“Strangers From Hell” Ending Explained. What Really Happened!


“Strangers From Hell” is a 10-episode OCN drama that aired its finale on October 6.

The ending was shocking but the buildup sort of gave it away. There remain some fans who have not fully understood “Strangers From Hell” ending and today I am going to explain what exactly happened.

“Strangers From Hell” is one of those dramas that can be seen a culture study, the way I understood it at least. Our protagonist, Jong Woo, comes from a humble background, his brother is sick as the drama implies and his mother relies on him. In previous episodes, she calls him to ask for money for his brother hospital bills. There is no father figure to take care of the family as implied in previous episodes as well. This all plays to shape Jong Woo’s character.

In Korean society, superiority is a huge part of the culture; this means that if you don’t come from a wealthy family or a great background, you’re considered a punching bag. Jong Woo struggled with that and seems to harbor hatred to society and to certain people that he still deems below him. His sunbae who finds him a job is only interested in connecting with his girlfriend; he mistreats him and steps on him whenever he gets the chance.

He is also left feeling isolated, misunderstood by his peers and neglected by his girlfriend who refuses to take him seriously or even listen to him. He has no figure to rely on because of his family difficult circumstances, he’s left to deal with it all alone and it broke him.

It is hinted throughout the show that Jong Woo has deep mental issues. In certain scenes of the drama you see him imagining beating someone to death before snapping back to reality. He shows glimpse of his deranged mind here and there throughout the drama runtime.

There is the incident that happened during military service that deeply affected him and shaped his character, while on the exterior he can be considered quiet and timid, when he’s pushed to a corner he snaps. Instead of expressing his anger as each situation comes along, he suppress that for the sake of ‘seniority’ or respect to elders/those in power. Due to that, he’s considered the type of character that doesn’t often get angry but when he does, he wreaks havoc.

If you’re asking how all of this plays into the fiasco that is the ending, it’s because it’s a combination of things that led to the ultimate showdown, it is what explains why Jong Woo snapped all of a sudden and killed four people when he’s never killed before.

The environment, the pre-existing mental issues and the drugs that the ahjumma gave him all led to this moment, he was a ticking time bomb. Moon Jo found that out and groomed him.

To answer the first burning question, yes, Jong Woo killed the four of them and yes, the doctor, Moon Jo (played by Lee Dong Wook) was real. Moon Jo was a cannibal dentist that enjoyed killing people with cold blood and he did it with the help of people at that dorm. He’s a psychopath who can spot one in the making.

Moon Jo had been planting ideas in Jong Woo’s head this whole time knowing how hard he was trying to suppress everything inside him, you can say that he basically groomed him to become a killer before getting killed by his ‘creation.’

I truly believe that deep down Moon Jo thought he could groom him to become his sidekick and that they’d go on killing sprees together. You can also see that he deeply understands his character and his struggles because he’s always watching from afar.

I firmly believe that Jong Woo alter persona killed Eom Bok Soon, Yoo Ki Hyeok and Byeon Deuk Jong, when he snapped back of it, he can’t recall what he’s done. He pictured himself as if he just broke free from the chair and held on to a knife to kill Moon Jo with.

His facial expressions while killing the three others differ from his expressions as he’s fighting Moon Jo, which suggests that developed dissociative identity disorder, his other alter ego is the killer that Moon Jo helped groom, while the humane part of him has always been the timid Jong Woo who only killed in self-defense.

After he kills him, he start hallucinating again thinking that he’s talking to the dead person he had just killed which helps his humane side cope with what he’s just done. That’s when his girlfriend hears him mumbling to himself.

From now on, Jong Woo’s alter ego which is personified by Moon Jo, will make casual appearances to go on a killing spree, he has become Moon Jo. Moon Jo might be dead but he lives on inside Jong Woo’s mind.

For the last scene where Jung Hwa sees Moon Jo its only part of her own imagination, she’s suffering from PTSD due to the traumatic experience. She previously noticed that Moon Jo was stalking her as well.

Some people seem to believe that the detective reaction to this doesn’t make any sense, while I will not try to justify their stupid actions, in retrospective, it’s not like every day you’d stumble on a dorm filled with people who’d slaughter others, this type of goishwan attracts the lowlifes of society that many really don’t care deeply about, hence, if they’d gone missing, not many people would care.

