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Film / Train to Busan

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They really missed an opportunity by not calling this Seoul Train...
"I'll take you to mom no matter what."
Seok-woo
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Train to Busan, otherwise known as Busanhaeng, is a South Korean zombie apocalypse thriller. The film was directed and written by Yeon Sang-ho, who is known for The King of Pigs (2011) and The Fake (2013), and stars:

  • Gong Yoo as Seok-woo: the protagonist, an ordinary hedge fund manager in Seoul and a rather inattentive divorced dad.
  • Kim Su-an as Su-an: Seok-woo's six-year-old daughter.
  • Ma Dong-seok & Jung Yu-mi as Sang-hwa & Seong-kyeong: a muscled martial arts trainer Badass in a Nice Suit and his pregnant wife.note 
  • Choi Woo-shik & Ahn So-hee as Young-guk & Jin-hee: a "not yet dating" teen couple composed of a shy baseball player and his plucky "recently asked him out" schoolmate.
  • Kim Eui-sung as Young-suk: a businessman who is hellbent on getting to Busan, no matter the cost for others.
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Seok-woo is a busy man. Busy enough that he's been recently divorced over his workaholicism, and his daughter feels neglected. After missing her recital again, realizing he's bought the same exact present for her, and hearing that his daughter really wants to see her mother once again, he tries to make it up to her by reluctantly accompanying her on a KTX train (South Korea's state of the art high-speed train) ride from Seoul to Busan to visit his ex-wife. However, little do they and the other passengers know about the zombie outbreak that has started and is getting closer to the train. As the infection spreads, Seok-woo and the other passengers are forced to somehow survive the journey south to Busan — supposedly one of the few cities that avoided being overrun.

Premiering at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival on the 13th of May, it would eventually meet critical acclaim as the first Korean film of 2016 to break a record of over 10 million theatergoers in South Korea alone, and has grossed about 88 million US$ worldwide. The animated prequel, Seoul Station, was released less than a month later.

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The movie is currently optioned for an American and a French remake, the former being done by James Wan.


Train to Busan contains examples of:

  • Acoustic License: Somehow, the security guard watching the train misses one woman loudly running inside, who appears as soon as he turns his head.
  • Action Survivor:
    • Seok-woo to a point, since he manages to survive several close encounters with zombies despite being only a scrawny fund manager. His last encounter with an infected Young-suk leaves him infected, and he is the last seen character to succumb to the infection.
    • Seong-kyeong, who survives the entire journey to Busan while visibly pregnant.
  • Adult Fear:
    • A Zombie Apocalypse is happening, but what most people fear is that their families may not be safe.
    • Being almost single-handedly responsible for causing a national disaster.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: It happens to basically everyone but Su-an and Seong-kyeong, the most significant infections being that of Young-suk's and Seok-woo's.
  • Anyone Can Die: All but two of the characters die before the end of the movie: Su-an and Seong-kyeong.
  • Apathetic Citizens: When the first infected walks through the cars, writhing in pain, the surrounding people do not seem to notice, let alone lift a finger for her. Might be due to the passengers being asleep, as a few were shown sleeping in the beginning.
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best in People: Though It's All About Me and The Needs of the Many occurs with many of the survivors in Zombie Apocalypse, Seok-woo becoming more Papa Wolf compared to his Parental Neglect towards his daughter is somewhat a fine contrast in this film.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Train engines are specifically designed to pull several tons of train cars and cargo behind them, so there's no way a horde of zombies clinging on and literally dragging behind would be able to slow one down, even if it is still just picking up speed. Could be given a Hand Wave that it was meant to emphasize on the audience how much trouble the survivors are already in.
  • Asshole Victim: Young-suk is the second to last character to die, and his final moments are him acting as if he's still a young boy, pleading how scared he is and just wants to be with his mother. It's hard to feel sorry for him though, as he literally throws other people, including Jin-hee, to the zombies just to save his own skin.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Sang-hwa, a martial artist who's introduced wearing a nice coat. He kicks ass in and out of it. Seok-woo himself qualifies, as he gets a few good fight scenes while still wearing his fancy suit.
