Who Is Bong Joon-Ho, The Oscar-Winning Director Of 'Parasite'?

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Who Is Bong Joon-Ho, The Oscar-Winning Director Of 'Parasite'? Getty Images

His film, Parasite, made history by becoming the first-ever foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars 2020, which took place on February 9, 2020, at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles, CA. 

But even though his name wasn't a mainstream name until yesterday, his is a career that wasn't just contained to South Korea. In fact, one of his films fell victim to a petty Harvey Weinstein vendetta! But we'll get to that shortly. 


So who is Bong Joon-Ho, the Oscar-winning director of Parasite?

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Let's look at what we know about this award-winning South Korean director. What you find out just might surprise you!


1. Who is Bong Joon-Ho? He first came to prominence back in 2003. 

Born Bong Joon-Ho in Daegu, South Korea, he first came to Hollywood's attention back in 2003 when his film Memories of a Murder started earning critical acclaim. Based on a real-life story and originating from a play, Bong Joon-Ho's "debut" of sorts wasn't screened at Cannes, but earned him a variety of awards at the Grand Bell Awards, which is the South Korean equivalent of the Oscars. Memories of a Murder sold more than 5 million tickets at the time of its release, establishing Bong Joon-Ho as a bonafide rising star. 

2. His film, Snowpiercer, was "Weinstein"-ed. 

Believe it or not, Harvey Weinstein's treachery wasn't just limited to the women he abused. As it turns out, Snowpiercer — which was positioned to be Bong Joon-Ho's "big break" in Hollywood — also fell victim to Weinstein's shady moves. 


Here's the back story: back in 2012, The Weinstein Company bought the distribution rights to Snowpiercer. However, Weinstein refused to give the film a wide release unless Bong Joon-Ho agreed to Weinstein's edits of the film, which — according to Bong Joon-Ho — had Weinstein living up to his name of "Harvey Scissorhands." Bong Joon-Ho screened his cut of the film in Los Angeles, which tested better amongst audiences. When Weinstein found out about it, he told Bong Joon-Ho that he wouldn't be giving Snowpiercer a nationwide distribution. Rather, he would kick the film to the Radius subdivision of The Weinstein Company. 

"Maybe for [Weinstein], it was some kind of punishment to a filmmaker who doesn’t do what he wants. But for me, we were all very happy. Yeah! Director’s cut! The whole thing was like a black comedy,” he said. “If this was someone else’s movie and you were making a documentary of the situation, it would be really funny. Unfortunately, it was my movie.”

3. Parasite was the first Korean film to win the Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Parasite, like many of Bong Joon-Ho's films, features class iniquity at its core and focuses on how a poor family in South Korea worms its way into a rich family's world. Parasite was the first Korean film to win the Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and the first film since 2013 to be unanimously conferred with the highest honor from the film festival. 

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4. Bong Joon-Ho's translator is an aspiring director herself. 

Bong Joon-Ho's success in Hollywood means that hopefully other doors for Koreans who are interested in Hollywood careers will open up. One such aspiring hopeful is Sharon Choi, who served as Bong Joon-Ho's translator at the Oscars 2020, and is an aspiring film director herself

5. His actors say he's a pleasure to work with. 

When Bong Joon-Ho won the Best Picture for Parasite at the Oscars 2020, it came as no surprise to the actors who worked with him. One such actor was Korean actress Ahn Seo, who worked with him on the film Okja. "He gives off a sense of comfort and stability. He describes his directing style as ‘free-range.’ He sets up big fences and lets us loose to express ourselves freely within. He is a very dependable person. When the director trusts the actors, and the actors trust the director, there is a synergy that arises," she said.

6. Is Bong Joon-Ho's win a sign of things to come?

There are some film critics who argue that Bong Joon-Ho's win is a sign of shifting attitudes in the movie industry. Whereas the Oscars were once only for the "elite," Parasite and other films like it have leveled the playing field


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It should be interesting to see if, indeed, this is how it all plays out in the future. For now, congratulations are in order to Bong Joon-Ho for his historic Oscars 2020 win!

Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, publicist, and photographer whose work has appeared in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, BET.com, and more.