“Don’t Buy the Seller a.k.a Target (2023)” takes audiences on a harrowing journey through the perils of online transactions, unraveling a suspenseful tale that delves deep into the dangers of the virtual world. The plot centers on Soo-hyun, a hardworking woman who falls victim to a fraudulent online seller. As Soo-hyun grapples with the aftermath of her online scam, the film skilfully explores themes that resonate with contemporary societal concerns. The pervasive risks of online shopping from unverified sources emerge as a central motif, warning viewers about the potential dangers lurking behind every seemingly good deal. This article contains spoilers.

Don’t buy the seller (Target, 2023) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The movie begins with pop-ups of second-hand products being sold all over South Korea. A man in a metro had put up an ad for a MacBook and was interested only in meeting or talking to female buyers. He finally gets a response from a girl, and he makes sure to make an excuse and make her meet him in his house. At the time of the meeting, he receives a message from her that her brother will arrive to check out the MacBook since she is stuck with some work.

Meanwhile, the story’s protagonist, Soo-hyun, has difficulty working. She is yelling at her construction workers for messing things up. Because of this, she is getting yelled at by her manager, Kim. She accuses him of calling her to have personal conversations, but he refuses and says it was her imagination. She goes out for coffee with her friend and colleague Oh Dal Ja, who teases her that Manager Kim is probably in love with her. On their ride back, Soo-hyu mentioned that her washing machine was not working when she moved to a new place.

Dal Ja tells her that many second-hand ones are available at cheaper prices online. Meanwhile, the man from the metro is disappointed because the girl isn’t coming. He lets the brother in, and he checks out the MacBook. The brother gives the cash to the man and stabs him. He uses the victim’s phone to tell his friends he is going to Busan to meet a girl. Soo-hyun is working late at the site, and Manager Kim joins her by bringing her food. He offers to fix her washing machine but is disappointed that Dal Ja joined them at Soo-hyun’s house.

Manager Kim could not fix the washing machine at the house and was asked to leave. The killer puts up ads on second-hand websites to sell all of his victim’s stuff. He gets many responses and starts to deliver the products. Soo-hyun is browsing the sites and finding a fantastic deal for a second-hand washing machine. And immediately transfers the money and waits for the delivery. A handyman visits to assemble the washing machine and tells her that the device is broken, and Soo-hyun is annoyed as she is a victim of online fraud.

She checks out the seller’s details and can’t find his ID. Then, she visits the police station and files a complaint, and they tell her that she has to wait a couple of months before they start the investigation as there have been a lot of such cases in recent times. Soo-hyun shares the story with Dal Ja and asks her to let it go since she was a part of a scam before as well. Soo-hyun is mad at her for not telling her about such important details. Subsequently, Soo-hyun decides to buy a brand new washing on EMI.

Soo-hyun is determined to catch the fraud and finds a pattern in all his ads. He would mention that he was immigrating and needed to sell the product urgently. She responds to all the people who had enquired about the effects that the seller was a scammer. The scammer messages her and asks her to stop posting comments. She starts a conversation with him and abuses him for cheating people.

He warns her to stop her act, but she continues to abuse him. The killer started to hack Soo-hyun’s phone, and she didn’t know. Soo-hyun gets to work the next day, and Manager Kim uses the phrase I’m warning you which makes her suspect him for a minute. But she moves on from that thought. Later, she has lunch with Dal Ja, but she continuously gets a call from people asking her if she had posted about a free sharing washing machine ad. She gets annoyed and tells them she hasn’t. Furthermore, she finds the post in her name and comments that she was hacked and a scammer posted the ad.

That night, she starts receiving food deliveries to be paid in cash. She tells them she hasn’t ordered food, but more delivery guys arrive at her doorstep. The next day, she put a note on her door which said she hadn’t ordered anything and it was currently under police investigation. She revisits the police and tells them about the situation. The police decide to visit the location and find the man behind this.

At the location, the landlady does not allow the cops to enter the house as the boy would not like it. Soo-hyun gets home to find the note she had put up to be removed. She checked the CCTV, but there wasn’t any footage. Soo-hyun changed her phone number. Dal Ja stays with her until as late as she can, and they reminisce about the time they were living together. Dal Ja leaves the house, and a man with a helmet watches Soo-hyun from afar.

The next day, Soo-hyun arrives to find a man installing CCTV in her house. He gives her instructions and leaves. At work, she texts her mother about their AC, and her mother asks her to transfer money to a store. She finds the texts suspicious since she was already scammed in the same manner. She asked about her dad, who responded that he was at work. That’s when she knew it was the seller, as her dad had passed away.

Don’t buy the seller (2023) Movie Ending Explained
Kang Tae-oh in Don’t Buy the Seller (2023)

That night someone was trying to enter her house and upon asking the man told her that she had invited him to sleep with her. Soo-hyun threatens to call the police, and she does call them. She gets a message from the killer to send him 5 million won within 5 minutes, and he would stop. She contemplates but does not send. Another man comes to her door, but luckily, Detective Joo is there to rescue her. They arrest that man immediately. The seller messages her telling her about her background, freaking Soo-hyun out.