  • Bare-Fisted Monk: Sang-hwa doesn't need weapons to fight zombies.
  • Batter Up!: The baseball team's survivors use it as a weapon of choice, and Seok-woo uses it too temporarily.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Implied to be why Jong-gil waits until after Seok-woo and his group are forced into the next car and locked out before opening the door to let the zombies in. They risked everything to save her sister In-gil and In-gil in turn died to save them, thus were undeserving of the deaths she rained on the other passengers who caused the problem.
  • Beta Couple: There are two in the movie: Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong, an expecting couple of young adults, and Young-guk and Jin-hee, a boyfriend/girlfriend couple of teenagers.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The zombie outbreak is the day of Su-an's birthday, something she and her father talk about later on in the film.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Su-an and Seong-kyeong, two of the most endearing characters, survive and are rescued by the military in Busan; but everyone they loved are dead, and the country is still in disarray or worse, the zombie plague likely having killed or turned millions or more in just a single day.
  • Blatant Lies: The South Korean government official states that the "violent dissenters" have been contained, and that there is no reason to believe that citizen's safety may be compromised at the moment. At the same time, the newscast is showing that things are definitely not O.K., and police forces being clearly overrun.
    Government official: (as the camera pans over Seoul in flames) To the best of our knowledge, your safety is not in danger.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Young-guk slowly breaks after emerging as the only one left from his baseball team, having to fight their zombified selves, but the final nail in the coffin is Jin-hee turning, after which he just...breaks down and doesn't stop her from biting him.
    • We don't really see the aftermath, but given what they go through over the course of the film which includes their loved ones being turned into zombies and sacrificing themselves for their well-being, with the fates of the rest of their friends and family unknown, it's likely that this trope applies to Su-an and Seong-kyeong.
  • Call-Back: Seong-kyeong jokes to Su-an how her child's father has been too lazy to think of a name for "Sleepy" (her and Sang-hwa's unborn child). Sang-hwa does give her a name for the kid — just as the zombies break through and he holds them back.
  • Central Theme: How apathy, social hierarchy, and self-interest are reflected in dire situation. Saek-woo tries to impress the last of these—to look out for yourself—upon Su-an, who disagrees; his learning to set this aside is part of his character arc.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The moment you see a car full of baseball players, you know it's only a matter of time before some Batter Up! action.
    • On a one-sided phone call, Seok-Woo says that he's "just a novice" and will see his interlocutor "on the field", implying that he's an amateur baseball player. He puts his swing to good use against the zombies.
    • When the infected first reach them, Seong-kyeong is asked by her husband Sang-hwa, "You can run, right?"; she doesn't argue. In the end, she keeps up on foot with a father carrying his daughter, outpacing a horde of zombies converging on them.
    • Su-an's rendition of "Aloha 'Oe" (Farewell to Thee). Selected for her father (who missed her recital); it saves her and Seong-kyeong from being sniped by the military, as it confirmed to them that they weren't zombies.
  • Children Are Innocent: Played with Su-an. She is a gentle and polite young girl, but understands her father is a workaholic who spends zero time with his family and pegs Yong-suk as a rich jerkoff who looks down on everyone below them for not having a degree.
  • Closed Circle: All the characters have to remain on board the KTX because the only known haven is the terminus, Busan. Unfortunately, they share the ride with a crowd of infected, and the doors are easy to open. By normal humans. Infected will just keep pounding and pounding on the glass until it breaks.
  • The Coats Are Off: Sang-hwa removes his jacket before he, Seok-woo, and Young-guk begin to fight their way through cars full of zombies.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Young-suk is one, even more emphasized by his selfish attitude towards other survivors for his own sake. Even before the outbreak begins, he derides a scared, disheveled man as "never having went to college". Later, he's indirectly responsible for getting nearly everyone on board the train, save Seok-woo and his group, infected, directly responsible for infecting the train attendant by throwing him to the zombies as a distraction, and abandoning the train captain when he falls—while the captain was attempting to rescue him, no less. There's a sliver of humanity, though—it's implied he was heading to Busan to watch over his mom, if his delirious last words begging for her is any indication.