I personally believe the detectives concluded that Moon Jo killed all of them before having a showdown with Jong Woo because it wouldn’t make sense to think someone like Jong Woo would snap and kill all of those people.

When fighting for your life, you’re not thinking about not harming the person in front of you, your survival instincts kick in and all you want to do is survive. This is why detectives will rule Jong Woo actions against Moon Jo as self-defense.

While us viewers knew what happened and how Jong Woo character basically deformed throughout the drama run time, it’s not easy for the average human being who has no insight to this whatsoever to conclude that Jong Woo killed them all.

There are many ways to go about explaining the ending of “Strangers From Hell.” It’s a drama that’s filled with metaphors; everyone will interpret it according to their own understanding of the plot. Regardless, I think its an interesting take on the human nature and how circumstances can break or make a human being.

If Jong Woo didn’t have those tendencies to begin with or if he had been in better circumstances that allowed him to leave without having to sacrifice his pride, he wouldn’t have ended up the way he did.

What did you personally think of “Strangers From Hell”?


  1. Wow now I understand. Thank you so much. When I saw the ending, I thought Lee Dong wook was still alive. But if he’s alive, how could police found the four bodies. Now I get it, why Jong Woo saw Moon Jo at the ending. Thank you so much for your analysis. You enlighten me :))

          • Yup. This is exactly how I interpreted the ending. I love the fact that was not easy to guess and require a bit of thinking and guessing. What a brutal yet clever ending!
            Well done OCN!

          • I’d name this drama “The Makings of a Murderer”. The reason why there was no story about the lives of the people in the dorm is bacause the focus is only on Jong Woo, his life, his situation and circumstances. In here, we witnessed how he transitioned from a normal guy to a psychopath in a world with strangers.

            What made this drama a lot more interesting was that all of them possess strong characters that would either scare you and make you sick while watching. The events are unimaginable, but watching it convinces the viewers that yeah, it may happen in real life.

        • Your explanation makes a lot of sense.I am very afraid of how complex at the same time simple,the human mind can be.This drama just made me remember a movie “Stanford Prison Experiment”.Every human actions can be highly influenced by environment,Jong Woo was already a ticking time bomb but his environment made him explode and reveal his image nature.OCN did a good job on this one.The actors did an amazing job.

        • I also think like that because the scene where lee dong wook dies: he was wet and Jong Woo not but they showed the scenes where jong woo kills erveryone, so he was on the rooftop and get wet because the rain and not lee dong wook, so it was jong woos imagination that he killed him but he is not dead.. I think it was someone else who died there because jong woo stabed the person on the face, so no one could see the face.. lee dong wook was not an amateur

          sorry for my bad english

          • I’m really sure, that Jong Woo was only imagine to kill Moon Jo.. the knife is fallen from his hand, and mumbling “Don’t kill me” coz Moon Jo has threatened to kill Jong Woo if he don’t obey Moon Jo’s command, and we can see in some snap of the episode that Moon Jo was very dangerous if there’s something wrong or not goin in his rule (his command must be obey).. no one can refute her command except they choose to killed by Moon Jo’s hand..

      • But then again they never said Mun jo is dead. They said ” jong woo said that he killed him and judging by the state of the dorm we’ll rule it as self-defense. ” And eun ji heard jong woo fighting with himself, which makes me think maybe he never had that final showdown. And maybe mun jo is actually free and that’s why the cop saw him. I don’t think she would see him if she suffered from ptsd either because he was the one who she associated with the case but never really went head-to-head with. And we see mun jo hammer jong woo in “the showdown” but while in the hospital it didn’t look like he had any broken ribs. He was moving way too fluidly. So I think that Mun Jo saw to it that jong woo killed them all told him he was a masterpiece and probably disappeared. Maybe he was visiting(stalking) jong woo when the cop saw him.

