clearn.png
Friday February 28th, 2020 10:20PM

Bong's 'Parasite' focuses on plight of South Korea's poor

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Koreans are reveling in writer-director Bong Joon Ho’s dark comic thriller, “Parasite,” which won this year’s Academy Awards for best film and best international feature. The movie itself, however, doesn’t put the country in a particularly positive light.

No doubt, the international acclaim for “Parasite,” which also won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival last May, highlights South Korea’s emergence as a global cultural power, a reflection of decades of focus on building world-class industries in one of the most vibrant democracies in Asia.

But it also hints at an uncomfortable truth: While the national successes have been spectacular — from Samsung's rise as a global economic powerhouse to the explosion of K-pop in Asia and beyond — many South Koreans recognize that there's been a dark side to that rise. Only a few years ago, Bong himself was blacklisted by the government, and the characters in his film reflect a society where many feel intense hopelessness.

South Korea's rapid emergence from the devastation of the 1950-53 Korean War also saw a bloody transition from dictatorship to democracy. Its association with neat smartphones and cars came amid a constant threat from nuclear North Korea. For every international success, there's also widespread worry that South Korea will forever be overshadowed by regional giants Russia, China and Japan.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who frequently praises mega-popular K-pop boy band BTS, tweeted that he’s grateful to Bong for “giving courage and pride to our people overcoming difficulties.”

But “Parasite”’s main characters portray South Koreans who have been left behind by the country’s dramatic changes. It's a biting commentary on deepening inequality and other problems that have many young and poor people describing their lives as a hellish nightmare.

South Korea has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor among developed nations and is struggling mightily to deal with decaying job markets, rocketing house prices and a record-low birth rate as couples put off having babies while struggling with low pay and harsh work conditions.

Although fully Korean in language, humor and tone, Bong’s dark tale of poverty and class struggle resonates across borders because Western democracies are also experiencing similar social and economic problems, albeit not as “extreme” as in South Korea, according to Chin Jung-kwon, a prominent cultural critic.

“The film shows that South Korea still has a strong message to show the world,” Chin said.

While Bong is uniquely talented as a director, it was only a matter of time before South Korean movies and other pop cultural products gained increasing acceptance in the West, considering South Korea's dynamic cultural scene, which has matured along with its democracy, Chin says.

K-pop has garnered a huge international following with an increasing number of fans coming from the United States.

With “Map of the Soul: Persona,” BTS last year became the first musicians since the Beatles to debut three consecutive albums atop the Billboard Album chart in a span of less than a year. South Korean TV dramas, which triggered the original “Korean Wave” in the early 2000s, continue to be big in Asia and other regions like the Middle East.

Perhaps more than any other genre, South Korean films have aggressively tested artistic boundaries, often with stunning visuals and violence meant to expose the underside of the country’s economic success story.

This sometimes creates political consequences for the artists.

Bong was one of thousands of artists who were blacklisted and denied government funds under the rule of conservative former President Park Geun-hye for their allegedly critical views of her administration. Following protests by millions, Park was ousted from office in March 2017 and is now serving a decades-long prison term for corruption.

Not everyone was happy about how Bong portrayed the characters in “Parasite,” which tells the story of how an unemployed family of four living in a slum basement apartment comically con their way into the lives one of Seoul’s wealthiest families before things begin to unravel darkly.

Critic Kim Gyu-hang accused Bong of objectifying poor people and treating their lives like a “sightseeing attraction,” saying that the film makes no real attempt at explaining how the system locked the characters in a desperately hopeless situation.

“("Parasite") provides no deep insight into humans, their anger and how they are a byproduct of the social system that surrounds them,” Kim said.

“Parasite”’s Oscars success follows years of struggles by South Korean directors to break through in Hollywood. Park Chan-wook, who won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival with his thriller "Oldboy," received mixed reviews for his 2013 work “Stoker,” an English-language thriller starring Nicole Kidman. Bong enjoyed both commercial and critical success with his 2013 sci-fi film “Snowpiercer,” which starred Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton along with “Parasite” actor Song Kang-ho.

But nothing that's come before has been remotely as successful as this South Korean film shot in the Korean language.

“Every society in the world experiences conflicts created by people’s efforts to move up the class ladder, and South Korean films have dealt with this issue for a long time,” said veteran filmmaker Lee Jang-ho. “Maybe Bong's dark humor and his vivid description of the lives of the South Korean poor, including their ‘half-basement’ living spaces, felt refreshing to American moviegoers."

