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Bong happy 'Parasite' succeeded despite disparity it showed

Oscar-winning “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho said Wednesday the film's "biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” to him is that it succeeded even though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of bitter wealth disparity in modern society.

Bong’s dark comic thriller about two families on the opposite ends of South Korea’s social spectrum is a history-making film. It was the first non-English-language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards and the first South Korean movie to win an Oscar in any category. Bong was named best director and the film also won best international feature film and best original screenplay.

A news conference in Seoul with Bong, the film's cast and his staff was nationally televised. Bong said the movie’s story has not only “funny, comic” elements but also “bitter, painful natures” of the disparity between the haves and have-nots in modern society.

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” gestures during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

“I didn’t want to avoid such a part even a little bit,” Bong said. “Audiences might hate that or feel uncomfortable to watch it ... but I thought the only option I can have for this movie is depicting the world we live as frankly as possible though that might be risky commercially.”

Noting that “Parasite” was already commercially successful in North America, France, Vietnam, Japan, the United Kingdom and his native South Korea even before his Oscar triumph, Bong said that “Regardless of the (Oscar) wins, the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning was the fact that many audiences around the world of our times respond to the movie.”

The class satire tells the story of how a family of four poor, unemployed people living in a slum basement apartment comically infiltrates a wealthy family residing at a luxurious mansion before things unravel violently and tragically.

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” second from right, the Oscar-winning film "Parasite", listens to a question during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

Bong already had commercial and critical success with his 2013 sci-fi film “Snowpiercer,” which starred Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton along with “Parasite” actor Song Kang-ho from South Korea. But nothing that's come before has been remotely as successful as “Parasite,” a profoundly South Korean film shot in the Korean language. Last May, Bong won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Bong’s Oscar win was also a watershed for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has invited many more overseas voters in recent years to diversify its membership.

During Wednesday’s news conference, Bong said he was ready for a break after a successful yet exhausting Oscars campaign. But he said prominent American director Martin Scorsese pleaded that he get back to work quickly.

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” rear center, poses with the cast and crew after a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

“I just read his letter a few hours ago and it was an honor,” Bong said. “He said I did a good job and should rest, but only a little because he and everyone else was eagerly waiting for my next film.”

Bong had mentioned his admiration of Scorsese while receiving the directing Oscar, inspiring an impromptu standing ovation from the crowd.

Bong said he was discussing with HBO making a TV adaptation of “Parasite,” with American director and screenwriter Adam McKay agreeing to be a writer on the series that could last five or six episodes.

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” listens to a question during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

“We have smoothly taken the first step with HBO,” said Bong, while denying reports that Mark Ruffalo and Swinton have been finalized as cast members.

“The TV adaptation of ‘Snowpiercer’ is planned to air in May, but since we started talking about it in 2014 or 2015, it took about five years. (The TV version of) “Parasite” might take quite a while too,” he said.

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” center right, speaks during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” waves after a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” speaks during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” rear center, poses with the cast and crew after a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” waves after a press conference in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)

Journalists wear face masks during a press conference of Bong Joon-ho, director of Oscar-winning “Parasite,” in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020. Bong said Wednesday “the biggest pleasure and the most significant meaning” that the film has brought to him was its success in many countries though the audiences might feel uncomfortable with his explicit description of a bitter wealth disparity in modern society. (AP PhotoAhn Young-joon)