“12.12: The Day” is a historical drama based on real-life events in Korea. The film focuses on the time between the planning and execution of Chun’s coup. Chun leads the Hanaoe group, a private group within the Military that is more interested in money and politics than protecting the country’s citizens. Jeong, the Chief of Army Staff, and Capital Garrison Commander Lee Tae-Shin do everything possible to stop Hanaoe and Chun from taking over Seoul.

This article contains spoilers.

12.12: The Day (2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film opens with a sense of unease in 1979 as President Park’s death is announced to the Military by the Prime Minister of Korea. The Prime Minister calls for martial law effective immediately. General Jeong Sang-ho is appointed Chief of Staff, and Chun takes charge of the Defense Security Command (DSC), which takes the lead on President Park’s assassination investigations. The people of Korea did not see a better country with the death of the dictator Park. General Chun gives a press conference stating Dir. Kim has shot the security chief and notes that Jeong, the director of army staff, is now not under suspicion.

Jeon calls for General Lee Tae-Shin and asks him to be the Capital Garrison Commander (CGC) since he is not greedy and does not play politics. Despite being old school, Jeong believes Tae-Shin is a brilliant soldier. However, Tae-Shin declines the offer no matter how often he is asked. Jeong knows about a private group of soldiers called the Hanaoe who are interested in playing politics and taking over Seoul. Meanwhile, Chun enjoys the media attention and thinks of himself as a hero since he is receiving all internal Intel now that he is the DSC commander.

In his meeting, Jeong announces that soldiers should not play politics and focus on protecting the country, which makes some soldiers uncomfortable. Then, Chun takes the opportunity and asks Jeong to make General Roh Tae-Gun the leader of CGC. Jeong asks him to focus on his investigations and let him make decisions as the Chief of Army Staff.

Chun tries to frame Jeong for President Park’s death

Jeong expresses his fear of Hanaoe taking over Seoul to Tae-Shin, who is appointed as the lead of CGC. Chun rallies his troops of Hanaoe men to take down Seoul while Tae-Shin’s men help him identify who the Hanaoe men in his command are. Chun tries to bribe Jeong to be on his side, but Jeong understands what Chun is trying to do and asks the Joint Investigation to start reporting to him every three hours to keep track of everything that is going on.

12.12: The Day (2023) Movie Ending Explained
A still from 12.12: The Day (2023)

Chun gets restless and now wants to arrest Jeong for conspiring the assassination of President Park. Meanwhile, Jeong is worried about what Chun can do and decides to disband the Hanaoe members and move them to different army posts further away. Chun has men inside the government and is informed of Jeong’s decision. Chun meets with Roh, tells him it is time to turn the tables soon, and tells him about his plan to frame Jeong.

Roh is uncomfortable because they might be put behind bars if the mission fails. However, Chun asks Roh to trust him and convinces him of the plan. Chun has a Hananoe meeting with the Lieutenants and Generals and tells them about the plan. Like Roh, the men are worried but are convinced when he promises to get the new President’s approval for the arrest. The plan is set and ready to be executed.

Jeong’s kidnapping

Tae-Shin’s men inform Tae-Shin that he has been invited to Chun’s birthday party along with General Gong and General Kim. Since Chun will also be leaving the unit, he wants to celebrate. Tae-Shin is not convinced as easily, but Chun presses his men to ensure Tae-Shin attends. The plan is in motion. On December 12, Chun reaches the President’s office to get approval, and Chun’s men visit Jeong’s residence to arrest him. Tae-Shin and the other Generals arrive at the location, but Chun is not present. Chun’s men keep the party entertained, buying some time. Chun’s men don’t wait for Chun and kidnap Jeong while shooting at the Marines along the way.

However, the President is unwilling to approve Jeong’s arrest without the presence of the Minister of Defence. Witnessing the chaos with Jeong, the other ministers escape from their residence and go into hiding. Tae-Shin realizes something is wrong, visits his unit, and is informed of Jeong’s kidnap. Jeong’s soldier, Kwon, informs Tae-Shin that the DSC has attacked. Roh asks his men in the President’s residence to bring Chun immediately.

Tae-Shin’s warning

There is an order to arrest Chun immediately, but chaos ensues within the Army since Chun’s men are also soldiers. As one orders Chun to be arrested, the other asks the Marines to let Chun go. Chun and his men barge through the barricades and escape. Tae-Shin issues an arrest warrant on Jang Min-gi, Won Gyung, and Jin Young-do and fire at sight if there is resistance. The Vice secretary calls DEFCON 1 on all army personnel. Chun is not ready to give up yet and gathers his men to find the Minister of Defence.

