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Bong Joon-ho maps out two-family satire of 'Parasite' in 2013

Movies 17:09 February 11, 2020

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- At this year's Academy Awards, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho and his co-writer Han Jin-won captured the best original screenplay Oscar for their black comedy "Parasite."

They were the first Asia-born writers to win the category in the 92-year history of the Oscars. Their film is a satire depicting an entrenched social class system through the lives of two families, one rich and one poor.

The image shows South Korean director Bong Joon-ho, a poster for his film "Parasite" and an Academy Award statuette. (Yonhap)

The history of "Parasite" started in 2013, when Bong first developed a draft story about two families. At the time, he was in post production on "Snowpiercer."

"I wanted to tell a story about the rich and the poor through the family, the basic unit of society and the most common group of people around us," he said earlier in a media interview.

He said his past experience of being a private tutor was reflected in "Parasite."

In the movie, Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), a quick-thinking college-age guy, gets a job tutoring the teenage daughter of a rich businessman, Mr. Park. He brings his sister, Ki-jung (Park So-dam), who pretends to be an art therapy teacher to take on the troublemaking son of the rich family.

"When I was a college student, I taught mathematics to the child of a rich family, after my girlfriend, who was teaching Korean, told me about the job," he said. "I wanted to bring my friend as an art therapist as well, but failed to infiltrate them like Ki-woo because I was fired just after two months."

The story was first titled "Decalcomania" and portrayed two four-member families in a symmetrical way, according to Bong. But later he changed it to a tale of three families in one big house.

He wrote the storyline in 2015 and Han drafted the screenplay while the director was working on "Okja" (2017). Then he spent four months completing the script, inventing the key secretive couple of Moon-gwang, the Parks' former housekeeper, and Geun-se.

Bong's masterful movie comes to an end when Ki-woo discovers that a light in the Park house is flickering in Morse code. He deciphers the code and realizes that his father is alive and now living in the basement of the mansion.

He said this last scene was inspired by a blinking traffic light when he was waiting for a crossing sign in Vancouver.

A scene from "Parasite" provided by CJ Entertainment (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

On top of the creative imagination and storytelling of the two writers, Darcy Paquet, an U.S. film critic who translated the film's dialog for the English subtitles, also played a role in transmitting the Korea-specific nuances in the film to foreigners.

The Massachusetts native has been working with Bong in providing English subtitles for his movies since 2000, when the 50-year old auteur made his directorial debut with "Barking Dogs Never Bite."

The director wanted the subtitles to sound natural for English-speaking audiences. So they talked a lot to find the best English expressions for certain situations, according to Paquet.

He translated the noodle dish of "Chapaguri" to "ramdon," combining the words "ramyeon" and "udon," which are familiar to foreign audiences.

He also rendered some of the original Korean dialogue into its Western equivalent in the subtitles, including changing "Seoul National University" to "University of Oxford" and references to the texting application KakaoTalk to WhatsApp.

brk@yna.co.kr
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