  • Covers Always Lie: One poster shows Sang-hwa alongside Seok-woo, Su-an, Seong-kyeong, Jin-hee, and Young-guk running through the wreckage of a train station. In truth, Sang-hwa doesn't even make it off the train due to his Heroic Sacrifice, and Jin-hee and Young-guk are separated pretty quickly from the other three after reaching said train station.
  • Daddy Didn't Show: Seok-woo didn't show up to Su-an's singing recital because of work, and has to catch her performance on a video. She calls him out on it.
  • Dark Reprise: Su-an's initial performance of "Aloha 'Oe" is shown at her school recital. She had practiced it with the intention of performing it for her dad, who didn't show up to the recital. She sings it loudly at the end, letting the Busan soldiers know that she's human. Fittingly, it's a farewell song — and she chose it for her dad.
  • Daylight Horror: The zombie apocalypse begins to run wild early in the morning, and the rest of the movie happens in broad daylight, save for when the train passes through tunnels. In fact, the zombies actually have to hunt in daytime; while they can still follow sounds, they're severely hamstrung if they can't see.
  • Death Course: Seok-woo, Sang-hwa and Young-guk cross five train cars full of infected in order to save their families and friends.
  • Devoured by the Horde: The ultimate fate of any defenseless human going up against a horde of zombies, because they react violently to the sight of a human. Case in point: Sang-hwa, during his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Dirty Coward: Young-suk, so desperate to get to Busan that he regularly implores leaving others behind, putting himself first, and even using others as bait. He even spends his final moments before succumbing to the infection blubbering like a baby and in vehement denial he's infected, despite his eyes starting to glaze over and Tainted Veins starting to snake their way across his skin.
  • Distressed Damsel: At one point, Su-an, Seong-kyeong, In-gil and a homeless man are trapped in a train washroom. Seok-Woo, Sang-hwa and Young-guk cross five zombified train cars to get to them.
  • Double Meaning: "Aloha 'Oe" is about bidding farewell to someone, usually a loved one, until you meet again. Well, this is a movie about the dead returning back to life and everyone around you dying...
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Young-guk could easily have left a zombifying Jin-hee alone and he could fend for himself, but he chooses to spend his last moments embracing her.
    • Hinted with analyst Kim's strange final phone call with Seok-woo, where he tearfully begs Seok-woo to tell them if they had no hand in the outbreak (their company saved a biotech firm from bankruptcy... and said firm's continued operation let out a zombie plague).
    • The elderly passenger who sees her sister die and turn because of Young-suk and the other complicit passengers, and decides to open the doors to let the zombies in as payback for letting her sister die and exiling Seok-woo and his group to another car despite them risking everything to save her sister along with their loved ones.
  • Dwindling Party: The group of survivors led first by Sang-hwa then Seok-woo loses its members at high speed.
    • The KTX train as a whole goes similarly sheds survivors rapidly, going from 8 cars of uninfected passengers after the initial outbreak is contained, to a total of 9 survivors by the time it pulls into Daegu.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: It's implied Young-suk was desperate to get to Busan to see his mother, and right before he's fully turned, he begs to be taken to his mom.
    • Well, though he's actually hallucinating that he's a small boy again (he calls Seok-Woo "mister" and lists out his home address like a lost child would to an adult), this still shows that he loves his mother.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The surviving male attendant and the rest of the random survivors in the front of the train all turn vicious and paranoid through Young-suk's leadership.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Seok-woo, when he is recalling his first memories with Su-an as he is turning into a zombie.
    • Jong-gil allowed herself to be devoured by zombies when she opened the door with the zombies after seeing her sister In-gil sacrifice herself for Seok-woo and his crew after they risked their lives to save her from the zombies, but the other passengers and Young-suk were concerned only for their own safety and lead to their unnecessary deaths, and her last moments were of her reaching to In-gil in zombie form and thanking her for everything.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Sang-hwa's phone background is a picture of Seong-kyeong's ultrasound of their child. He dies not long after we see it.
