Mainstream Korean media gave pride of place to Monday’s unprecedented haul of six Oscar nominations for Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite.” The dark satire was nominated in categories including best international feature film, best screenplay and best picture.
Digital editions of The Korea Herald newspaper made “Parasite” its front page lead. The story was accompanied by a picture of Bong receiving a Golden Globes award.
The text was supplied by official news agency Yonhap, which called the film a “sensation,” but otherwise reported without flourish or quotes. That may have reflected the time of day that the story broke – early morning in Los Angeles is late evening in Seoul. But Yonhap happily noted that the film has earned $24 million at the North American box office – “the most popular subtitled film of the year.”
The Korea Times also used Yonhap material, but added: “It is the first time that a South Korean-produced film made it to the final nominees list of the Academy Awards.”
Since an explosion of on-screen creativity in the mid-1990s, and the launch of the Busan Film Festival in 1996, South Korea has been one of the most influential forces in world cinema. Korean films and directors have collected numerous festival prizes since the beginning of the 21st century and Korean movies, TV and music have become dominant commercial forces in Asia and elsewhere. However, until Monday no Korean film had ever been nominated for the Oscars. Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning” has been included on the 2018 long list, but to the dismay of many stateside critics, it did not get any further.
The Chosun Ilbo newspaper managed to take two different tacks. It did not appear to report the news in its English edition. Instead it led the English digital edition with a story about 1,500 Korean nationals trapped in The Philippines by the currently erupting volcano. And its English entertainment section was headed by a story about a perceived anti-Korean slur in the trailer for season 2 of Netflix series “Sex Education.”
In its Korean edition, a report on “Parasite” was among the Chosun Ilbo’s top ranking stories on Tuesday morning. “The Academy has long overlooked Korea’s rich film history,” it said in a banner. The story then delved in to U.S. media reports that amplified the historical nature of the nominations triumph, and cited other Korean films, notably “Burning” from 2018, that had gained some traction in the U.S.
The Busan Daily quoted “Parasite” producer Kwak Sin-ae as “grateful for the efforts of Korean and North American distributors” and optimistic that the nominations success would help other Korean films in future. But Kwak also said: “I am sorry and upset that Song is not included (among the nominees)”. Song Kang-ho, who portrayed the father of the poorer Kim family in “Parasite,” is widely recognized as one of Asia’s finest actors, and has been a mainstay of top Korean films including “Memories of Murder,” “A Taxi Driver,” and “Snowpiercer.”