South Koreans reacted with joy and stunned disbelief Monday to the historic best picture Oscar for “Parasite”, with one film fan suggesting the feat should be recognised with a public holiday.
Director Bong Joon-ho’s movie — about the widening gap between rich and poor — became the first non-English-language film to win Hollywood’s biggest prize, prompting celebrations in South Korea.
Even President Moon Jae-in got in on the act, saying he was overjoyed to see South Korean cinema receive world recognition.
“I extend my gratitude especially for giving a sense of courage and pride to the (Korean) people,” Moon said.
“I am very proud of director Bong Joon-ho and the cast, as well as the staff members.”
“Parasite” won four awards — best picture, best director, best international feature and best original screenplay — defying the received wisdom that the Academy would overlook a subtitled Asian movie.
South Korean film fans were overjoyed.
“I am in tears,” one wrote on Twitter. “I’m so proud of Bong Joon-ho. It’s amazing to hear acceptance speeches in Korean.”
Another joked: “Shouldn’t today be declared a public holiday?”
Along with a congratulatory tweet, US ambassador Harry Harris posted a photo of what looked like jjapaguri — an instant noodle dish featured in “Parasite”, where it was unusually garnished with sirloin steak.
“Wow! Congrats Director Bong, Team #Parasite & ROK cinema!” Harris wrote.
The success of “Parasite” comes despite the global dominance of the English language in the 92-year-history of the Academy Awards.
Actor Sandra Oh, the Canadian-born daughter of South Korean immigrants who was among the award presenters in Los Angeles, tweeted her congratulations, saying: “So so proud to be Korean”.
Darcy Paquet, a Seoul-based film critic who wrote the English-language subtitles for “Parasite” said: “I’m so happy… this isn’t real.”
“I hope that all Korean filmmakers can share in this moment and be proud, because it’s the tremendous hard work and professionalism of the industry as a whole that makes a movie like ‘Parasite’ possible.”
South Korean filmmaker and scholar Kim So-young, who introduced Bong’s early comedy “Barking Dogs Never Bite” to programmers at San Sebastian Film Festival back in 2000, said the win was “well deserved”.
“I’ve been following his work for the last 20 years, and I can confidently say he is a true artist,” she told AFP.
“I’m very happy for him as a fellow cineaste in South Korea, as Bong has always been a respected colleague who always remained a socially conscious, outspoken citizen even outside the film industry.”
Shim Woo-Hyun, a 31-year-old film fan in Seoul, said: “I heard the news while eating tonkatsu at a food joint, and I was just speechless.
“I screen-captured the news immediately and shared with people through my mobile messenger. I will never forget today’s tonkatsu.”