The ‘Parasite’ in Each of Us

The Gospel Coalition | 1/24/2020 | Eugene Park
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South Korean director Bong Jong-Ho’s films are unpredictable cinematic adventures that masterfully mix humor, suspense, mystery, and horror. His latest, Parasite, is arguably his best yet. And with six Oscar nominations (making history as the first-ever Korean nominee for best picture), record-breaking box office returns, and a growing list of accolades, Parasite is also a global cultural phenomenon.

What in Parasite resonates so deeply? Arguably it’s the film’s gritty, unsettling depiction of human nature. The title perfectly encapsulates the plot—characters leeching on to others to survive. Yet the parasite Bong wants to reveal is not found only in foreign objects or places; it’s also alive in every human soul.

Bong - Joon-Ho - Films - Tensions - South

All of Bong Joon-Ho’s films explore societal tensions present not just in South Korea, but throughout the world. While many of his previous works took place in sci-fi or fantastical settings (Okja, Snowpiercer), Parasite is a more domestic drama, focusing on two families (each with four members) living in opposite worlds in Seoul. As the impoverished, blue-collar Kim family slowly infiltrates the home of the wealthy Park family—the film descends into humorous chaos and eventual disaster.

The Kim family’s dire straits—and their “parasite” ways—are underscored in the film’s opening scene, as the foursome are seen in a dingy basement apartment flooded with toxic clouds of fumigation gas coming from the street. The family’s luck begins to change as a friend of the eldest son, Ki-Woo (Woo-sik Choi), gives the family a suseok, a traditional Korean stone. The suseok seems to bring the family the happiness, fortune, and wealth they’ve long desired. Yet in a pivotal scene the heavy stone rises to the surface of their flooded home, revealing it was fake all along.

Moment - Kim - Family - Fraud—a - Scheme

The moment coincides with the Kim family’s elaborate fraud—a scheme to feed their desires for upward mobility—beginning to fall apart. Even amid...
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