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The Park family as a whole

  • Badass Family: They fought a giant monster.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Hee-bong is a single parent who has to work hard to keep his family afloat, sometimes unintentionally having caused Parental Neglect; the eldest son Gang-du has an Ambiguous Disorder and is clumsy and absent-minded; the other son Nam-il is an alcoholic anarchist; and the daughter, Nam-joo, while a high achiever, chokes under pressure.
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  • Price on Their Head: They each get a price on their head after becoming fugitives.

Park Gang-du

Played by: Song Kang-ho

The eldest son of Park Hee-bong, Gang-du is a slow-witted single parent who works at his father's snack stand. When his daughter Hyun-seo is captured by the monster, he fights with everything he has to save her.

  • Action Dad: Has elements of this, especially at the end.
  • Action Survivor: Has hardly any skill at fighting over the course of the movie, yet is incredibly tenacious and has generous strokes of luck. For example, when the monster first attacked, Gang-du manages to hit it twice with a sign and he still manages to run away fast enough.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: He has no medical history of a mental disorder, but his father hypothesises that something in his brain must have gone wrong for him to be this way. He seems clueless about proper social conduct, like when he gives his daughter beer and eats his customers' food. This is likely part of his neurological condition possibly developed from his childhood protein deficiency. He was a very early reader as a child, and in a deleted scene Hee-bong recalls Gang-du reading from a calendar when he was never taught the Korean alphabet. He also has a specific interest, but that interest is in his daughter and being a good father to her, even though he's hapless at it.
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  • Badass Unintentional: He never prepared himself for an attack by an enormous mutant, yet he ends up drawing blood from it with a sign, forcing his way out of a military hospital under anaesthetic and finally spearing the creature with a pole. All so he can try and go back to his ordinary, undistinguished life.
  • Break the Cutie: Over and over and over.
  • Bumbling Dad: He absolutely loves Hyun-seo and she means the world to him, but he feeds her beer and he can't even gather enough money to pay for a new phone.
  • Butt-Monkey: Partly due to the fact that he's not the sharpest tool in the shed, poor Gang-du hardly catches a break throughout the entire movie. Not only is he disrespected by his siblings and even his daughter, but the American and Korean doctors put him through hell, taking tissue samples from his neck and inserting fluids into his head, even after he finds out there's no virus.
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  • The Cassandra: The doctors holding him in captivity refuse to believe that Hyun-seo is still alive, because he was the only witness to her distress call. When it looks like someone finally believes him, they wonder why he didn't call the police or the military, only for Gang-du, who bursts into tears because the doctor's translator keeps interrupting him, to explain that they won't listen to him.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He's mild-mannered and rather slow-witted, but much stronger than he appears.
  • Delinquent Hair: He likely dyed his hair as a form of teenage rebellion. His rebellious streak is further implied when he tries to say to Hyun-seo that he started drinking beer when he was in middle school.
  • Determinator: Won't even let doctors stop him from trying to save his daughter. Throughout the film he's anaesthetised, lobotomised and attacked by Agent Yellow, and he's still going.
  • Dumb Blond: Has dyed blond highlights to show that he's irresponsible and not very bright.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: The Optimist.
  • Gasshole: Not shown, but we take Hee-bong's word for it when he recalls his experiences of managing his son at the stall.
  • Heavy Sleeper: Has frequent narcoleptic timeouts due to protein deficiency as a child. For much of the time he's only fully awake whenever his fatherly instincts kick in.
  • Iconic Outfit: His green hoodie, grey shirt, baggy grey trousers and blue converse, not to mention his gaudy blond highlights.
  • Important Haircut: His blond highlights are gone by the end of the film.
  • Idiot Hero: He's more absent-minded and impulsive than necessarily stupid, but he counts.
  • The Klutz: He's always tripping over things. Notably, it all ends in tragedy.
  • Made of Iron: Surviving Agent Yellow, for a start.
  • Manchild: Sensitive, immature and impulsive.
  • Meaningful Name: "Gang" means "river" in Korean, which makes sense since he lives by the Han River.
  • The Millstone: To the point where his siblings actually consider leaving him behind. Moments later he gets his father killed by the monster when he miscalculated the number of bullets in his gun.
  • Missing Mom: She passed away when Nam-joo was an infant. Or she possibly just left. The film isn't clear on the details.
  • Nice Guy: He loves his father and daughter, and doesn't judge his siblings no matter how much they judge him.
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween: The Nice.
  • No Respect Guy: He only manages to garner any respect from his father, and one or two times he disrespects him in return, despite his genuine love for his family. Even his daughter, whom he loves more than anyone, gets exasperated with him. He doesn't even get any credit by the press for helping Sergeant White to attack the creature, and is implied to have not been rewarded for killing it.
  • Not So Different: There are similarities between him and the monster, both being a result of a society gone wrong (Gang-du being mentally disabled because of his lack of proteins in his miserable childhood and the monster being a mutation caused by environmental pollution). The similarities are highlighted by details like both of them slipping and falling several times in the film.
  • Papa Wolf: Is extremely protective of his daughter, and goes into this mode full swing after he learns that the monster killed Hyun-seo.
  • The Pigpen: He never bathes, and openly and unselfconsciously does indecent things in public like scratch his genitals, or wipe his tinned squid stained hands on his hospital bed.
  • Plot Armor: The amount of things he survives in the film puts him beyond Unluckily Lucky. For every amount of abuse, verbal and physical, that he goes through, he's never caught by the creature every time it charges at him, and like his siblings, manages to survive Agent Yellow without coughing up blood like the demonstrators who were within feet of him.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Starts shooting madly at the monster as it flees to a bridge... while Hee-bong and Nam-il are in his way.
  • Self-Made Orphan: By accident, after he miscalculates the number of bullets left in his assault rifle and gets his father killed by the creature.
  • Stealing from the Till: He's not even very good at it. He takes loose change from the till to pay for his daughter's phone.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The demonstrators spell his name "Kang-doo".
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: After he breaks out of quarantine, he suddenly gains swimming abilities that he didn't seem to have before.
  • Tender Tears: He cries about eight times over the course of the movie. Who can blame him, though?
  • This Loser Is You: He's a typical everyman who gets thrown into conflict, practically by accident. What makes him stand out, however, is his tremendous physical strength and unshakeable determination.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Gets increasingly skilled with a stop sign and even uses it to kill the monster at the end.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Wacky Parent to Hyun-seo's Serious Child. He's definitely more childish than her.

