Honorary Reporters

[Movie review] Portrayal of satire ‘Hell Joseon’ gets Boon Joon-ho's 'Parasite' four Oscars

Feb 10, 2020

The cast of 'Parasite' at Oscars 2020

By Honorary Reporter Arachika Kapoor from India

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ creates history at this year’s Academy Awards with winning the Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture Award.


It is not often when cinemaplexes in India showcase films belonging outside the Indian or the American industry. However, after Bong’s tragicomedy ‘Parasite’ became the first Korean film to win the Palme d’Or, the movie was released across various cities in India. So much so, some colleges in the country are also running free screenings of the film.


A mix of drama, dark comedy and mystery, Parasite focuses on social inequalities. The Korean people relate the theme of the film with the satirical term ‘Hell Joseon’. It is a popular expression among young Koreans to refer to the socioeconomic struggles in South Korea.


The film starts with the impoverished Kim family (father, mother, teenage son, and a daughter in her 20s), searching for a free Wi-Fi signal. They let the smoke of a street de-pollution drive into their semi-basement residence as a free disinfectant. As parasites, they leech whatever they can.


While the Kims live in poverty, we meet the Park family on the other side of a gated mansion who are opposites of the Kims, both economically and socially. The film thus follows the plan of members of a poor household to become employed by a wealthy family. In the process, they have to overthrow poor Moon-gwang (who is already working there), and her husband (who has been living in the basement at the mansion for around 4 years now, to hide from loan sharks).

The Kims are parasitic, but so are the Parks. They cannot manage basic tasks without their servants, whose services they leech, to refine their lives. According to the director, there are no actual villains in the film. Indeed, the Park family is nice - though, as the Kims note, “They are nice because they are rich.” The villain is capitalism that forces the Kims into disgrace and recklessness.

Towards the end, while fighting for their place, the Kims trap Mun-kwang and her husband, Kun-sae, in the basement. However, during the birthday celebration of the Parks’ baby boy, Kun-sae manages to escape from the basement and stabs the mother of the Kim family. The youngest Park faints at the sight of it, and his parents demand Mr. Kim to drive them to the hospital, even when his own daughter and wife are bleeding to death.


It is then when he realizes that they are repressed by servitude. He thus, in a gush of emotions, stabs Mr. Park and runs away to hide in the basement of the Park mansion.


Mr Kim is now the new resident in the basement, and the mansion gets taken over by a German family; but one thing remains constant - there is still someone impoverished living beneath a wealthy family.


In the last scene, the director plays with fantasy - the son of the Kim family hugs his father in the huge lawn of the Park house that is now owned by the Kims. However, the scene soon returns to the half-basement Kim residence where the son is writing a letter to his father, promising him to earn enough money to take over the Park mansion soon and to rescue him from the basement.

According to Bong, the ending suggests that the son will never be able to earn enough to buy the house.