    • this drama was really good, with characters who build up in first episode till the end and plot was really to the point. at the end i have same conclusion with this article that Mun jo has been alive inside Jung Woo’s mind and that was so tragic. so we have to learn this drama that we have to caring each other. i wondering if jung woo’s girlfriend not abandoned him or in office the officemate not disturbing him with annoying things maybe his not gonna be “metamorphosis” subject.

  2. Shouldnt there be 6 bodies? Moon Jo, landlady, the intellectually challenged guy, the singlet guy, Jong Woo’s friend and the lady Jong Woo saw when he was dragged up by Moon Jo at the beginning of the last episode.

    • So, that lady was actually Jong Woo’s friend. Suk yun, yun suk. Not sure. But if you look at it again. They show that “she” is wearing white and then it goes to his friend who was wearing a white bloodied shirt and his hands in the same position as the lady. I actually thought that it was jong woo’s girlfriend because his hands looked so pretty lol and I think Mun Jo never had that final showdown with jong woo. Jong Woo’s gf remembered him fighting himself, maybe he imagined it all and mun jo disappeared.

    • But there should be 6 bodies actually, landlady, mentally challenged guy, the newest tenant, Jong Woo’s army friend, mun jo and the pervert guy. Assuming Mun Jo is alive, there should still be 5 bodies. So maybe it was a mistranslation or we’re not talking about either the army friend or newest tenant because they were’t directly involved.

  3. Jong woo didnt actually kill Moon Jo, the small knife or whatever it was fall….and His Girlfriend saw him talk alone.
    There’re 4 corpse, yep its the new guy (may be should be 5)

    I still believe Moon Jo being alive, nevertheless who’ll deliver the book then?

    • When the police lady gave Jong Woo the book, she said that they found it on the 4th floor. But there’s another question, when did Jong Woo give Monn Jo the book?

      • I think it was a subtle hint that it was Moonjo himself that was breaking into the room as there was a scene of a shadow hovering over Jong woo when he was sleeping.

  4. Because Jong Woo was writing a crime novel that was mentioned throughout the drama, I thought that perhaps the story that took place was Jong Woo’s story that he was writing about himself as the main character and that the strangers in the studio were all fictional.

    However, I believe that Jong Woo really did snap and attack his superior at work and that the cannibal dentist existed as well but was always an enigma that Jong Woo never really understood.

    I like your explanation better though, and that the novel was merely a distraction so the audience would wonder if what was happening was real or not.

  5. I agree with a lot of things you said, but there are two things I disagree with you. First, I don’t believe the dentist is dead, but that the entire showdown scene was merely an illusion in Jong Woo’s mind. Here’s why:
    1. (I also only noticed this after someone else pointed out) when the cop girl visited Jong Woo in the hospital, the teeth bracelet was not on his wrist and only appeared AFTER she saw the dentist in the hospital elevator and ran back to check on Jong Woo
    2. the overall lack of injuries on Jong Woo despite being so brutally beat up by the dentist during their showdown, together with the scene of Jong Woo choking himself that his girlfriend witnessed, it is more likely that the entire showdown did not actually take place but a fragment of Jong Woo’s imagination
    3. when the thug was asked about who killed who, there was one picture short: the rapper boy, plus the body count was also one short…judging from the angle of Jong Woo’s final blows he was probably aiming for the dentist’s face, so there was one body whose facial features were completely destroyed…it’s not impossible that the “body of the dentist” was actually the rapper boy’s, switched out by the dentist while Jong Woo was out cold
    As for the second thing, even if Jong Woo did kill the dentist, I’m pretty sure the dentist meant for his most perfect creation to kill him, with the end of his life acting as the final sacrifice to awaken Jong Woo’s inner devil completely, and his spirit living forever on with Jong Woo. The only evidence I have are the satisfied smile on the dentist’s face as he was killed and the fact he lost to Jong Woo at all…I mean the drama showed again and again that Jong Woo is physically inferior to the dentist AND he just fought+killed four people, so if the dentist meant for Jong Woo and him to live happily ever after, there’s no way Jong Woo could’ve overpowered the dentist the way he did.
    I’d like to hear your ideas on this:)

  6. Moon Jo isn’t dead because it showed the replay of what actually went down that night. It was all staged because Moon Jo told Jong Woo to kill all the rest of people in there so that Jong Woo could live and the part where his girlfriend heard him mumbling to himself is when he got himself loose from the chair that was before we went to kill them. In the end Jong Woo and Moon Jo is now a two men team of Psychotic Killers. TBH the police officer wasn’t hallucinating in my opinion because even Jong Woo saw him when he was in front of the Ambulance smiling at him. As far as I can see it had a chilling ending something is telling you that, that wasn’t the end of it. If Moon Jo’s body was found they would have been about 6 bodies so I think that’s actually it.

