Parasite, Squid Game and the Misery of South Korea's Capitalism
In November of 2020, a North Korean gymnast pole vaulted over dozens of 20 feet high electric fences, invisible land mines, and state of the art motion detection systems right into South Korea. The story made international headlines for the breathtaking nature of the escape and the failure of the South Korean military to find him for hours on end.
A couple days ago that same North Korean gymnast was spotted defecting back to the North through the DMZ. Despite all the grand claims of South Korea being a wealthy cultural capital, the North Korean whose name was Kim Woo Jin, 29, suffered in the South in abject poverty. The nature of capitalism in the South was too stressful and the discrimination towards Northerners was too much for the young talented gymnast.
Such stories of struggle for the lowest members of supposedly wealthy capitalist countries have become all too common whether it is the U.S.'s large homeless tent cities or South Korea's eldery poverty.
Such stories of struggle for the lowest members of supposedly wealthy capitalist countries have become all too common whether it is the U.S.'s large homeless tent cities or South Korea's eldery poverty. What is of particular interest is how South Korean media that critiques capitalism has resonated across the world in an all too familiar story of inequality.
Parasite was the first international breakthrough that heavily criticized the capitalist system. The movie followed the poor Kim's and their quest too infiltrate the wealthy Park family to get a series of service jobs. In other words, the poor Kim's do a series of really clever manipulations with an almost heist-like efficiency to get... the opportunity to serve others.
The poor Kim's do a series of really clever manipulations with an almost heist-like efficiency to get... the opportunity to serve others.
Parasite shows a reality that many working class people around the world are faced with. That, the scarcity of work can be so extreme people will step on each other for the most menial of positions and oftentimes it will manifest in inter and intra class violence.
Instead of robbing banks with the expectation of living in paradise for the rest of one's life, the Parasite shows us how the system encourages people to fight each other in a zero-sum game. In the movie, another family lives underneath secretly in the basement and the two families begin to kill each other over the opportunity to serve the wealthy family.
the movie shows us how the system encourages people to fight each other in a zero-sum game
One cannot talk about metaphorical and well-made anti-capitalist diatribes without talking about Squid game. The show was the most popular of the decade and even beat game of thrones in terms of number of views for related media. To say it had an impact is an understatement as hundreds of millions saw the show and billions of others vicariously saw its impact through social media and other related content.
The show was the most popular of the decade and even beat game of thrones in terms of number of views for related media.
The show is incredibly dark, cruel and violent. Usually such entertainment never reaches the mainstream but the zero-sum games and the metaphors for characters who participated in the games to pay their debt, felt all too real to many across the world. The idea that billionaires could buy an island and make poor people across the world kill each other for their entertainment doesn't seem so far fetched after Jefferey Epstein systematically acquired little kids on his private island and then raped them.
The show follows a diverse cast with different reasons for voluntarily entering the games. One is a gangster whose organs are sought after. Another is a North Korean defector who wants to bring her parents out of the country. They even have a South Asian migrant worker who is both fleeing charges after pushing his boss into machinery and needs money to support his family in Pakistan. The main character is a good hearted man who is naiive with a compulsive gambling addiction while another is an old man who lives in poverty.
While most of us may not know North Korea defectors or gangsters with bounty's on their heads, many of us have seen migrant workers, compulsive gamblers and the elderly struggling to live. The reason why the show resonated across the world is because anyone can find themselves desperate enough to participate in a a shady game for money. Don't believe me? The scamming industry in the U.S. alone is worth at least 29 billion dollars annually and preys on the hopes and fears of people for better opportunities. There are a ton of people who would kill for 38 million dollars (40 billion won) which is pocket change to most billionaires.
The fact of the matter is anyone can find themselves in the unfortunate position of stepping on their fellow man for the most marginal and humiliating of gains. South Korea's media may express it's anti-capitalist sentiment better than any other industry in the world right now but the rest of the world feels the reality every day.
The fact of the matter is anyone can find themselves in the unfortunate position of stepping on their fellow man for the most marginal and humiliating of gains.
Rap Monster or RM from the famous pop group BTS expressed his love-hate relationship with Korea best in his song 'Seoul' that said "It's a nice place to live if you have money." I'd add only one caveat, living anywhere these days is only good if you have money. Amen, you talented man. Amen.
"lt's a nice place to live if you have money."