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Capitalism and Class Division in the “Parasite” Film


Directed by Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019) creatively represents social issues connected with capitalism, class division, and unemployment in modern society. Capitalism dominates most of the world’s developed and developing countries, including South Korea. Bong’s explanation of capitalism applies to any country since the topic of inequality resonates everywhere to is different extent. Parasite criticizes social inequity, unfairness, and an economic system associated with capitalism. Thus, the theme itself might evoke pessimistic and anxious feelings in the audience; however, the film is straightforward and honest. The film is showing a severe problem influencing the lives of millions of people through the genres like comedy and thriller.

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Park Family as an Upper-Class Family

Park family represents the upper class, having a high social status and financial resources. Throughout the film, they exist as an abstracted privileged group living in a so-called bubble. The parents seek to shield their children from the outside world. For example, they are afraid to talk about sex in front of children. Because of this, the daughter is forced to eavesdrop on the conversations of her parents to be aware of events. Likewise, the little son is receiving private therapies and barely communicates with unfamiliar people.

Financial Resources and Success

The Kim family is all unemployed at the beginning of the film. However, it is noticeable that they have particular talents and skills. For example, Jessica was highly proficient in Photoshop; however, she had no opportunity to attend courses and develop her skills. Kevin is also good at English, but he was unable to go to the university. All the family members showed intellectual abilities and flexibility, but still, there were no high-paid jobs for them because they had no financial resources and education. The Park family members, on the contrary, had such opportunities as private tutors, drivers, and housekeepers.

The Role of Having a Plan in Capitalism

The “plan” had a separate place in the entire film. Kim’s family’s discourse is centered on the plan, and they mention it many times throughout the plot. I think that it reflects the basic idea behind capitalism about the necessity of a plan for achieving financial success and security. If a person does not follow a distinct plan, he is committed to failure and poor life. For instance, the father in the Kim family said that he has no plan and he prefers to never have any kind of plan. Park’s family, on the other hand, does not mention the essence of the plan, but this is because there is no urgent need for a plan for them now since they are already rich. This situation depicts a capitalist approach to the road to success, which says that a person should be diligent and constructive.

Road to Success in Modern Realities

Moreover, moral ethics and humanity are not emphasized on this road to success. It could be seen in the actions of Park; he had no empathy for other people. For example, he cared only about his son when two more people were dying in his yard. I think the film describes the way to financial success as ethically serene. The Park family is not as cohesive as the Kim family. Kim’s family shares camaraderie and closeness, while Park’s family members are rarely seen together. The trust among Park’s family members is not dominant; the wife often hides what is happening from her husband. She once said that if her husband knows that she employed a woman with tuberculosis, he will kill her. Even though this expression might be exaggerated, it can tell that the relationship and trust between wife and husband are not that strong.

The Park’s House Symbolism

The Park’s house symbolizes the class division in the time of capitalism. The people that were hiding and living on the basement floor represent the lowest social class (Kim 6). They do not have a place to leave and food to eat, and they are pleased by living on the basement floor of the Park’s house. The Park family members are lived on the highest floors, thus representing the upper social class. When chaotic actions and murders were going on on the basement floor, the wealthy people celebrated on the upper floor. In another scene, where after the flood ruined houses of the working-class people, misses Park said that she is pleased by yesterday’s rain because thanks to the rain today the air is fresh. This means that rich people are not fully aware of the challenges that poor people are facing.

Problems of Rich People

When the Parks found out about the driver’s misconduct, they did not want to mention his obscene actions when he was fired. They referred to the fact that they could not lower to such a level. That is, rich people, care about other problems than poor people; they care about their status and position in society (Kunkle 188). The gap between the two classes is too big, and people from different social classes are like from different polarities (Forero 16). At the end of the plot, mister Kim was stuck on the basement floor. To rescue him, Kevin aspired to become rich and buy this house so he could help his father to escape from the terror of poverty.

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Money and Happiness

It is interesting how rich people were characterized by the Kim family. They said that misses Park is rich but still kind, or kind because she is rich. Misses Kim said that if she were that rich, she would be kind. This could convey the idea about the poor people’s interpretation and vision of the upper class. They suppose that money will bring them happiness, while Misses Park held a different opinion. When talking to misses Kim about her son’s traumas, she mentioned that at least her family does not have problems with money.

The Issue of Unemployment

In the second half of the film, the characters are ready to kill each other to get jobs. They complained that they were mired in debt and loans. These moments reflect the problem of unemployment, which is relevant in many countries under capitalism. People in the film scene were fighting for survival. The film teaches that need and poverty make a person desperate. They forget about humanity trying to save their skin. Perhaps people are being pushed to this by the system of capitalism, in which they need to fight for jobs and material superiority. Mister Kim, at the culmination of the film, kills mister Park, which was surprising for me. His motives could be interpreted in various ways, and I assume that this action symbolizes the movement against capitalists who care only about their wealth. In conclusion, the message about poverty, social inequality, and unemployment is provided through the Parasite. The film strongly criticizes the capitalistic ideology and demonstrates the problems that the system provokes in modern society.

Works cited

Forero, Jorge Enrique. “‘Us’ and ‘them’: Theoretical insights about the class division in contemporary capitalism.” Labor and Globalization, vol. 8, no. 29, 2017, pp. 1-277.

Ho, Bong Joon. 2019. Parasite. United States: Neon.

Kim, John K. “Parasite: A Film Review on Capitalism.” Cinesthesia vol. 10, no. 2, 2020, pp. 1-16.

Kunkle, Sheila. “Parasite and the Parallax of Social Relations Under Capitalism Sheila Kunkle.” Crisis & Critique, vol. 7.2, no. 2, 2019, pp. 181-192.

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