  • Final Girl: The sole survivors from the train, Su-an and Seong-kyeong, are both female. It's also implied that Seong-kyeong's fetus is also female.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Beefy Sang-hwa spends his time antagonizing the scrawny fund manager Seok-woo (at least once in front of Su-an, who does say he's right about her dad). But when Seok-woo proves himself worthy at zombie-asskicking, both become familiar enough to joke with each other. When he gets bitten, Sang-hwa entrusts Seok-woo with his family's safety, and Seok-woo holds on to his promise to look after Seong-kyeong.
  • Foil:
    • Young-suk is one to Seok-woo, if his post-infection rambling is any indication. As it turns out, both of them are motivated by the desire to protect/rejoin those close to them (Seok-woo with his daughter, Young-suk with his mother), and both initially put protecting their loved ones and themselves above the well-being of anybody else. The difference is that Seok-woo quickly starts working with and protecting others, not just his daughter; Young-suk screws over and outright murders people up until the very end.
    • Sang-hwa serves as the caring, nurturing father and husband Seok-Woo fails to be. He has a loving relationship with his wife, and Seok-woo's own daughter, Su-an, even quickly warms up to him. However, it's implied Seok-woo in the past was once a loving and caring father as well. It is Sang-hwa's example and eventual sacrifice that leads Seok-woo onto a more selfless path.
  • Foreshadowing: Sang-hwa's line to Seok-woo about fatherhood being all about sacrifice is a pretty blatant one. Both of them eventually sacrifice themselves for the well-being of their loved ones.
    • Early on, people are able to make zombies back off by removing their lines of sight. This foreshadows their inability to function without daylight, or visibility in general.
    • The elderly sisters try to give each other the remaining door-side seat. While Jong-gil reluctantly takes it, Su-an offers her doorside seat to In-gil, which leads to them both seated but separated by the aisle. Both sisters are separated into cars on either side of the infected-carrying cars.
  • Friend or Foe: The sniper got into this dilemma on whether Su-an and Seong-kyeong are either zombies or humans until a song managed to confirm them as latter.
  • Genre Blind: The KTX passengers don't seem to realize that a Zombie Apocalypse is not only happening right now, but has already reached their train. As such, they don't think much of people behaving like rabid dogs...until those "people" start attacking them.
  • Genre Savvy: The homeless man overhears Seok-woo discussing a special route to the safe zone, and, knowing they would be quarantined at the usual checkpoint, he naturally follows Seok-woo when he quietly breaks away from the group. Sadly, also a case of Wrong Genre Savvy, as everyone at the safe zone is already undead.
  • The Ghost: Su-an's mother is never seen nor heard from again after Seok-woo and Su-an get on the train, and by the end her fate remains unclear. Seok-woo attempts to contact her several times, but her phone is dead.
  • Good Old Ways: Jong-Gil displays this, commenting on people these days being spoiled as she sees a riot on the train's TV, saying that back in the day those "punks" would be arrested and re-educated, and she takes an instant liking to Su-an when the child politely offers her seat to Jon-Gil's sister, In-Gil. This comes back hard when some passengers she's with try to prevent a small group of survivors, including In-Gil, from getting into their train car, resulting in In-Gil sacrificing herself to the infected so the others can make it. When the passengers proceed to kick the small group out (including Su-an and Seong-Kyeong, a child and pregnant woman respectively, who Jong-Gil witnessed helping her sister flee from an infected earlier), essentially negating In-Gil's sacrifice, Jong-Gil has had more than enough, leading to the Nice Job Fixing It, Villain! below.
  • Go Out with a Smile:
    • Seok-woo, remembering the joy he felt holding newborn Su-An in his arms.
    • In-Gil, who helped Su-An get away, smiles at her sister before she allows herself to be killed.
  • Hallucinations: Implied to occur in the final stages of the infection.
    • First shown when Seok-woo's mother is bitten and she reverts to her suppressed resentment of Su-an's mother, and later shown again when Young-suk reverts to a childhood memory of being lost and scared, asking to be taken back to his mother's house.
    • Seok-woo, then on the verge of succumbing to the infection, recalls the times when he saw Su-an as a newborn. As the happiest memory of his life, Seok-woo falls out of the train to his death with a smile.
  • Happily Married: Sang-hwa and Seong-kyeong, in contrast to the recently divorced Seok-woo.
