Emerging Korean Cinema and It’s Roots and the Analysis of Parasite’s Oscar win

If you watch the news regularly or use social media, then you must be fully aware of how the Korean movie, Parasite by Bong Joon Ho won the Oscars in four categories. This movie made history by being the first Korean foreign language film to win the Oscars for the best picture. In this article, we will be analyzing the Oscar win of Parasite, but before we get to that we will be looking at the rise of Korean cinema. We will be taking a look at the roots of the emerging Korean cinema.

History of Korean Cinema

There is always a beginning to great things and the beginning of Korean cinema started with Do-san Kim’s movie “Righteous Revenge”. This day is even celebrated as “The Korean Film Day”. There is a lot more to Korean cinema’s history than the surface tells us.

Even though the films were being made in Korea, the film industry did not take off until the independence of Korea from Japan in 1945, where the films were based on their liberation.

During the Korean War in 1950-1953, the film industry of Korea was adversely affected and the film played in that period was lost due to the nation’s split of Korea.

After the war, South Korea went on to establish its film industry once again. This gave way to the golden age of cinema in Korea.

Two decades after 1950, the films made were mostly based on social issues or discussed the theme of class issues. Films like the “The Housemaid” was a classic example of the golden age of Korean cinema which strongly discussed the class issue that was prevalent in Korea at that time.

During this time many movies had to face censorship and many filmmakers were blacklisted by the government.

After the 1970s, under the rule of President Park Chung-hee the censorship laws became even stricter, but the laws did not change even after the assassination of Chung-hee.

Due to industrialization in the 1980s, the film industry along with the press started to have some relaxation.  Hence the Korean film industry started to thrive and gain international recognition.

In 1997, due to the IMF crisis, the film industry had to face another drop in the economy.

But after this crisis, the Korean cinema rose like never before with large budget film production and co-production on the international level.

Blockbusters like Shiri (1999), My Sassy Girl (2001), Train To Busan (2016), The Host (2006),  Taegukgi (2004) and the recent blockbuster Parasite (2019).

The Rise of Korean Cinema

It’s been more than a decade but Korean cinema has made a strong international base all over the world. But it has also struggled a lot to reach this stage.

Back then in 2000, the movie Shiri could be said as the pioneer of the international success of Korean Cinema.

Im Kwon-Taek has gained a reputation by his lyrical films like Chi-Hwa-Seon: Painted Fire and Chunhyang, which has been preserving the Korean Culture and history.

Filmmakers like Kim Ki-Duk have made an international market for Korean cinema with his intellectual films like Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…And Spring along with 3-Iron.

People have been associating the Korean cinema with filmmakers, Park Chan-Wook and Bong Joon-ho especially after the Oscar wins by Parasite.

Films like The Handmaiden, Stoker, Okja, and Lee Chang-dong’s Burning. These movies with unique stories and remarkable acting help the Korean film industry to rise in the international market.

South Korean Cinema has the tendencies to play with different genres. But the comedy films of Korea does not do that well in the international market. Their action thrillers like Extreme Job and Attack The Gas Station! are well accepted by the foreign audience. Most of the internationally hit Korean films have action with a lot of gangsters, mafias, army, police, and cinematic stunts and fights. Similar movies like The Man From Nowhere, The Villainous, and the horror films A Tale of Two Sisters.

Even though with a smaller population than most of the Asian countries, Korea has been making its place internationally in the film and music industry. Parasite win at the Oscars has started a new era for the Korean film industry.

Parasite’s Oscar Win Analysis

With the Parasite Oscar win under four categories, the Korean cinema has set new records in the international film industry. Every year Oscar awards, the most prestigious award function, give out awards under various categories. Parasite seems to be a universally adored film and here is a quick analysis as to why it won four awards at the Oscars.

The first and foremost reason for the Oscar win is a unique theme. A poor family of Kim’s find shelter in a wealthy home and infiltrate their household as “Parasite”. This theme unarguably is a deserving winner of the Oscars. This story conveys the message that no one is the villain apart from the system of society. According to the Washington Post, Parasite was nominated for 6 Oscar categories. The screen actors made it possible for the film to reach this nomination with their remarkable acting. Even though the actors individually did not get any awards, it is no secret to anyone that their actions made the movie more realistic.

Parasite’s excellent campaign is also a big factor in why they won four Oscars. The campaign for the movie started in April 2019 during the Cannes Film Festival. There were other films that were being given quite a limelight but the campaign made Parasite as the only one fitted for the Oscar.

Another factor that led to its win was the strong reviews which called it a masterpiece in the cinema world. According to the Rotten Tomatoes, it was given approval of 99% and has a similarly high rating in other dating sites.

The Box Office of Parasite made remarkable revenue that grossed over $35 million in the domestic sale itself. It grossed over $167 million worldwide and can easily brag about the records it broke. Even though the Oscars do not judge a movie by its commercial appeal, it would still have a positive impact while deciding the winner.

We can’t ignore the huge fan following of director Bong has in the U.S. as well as other countries of the world. He has a strong fan following at the grass-root level which resulted in his dynamic industry presence. He has also appeared on various American talk shows and has participated actively in all their campaigns.

On a conclusive note, we would like to say that there was quite a lot of work done on the movie but made it an Oscar-winning project. Korean Cinema has come a long way since its beginning and now competing with the film industries of America and Britain. If the Korean filmmakers keep on making films with such unique themes, then surely there is a brighter future that is waiting ahead for them.

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