Soo-hyun convinces Detective Joo to visit the student’s house again, but after reaching there, they find the student’s dead body and all his stuff is gone. The police find another victim of the crime who had gone through what Soo-hyun was going through. She told the police everything and mentioned the seller made his last move by entering her house and trying to harm her. Dal Ja covers for her at work, and she gets home early.

She reaches home, and Manager Kim is at her doorstep, forcing himself to enter her house and be with her. She manages to push him out and lock herself in. Because of the things she is going through, it is scary for her to trust another man, and she is a little suspicious of Manager Kim. On her desktop screen, a message pops up saying she was home earlier than usual. The police checked her house entirely and the CCTV footage but couldn’t find anything.

Soo-hyun faints, and she is brought to rest in the police station. She wakes up briefly and falls unconscious again. Soo-hyun was taken to the hospital. When she leaves the hospital and gets a call from the seller, he asks her to meet him, give 10 million won in cash, and turn her phone off. He warns if she were to inform the police, things would start from the beginning. Soo-hyun agrees to the deal. Detective Joo is trying to reach Soo-hyun, but he is attacked by a man in the helmet and is left unconscious.

Meanwhile, Detective Na finds out that the killer is in close proximity to Soo-hyun and tries to reach Detective Joo but is unable to reach him. The seller attempts to get inside Soo-hyun’s house, and Manager Kim stops him and abuses him for turning him into a stalker. Soo-hyun gets back home and finds the CCTV installed suspicious. She sees a CCTV in the corner and finds Manager Kim dead. Detective Na comes to Soo-hyun’s area and finds Detective Joo unconscious.

He tries to wake him, but he sees Soo-hyun being taken away by then. Detective Na follows them while waking Detective Joo through a Walkie-talkie. The chase goes on, and they meet with an accident. Detective Joo finds them, and Detective Na and Soo-hyun are sent to a hospital while the killer escapes. Soo-hyun moves houses but she is traumatized by the experience.

Detective Joo meets Soo-hyun and informs her that Detective Na is dead. Soo-hyun, on the metro, overhears people talking about a seller on a second-hand site who is immigrating soon. She realizes it is the same killer. Soo-hyun contacts Detective Joo and devises a plan to bring the seller to her so he can be caught. She takes Dal Ja’s help to begin the operation.

Don’t buy the seller (Target, 2023) Movie Ending Explained:

Online Shopping: A Risky Game?

The seller falls for it and meets up with Soo-hyun, disguised as Dal Ja. He makes an excuse to take her to her place. Meanwhile, Detective Joo is stuck in traffic and tries to stay in touch with Soo-hyun. The killer recognizes her and makes her unconscious, but he realizes something is off when the house seems empty. He loses his temper when he sees her talking to the police. Soo-hyun tells him it didn’t matter if he killed her as the police would catch him anyway, and he notices the CCTV camera.

He attacks regardless, but just in time, Detective Joo saves her. The seller attacks both Detective Joo and Soo-hyun. They keep fighting for their life. Eventually, Detective Joo pulls the killer down along with him, and Soo-hyun comes to help. They manage to kill him and save themselves. The film ends with Soo-hyun returning to work as usual and listening to the news about the killer’s death. But nothing much had changed as more such fraudsters were still lurking around.

Ultimately, Soo-hyun will be traumatized for life because of her bad experience. The film addresses the critical aspects of the dangers of the online world. No matter how many criminals of such ilk are caught, more are rising each day. Since the online world is filled with strangers, you play a trust gamble each time, hoping for nothing wrong to happen. Some aspects of the show could have been clearer, like the guy who would sit and use his phone during essential times; it seemed like an unnecessary filler in the film.

Don’t Buy the Seller (Target, 2023) Themes Analysed:

The dangers of online shopping: The film highlights the potential risks of online buying used items from strangers, especially on second-hand apps. The protagonist’s purchase of a broken washing machine leads her to become the target of a psychotic serial killer who uses the app to lure his victims. The dangers extend to any sort of online shopping that does not come from trusted sources. The power of community: Soo-hyun always had Manager Kim, Dal Ja, and the Detectives by her side, and hence she was saved from being murdered. She had a secure group of people to talk to and resolve such issues.

Dal Ja had her back until the end when she let her disguise herself as Dal Ja, putting her identity at risk because of the love and bonding they shared. Women as the easy targets: The film shows that the killer specifically targeted women living alone and away from their hometowns. To the killer, this meant that there was no one to protect them or anybody they would know to keep them safe. The killer used the trust factor to lure his victims.

Read More: The 37 Best South Korean Movies of the 21st Century

Trailer:

Don’t Buy the Seller (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Letterboxd
The Cast of Don’t Buy the Seller (2023) Movie: Shin Hye-sun, Kim Sung-kyun, Im Sung-jae, Lim Cheol-soo, Lee Joo-young, Geum Sae-rok, Kang Tae-oh, Noh Young-hak, Kim Kwang-hyun, Jo Yong-jun, Choi Jae-sup, Shin Seung-yong
Don’t Buy the Seller (2023) Movie Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller | Runtime: 1h 41m
Where to watch Don't Buy the Seller

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