Runners (2017) Ending Explained – Do the boys find the girl?

Midnight Runners Plot Summary

Midnight Runners is a 2017 South Korean film directed by Jason Kim and stars Park Seo-joon and Kang Ha-neul. It is a light-hearted, action-packed comedy film, albeit with a serious dramatic theme, an important social message and a feel-good ending.

Two rookies, Park Ki-joon (Park Seo-joon) and Kang Hee-yeol (Kang Ha-neul) take admission in the Korean National Police University. Amidst the gruelling and rigorous training, they form a bond of friendship and end up going on an adventure one night after they witness a crime.

What happened on that fateful night?

Ki-joon and Hee-yeol reach the swanky, up-scale Club Octagon and are overwhelmed with the sights and sounds; all the pretty girls gathered; the music and dance; and the celebrities frequenting the place. They have a great time, but gradually realize that this place is not for them as no one pays them any attention.

Later they are out on the street when they spot a pretty young girl (Lee Ho-jung) in a pink parka passing by. The boys decide to try their luck to befriend her, but can’t muster the courage to approach her. While trying to figure out how to talk to her, they end up following her. As they strategize, they witness the girl getting abducted by some people in a passing car.

Why do the boys decide to investigate on their own?

Ki-joon and Hee-yeol lodge a phone complaint about the abduction. They meet with Captain Kim (Kim Gang-hyun) of the Missing Person’s Unit at Gangnam Police Station and seek his help. But Kim says that he and his entire team have been ordered to search for the missing son of a business tycoon.

The boys realize that delay means peril. Plus they are the only people who know the girl has been abducted, so if they don’t do something, she’s sure to die. And to add to the moral dilemma, they are future cops after all. If they don’t act, then who will?

As students of the Academy, they are not legally permitted to conduct an investigation. They know that even if by a long shot, they do succeed in saving the girl, they can face expulsion for breaking rules. But here an innocent girl’s life is at stake and they feel obliged to fulfil their moral duty. They decide to conduct their own investigation.

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How do the boys go about trying to find the girl?

The first thing they do is return to the scene of the crime. They find the girl’s parcel which she dropped when she was abducted. It’s a food packet, containing ‘tteokbokki’. They start to enquire with all the neighbouring street-food vendors, till one elderly lady recognizes her dish, recalls the girl in the pink parka as one of her regular customers and points out to a nearby building basement where she works.

The two reach the spot, a shady ear-cleaning salon. Ki-joon stands guard while Hee-yeol goes in. The latter learns that the girl who was abducted is a minor, called Lee Yoon-jung, who’s run away from home; the whole place is illegal and all the girls working here are runaways.

He gets her address, comes out and is startled to see Ki-joon running circles around the block with two cops chasing him. Turns out the two cops were going to enter the salon and Ki-joon, in order to protect his friend, drew them away by hurling abuses at them. So, when Hee-yeol emerges from within, he joins Ki-joon and the two hot-foot to safety.

The duo reach Lee Yoon-jung’s address where a shady rogue, Gun-Young (Lee Seung-Hee) opens the door through a safety latch. When he hears that they’re from the Police Academy, he rushes off through the back exit. The duo catch him and pry out the name of the man he sold Lee Yoon-jung to and his address.

The duo then catch a taxi to the location of the kidnappers. It is one of those crime-infested areas which even the cops avoid. In a series of misadventures, they discover a number of abducted girls trapped in hellish conditions in an abandoned, ram-shackled building; get beaten to a pulp by the kidnappers; are nearly killed in the process; and finally, manage to escape to a nearby police station.

The cop on duty is a stickler for procedure and refuses to help without seeing their ID (which they have lost in the mêlée). When Ki-joon yells at him for his unsympathetic attitude, the cop takes affront and tasers and handcuffs them. They are finally released when Professor Yang Sung-il (Sung Dong-il), shows up early the next morning.

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What is the motive behind the girls’ abductions?

Professor Yang recognizes the label of ‘Menopur’, which the boys had found earlier at the hideout, as an ovulation drug, which can make a healthy woman produce up to twenty eggs or ova.

The truth that surfaces, is that a criminal gang led by a burly Yang-choon (Ko Jun) targets young runaway girls who are living anonymously. If these girls are abducted, no one will know or care and their runaway friends are scared of cops, so they too won’t report any disappearance.

Once in their custody, these girls are given ovulation drugs, and their ova or eggs are periodically retrieved, like in an egg farm. These eggs are then sold off to infertile couples for a fee. The recipient couples are mostly decent, well-off folks who are totally ignorant of the criminal activity behind these egg donations. To add to the depravity, if any girl is infertile, she is either subject to human trafficking, or worse, organ harvesting.

Why are the boys dissatisfied with the real cops taking over the case?

Professor Yang wants to genuinely help put a halt to criminal activity. He tells the boys to go back to school and leave the case to the real cops who will take over the case from here onwards. Unfortunately, the boys find that taking into account the pendency of current cases and the procedures involved, it’ll be two to three weeks before the cops can start the investigation.

Professor Yang also learns that the car involved in the kidnapping is an unregistered vehicle and the procedure to manually search CCTV tapes will take about a month. He warns the boys that if they get involved with this again, they’ll be expelled.

How do the boys take down the clinic?

Ki-joon and Hee-yeol feel that that even though it may be unlawful to embark on a rescue mission, it would be a sin, not to do so. They manipulate their classmate Jae-ho, the braggart whose father is a high-ranking police officer to reveal the name of the officer in the Gangnam CCTV centre who can help them.

It is Medusa, their old drill instructor, who could freeze a man’s blood with her fierce gaze. She remembers them and surprisingly responds in an uncharacteristically genial tone. Ki-joon lies that a friend of his was a hit-and-run victim in Gangnam by an unregistered car and Medusa agrees to help them.

The boys embark on a gruelling fitness session and also request police batons, handcuffs, taser guns and protective gear in the name of Professor Yang (unbeknownst to their teacher).

Soon they get a call from Medusa who informs them that the said vehicle has been spotted twice, on the second and fourth Sundays, with an H Fertility Clinic logo on it. So the boys now know where (H Fertility Clinic) and when (second Sunday, two days later) to launch their attack.

On D-Day, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol arrive and beat up the gangster horde. Their chief, Yang-choon (Ko Jun) is a tougher nut to crack. He’s a vicious fighter and single-handedly slams the boys around, but this time, it’s a do-or-die situation and the boys bounce back with more vigour even though they take severe beatings. They team up on the gangster chief and manage to knock him cold and secure him with handcuffs.

Soon a cavalcade of police cars stream into the clinic and the cops finally take over.

How does it end for the boys?

The faculty at the Academy are divided on what action they should take for the boys breaking the Academy rules. Half the faculty demand expulsion, insisting that if disciplinary action is not taken, it’ll set a bad precedent. The others argue that the boys did the right thing, saved over 20 kidnap victims, and they should be rewarded not punished.

The President seeks Professor Yang’s opinion, who says that if the boys had neglected the kidnapped girl, it would have been bad. If they had neglected the victims, in order to avoid punishment, that would be more dishonourable than expulsion. He confesses that he envies their passion and he misses the days when he was younger and didn’t bother about the consequences when catching bad guys.

After much deliberation, wiser counsel prevails. The boys are not expelled, but as a token punishment, they will be held back one year and have to undergo 500 hours of community service.

In the epilogue the rescued girl, Lee Yoon-jung visits the boys while they are doing community service and expresses her gratitude. They tear up as she hugs and thanks them for saving her life but they go back to their goofy selves as they show her around the campus.

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