The Parasitic Class

By Dino Begovic, ‘25

The Academy Award Best Picture Winning film “Parasite” directed by Bong Joon-ho, is a South Korean film that was released in 2019. “Parasite” follows the Kim family who are struggling with poverty in a poor neighborhood, which prompts the whole family to make an attempt to make money. This allows for the son to receive an offer from a wealthy family, the Park family, to tutor their daughter. After the son gets the job, the rest of the family cons their way into a job at the Park household, without the Park family knowing that they are all related.

By infiltrating the Park household, the Kim family and the audience sees how the wealthy upper class live and how they use the assistance of the lower-class to their advantage. The Park family cannot function without the help of the Kim family, and other former employees. The Park family could be seen as a “parasite” because they leech off of the lower-class people who work for them.

(SPOILERS) After the Kim family have secured their jobs at the Park household, they temporarily occupy the house one day when the Park family had left. The Kim family uses the house like it was their own and they live the wealthy lifestyle, one that they can only dream of attaining. After this occurs, the Kim family is disrupted by the former housekeeper at the door. The housekeeper begs for the Kim family to let her in, once she enters the house, she makes her way to a secret opening to the basement where the Kim family are met with the surprise of her husband. The former housekeeper’s husband has been hiding in the basement of the Park household as an attempt to escape the loan sharks trying to kill him. 

The Kim family, the former housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s husband can all be referred to as “parasites”, similar to how the Park family is a “parasite”. The only difference between the two groups is one is wealthy and the other is not. The Kim family and the married couple both leeched off of a naive wealthy family for their own benefit. The Kim family was searching for financial gain, and the married couple was searching for safety. 

Throughout the film, there are ideas that hint to the overall theme of class. For example, the upper-class characters acknowledge a bad smell when they are around the lower-class, because the lower-class is seen as “dirty”. Another example of class division is when the houses in which the families live in are shown. The Kim family lives almost completely underground, compared to the elevated area the Park family lives. Also, this is seen when the housekeeper’s husband is revealed to be living under the Park household. A filmmaking detail about class is seen throughout many scenes where there is a “line” created by the set. This could be a wall creating a line between two characters, one that is upper-class and one that is lower-class. The characters do not “cross the lines” to emphasize the idea of the class division and the unpleasantness of interaction between opposite classes. 

Overall, Bong Joon-ho’s screenplay and directing conveyed the idea of how the working lower-class will do anything to move up on the social class hierarchy, while the upper-class live comfortable lives and control the people below them.