Park Hee-bong

Played by: Byun Hee-bong

Gang-du, Nam-il and Nam-joo's father, and Hyun-seo's grandfather.

  • The Atoner: Tries to be a better parent after failing to tend to Gang-du properly. In a way he was successful: Nam-il graduated from college and Nam-joo became an Olympic archer.
  • Badass Grandpa: He certainly has the attitude down, and he proves it, too, when he helps Gang-du escape the hospital for the first time.
  • Dope Slap: Gives one to Gang-du and Nam-il after he realizes that Nam-joo isn't in the escape vehicle with them.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: The Conflicted
  • Papa Wolf: He will fight tooth and nail if anyone lays a hand on his children, especially Gang-du, whom he feels needs him the most.
  • Parental Neglect: Due to his social class, he's had to work so hard that he inadvertently neglected the young Gang-du, and blames himself for how slow witted his son turned out.
  • Sacrificial Lion: He dies from a skull crack by being thrown about by the monster's tail, after Gang-du accidentally gives him false hope.

Park Nam-il

Played by: Park Hae-il

Hee-bong's younger son and the middle child, Nam-il is a college graduate and former political protester.

Park Nam-joo

Played by: Bae Doona

Hee-bong's youngest and only daughter, Nam-joo has worked hard to escape her class background and become recognized as an athlete.

  • Action Girl: Even though she cracks under pressure in contests, she's still very skilled, athletic and even manages to get the monster in the eye.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Not as much as Nam-il, but she still disrespects Gang-du, and they both get easily bored when their father defends him.
  • The Archer: Her Weapon of Choice.
  • Broken Ace: Easily the most skilled of the family, but has a huge inferiority complex about how she compares to her competitors. Doesn't stop her from holding her own against the creature.
  • Cool Aunt: Aside from Hee-bong, she seems to be Hyun-seo's favourite relative, judging by the photograph of them together at the end.
  • Cool Little Sis: Gang-du's younger sister and much more high achieving than him.
  • Disney Death: She appears to die when she's hurled against a wall by the monster while calling Gang-du to tell him Hyun-seo was trapped near Wonhyo Bridge, but it turns out she was just knocked unconscious.
  • The Ditherer: Her main flaw is that she hesitates to let an arrow fly at the most convenient moment.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: The Apathetic.
  • Iconic Outfit: Her red tracksuit.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Along with Nam-il, she considers abandoning Gang-du because she thinks he'll just screw everything up. Hee-bong tries to defend Gang-du and explain to her that he can't help himself... only for Hee-bong to die thanks to a miscalculation from Gang-du.
  • Made of Iron: She's thrown against a wall by the monster's tail and survives. Like her siblings, she is also resilient to Agent Yellow.
  • Mighty Glacier: She is smaller and leaner than most examples, but although very strong, she's painfully slow.
  • Nice Mean And Inbetween: The In-between.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Despite not listening to her father's pleas to be as nice to Gang-du as she can, she sets aside her contempt for her big brother and trusts him enough to help her save her niece, when she calls him to tell him which sewer she's in.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: She and Nam-il are not seen again after the creature is killed.

Park Hyun-seo

Played by: Ko Ah-sung

Hee-bong's granddaughter and Gang-du's only daughter.

