South Korea Erupts in Celebration as 'Parasite' Makes Oscars History

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The Oscars ceremony aired early Monday morning in Seoul, but that didn't stop tens of millions in the country from following local hero Bong Joon Ho as he made Oscars history. "'Parasite' moved the minds of the world," tweeted South Korea's president Moon Jae-in.

South Korean social media was flooded with statements of elation and celebration Monday after local hero Bong Joon Ho and his strikingly original film Parasite swept the 92nd Academy Awards.

Bong and Parasite struck gold early Sunday night, first winning the Oscar for best original screenplay. Taking the stage with this co-writer Han Jin-won, Bong thanked the Academy for the "great honor," while noting that "writing a script is a very lonely process, you never write to represent your country."

"But this is the very first Oscar for South Korea," he added, grinning and lifting the statuette as the crowd applauded.

Before the night was over history was made several times over, as Parasite became the first non-English language film to win best picture and Bong the first Korean and only the second Asian director to win best director (following Taiwan's two-time winner Ang Lee). The film also won the best original screenplay prize and, in less of a surprise, the best international film Oscar.

Those huge achievements reverberated through South Korea in real time, where the Oscars ceremony began at 9 a.m. Monday morning. As millions across that film-loving country were beginning their work week, many were also keeping a close eye on the Oscars to see how Parasite and Bong would fare. Would Seoul's film industry — relentlessly daring and inventive for over two decades — finally get some of its due?

As the honors piled up, #Parasite and #DirectorBongJoonho were trending atop Twitter in South Korea, while leading local web portal Naver also was dominated by Parasite-related searches.

Shortly after the curtain had come down on the 92nd Academy Awards, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in joined in, tweeting: "Parasite moved the minds of the world with a story that is truly Korean. The film is funny and sad. It's also refreshing and superb as a social message. It makes us rethink about inspiration and strength — in a single film. The Korean government will support to create an environment where film professionals can freely express their imagination and produce a film without any worries."   

South Korea's leading political parties also held briefings to produce public statements Monday afternoon, celebrating the news. The ruling Minjoo Party said "a new chapter of Korean film has opened, calling the Oscar wins "a historical event which illustrates that Korean film has reached a world-class standard, and it shows the strength of Koreans and Korean culture to the world.” 

Ji Sang-wook, a chief spokesperson of the opposition New Conservative Party, also released a statement, saying the wins marked "a joyous moment for Korea" and thanking Bong for "offering such a miracle" to the Korean people. "We are grateful to director Bong for making such a good film that the world can relate to, he added. "Finally Korean movie posters with golden Oscar trophies are available all around the world."

A spokesman for the Party for Democracy and Peace also praised Bong, saying that Parasite "sharply showed how the characters of ordinary people and the lives of families collapse through social polarization and injustice." He added that "the party hopes that Korean film can expand more widely abroad like K-pop, the beauty industry and K-dramas."

Major local broadcasters and cables channels, including MBC, are expected to each air a special documentary on Bong's life in film, featuring interviews with actors and productions crews who have worked with him, including on Parasite. CGV, a theater chain run by CJ E&M, the exhibition arm of the distributor behind Parasite, also announced that it will hold a special screening of Parasite through Feb. 18 to celebrate its Oscar success.  

Various Korean entertainment figures were quick to congratulate their industry peers. Korean actress Gong Hyo-jin wrote “Hurray!!” on Instagram, captioning a photo of one of Bong's acceptance speeches. Actor Seo-joon Park, who made an important cameo in Parasite as Min, a friend of the poor family at the heart of the film, posted a video of the Parasite team accepting the best picture Oscar, captioning it with just one word: "Crazy."