  • Happy Flashback: Seok-woo dies remembering the joy he felt holding newborn Su-An for the first time.
  • Hate Sink: Young-suk, a thoroughly selfish coward whose excessive assholery is as much of an obstacle as the zombies. His genuine love for his mom is his only redeeming quality, and even then he tries using it as an excuse for the remaining survivors to get him to safety.
  • The Hecate Sisters: At one point, Su-an (a child), Seong-kyeong (a pregnant young woman), and In-gil (an old lady) are grouped together, forming this trope.
  • The Hero Dies: Seok-woo throws himself off the train after getting bitten.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Halfway through the movie, Sang-hwa tries to hold a door closed against a horde of zombies so that his group — and particularly Seong-kyeong — can run to safety, and right afterwards the elderly In-gil stays behind to delay the infected enough so Seok-Woo can close the door (see Heroic Suicide below). Much later, the homeless man charges three zombies to hold them off so that Su-an and Seong-kyeong can escape.
  • Heroic Suicide: In-gil lets the zombies plow through her in order to delay their reach for the safe car's door while her sister is Forced to Watch. Later on, the homeless man does something similar to let Su-an and Seong-kyeong escape.
  • Heroic Willpower: Even while on the verge of being completely overtaken by the infection, Sang-hwa holds himself together to protect the others as long as he can.
  • Hidden Depths: Young-suk, dickhead Corrupt Corporate Executive who causes plenty of deaths in his mad rush to get to Busan, is implied by his final words to have been heading to Busan to find his mother.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Birthday.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • The entire outbreak on the train could've been contained in Car 11 if the rail attendant who discovered it hadn't left the door open before running away to alert the passengers.
      • From there, none of the passengers of the rear cars get the idea to hold a door shut until the zombies make it into Car 4. By contrast, we are indirectly shown the extent of the outbreak's spread into the front of the train when the few survivors of the baseball team reappear exiting battered and bruised from Car 12.
    • Everyone unloaded onto Daejeon even without getting a response from the ROK Army that it's safe to. Let alone, the KTX conductor fails to realize that the ROK soldiers not responding to his calls definitely should at least imply they're all dead.
    • Right after that, 6 passengers open a door to a train car without checking the window to see if it was zombie-free.
    • The paranoid survivors led by Young-suk also just believe him when he claims that Seok-woo and his group are infected, despite the fact they've seen clearly that if bitten the infected reanimate within seconds, minutes at most after being bitten and they lack any signs of starting to change.
  • Ignored Vital News Reports: At the beginning of the movie, Seok-woo skims through several articles talking about suspicious deaths of the local fauna, since he is more focused on finding a gift for Su-an.
  • Improvised Armor: Young-guk and Sang-hwa fashion makeshift forearm guards out of belts to help block bites.
  • Infant Immortality: No zombie children are shown. In addition, Su-an and Seong-kyeong (who is pregnant) are nearly shot, but are rescued at the last minute, and ultimately survive the film.
  • Ironic Echo: Young-suk assumes that the rest of the group (who they tried to abandon) are infected despite evidence to the contrary... Seok-woo later tells him the same thing when he is actually infected.
  • It's All About Me: Young-suk, who is willing to sacrifice fellow survivors (namely Seok-Woo's group being locked in next car, the train attendant, Jin-hee and the train conductor) just to keep himself alive until with him being bitten as he runs towards the last train regardless of letting the conductor die, is this trope personified. Even prior to the outbreak, he was rude, elitist, and demanding.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sang-hwa can come across as a rude man and does threaten Seok-woo at several points, but he clearly cares for the lives of the survivors and especially his wife, and he and Seok-woo do come to regard one another as Fire-Forged Friends. He even pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to save them.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Sang-hwa is constantly threatening to beat Seok-woo for his cowardice and endangering or abandoning passengers early in the film... and given how Seok-woo, at that point, only cares for his daughter, it's well deserved.
  • Karmic Death: Young-suk and the rest of the front car survivors all die and turn as a result of their paranoid and cowardly behavior, though it takes a little longer for it to catch up to Young-suk (unfortunately, as his continued cowardly asshole behavior ensures that almost all of the remaining survivors bite it too).