The Minister tries to get foreign aid, but since it’s an internal war, they cannot help him. Tae-Shin calls one of his Generals, but he is with the Hananoe and asks someone else to take the call. Tae-Shin soon realizes what is happening and warns Chun to send Jeong back. If Chun does not, he will come with tankers to crush Chun and Hananoe. Hananoe realizes Tae-Shin will not make empty threats and prepare their defenses.

Chaos within the Military

Since many Generals are in Hanaoe, Chun calls the airborne division to defend themselves. The Hananoe are worried as pulling men out of the border is dangerous. Chun manages to convince Roh again, and they order men to be brought from the border. Tae-Shin knows which airbornes support Hananoe and talks to the other airbornes for help. Unfortunately for Tae-Shin, Chun’s men can listen to all the conversations and give opposite orders to men on the ground, creating confusion within the Army. The second airborne under Chun’s men’s command is moving into Seoul.

Tae-Shin has a plan to close the bridges to reach Seoul by creating a traffic jam. DSC Chief Secretary contacts the 9th division, tells him he knows about his conversation with Tae-Shin, and asks him to make a wise choice. The 9th division commander tells Tae-Shin that their conversation is being heard and apologizes for not helping. Meanwhile, Chun takes his men to the President for approval for Jeong’s arrest. Tae-Shin stops the 2nd airborne single-handedly by standing in the middle of the road. The 2nd airborne gets a command from the seniors to return.

12.12: The Day (2023) Movie Ending Explained
Another still from 12.12: The Day (2023)

Chun meets with Hee-chul from the 30th command and pushes him to send the 2nd airborne to the bridge. The 2nd airborne has no other choice but to return. The Vice Secretary deals with Chun, and both parties pull back airborne. However, Chun has different plans, and his airborne starts moving in. Tae-Shin’s plans are failing, and only the CGC is left to fight. Most of the other Generals have switched sides except Tae-Shin.

12.12: The Day (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

Will Chun be successful with the coup?

Even though Tae-Shin’s men ask him to switch sides, Tae-Shin rallies as many men as possible. Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence is found and captured. Tae-Shin arrives at the Hanaoe’s location with four tankers and asks the soldiers to surrender, as Tae-Shin knows they are forced to work under Chun’s command. Tae-Shin threatens all the men with Chun that he will fire at their exact location with high explosives. The Hanaoe men are worried, and Chun gets to the ground to convince Tae-Shin to stop the madness.

Chun leaves Roh in charge of bringing more airbornes. Chun asks Tae-Shin if he intends to blow up the entire Seoul, including the civilians, but Tae-Shin ignores him and orders his Colonel to fire in 5 minutes. About 30 seconds are left for the high explosives to be fired when the soldiers hear the Minister of Defence’s voice. The Minister asks Tae-Shin to fall back, but Tae-Shin is concerned since the Minister uses Chun’s communication line. The Minister also says he has spoken to Chun, and Tae-Shin needs to be on standby. Roh asks the Minister to give an order.

Tae-shin is ultimately stripped of his command and left powerless. Tae-Shin’s men are upset, but Tae-Shin asks them not to follow him. Tae-Shin starts climbing the barbed wires to finish Chun, but CGC men are ordered to fire at Tae-Shin. Tae-Shin tells Chun that he does not deserve to be called a soldier or even a human being. Chun’s men arrest Tae-Shin. Tae-Shin is imprisoned and calls Jeong to find out if he is in one of the rooms. Chun takes a break to urinate and laughs like a maniac for having won. Chun forces the President to approve the arrests of those who opposed him and he himself becomes the President, serving two terms. The President does as he is told but on an ex post facto basis. The film transitions and ends with real-life pictures of the men involved.

The ending reveals that the members who went against the Hanaoe were all arrested and tortured for crimes they didn’t commit. Chun and Hanaoe won by manipulating the Army and took control of the country, making the civilians suffer. Towards the end, Chun laughs like a maniac without any remorse. That laughter is evil, and he is rejoicing, having created a civil war for his desire for money and power. Chun does not seem to have any remorse whatsoever. It takes us through a dark part of Korea’s history, though fictionalized for the sake of a film.

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12.12: The Day (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of 12.12: The Day (2023) Movie: Hwang Jung-min, Jung Woo-sung, Lee Sung-min, Park Hae-joon, Kim Sung-kyun
12.12: The Day (2023) Movie Genre: Drama/History/Mystery & Thriller | Runtime: 1h 41m
Where to watch 12.12: The Day

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