Written by Clement Ng

A Cultural Breakthrough

Last Sunday, history was made at the Oscars. In what many are calling a triumph for Korean culture, Bong Joon-ho’s dark comedy-thriller “Parasite” became the first non-English film to win best picture. Parasite won four Oscars in total, the other three being Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best International Feature Film. It is also the first film to win both Best International Feature Film and Best Picture.

The Oscars, a.k.a The Academy Awards, are presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). They are arguably the most prestigious awards in the film industry, meant to recognise cinematic excellence. Parasite is a (bloody well-directed) social satire of South Korean class warfare. Naturally, Parasite sweeping the Oscars has been hailed as long overdue international recognition of Korean culture, and even Asian actors as a whole. This is especially significant as Asian actors have long been pushed to the sidelines in the American film industry and have been woefully underrepresented at the Oscars themselves.

The response has been overwhelming. There were a lot of happy critics, actors and directors on Oscar night. Social media was blowing up with celebrations, congratulations and crying from celebrities and viewers alike.

Acknowledgement or Appeasement?

As with any victory, there is skepticism. Some have pointed out that Parasite’s cast received zero acting nominations. Some believe that this was due to Bong getting most of the credit for the film’s success, but most cite AMPAS’ preference for mostly white A-List actors.

Some think the win is temporary, that this show of inclusion was made to placate those who want more diversity in the Oscars, and that they would reverse course next year. The most disillusioned, like film critic Walter Chaw, think that this may even be a play to “[lure] Korean talent to the United States to humiliate them as sidekicks in action cop franchises.”

Regardless, South Korea can rejoice in having forever left a mark on Oscar history. As Bong himself said, “We never write to represent our countries… But this is very first Oscar to South Korea.”

Clement is an NUS Life Science student. "Life" here meaning biology, as opposed to "life of the party" or "living the life". He has a particular interest in US politics, which generally means he is particularly miserable. Regardless, he is a strong believer in keeping informed, and hopes to encourage his peers and readers to do so.

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