WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the movie Parasite
By Iris Choi
Director Bong Joon Ho is the mastermind behind the four Oscar award winning movie- Parasite. The movie won the Best Picture, Directing, International Feature Film, and Writing (Original Screenplay). He created this movie in the idea of showcasing the struggles through symbolism of both poor and the rich family of Park family and Kim family. Social class division in South Korea is a topic that many refuse to talk about, especially since Korea has been constantly evolving their buildings, industries and urbanization. If you’re ready, keep reading .
In the movie the father Kim Ki Taek played by Song Kang Ho, the mother Kim Chung Sook played by Jang Hye Jin, their two kids Kim Ki Jung played by Park So Dam, and Kim Ki Woo played by Choi Woo Sik.The story begins with a shot in an half underground house called 반지하 (Ban ji ha), it is the cheapest houses you can live in in Korea. These houses are vulnerable to mold, leakage, bugs and smells.
The family are sitting down together folding pizza boxes for their part time job. They do their best to finish all the boxes as soon as they can, when the pizza box collector comes by she tells them that they have to deduct 10% off their pay because ⅓ of the boxes are folded incorrectly. The siblings work together to smooth talk to the collector to ease the tension.
Ki Woo’s sunbae, upperclassmen, asks Ki Woo to take over his tutoring request for a rich family. Ki Woo takes the job and his sister makes a fake document for him through Photoshop. When Ki Woo is accepted by the mother to tutor her daughter, Ki Woo suggests her sister to help with art therapy for the son. The mother gladly accepts, but doesn’t know that they are related in any way.
Soon the whole family is working for this rich family, the Kim family is finally seeing hope in rising above the poor. But that’s when things go wrong. They found another hidden area in the house, which was built by an architect back in 1980. The extra room was to hide away from Tax Collectors or to take shelter during the war.
In the room was another man that had been surviving off of food from the former maid that worked in the house since the creator of the house. They have been hiding away from debt collectors after going bankrupt in millions of dollars. The Kims fight the couples and ends up killing the former maid. The Kims rush to hide this news and continue to live their normal routines.
At the son’s birthday party, the Kims and other rich families are invited. But this is when everything went messy. The man that was living under the house comes out and stabs the Ki Jung in the heart as revenge. People are frantically collecting their kids and running away, as the Kims try to fight back. The father fights, but ends up murdering the man. The father runs away and we can hear Ki woo’s dialogue for the rest of the movie. Ending with a hopeful letter to his missing father in hopes of finding him.
Now I will be telling you some hidden symbolism in the movie. When Ki Woo is walking up the hill to the rich family’s house, you can notice that he continues to go up. Up the small steps outside of the house, the steps inside the lawn, and finally another shot up the stairs inside the house. This represents the gradual rise above the poor.
When the Kims find the couple secretly living under the house, the formal maid calls the mother(unnie) which means older sister, used as a respectful way to address an older female. But The mother refuses to be called an unnie by the maid since she sees them in a different level of poverty than her. Remember the Kims live in a half underground house, while the couple is completely underground. The half underground house represents the Kim’s family of hope of being above the surface. The mother calls the couple disgusting and asks them how they aren’t ashamed to live in such a poor conditioned ”house”. Even though the two families aren’t much different from each other.
In the movie the rich father mentions how Ki Taek never crosses the line. We can see this symbolism played through over and over during the movie. Notice when the former maid goes up in the backyard to wake the rich mom, the maid crosses the line made by the glass.
When Ki Woo is laying in the grass when the rich family is out for a camping day, he is also crossing the line on the window. When Ki Taek first meets the rich man, he is sitting very close to the line, but doesn’t cross it.
In the movie poster, it also contains spoilers for the story line. You can see the legs of the former maid on the grass, Ki Woo holding the stone that later becomes a weapon, the rich man’s son in the back with his teepee.
If you are interested in other gut twisting, heart clenching, unpredictable works by the amazing Bong Jonn Ho, check out the rest of his works:
- Okja 2017
This movie was released to bring attention to the meat industry. Okja is the name of a hybrid creature that is a hippo sized super pig. These pigs were handed out to people in different parts of the world in different environments, they are given time to grow these pigs as healthy and big as they could. A grandpa and his 10 year old granddaughter raise the pig on a mountainside in Korea. The bond between the girl and the pig is unbreakable. But when the collectors arrive, things turn ugly. The industry is greedy and evil wanting to mass produce the most delicious meat out of these super pigs.
Stream Okja on Netflix
- The Host 2006
The movie is about a chemical dump in a large river called Han river in Korea, which created a mutated sea monster. Six years later, people go missing and the monster rises out of the water and attacks people. The government and the military have to come up with a plan to stop this monster. I remember watching this movie with my dad when I was six years old. This movie traumatized me at a young age and I get flashbacks whenever I see the movie poster. I didn’t understand the story line at all when I was young, but a few years back in summer, I watched it by myself and I was in shock of all the details I missed.
You can watch The Host on Tubi
- Memories of Murder 2003
This movie was inspired by a real life murder case in late 1980’s to 1991. The murderer would leave pieces of clothing after raping and ruthlessly murdering the victims in Gyenggi province. But recently the murderer has been caught after 30 years. The murderer killed 15 people including ten females, aged range from teens to late 70’s. The murderer was named “The Korean Zodiac Killer”. After DNA searches by the officials from Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency, they matches three of ten cases of the murder to a man in his late 50’s in jail for murdering his sister-in-law back in 1994. His name is Lee Choon-jae, and confessed to all 15 of the murders. But the man cannot be persecuted since the file case outdated back in April 2006. But the police are working hard to analyze more evidence to bring justice to the victims and their families. Watch the movie to see how director Boong captures the back chilling story.
Memories of murder was available on Amazon Prime, but after they caught the murderer, the movie has been taken down. But luckily it is still on iTunes!
Keon kyo Yeo jeong Jo in Parasite. Courtesy of NEON CJ Entertainment.