Korean Director Bong Joon-ho on How to Laugh in the Face of Horror

TORONTO, ONTARIO - SEPTEMBER 07: Director Bong Joon-Ho of 'Parasite' attends The IMDb Studio Presented By Intuit QuickBooks at Toronto 2019 at Bisha Hotel & Residences on September 07, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

In this Vulture profile ahead of the release of the his new film Parasite, Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host) talks to E. Alex Jung about the menace of Harvey Weinstein, having full creative control over his films, and how laughter helps release the anxiety of living in a modern dystopia.

Bong’s work reflects anxieties he feels every day — about the climate crisis, the widening income gap. “My films generally seem to have three components: fear, anxiety, and a kekeke sense of humor,” he says, using the Korean equivalent of “ha-ha.” “Humor comes from anxiety, too,” he adds. “At least when we laugh, there’s a feeling that we’re overcoming some kind of horror.” In his view, our world is already a dystopia, and all tragedy and comedy flows from this fact.

Parasite, in particular, hits a nerve, tapping into the persistent feeling that we are on the brink of social collapse. “The true horror and fear of Parasite isn’t just about how the present-day situation is bad but that it will only continue to get worse,” he says. “That’s my own fear in my life. I’m 50 now, so I’m going to die in about 30 years. My son is 23 now. When he reaches middle age, after I die, will it get better? I don’t know. I’m not so hopeful. Still, we have to try to live happily. We can’t cry every day.” (He’s surprisingly sanguine about all of this.)

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