‘Memories of Murder’ Ending Explained: Who Is the Rain Killer?

Memories of Murder Ending

Welcome to the Ending Explained for ‘Memories of Murder’, a 2003 film written by Bong Joon-ho and Shim Sung-bo, and directed by Bong Joon-ho. The film would become Bong Joon-ho’s breakthrough as an international artist. Quentin Tarantino, who has always made his mission to promote the films he likes in interviews and articles, began to promote ‘Memories of Murder,’ which gave the movie a huge boost in the international film scene. As of right now, ‘Memories of Murder’ is considered to be one of the best South Korean movies ever made and probably one of the best in the thriller genre.

The film displays Bong Joon-ho’s amazing attention to detail, incredible level of composition when it comes to putting things in and outside of the frame, and also his mastery of mood and tone. The movie is a whiplash of emotions, as at one moment, we can feel sadness for the horrors of the murders, and the next we can laugh along with the characters and their silly antics. This mastery of extreme tones inside one movie would become one of Bong Joon-ho’s signature characteristics that other South Korean directors have tried to imitate, only to find that it is harder than it seems.


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The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Memories of Murder’. Read at your own risk.

Who is the rain killer?

‘Memories of Murder’ is a very complex and nuanced film. What seems to be just a normal detective thriller goes beyond that to transform into a wonderful character story for the characters within the film and also for the audience. The movie is based on the first murder cases in South Korea, classified as serial murder cases. A series of murders and rapes occurred between the years of 1986 and 1994 in the province of Hwaseong, South Korea. These murderers then inspired the play Come To See Me by Kim Kwang-rim, who then inspired the movie.

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In the film, the murders and rapes often happen when it is raining, which a very perceptive officer named Kwon Kwi-ok notices. However, maybe because she is a woman or the male officers are just not taking the cases seriously at that point (probably a combination of both), the detail is dismissed until it is too late, and more and more victims begin to pile on. The rain then becomes the eve of the murder, but not even the warning of rain around them is enough advantage to allow the police officers to catch the killer.

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As each new victim begins to show just how incapable the police are of performing their job, outside help is requested. A new detective from Seoul named Seo Tae-yoon, arrives, and his more methodical and serious modus operandi begins to clash with the more passionate and messy method of detective Park Doo-man, a local detective who, at least at the beginning of the film, seems more like a clown than an actual detective. The movie then focuses on the relationship between these two characters and how an unsolvable case challenges them and their methods.

The Rain Killer then becomes a ghost that slowly but truly begins to eat these men’s sanity. It is actually fascinating that these two detectives are so different when it comes to their work and their personalities. They share the pain of each defeat and the shame that comes with not being able to stop a murderer who basically has told them when he is going to attack. In the second half of the film, these characters become completely unraveled, and the movie shows its true meaning by reflecting upon the viewer of their own ideals and judgments.

Was Park Hyeon-gyu the real killer?

As the movie progresses and the detectives’ investigation goes all over the place, more and more suspects begin to appear. However, it is not until the apparition of Park Hyeon-gyu, that the movie actually wants to make us believe that this is the murder. They have finally caught up to him, and it is only a matter of time before the detectives have enough evidence to put him in jail and make him pay for his crimes. The movie, at this point, has depicted the murders as the crimes of a true monster, and so it is normal that the audience wants as much justice as the detectives.


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Park Hyeon-gyu fits the bill when it comes to finding a suspect in a serial murder. He is a lonely, sad man who doesn’t really stand out; he is calm and collected; he is serious and smart. He actually shares a lot of characteristics with Seo Tae-yoon. In fact, earlier in the movie, Tae-yoon himself is placed as a suspect as he arrives from Seoul. And so, it becomes quite a sight to behold when the often collected and serious Tae-yoon starts losing it in his chase to find evidence against Park Hyeon-gyu. Tae-yoon follows facts, and yet, there are none that can put Park Hyeon-gyu in jail. However, Tae-yoon is convinced that he is the murderer.

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Why? And how does Tae-yoon know this? This is where the meaning of the ending begins to unravel. It is clear that Tae-yoon sees himself when he sees Park Hyeon-gyu, and he knows deep inside him that anyone, no matter what, has the potential to become a murderer. The fact that he is so emotional about it reflects his own insecurities as a person who knows what he is capable of. When the doctors find semen inside the latest victim, Tae-yoon sends the evidence to the USA to see if the DNA of the sample matches Park Hyeon-gyu’s.

At the end of the movie, Tae-yoon explodes in frustration and searches for Park Hyeon-gyu, and he is about to kill him. Doo-man arrives with the test results, and Tae-yoon reads them in terror. Park Hyeon-gyu is not the killer; he might fit the bill, but he is not the killer. Does he have the potential to be?

Yes, of course, but also Tae-yoon, who actually shoots at Park Hyeon-gyu as he leaves into the darkness. It is a reflection that all this work has been for nothing, and the detectives are back at zero.

The movie finishes in a flash forward, where we see an older Doo-man, now retired from the police, returning to the scene of the first murder. He meets a young girl who asks why people are so interested in that place. She says that she saw a man search that place some time ago.

That man the girl met is the true killer, who was never caught. Still out there roaming the place. Doo-man asks for a description, but the girl can only describe the man as ordinary. Doo-man then looks at the camera and at the audience, breaking the fourth wall. The killer is ordinary, just like the audience members, and yet he kills and will probably do it again.