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Entertainment, AP Online Movies News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
A breakdown of the gowns, bling and beauty from the Oscars
The Oscars closed the awards season in style, with statement necklaces and classic gowns, traditional tuxedos and some young rule-breakers
8:30AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Bong's 'Parasite' focuses on plight of South Korea's poor
South Koreans are taking immense pride in the major Oscars haul for “Parasite,” writer-director Bong Joon Ho’s dark comic thriller that won this year’s Academy Awards for best film and best international feature
8:28AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Greece: Emergency powers to build migrant detention camps
Greece's government says it is planning to use emergency legal powers to create detention centers for migrants on five Greek islands to try and speed up deportations back to Turkey
8:03AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
China virus cases rise again, 66 more on ship in Japan
China is reporting a rise in new virus cases, denting optimism that disease control measures which isolated major cities might be working
6:30AM ( 2 hours ago )
Making Oscar history, 'Parasite' wins best picture
“Parasite” has won the best picture Oscar, becoming the first foreign-language film to take home the biggest honor in film
6:25AM ( 2 hours ago )
Weinstein rape trial winds down with more defense witneses
A woman whose name came up in testimony from an accuser last week at Harvey Weinstein's rape trial is expected to offer her own version of the episode for the defense
4:36AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
South Korea's 'Parasite' wins international feature Oscar
South Korean director Bong Joon Ho's dark comedy “Parasite” has won the Oscar  for best international feature, a category previously known as best foreign film
11:49PM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: ‘Parasite’ wins best picture Academy Award
“Parasite” has won the best picture Academy Award, making history as the first foreign language film to win the ceremony's top honor
11:32PM ( 9 hours ago )
'Parasite' wins best picture Oscar
“Parasite” has won the best picture Oscar, becoming the first foreign-language film to take home the biggest honor in film
11:29PM ( 9 hours ago )
AP Online Movies News
Stocks decline amid warnings China virus still a threat
Global stocks are down after China reported an uptick in new virus cases and analysts warned optimism the disease is under control might be premature
7:41AM ( 59 minutes ago )
Volvo Cars and owner Geely consider merger deal
Swedish automaker Volvo Cars and its owner Chinese automaker Geely Holding are considering combining their businesses
7:34AM ( 1 hour ago )
Drugs fail to slow decline in inherited Alzheimer's disease
Two experimental drugs have failed to prevent or slow mental decline in a study of people who are virtually destined to develop Alzheimer's disease at a relatively young age because of rare gene flaws
7:33AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Iraqi officials: US will grant vital Iran sanctions waiver
Three senior Iraqi officials say the U.S. has signaled its willingness to extend sanctions waivers enabling the country to continue importing vital Iranian gas and electricity imports
2:31AM ( 6 hours ago )
Puerto Rico's economy in limbo as governor rejects debt deal
Puerto Rico's fragile economy is facing an uncertain future after the island's governor rejected a settlement announced late Sunday with bondholders that would reduce the U.S. territory's public debt by 70%
12:05AM ( 8 hours ago )
Trump budget to face skepticism, overwhelming politics
President Donald Trump is preparing a $4.8 trillion budget plan that rehashes previously rejected spending cuts while leaving Social Security and Medicare benefits untouched
10:27PM ( 10 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
A breakdown of the gowns, bling and beauty from the Oscars
The Oscars closed the awards season in style, with statement necklaces and classic gowns, traditional tuxedos and some young rule-breakers
8:30AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Greece: Emergency powers to build migrant detention camps
Greece's government says it is planning to use emergency legal powers to create detention centers for migrants on five Greek islands to try and speed up deportations back to Turkey
8:03AM ( 36 minutes ago )
Oscar parties: Pitt goes right in, Phoenix engraves-and-runs
Winners and losers reveled alongside each other at the annual parties that mark the end of Oscar night and the Hollywood awards season
8:03AM ( 37 minutes ago )
China virus cases rise again, 65 more on ship in Japan
China is reporting a rise in new virus cases, denting optimism that disease control measures which isolated major cities might be working
7:56AM ( 43 minutes ago )
South Koreans explode with joy over 'Parasite' Oscar wins
South Koreans are reacting with rare collective joy after director Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” won the Oscar for best picture and three other awards
7:50AM ( 50 minutes ago )