America Has Caught a Parasite

The unforeseen international success of the South Korean film

The+Asian+American+Association+Club+often+have+conversations+pertaining+to+East+Asian+current+events%2C+including+the+newly+found+accomplishments+of+the+2019+film+%27Parasite.%27

Maury Ahram

The Asian American Association Club often have conversations pertaining to East Asian current events, including the newly found accomplishments of the 2019 film ‘Parasite.’

Deemed “a masterpiece of serial surprises” by ‘The Wall Street Journal,’ Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is a 2019 South Korean film that defies audience expectations. The psychological and bloody plot twists left audiences with chills. The drama/mystery movie hit U.S. theaters on October 11, 2019 and became a major sleeper hit in theaters. Despite being a rated R South Korean film with little to no media promotion in the U.S., Parasite has found itself extremely well-received by American critics and audiences, generating a box office revenue of  $130.1 million worldwide. The movie exceeded expectations and won numerous notable awards, becoming the first Korean film to receive a Palme d’Or, in addition to being the first film to unanimously receive the win since Blue is the Warmest Colour in 2013. Most recently, the film has won the 2020 Oscars for Best Pictures.

The story follows the impoverished Kim family struggling to make ends meet with little to nothing. Father Kim Ki-taek (Song Kang-ho), mother Chung-sook, (Jang Hye-jin), daughter Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), and son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) live in a dingy apartment that is halfway underneath the ground. They live humbly, earning what they can by folding pizza boxes and saving on internet costs by chasing wifi signals from the neighboring coffee shop. One day, Ki-woo is given an opportunity by his friend to take over his job tutoring English to the daughter of the wealthy Park family, Da-hye (Jung Ji-so). Ki-woo agrees and acquaints himself with the Park family as “Kevin.” While tutoring Da-hye, he manages to convince the Parks to hire the rest of his family. His sister becomes an art therapist to Da-hye’s younger brother, his father is employed as a chauffeur to Da-hye’s father, and his mother is hired as a maid, all posing as professional skilled workers. Eventually, the Park family unknowingly all “contracts” a parasitic family, hence the title of the movie.

Parasite, ultimately, is a movie that exposes the division and disparities between the rich and poor of society. It reveals the cracks and faults of the gap and imbalance between the different socioeconomic statuses. Those at the bottom of the social hierarchy tend to risk the most and scramble to step on one another in order to reach the top of society. Those with money and status are typically oblivious to the lives of people beneath them, as showcased by the film. “The film was done in a very sophisticated manner, as it talked about many existing issues, such as immigration, poverty, family dynamics, couple relationships and even idolizing the American/English speaking culture,” said Mrs. Vivien Ngai, the adviser of the Asian American Association Club.

For a South Korean film, it has made a huge impact on American audiences. “It is no secret that Korean indie films have infiltrated mainstream media. The critical acclaim supports the notion that a film, regardless of language, can speak to the world,” said Vice President of the Asian American Association Club, Giyun Hong ’21. This is huge progress for the Asian film industry, as Parasite has not only been extremely well-received, but it has also reached theaters and people around the world. “American films dominate the entire industry. They should give more recognition to foreign films,” said President of the Cinema Film Theory Club, Sydney Gazard ’20. Although there previously have been East Asian movies relatively well known in the U.S., none of them have garnered the same nationwide success as Parasite has. Bong Joon Ho’s former films, such as Mother and The Host, have amassed a dedicated Korean audience, but his newest addition has awarded him with worldwide fame. The film has managed to open the gates to mainstream media while accomplishing several milestones along the way. The commercial and critical success of Parasite is symbolic of the leaps the Asian film community has taken and is a signal to American audiences of the future successes that the community will bring.

To watch Parasite on Amazon Prime, click HERE.

The film was done in a very sophisticated manner as it talked about many existing issues, such as immigration, poverty, family dynamics, couple relationships and even idolizing the American/English speaking culture,” said Mrs. Vivien Ngai, the adviser of the Asian American Association Club.

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