Father Baek In ‘Goodbye Earth’ Explained: Does Father Baek Have A Change Of Heart?

The life of a Catholic priest demands significant sacrifices. After undergoing at least six years of rigorous training at the seminary, they relinquish their past lives to serve the people of their parish and those in need selflessly. However, in the dystopian world portrayed in Goodbye Earth, where an asteroid is set to crash into the Korean peninsula, the reality is far from ideal. As the impending catastrophe looms, anarchy has taken root in the Korean city of Woongcheon. Amidst the chaos, the government authorities and the wealthy have abandoned the country, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves. In this desperate situation, some men have stooped to the deplorable act of trafficking children, while others have formed cults, capitalizing on the hopelessness of the desperate people. 


In this depressing world emerges the figure of Father Baek, a man who has seemingly abandoned his principles and life’s work for the sake of securing a one-way ticket to a safe zone, turning his back on the very people who looked up to him as a spiritual guide and beacon of hope. He has forsaken the people he vowed to serve, but for what? Self-preservation? On second thought, as bizarre as the descent of humanity in this dystopian series sounds, it is not very far from reality. Haven’t we been choosing which children to feel bad about and whom to turn a blind eye to? Perhaps that is something depicted very accurately through the portrayal of morally ambiguous characters like Father Baek, a man whose personal interests overpower his values. 

Spoilers Ahead


Who is Father Baek?

Father Baek, an influential and respected Catholic parish priest in the town of Woongcheon, South Korea, played a pivotal role in the lives of his parishioners. However, as law and order began to crumble in the face of an impending crisis, Father Baek found himself apprehended by the JIU authorities, presumably for inciting violence. Despite the protests of his devoted parishioners, he was taken into custody, leaving his flock bewildered but still clinging to the belief that their revered leader must have a plan.

In the feeble Catholic community of Woongcheon, where many of the faithful were underprivileged and turned to religion as a source of solace during such existential distress, Father Baek had been a beacon of hope. His absence left a void that the young Father Sung-Jae struggled to fill, finding it challenging to cater to the spiritual needs of the people and keep their hopes alive in the absence of their esteemed leader. Little do the parishioners and Father Sung-Jae know that Father Baek has been harboring his own plans in the face of the asteroid crisis.


What do the parishioners find out about Father Baek?

Donating money for the upkeep of the church is part of Catholic tradition, and as faithful parishioners, the folks in Woongcheon maintained their responsibilities. However, with the crisis at the door and unemployment on the rise, some of these folks wanted any financial help that they could afford. Some of them even wanted the church to return their money. But, with Father Baek missing, it wasn’t possible to open the parish safe either. After Sister Chae-hwan sets fire to the church, with the fire personnel’s help, she finally breaks into the church vault, only to find that it has been cleared empty. This revelation brings a darker truth to light among the poor parishioners. It is implied that Father Baek had himself been involved in some shady business and possibly rampant child trafficking as well. 

Of course, the conspiracy ran deeper than everyone had thought. Typically, nobody expects a spiritual leader to be involved in child trafficking. But again, this is not an ideal world, and Baek turned out to be a self-entitled, aging priest who thought his life meant more than the lives of the innocent children he turned his back on. The parishioner’s suspicions are solidified when Sung-jae and Chae-hwan find dashcam footage of the father sneaking away from the church with the bags of gold, accompanied by Manager Im and the Chief of Staff’s driver. This video provides evidence of Baek’s association with the Wooncheon Training Center Cult and proves that the Chief of Staff himself is involved in the heinous crimes the cult is committing. 


Why did Father Baek join the cult?

Father Baek was a man of God until he figured out that life on Earth, or at least that part of Earth, was doomed. Perhaps the idea of death by a space rock made him question his faith and the existence of his Judean God as well. Death is supposed to bring meaning to our actions, at least according to the Christian faith, but Father Baek gives up his principles to save his life. Even when confronted about his actions, Father Baek dares to defend his actions and gaslight Se-kyung. He believes that he deserves to be saved, but to me, it sounds like he is justifying the killing and abuse of innocent children just so he can save his own life (which sounds awfully close to real life). 

Being a priest in the city of Woongcheon, Father Baek had become quite an influential person. He had enough influence to get his parishioners out of trouble with a single phone call. But when people like the Chief of Staff had been left behind by the Korean Government, Father Baek realized that his religious influence had run its course and he himself had to crawl through the dirt to leave the country and his people behind. This is the reason he joined the cult. The cult was also associated with the gang of child traffickers, who were unanimously making a lot of money for the government in exile. Moreover, Baek converted all the parish donations into gold. The only resource was becoming more expensive with every passing day. 


What happens to Father Baek? 

Ultimately, Father Baek’s fate is indeed met with divine punishment. When the US military plane arrives at the Woongcheon military airport to airlift the ‘elites,’ Father Baek is left behind. Earlier, Se-kyung had deliberately delayed the Father with the excuse of a confession, and by the time the priest arrived at the airport, the plane had already taken off. It is only later revealed that the plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, with no expected survivors. Perhaps, in the belief that there’s a mysterious man in the sky dictating incidents as we speak, Father Baek had a bigger purpose, or perhaps he had to face a graver punishment for his sins. If the father had arrived at the airport on time, he would’ve boarded the plane and died a relatively quicker death without torment. But that did not happen. 

Father Baek did not see this coming, however. One can assume that the fact that he loses this opportunity to flee serves as an eye-opener. He becomes embarrassed to even face the parishioners, and he locks himself in his room. Guilt-ridden, every day becomes a torment for the priest as his mental health deteriorates as well. He becomes weighed down by his guilt, and because of his depleting sanity, he even starts to experience symptoms of dementia. With the asteroid only a few weeks away, Father Baek shows up to an evening gathering at the church and confuses it for the Christmas mass. While he’s initially judged by his parishioners, even they begin to feel sorry for him after they come to realize what has happened to their once-loved priest. 


Even though Father Baek has been quite a detestable character throughout the series, he represents our own selves in this dystopian world. Father Baek’s presence shows what desperation and the need for self-preservation can do to a person whose lifestyle of choice is to be selfless in the service of their God. Father Baek was a symbol of hope for all these helpless parishioners. Hope is a pillar that upholds our existence, but when that very symbol of hope is corrupted, these people come to realize that the world is indeed ending.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Shrey Ashley Philip
Shrey Ashley Philip
A teacher, photographer, linguist, and songwriter, Shrey started out as a Biotechnology graduate, but shifted to studying Japanese. Now he talks about movies, advocates for ADHD awareness, and embraces Albert Camus.

Latest articles