Busan 2019: Actors talk about “Parasite,” working with Bong Joon-ho

(left to right) Choi Woo-shik, Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin and Park So Dam play a family trying to make ends meet in "Parasite." (still courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival)
(left to right) Choi Woo-shik, Song Kang-ho, Jang Hye-jin and Park So-dam play a family trying to make ends meet in “Parasite.” (still courtesy of the Busan International Film Festival)

Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” (기생충) is a rage-filled, hilarious facepunch of a film: part heist, part class warfare, part family comedy, part…well, all sorts of things. It’s Bong Joon-Ho.  It’s his best film, and the best film of the year by a mile.

Bong was unable to attend this year’s Busan International Film Festival because he was busy making appearances in the United States, where the film was just about to open.  In his place were supporting actors Jang Hye-jin (who played Chung-sook, wife to Song Kang-ho’s character, and mother to Park So-dam and Choi Woo-shik) and Park Myung-hoon (as Geun-sae).  They addressed the audience in some brief opening remarks prior to the outdoor screening of “Parasite” on Oct. 7, 2019.

On what it was like to attend the Busan International Film Festival as an actors

Jang: Yes, it is my first time and when I participated in the film festival as an audience member, I had promised myself that I will come here as an actress.  Twenty-two years [later], I have kept this promise.

Park: In 2014, I participated for the first time in the Busan International Film Festival with the film “Sanda,” and then later on with the film “Still Flower.”  Those were independent movies. And in 2019, I got the opportunity to participate with the movie, director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite.” It feels very new to be here again and I’m glad to meet all of you.

Jang Hye-jin (left) and Park Myung-hoon (center) at the Busan Cinema Center on Oct. 7, 2019. (photo by Wade-Hahn Chan / Meniscus Magazine)
Jang Hye-jin (left) and Park Myung-hoon (center) at the Busan Cinema Center on Oct. 7, 2019. (photo by Wade-Hahn Chan / Meniscus Magazine)

Park on winning Best Supporting Actor at the Buil Film Awards, which occurred in Busan

Park: Yes, the Buil Film Awards have the longest history of all the Korean awards, and I’m very happy and honored to have received the best supporting role. I have texted director Bong Joon-ho to thank him and he’s congratulated me in his text messages as well. It’s been only few days since I’ve got the award and I can’t still believe that it actually happened. I’m very happy for it.

On why Jang did not act in Bong’s 2003 film “Memories of Murder”

Jang: I didn’t reject the film. It’s just that I wasn’t acting back then. I came to Busan and I had a job and I had to be working. If I were acting at that time, of course I would have participated in that movie. However, I was very busy earning money. If it weren’t for that time, maybe the Chung-sook of now in “Parasite” wouldn’t have existed. Maybe it could have gone to someone else.

On Bong’s reputation as “Bong-tail” – a nickname familiar to Koreans as “Bong Joon-ho plus detail”

Park: I have heard from many people about director Bong Joon-ho being very detailed and him making film into art. So I was very curious about how his working style would be. And the director Bong Joon-ho that I have experienced is that he is the director with a lot of consideration for human beings and he is very interested in human nature. That’s what makes him focused more on the details, and that’s what I felt personally. He has a lot of respect, consideration, and interest in human beings, and that’s what makes all the actors love working with the director. He also trusts the actors a lot and that’s what gives actors more freedom to be better. I cherished each second and each moment working with him.

Jang: He is [very much] into details. He even directed me on the posture of Chung-sook, for example how to stand, how to sit, when Chung-sook is standing she would be slouching, or when she’s standing, she would have her upper body towards the back. So he was very detailed in giving me these specific details not only in the appearance, but also in the emotions. He explained it in a very easy manner so he was very easy to follow.

Even though [the directions were] difficult, it made the actors to want to follow [them]. And when he was giving these detailed specific directions, it wasn’t violent or forced at all. He was very soft, smooth, and loving, and respectful in giving these details so I could understand why he was giving those directions. And I thought, rather than, ‘Why is he giving me these details?’ I thought, ‘Yes! I can do this.’