|Director Bong Joon-ho reacts with CJ Group Vice Chairwoman Lee Mi-kyung and cast and crew after winning the Oscar for the Best Motion Picture for "Parasite" during the Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, Calif., Feb. 9. EPA-Yonhap|
By Kim Rahn
For politicians whose success depends on how much they remain in the public eye, it seems only natural for them to take advantage of current social trends. The recent success of Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite" at the Academy Awards is no exception. Many politicians are already using it as a platform to market themselves.
Such moves by members of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), however, are drawing criticism, because the party's predecessor, the Saenuri Party and its leader, former President Park Geun-hye, used to suppress Bong and the film's investor and distributor CJ ENM for making films that they did not agree with.
Rep. Khang Hyo-shang of the LKP, who represents a constituency in Daegu, said Tuesday that he would set up a "Bong Joon-ho Film Museum" in Duryu Park. Bong is from Daegu and attended elementary school there until third grade before his family moved to Seoul.
"Director Bong was born in Daegu, he is the pride of Daegu," Khang said at a party meeting in Seoul. "As Daegu is Bong's hometown, a cinema needs to be the icon of Daegu, a city of culture and art."
Jang Won-yong, who plans to run for the April 15 general election on the LKP ticket in a Daegu district, promised that if elected he would set up a Bong memorial hall and park; while another potential candidate Bae Young-shik said he would name a street after Bong, erect a statue of him and restore the house of his birth.
Rep. Khang did not forget to praise CJ, the parent group of CJ ENM which has long supported the film industry and other cultural entities.
"I don't think such a splendid achievement would have been made without CJ Group's support. I appreciate the group's positive influence on the Korean film industry, as it has given full support so that Korean cinema can be properly evaluated in the competitive Hollywood," he said.
Ironically, Bong was on an alleged "blacklist" of artists, drawn up during the Park administration for being critical of the then-conservative government. Many liberal artists on the list were denied support from the government and state organizations.
Bong once said in an interview in June last year after winning the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, "My filmmaking was not seriously interfered with (by my being blacklisted at the time), but making such a list itself is a sin."
Even after "Parasite" won top honors at Cannes and became a box-office hit, some LKP lawmakers downplayed it, with one lawmaker saying it was "a typical leftist movie talking about state subversion."
Not only Bong but also CJ Group Vice Chairwoman Lee Mi-kyung ― better known as Miky Lee ― suffered under the Park administration. According to findings for potential trial proceedings, Park was irritated by the "anti-government" films produced and distributed by CJ ENM as well as a comedy program satirizing politicians including Park, aired by tvN, a network owned by CJ.
In July 2013, Park ordered then-senior presidential economic adviser Cho Won-dong to press for Lee's resignation; Cho later called CJ Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik to deliver the president's message. Lee ultimately left management and went to the U.S. in 2014, according to the prosecution which later investigated the case. Cho was later sentenced to a suspended jail term for "coercion."
Critics ridiculed the changed stance of the LKP.
"Aren't they the ones who put director Bong on the blacklist and forced CJ Vice Chairman Lee Mi-kyung to step down and exiled her to the U.S.? Now they are trying to jump on the bandwagon of Bong's achievement. They are so brazenfaced," political pundit Chin Joong-kwon wrote on Facebook.
"Moreover, they want to celebrate the movie's success by restoring Bong's birthplace, which is exactly the same way they idolized Park Chung-hee. If this becomes known to the world, it will tarnish the image of Korea."
Park Chung-hee is a former president and Park Geun-hye's father who led Korea for 18 years through a military dictatorship in the 1960s to 70s.