  • Karmic Jackpot: Seok-woo risking his life to save the homeless man pays off when he gives his life to let Su-an and Seong-kyeong escape a group of zombies. Earlier, Su-an and Seong-kyeong doing the same for In-gil to get her back on the train pays off when In-gil also gives her life to let the others in Seok-woo's group get to safety, which also saves them when Jong-gil lets the zombie hoard in... but only after Seok-woo's group is forced and locked into the next car so they don't suffer the same fate as the paranoid passengers that let her sister die.
  • The Load: Su-an, but what can we expect of a young ordinary girl against a horde of feral zombies?
  • Lock and Load Montage: Seok-woo, Sang-hwa and Young-guk take a minute or two to grab some Improvised Weapons, prepare some Improvised Armour, and psyche themselves up in preparation to cross five train cars full of infected in order to save their families and friends.
  • Lovable Jock: Young-guk, a sensitive and shy baseball player who cares deeply about Jin-hee. His friends are likely this trope as well, given how they held off the horde at Daejeon long enough for survivors to get back on the train, but they're turned into zombies before we can get to know them better.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Sang-hwa takes a riot shield from a dead policeman but gives it to Seok-woo. While it proves temporarily useful, a zombie takes it from him.
  • Marionette Motion: Zombies have a tendency to move in this way, especially after their limbs are broken. A zombie soldier had his dislocated right arm hanging behind his head after getting up from a nasty fall, and the zombies in general are able to contort and get back up exceptionally fast.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The only two survivors are Seong-kyeong and Su-an, a pregnant mother and a young girl, respectively.
  • Militaries Are Useless: Zig-Zagged. Seoul is understandably wrecked, because no one at that point knows what the "rioting" really was. In Daejeon, the safe zone and the military protecting it were overrun, but Busan's defense forces have defended their city successfully.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: During a particularly bleak portion of the film, Kim calls Seok-woo one last time, and tearfully asks him if they weren't responsible for the outbreak. When Seok-woo assures him he wasn't, he sobs a 'thank you' and hangs up, never to be heard from again. It's implied that either Kim's position was overrun, or that he committed suicide.
  • Muscles Are Meaningful: Sang-hwa's formidable build proves vital for holding barriers together and straight up brutalizing zombies with little effort.
  • Neutral Female: Due to most the main female cast being either a very young girl, a heavily pregnant lady, or too elderly, the female characters are rather consistently portrayed as unable to physically fend for themselves and depend on the male characters for survival. For example, Jin-hee helps the survivors back into train while her friends are more proactive (although it's justified in her case as her friends are athletes, while she isn't one). Seong-kyeong meanwhile covers a car door with wet newspapers since zombies react only at the sight of humans, guards Su-an, and helps Seok-woo during the fight with a recently turned Young-suk.
  • The Needs of the Many: Played with. Several people heroically sacrifice themselves to save more people. Less heroically, a dozen people try their best to keep a half-dozen people, including a young child and a pregnant woman, from getting into their safe car, out of fear that they are infected. Many more people die as a result than if they had just let them in in the first place.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: When Sang-hwa tries to hold a door closed against The Horde, Seok-woo knocks down the head of a zombie which was passing through the gap. It allows the zombie to bite Sang-hwa, who has to make a Heroic Sacrifice. Also not long after Seok-woo learns that the source of the plague is Biotech, a company he saved from bankruptcy, and although Seok-woo tries to reassure his guilt-ridden colleague that the infection is not their fault, Seok-woo himself cries from the guilt and the movie implies that he has blood on his hands.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Young-suk and the other survivors creating a barricade between them and the car Seok-Woo’s team were in allowed the latter to survive being eaten next when Jong-Gil opened the unguarded door that was crawling with zombies (and Jong-Gil’s sister).
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Of the "cross-species disease" type. The zombie plague apparently affects other mammals as well, as shown in the beginning of the movie by a deer that was run over by a truck... only for the deer to stand back up again as the truck drives away.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The train conductor leaves the safety of the train to help Young-Suk, only for the latter to turn around and use the conductor as bait to get away. Seok-woo even foreshadowed this trope by warning his daughter not to start doing things out of compassion during a time of crisis.
