SOUTH KOREAN CINEMA: ‘PARASITE’ THRIVES IN AMERICA DESPITE XENOPHOBIA

LILLY WEBBER WRITES – After sweeping the Oscars and finishing the night with four different awards, including Best Picture, the South Korean dark comedy thriller film Parasite by director Bong Joon-ho has surprised international audiences and film connoisseurs alike with its success. Parasite’s victory is unprecedented in the Oscars’ history as the first film in a foreign language to win the coveted ‘Best Picture’ award. For many casual film enthusiasts, the production’s unprecedented victories in Academy Awards was their first introduction to Parasite or the experienced director Bong Joon-ho, despite the film having won the prestigious and highest award, the Palme d’Or, at the Cannes Film Festival the previous year. As of now out of the 300 nominations Parasite has received, the film has emerged victorious at a rate of 61%, having been awarded 185 accolades.

Despite the film’s brilliant commentary on class inequality in South Korea and success internationally, Parasite’s has still been negatively affected by American xenophobia evidenced by: the lack of recognition prior to winning the Academy Awards; the avoidance of consumers to watch a subtitled film, a commonality for international consumers of American media; and a plethora of racist criticism directed towards the cast. John Miller, a reporter for the conservative news website BlazeTV, commented on Bong’s limited use of English for his best-picture speech, claiming in a tweet that “These people are the destruction of America”. After the Oscars ceremony, Korean American actor John Cho, who is well known for his roles in the film Searching (2018) and as Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek reboot, tweeted that he was repeatedly congratulated and confused for being a member of Parasite’s cast by paparazzi due to his ethnicity. 

While xenophobia and ignorance may continue to be a deterrent to Parasite’s success, Bong does not appear discouraged, but rather according to an interview conducted by E. Alex Jung, tartly amused that no other South Korean film has been nominated prior despite the Asian nation’s thriving film industry. With regards to his nomination and just before being awarded four separate accolades from one of America’s most celebrated film awards ceremony, the Academy Awards, Bong brushed off the event, commenting that “…The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.” However, Bong is not without appreciation for the recognition, hoping that Parasite’s victory will not continue to be rarity for foreign films in future film festivals.

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