A rare scene was captured at the press preview of the South Korean film “Parasite” held in Tokyo, Japan at the end of last year. The audience broke into uncontrollable laughter five minutes into the film and became serious towards the middle. When the film was over, they poured out compliments by saying no wonder the film won the Palme d’Or.
Director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite,” which is a strong favorite to win this year’s Academy award for the Best Picture, took Japan by storm, drawing more than 700,000 viewers as of Monday since its official opening on Jan. 10 and earning 1 billion yen. Under the title, “Parasite: A Family in a Half-Basement” in Japan, the film is making headlines in Japan, trending No. 1 on the Japanese movie website Movie.com.
There are four reasons behind the success in Japan. First of all, the film received rave reviews by the international film industry and won high praise by Japanese directors, such as Mamoru Hosoda. The second reason is the expansion of the movie’s viewer base. Middle-aged men in Japan, who rarely see movies, went to the theaters after reading special articles about “Parasite” on economy magazines. Younger generations also saw the movie based on recommendations by famous YouTubers. Thirdly, a mix of universal theme ㅡ the gap between the rich and the poor ㅡ and Korean subjects played a role as well. Japanese viewers had fun watching the Korean culture depicted in the film, such as semi-basement, Taiwanese sponge cake, Jessica Song, and sirloin-steak ram-don. Lastly, Bong’s warning on spoilers. Director Bong recommended watching the movie first before watching spoilers on YouTube.
Japanese viewers’ interest in director Bong attributed to the film’s success as well. A Japanese movie channel ran a show titled, “Depicting family in Korea and Japan,” where Bong and Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, winner of the 2018 Palme d’Or, talked about family. In the show, Bong empathized with Koreeda when he said, “(It doesn’t matter) Whether there is a border (between the two parties) or the two are at odds. They can establish a totally different relationship. It is the power of movies that makes them interact with each other.” Just like the world discovered Asian movies, the movie “Parasite” is breaking a record in Japan, changing Japan’s perception of Korean movies. Although South Korea and Japan continue to drift apart due to political issues, it would be great if the movie can make them understand their similarities and differences and empathize with each other.