  • No Name Given: The homeless man, who is credited as such. Also, the train conductor.
  • No One Gets Left Behind:
    • Sang-hwa never shuts the door on anyone he sees has a chance of making it out alive, and is appalled when Seok-woo initially slams the door in his wife's face.
    • The train conductor cares deeply for all of his passengers, jumping off his train to aid a hurt Young-suk. This costs him his life.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Zombies are commonly referred to as "them," although at one point the keyword 'zombie' is seen trending on Naver.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Zombies behave more rabid than undead. They are fast moving and tend to have crazed, leering expressions. They turn after only a few moments after getting bitten, seemingly without having to die first. They are blind in any sort of darkness, but can still be attracted to noise. They're also not interested in devouring flesh — they bite until their victim is turned and run to the next target. However, the prequel Seoul Station does show that the zombies will devour flesh of dead victims, such as a zombie eating a deceased victim's arm.
  • Papa Wolf: Seok-woo, who decides to fight his way through several train cars full of zombies to save his daughter Su-an. This is one of the things that make him Not So Different from Sang-hwa, who's also fighting tooth and nail to protect Seong-kyeong and their unborn child.
  • Parental Neglect: Seok-woo is rather emotionally inattentive towards Su-an, although he clearly regrets it and shows he's willing to tango with hordes of zombies to keep her safe.
  • Plague Zombie: A biological agent (manufactured by a company aptly named "Biotech") is responsible for the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Prophet Eyes: All of the zombies have these.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Su-an is implied to be mostly cared for by her grandmother after her parents' divorce and being in the custody of her workaholic father.
  • Raising the Steaks: The deer at the very beginning. Counts for a One-Scene Wonder however as no more infected animals show up for the rest of the film.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Sang-Hwa provides most of the ass-kicking... and just so happens to do so while wearing a pastel blue, tweed jacket and an absolutely fabulous, beige scarf during the first act of the movie.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Su-an delivers one to her father, stating that he's only thinking about himself and that's why her mother left him. It shakes him enough to trigger Character Development.
  • Room Full of Zombies: Several train cars are opened only for them to be full of zombies. Daejeon is a train station full of them.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: The first stopover of the KTX train, Daejeon - the train captain is told to stop and disembark here, and Seok-woo is promised a safe zone by his corporation. Unfortunately, the army and police deployed to that area have been infected and the survivors are forced to run back to the train, which leaves just a small carful of people. On the other hand, Busan remains a safe zone at the end of the movie.
  • Shadow Discretion Shot:
    • When the zombies invade the train car full of survivors, Su-an is mercifully spared the sight of the people being killed by the zombies because the doors are covered in vapor. However, she still sees the shadows of the people futilely struggling to open the door and then being turned into zombies.
    • Seok-woo throwing himself off the train after he's bitten is shot this way.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Jin-hee is introduced as a feisty, semi-delinquent tomboy who gets her way... and her way is a soft-spoken, shy athlete named Young-guk who initially wants nothing to do with her.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The zombies act nearly identically to the film version of World War Z: fast, swarm over each other in groups, are easily duped into thinking others are zombies, and only bite to infect, not eat flesh. One swarming of zombies completely plugs up a train car almost like a wave, much like how the infected behavior in World War Z was visually similar to ocean waves. Sang-hwa even duct-tapes his forearms, just as the protagonists did in the film.
    • The ending is a big one to the original Night of the Living Dead (1968), down to the mistaken identity and sniper. However, unlike that film, the soldier hesitates to shoot long enough to realize the last two survivors are human.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: If Seok-woo's ex-wife had not implored him to accompany Su-An to Busan, she would have certainly died without his protection, and Seok-woo would have probably met the same fate in Seoul, and no better a person, either.
  • Sole Survivor: Young-guk is eventually all that remains from his high school baseball team. He could have kept forging on, but Jin-hee's death finally breaks him and he joins his friends.
  • Staking the Loved One: When Young-guk has to fight through his former zombified baseball teammates, he can't bring himself to hurt them even though they are attacking him. It also gets him killed when he can't bring himself to kill or get away from Jin-hee upon seeing her turning from her infection.
