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Why some right-wing politicians aren't thrilled about success of 'Parasite'

Director Bong Joon-ho with the Oscars for 'Parasite' at the Governors Ball after the 92nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday (KST). Ironically, Bong came up with a story idea, which eventually turned into the movie, when he was blacklisted during previous administrations for his liberal political views. Reuters
Director Bong Joon-ho with the Oscars for 'Parasite' at the Governors Ball after the 92nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday (KST). Ironically, Bong came up with a story idea, which eventually turned into the movie, when he was blacklisted during previous administrations for his liberal political views. Reuters

By Jung Min-ho

"Parasite" made history by winning Best Picture and three other honors at this year's Academy Awards Monday (KST). Since then, the Korean movie's success has been widely celebrated across the country ― but not by everyone.

Bong Joon-ho, director of the scathing satire on class division in Korea, was a member of the Democratic Labor Party, a now-defunct liberal party, and he has had an uneasy relationship with some conservative politicians.

This is why Hong Joon-pyo, former leader of the main conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP), said he would not watch "Parasite" when asked by reporters last month. By then, the film had won many prestigious awards, including the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Bong rarely talked about his political views, at least not directly. But that did not prevent him from being blacklisted with 81 other influential cultural figures "with liberal political views" during the Lee Myung-bak administration. The list was drawn up by the National Intelligence Service in 2009 and brought to light eight years later.

Under the Park Geun-hye government, Lee's successor, the blacklist was expanded to more than 9,000 names, including actor Song Kang-ho and CJ Group Vice Chairwoman Lee Mi-kyung, one of the biggest supporters and chief sponsor of Bong's work.

Specifically, three of Bong's films ― "The Host," "Memories of Murder" and "Snowpiercer" ― were mentioned in the list, which criticized them for "highlighting the incompetence of the government," "depicting government officials and police as corrupt" and "denying the order of market economy and provoking social resistance."

Being on that list meant less, if any, government support.

After winning the Palme d'Or in May, Bong said on radio that many blacklisted artists and writers went through a tough time. But, ironically, it was the period when he came up with a story idea that eventually turned into "Parasite."

This image, released by Neon, shows Jo Yeo-jeong in a scene from 'Parasite.' AP
This image, released by Neon, shows Jo Yeo-jeong in a scene from 'Parasite.' AP

What happened at the Academy Awards may change the attitude of some politicians.

The LKP, which had kept silent about Bong's international success on the way to the Oscars, praised the movie on Monday.

"It was a monumental work for Korean culture and movies," party spokesman Park Yong-chan said. "I would like to congratulate all the staff.

"I hope that 'Parasite' will generate the hallyu (Korea wave) in many parts of the world … Our party will continue to try our best to make policies to support that."


Director Bong Joon-ho with the Oscars for 'Parasite' at the Governors Ball after the 92nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday (KST). Ironically, Bong came up with a story idea, which eventually turned into the movie, when he was blacklisted during previous administrations for his liberal political views. Reuters
Director Bong Joon-ho with the Oscars for 'Parasite' at the Governors Ball after the 92nd Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Monday (KST). Ironically, Bong came up with a story idea, which eventually turned into the movie, when he was blacklisted during previous administrations for his liberal political views. Reuters

By Jung Min-ho

"Parasite" made history by winning Best Picture and three other honors at this year's Academy Awards Monday (KST). Since then, the Korean movie's success has been widely celebrated across the country ― but not by everyone.

Bong Joon-ho, director of the scathing satire on class division in Korea, was a member of the Democratic Labor Party, a now-defunct liberal party, and he has had an uneasy relationship with some conservative politicians.

This is why Hong Joon-pyo, former leader of the main conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP), said he would not watch "Parasite" when asked by reporters last month. By then, the film had won many prestigious awards, including the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Bong rarely talked about his political views, at least not directly. But that did not prevent him from being blacklisted with 81 other influential cultural figures "with liberal political views" during the Lee Myung-bak administration. The list was drawn up by the National Intelligence Service in 2009 and brought to light eight years later.

Under the Park Geun-hye government, Lee's successor, the blacklist was expanded to more than 9,000 names, including actor Song Kang-ho and CJ Group Vice Chairwoman Lee Mi-kyung, one of the biggest supporters and chief sponsor of Bong's work.

Specifically, three of Bong's films ― "The Host," "Memories of Murder" and "Snowpiercer" ― were mentioned in the list, which criticized them for "highlighting the incompetence of the government," "depicting government officials and police as corrupt" and "denying the order of market economy and provoking social resistance."

Being on that list meant less, if any, government support.

After winning the Palme d'Or in May, Bong said on radio that many blacklisted artists and writers went through a tough time. But, ironically, it was the period when he came up with a story idea that eventually turned into "Parasite."

This image, released by Neon, shows Jo Yeo-jeong in a scene from 'Parasite.' AP
This image, released by Neon, shows Jo Yeo-jeong in a scene from 'Parasite.' AP

What happened at the Academy Awards may change the attitude of some politicians.

The LKP, which had kept silent about Bong's international success on the way to the Oscars, praised the movie on Monday.

"It was a monumental work for Korean culture and movies," party spokesman Park Yong-chan said. "I would like to congratulate all the staff.

"I hope that 'Parasite' will generate the hallyu (Korea wave) in many parts of the world … Our party will continue to try our best to make policies to support that."


Jung Min-ho mj6c2@koreatimes.co.kr


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