In the past ten years, Bong Joon Ho has made critically acclaimed films. With his latest film Parasite, he received more recognition of his work. For the first time in the history of the Academy Awards, a Korean filmmaker snagged the awards for both Best Picture and Best Director. He’s the talk of the town across different cities. From a carpet cleaner in Lehi to a student in New York, many appreciate his films because of how relatable they are. Bong Joon Ho is a revered director because of the impact of his films to the audience. This article seeks to further explore the meaning behind his success through the lens of his only three films in the past decade — Snowpiercer (2013), Okja (2017), and Parasite (2019).
A social commentary to the unjust society
Bong Joon Ho’s last three films have a common message, and they are all a social critique of today’s society. Using three different stories, the director managed to highlight how class conflict is rooted in the conservative economic system. This message is also apparent in his older films, and it proves how timeless it is as it remains relevant today.
Beyond being the central theme of the three films, class conflict is easy to determine precisely because Bong Joon Ho doesn’t make the stories complicated to the viewers. What makes the stories captivating is the heavy execution of these simple stories. Any director can make a film about the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, leading to social isolation. But with Director Ho, he was able to take the viewers on a realistically creative experience. When promoting his latest award-winning film, he explained in an interview with Vulture that “he wants the audience to feel the same dread, terror, and anxiety that he feels about the world: the impending climate catastrophe and human-rights abuses.”
In Snowpiercer and Parasite, the issue of class conflict was particularly illustrated through the architectural space. The train setting in the former film can symbolize the corrupt economic system in place and how it’s designed to sustain the status quo. It shows that so long as the system exists as it is, inequality will persist. This echoes in Parasite, where the long staircases in the house of the Park family represent the social mobility enabled by the system. In a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), results show that since the 1990s, social mobility has made little progress. This means that “fewer people at the bottom have moved up.” Although it sheds light on animal rights, Okja also has tons of class conflict, where greedy corporations exploit the underprivileged for capital.
A call to reflect
Exposing the harsh reality of poverty and suffering, Director Ho is calling his viewers to reflect on the current state of society. His three films urge the viewers to keep questioning and discern what is right and just. He is laying down the facts and leaves it up to the viewers on what they think should the next steps be. Therefore, Bong Joon Ho is the filmmaker worth celebrating as he doesn’t hold back and always makes a clear statement in his films.