Korean culture has created buzz all around the globe with it’s music (Kpop), K-Dramas, and movies. Bong Joon-ho's dark comedy drama, Parasite (2019) had a significant hand in the same as it won the Academy Award for the Best Picture and it was a cultural breakthrough. With numerous accolades, 'Parasite' brought significant interest and curiosity among consumers and non-consumers of the Korean culture. It marked a watershed change in Korean cinema by getting international recognition and a new spotlight on it.
Going beyond the commercialised cinema
What were the elements that captured the audience's interest in Parasite? Was it just the daunting reality of our society that people can relate to, or the freshness of a new kind of cinema that moved beyond the commercialisation? All these reasons played an essential role in engaging the audience, not just with the film but the Korean culture, much like what happened with India and Indian culture when 'Jai Ho' won an Oscar. Like a national victory, the people of South Korea collectively celebrated this feat. The world, through this movie, was able to see and explore more of Korean cinema; its quality content was hidden before Parasite happened.
Paving the way for 'Real to Reel'
People who liked Parasite went on to explore movies similar to it, more Bong Joon-ho directorial ventures. This contributed and encouraged the movie makers to dive into the cinema where people can relate to the story. Parasite is a movie about “class warfare,” the rich and the poor, a life lived in the basement with bare minimum, and life lived in a mansion where one does not know what it is like to travel in a subway.
This is a story that people around the globe can relate to as it's their story or of someone they know. Inequality globally has been on the rise, millions are living in extreme poverty, the rich and the poor have become more distanced. In such a world, 'Parasite' gave independent filmmakers and artists who work on similar movie genres to keep making movies like that. Their desideratum of the global audience did increase with a surge in people choosing and going for films with a social reality/cause.
Future of Korean Cinema
Bong Joon-ho's filmography has always left the audiences in awe and broadened their perspective. The rich and the poor class gap and the class warfare, the hierarchy between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat can be felt and experienced globally as the gap between them widens.
Bong Joon-ho's movie gave a boost to the non-commercialised cinema. At the same time, they were bringing back the hope that non-English films will have a chance at being recognised on a global platform.
The streaming sites have now made available different, and all kinds of content from across the world at just a click away. Pandemic and the lockdown increased the usage of streaming sites with which people explored the unexplored, unraveled the path they never thought existed. These sites and subtitles/dubbing has put a stop to the perennial question of accessibility. As Boog Joon said while giving his golden globe acceptance speech for the best foreign film, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” the pandemic gave Korean culture new audiences, new explorers who delve right into it, whether after Parasite, Crash Landing on You, or BTS (K-Pop boy band).
How much of this will help or has helped in stopping/reducing Asian hate crimes is debatable but it positively impacted movie lovers; it increased Korean cinema consumption globally while creating an interest in regional films and not the commercialised ones. In giving filmmakers a boost to go for movies, they believe in and challenge themselves by creating movies alike. From contributing to the Korean wave to becoming a part of cultural diplomacy, Parasite did it all, and how it has affected these aspects is not going anywhere anytime soon.