  7. Yes this is so true I thought the same ting plus how Jong Woo was a writer he made up
    the whole thing so that no one would search for Moon Jo.

  8. I think you summed it up perfectly, it was a hell of a ride.
    Absolutely one of the strongest series I’ve seen and the best series out of South Korea in my opinion.
    There are so many layers to the shared psychosis that all of the residents feel, or rather that Jong-Woo enters when close to them and how Moon-Jo creates that “reality” for him.
    It was a nail-biter and reminded me a lot of Oldboy, which is my favorite movie, with a sort of vengeance themed “What is real and isn’t? Was this me all along or was I created to be this?”-feel.

    The thing they created with characters that you dispise yet cannot help but feel some remorse for.
    In the end, the creator of them all and their mentality was a cannibalistic serial killer who fostered them to be what they were.

    Can’t help but feel the strong criticism that leaked out against Korean society structures and the polices incompetence. The fact that a female police enforcer was brushed of so easily by her male colleagues even tho she had stringed it all together for them but they were blind to it just because of that.

    Great read anyways.
    Thank you.

  9. I don’t think Moon Jo is dead, here the theories.

    1. Jong Woo couldn’t keep the bracelet in the ambulance bc it’s evidence, and he don’t have it after the police saw Moon Jo in the elevator. We don’t know if Jong Woo have the bracelet in the ambulance, we know he have it in the building.
    2. The camera focus that only belong to Moon Jo when he was stalking somebody and was the same camera focus when the police was out the hospital, and the feeling of the girl, of course could be for the shock, i’m not sure about this one.
    3. His friend could be part of his imagination bc the police says that only has direct connection with the periodist and his boss and only mentioned 4 bodies, in total we have 6, the landlady, the stutterer boy, the pervert, Moon Jo, the old friend, the new tenant, with the old friend out we have 5 (now explain the other).
    4. When the police queries the gangster and show the pictures of who tried to kill him and they’re all the tenants, they don’t show the newest (who became friend of Jong Woo) and I think by formality they should show the picture bc he still alive when the newest came, and the police says “Jong Woo stabbed and punched to a dead” so I think that could be that boy, and became the body dead of Moon Jo.
    5. I didn’t see this until the Lara comment, Jong Woo has wet his hair when Moon Jo without wounds says “You’re my masterpice” (something like that lol), so that scene is real and Jong Woo didn’t killed Moon Jo
    7. A lot of people says that the police saw Jong Woo like Moon Jo in the elevator but I think if Jong Woo was him the police should imagine with the clothes of hospital and the reflection of him in the wall of the elevator should be Jong Woo (just my opinion, I don’t think has a lot of support).
    8. The wounds of Jong Woo are nonexistent, for a fight like that he should be full of wounds and broken bones.

    Sorry for my bad english, that sucks lol.

  10. First sorry for my english. If the boy really killed all of them, why de police girl said that she heard the old lady killing the pervert?? She wouldn’t say that if it wasn’t true.

    • She realized that she was wrong when she said that. The sound she heard of the killing was actually the tooth bracelet. She didn’t realize til the end when she heard and seen the bracelet on his Wrist. 🙂

  11. I loved this drama, but I was completely confused by the ending. I saw Jong Woo as a sweet young man, that I, as a middle-aged lady, would love to have for a son. I almost cried for him, wanted to reach through the TV screen and give him a comfortable room and find a good job for him. Anyone who would buy cat food for a stray kitten and buy a rose for a lady in memory of his mom is a hero in my eyes! The other characters were despicable and I felt so sorry that he had to deal with them. I was really cheering for Jong Woo! I can’t believe he was driven to the edge. Not a good ending!


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