  • Adorably Precocious Child: Though somewhat innocent, she's also brave, intelligent and resourceful.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Downplayed. Thirteen-year-old Hyun-seo's disrespect to her father isn't without reason, seeing as he's an idiot who can't even buy her a proper phone, and though he loves her, he's an embarrassment. She's also the most stable person in the family.
  • Defiant Captive: She may be trapped in a sewer by a flesh-eating mutant, but she's much more than just a helpless child. She also attempts to be a Damsel out of Distress.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: The Realist.
  • The Heart: Hyun-seo is the only one of the Park family that they all mutually love.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: She saved the little boy Se-joo as she was eaten by the monster.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. The monster kills her after she tries to escape and get help for Se-joo.
  • Missing Mom: Her mother ran away from Gang-du when she was born.
  • Morality Pet: To her entire family. She brings out the best in them.
  • Plucky Girl: Even when captured by the monster she fights to escape. How she survived her plunge underwater is a miracle in itself.
  • Promotion to Parent: Hyun-seo pretty much becomes Se-joo's surrogate mother after he survives being swallowed by the creature and regurgitated back out again.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Though she's scared during her entire time in the sewer, she becomes braver and more mature in the face of danger.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Serious Child to Gang-du's Wacky Parent. She's much more level headed than her father.

Se-joo

Played by: Lee Dong-ho

Sergeant Donald White

Played by: David Anselmo

The Monster / "Gwoemul"

Voiced by: Oh Dal-soo

  • Acrofatic: Although not fatty, it's somehow just as agile as it is huge and stocky.
  • Body Horror: For starters, there appears to be fish merged into its back and its "hands" used for walking just consist of more arms with hands on them, being webbed evoking amphibian features. It also has a tumorous overgrowth around its right eye.
  • Eaten Alive: What ultimately happens to the people that it actively seeks out or just so happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Gang-du. Both are products of society gone wrong; Gang-du has a neurological condition because of his lack of proteins in his miserable childhood and the monster is a mutation caused by environmental pollution. Also, both are Made of Iron and are resilient to Agent Yellow.
  • Eye Scream: Is shot in the eye with an arrow by Nam-joo, and in a deleted scene Gang-du tears out another of its eyes
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: While its set on fire and blinded in its right eye, Gang-du lands the killing blow by ambushing it with what's left of a biohazard sign and stabbing it through its throat when it tries heading back to the river.
  • It Can Think: Several times in the film:
    • It seems to deliberately use a bill of money as Schmuck Bait to catch its prey (in this case, a government worker who spotted it on the road).
    • It feigns weakness when Gang-du seemed to have got a good shot in, only for it to immediately get up and run away towards the river when Nam-il starts shooting it... only for it to turn out that action was also a ploy as it returns and rams into Hee-bong with his jaw, instantly killing him, and attempting to take his corpse as leftovers.
    • After they accidentally attract the monster's attention and hide back into the pipe they were in before, Hyun-seo and Se-joo quickly try to escape while the monster falls back asleep... even though as Hyun-seo quickly realizes while she's climbing the makeshift rope, it was feigning sleep the whole time and grabbed onto her at the last second, putting her back. Cue the two freaking out and trying to get back to their safe spot only to get eaten right then and there.
  • Kill It with Fire: While it was pre-occupied with Nam-il throwing molotovs at it, the homeless man from prior in the film dumps gasoline onto it and into its mouth. Nam-joo then shoots an arrow tipped with one of the flaming clothes from the thrown molotovs into its right eye, causing it to be set aflame on its right side and likely also from the inside as well, driving it into a panic and ultimately getting killed by Gang-du when it tries to escape.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Its towering, super strong, and can sprint faster than a human can run. Not only that, but it also has heightened dexterity, giving it even more mobility.
  • Made of Iron: Survives several shotgun blasts, even some at close range. Near the end, the chemical that was supposed to kill it, Agent Yellow, barely phases it but still leaves it in a coughing fit, whilst people most nearest to the center in comparison are obviously sickened to the point of coughing up blood, proving just how resilient it is.
  • Mutants: Heavily implied to be created from the resulting formaldehyde that was purposefully leaked into Han River.
  • Prehensile Tail: Seen being able to grab onto railing underneath bridges, pick-up people with relative ease, and perform acrobatic feats with it, in-fact.
  • Rasputinian Death: Its poisoned by the Agent Yellow released on top of it; when that doesn't work, it gets stabbed with a metal rod, then shot in the eye with an arrow that just so happens to have a lit molotov cloth on it, then lit aflame afterwards from the outside and inside of its body due to having gasoline poured onto it and into its mouth prior, and then finally gets impaled through the throat with the same metal rod.
  • Swallowed Whole: Despite having visible rows of teeth, it prefers to eat like a frog or salamander by swallowing its prey whole whilst forcing them down. It only partially ate Mr. Yoon, though.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Even though it was rather cunning throughout most of the movie, for some reason it drinks the gasoline that the homeless man pours down on top of it, which leads to it being set on fire. This is likely because it had never seen gasoline before and confused it for some kind of polluted water.
  • Toxic Waste Can Do Anything: If formaldehyde could actually heavily mutate a creature into something similar to this thing, well, let's just say that it probably would be banned in a lot of places.
  • Tragic Monster: While its victims suffer an even worse fate, the Gwoemul is still a tortured animal working under natural instinct rather than actual malevolence, and a harsh reminder of how unnecessarily cruel and ignorant humanity can be.
  • Wall Crawl: Another movement option it chooses in order to escape as Gang-du learns the hard way when his father is killed just later.
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