Social division is a theme that runs through much of Bong’s work, and, despite his avowed neutrality, he tends to favor the underdogs. His 2006 film, The Host, for example, also focused on a poor but loving family running a food stall, again led by Song. They take on a mutant fish-monster accidentally created by pollution from the US military in Seoul’s Han River. In Okja, it was a down-to-earth country girl who battles a dystopian corporation to save her only friend, a strangely adorable giant mutant pig.
The director initially thought Parasite would be “risky in business.” The genre-bending thriller follows two families from different class levels who end up being under the same roof. Since winning Best Picture, the movie’s box office earnings have risen over 200 percent. The movie has made $197 million globally and has the most post-win ticket sales for any Best Picture winner since 2010’s The King Speech.
Bong Joon-Ho has long been one of South Korea’s best filmmakers, known for acclaimed movies such as “Memories of Murder,” “Mother,” and “The Host,” but it wasn’t until 2019 that Bong become a worldwide cinema superstar to the general public. With “Parasite,” Bong vaulted himself into the topmost echelon of the world’s best directors working today. “Parasite” world premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it made history by becoming the first South Korean film to win the prestigious Palme d’Or. Bong’s incredible journey with “Parasite” culminated in six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. The drama is the first South Korean film to compete for Academy Awards in the Oscars’ 92-year history.
During Bong Joon-ho’s speech after winning Best Director, he spoke specifically about Martin Scorsese to the Hollywood audience and to millions of televisions. He quoted the Good-fellas icon for saying the “most personal is the most creative” — something he heard back when he was studying cinema.
Bong’s father is actually an art teacher. He places himself in the middle of Korea’s social ladder. He grew up in a middle-class family. Even in terms of real estate, the house that he grew up in is in the middle — between the semi-basement home and the rich house you see in the film. He was really close with friends and relatives from both classes. Parasite was inspired by his own experience tutoring a boy from a much wealthier family — at the introduction of his then-girlfriend, who was already tutoring the boy in English.