‘Happiness’: How Sae-bom Became the Key to the Cure in the K-Drama

The 2021 K-drama Happiness had fans hooked on its unique take on infected humans in the wake of the coronavirus (COVDI-19) pandemic. Like any good zombie K-drama, Happiness needed the hope of a cure, and the solution came from the female lead character Yoon Sae-bom (Han Hyo-joo). She is a special forces officer who is the key to humanity’s salvation.

[Warning: This article contains spoilers for Happiness.]

Sae-bom in 'Happiness' K-drama outside wearing t-shirt.
Sae-bom in ‘Happiness’ K-drama | via tvN

Sae-bom is infected early in ‘Happiness’ during an investigation

Happiness Episode 1 sets the stage for the turmoil and tension-filled viral outbreak. After learning how Sae-bom and Jung Yi-hyun (Park Hyung-sik) met, fans are transported to the present day. Sae-bom works for the KP-SWAT team and is doing a routine operation with a new recruit. The recruit fails. While in another part of town, Yi-hyun investigates a bizarre murder.

Yi-hyun interrogates the killer and learns Sae-bom’s recruit sold an illegal drug to him. When she goes to investigate with her partner, they face the unimaginable. The recruit is feeding and tearing into the flesh of another soldier. He looks like a ravenous monster.

Sae-bom realizes she was scratched by the recruit during the fight. She meets Han Tae-seok (Jo Woo-jin), a lieutenant colonel who belongs to the health service command. He takes her to a research facility for possible infection. Sae-bom tests negative, but Tae-seok soon realizes her blood is the cure to the virus in Happiness.

Sae-bom’s blood is the key to solving the viral infection in ‘Happiness’

As the K-drama progressed, fans learned the outbreak resulted from a failed pneumonia pill called NEXT. Its side effects cause madness, loss of morale, and an insatiable thirst that forces the infected to seek blood. The virus spreads through bites or saliva.

In Happiness, Sae-bom is hyperactive and can burn off tranquilizers. Sae-bom’s blood is unique in developing antibodies that combat the virus. A fan on Reddit broke down how Sae-bom became the answer to the cure with a more scientific method.

“Like how we initially treated COVID-19, Sae-bom seems to have developed some sort of resistance against the virus. That is why quite a lot of Sae-bom’s blood was extracted in Episode 2 (looks like hemodialysis plasmapheresis): I think they’re making some sort of convalescent plasma, hoping that the antibodies from her system could work against some of the less critical cases. Basically, the antibodies that her bodies have developed (since she didn’t develop any prominent symptoms) can be used to address the spread of the virus in those cases where brain involvement had not yet occurred,” explained the fan.

Tae-seok mentions in the K-drama that the virus attacks the brain, causing madness. In the end, Sae-bom’s blood stops the virus from ever reaching the brain and helps cure fatal cases.

Did the tenants and main characters in ‘Happiness’ survive?


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By Happiness Episode 12, most of the tenants have become infected somehow. Much like Sae-bom, some exhibited mutations of the virus. But Sae-bom is the only character with enough antibodies. As the story comes to a close, Tae-seok has developed a scarce amount of an injectable cure.

Sae-bom decides to give one of the cures to the mother of the child she and Yi-hyun were taking care of. The other syringe with the cure Tae-seok used to cure his pregnant wife, who was already in the late stages of the infection. Happiness ends with the infected cured and Sae-bom and Yi-hyun becoming a couple.