  • Synthetic Plague: Courtesy of Biotech, a company that Seok-woo's hedge fund firm saved from bankruptcy.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Sang-hwa's Last Request to Seok-woo is for him to take care of Seong-kyeong and their baby. Seok-woo eventually gets her and Su-an to Busan but at the cost of his own life, passing care of Su-an over to Seong-kyeong as well.
  • Thriller on the Express: Most of the film's plot takes place on trains or train stations filled with zombies — but it's the only way to get to Busan, so the survivors have to stay on it.
  • Throwing the Distraction: After learning that in darkness, the zombies only rely on their hearing, the group uses audio distractions to lead them away.
  • Together in Death:
    • Jong-Gil allows herself to be killed, joining her sister, In-Gil.
    • Young-guk allows himself to be killed by Jin-hee, broken by her zombification.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Understandable, due to being in a real hurry and assuming that Seok-woo and the others were crushed by another train, but Jin-hee and Young-guk really should've closed that train door before trying to break open another.
    • Of course, this wouldn't have been as much of a problem had Young-suk done the same on a few occasions instead of just running in a blind panic and selfishly throwing Jin-hee into a zombie's grasp; bonus points because he could have shut the door that time too and achieved the same results, and of course because this leads to him becoming infected.
    • Probably the worst instance of this is when the other survivors, at Young-suk's insistence (notice a pattern yet?) take their time securing the door of the compartment they forced Seok-woo's group into... while leaving the door with the actual zombie horde on the other side, completely unattended.
  • Trapped with Monster Plot: The characters are stuck on a high-speed train full of zombies and need to get to the terminus, Busan. They actually evade them in pretty interesting ways.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom/For Want of a Nail:
    • Had the guard monitoring the KTX train heard the bitten woman run onto it at the last minute, the train probably wouldn't have been overrun with zombies so quickly.
    • The hedge fund company that Seok-woo and Kim worked for indirectly helped the Zombie Apocalypse because the company saved a biotech corporation from bankruptcy, allowing it to continue its research and accidentally suffering a breach, leading to the outbreak. Whoops!
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The homeless man offers only mutterings of how "everyone is dead," clearly shaken by what he has seen. The others brush his behavior off as the ramblings of a nobody.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Seok-woo maintains contact with his colleague Kim with his cellphone, who informs him of critical information such as Busan being a safe zone.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Zombies are a) not very smart, and b) almost completely sight hunters. This means that a sudden loss of light (not even that much; their eyes seem to be fairly weak) will cause them to completely forget you exist even if you're six inches away from them and they were just about to chow down. The protagonists mostly exploit this using train tunnels, and in one instance temporarily neutralize a zombie by throwing a jacket over its head.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: The surviving humans could have easily been in the double digits with most if not the entirety of the main cast included had Young-suk not turned the other passengers against Seok-woo and his crew when they were trying to get to safety.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Seok-woo is so caught up in his work that he's rarely physically there for his daughter, and it's the primary reason he and his wife split. He gives thoughtless (but expensive) presents to her... like a Wii but it turns out she already has one.
  • White Shirt of Death: Seok-woo's white dress shirt becomes more and more blood-splattered over the course of the movie. He eventually becomes infected, and throws himself off the train in order to save Su-an and Seong-kyeong.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Su-an is very precocious and mature for a girl of six.
  • Working-Class Hero: Sang-hwa comes from a humble background and generally the more benevolent of the group.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Seok-woo receives a final phone call with his mother who succumbs to an infected bite, implying that Seoul has been overrun.
  • You Shall Not Pass!:
    • A bitten Sang-hwa keeps dozens of zombies at bay, using the last of his strength to keep them from reaching Seong-kyeong and the others before finally succumbing to the horde.
    • The homeless man throws himself at the horde to buy time for the others to escape.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: It's heavily implied everything north of Busan is kaput... and we don't hear anything about other countries.
  • Zombie Gait: Infected people stumble and lurch as they move, but they are also capable of running — very fast. Their broken bones often cause them to contort into unnatural positions as they move.

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