Parasite - Exploitation of Desperation: Dehumanization and Manipulation

16 July 2023
Bong Joon-ho's critically acclaimed film "Parasite" delves into the intricate themes of the socioeconomic divide and human desperation, shedding light on the pressing issues that exist within contemporary society. The film's exploration of these themes holds great significance as it mirrors the harsh realities faced by individuals across different social classes. By depicting the lives of two contrasting families, "Parasite" provides a nuanced examination of the complexities inherent in social inequality and the lengths individuals may go to in order to escape their circumstances.

In "Parasite," the Kim family, residing in a cramped semi-basement apartment, serves as a representation of the lower class, while the affluent Park family symbolizes the upper class. The stark contrast between their living conditions underscores the vast socioeconomic divide within society. The Kim family's infiltration into the lives of the Park family highlights the desperation to break free from their circumstances and attain social mobility.

Let's discuss these themes in the film.

parasite film poster

Class Struggle and Social Inequality

Introduction to the Kim family and the Park family

In "Parasite," the Kim family represents the lower class, while the Park family embodies the privileged upper class. The Kim family consists of Ki-taek, the father and head of the household, his wife Chung-sook, and their children, Ki-woo and Ki-jung. On the other hand, the Park family consists of Mr. Park, the wealthy and successful patriarch, his wife Yeon-kyo, and their children, Da-hye and Da-song.

The stark contrast between the cramped semi-basement apartment and the luxurious mansion

The film starkly depicts the contrasting living conditions of the two families. The Kim family's semi-basement apartment is a cramped and dimly lit space, symbolizing their poverty and confined existence. In contrast, the Park family's mansion is spacious, meticulously designed, and bathed in natural light, symbolizing opulence and affluence. This stark contrast underscores the vast socioeconomic divide between the two families and serves as a visual representation of social inequality.

The infiltration of the Kim family into the lives of the Park family

The Kim family strategically infiltrates the lives of the Park family, seizing opportunities to improve their own circumstances. They manipulate their way into positions of employment within the Park household.

Examples of the Kim family's various roles within the Park household

Each member of the Kim family assumes different roles within the Park household, masquerading as unrelated individuals. Ki-woo becomes the English tutor for Da-hye, while Ki-jung poses as an art therapist for Da-song. Chung-sook becomes the housekeeper, and even the patriarch, Ki-taek, takes on the role of the driver. These positions grant the Kim family access to the resources and lifestyle enjoyed by the privileged Park family.

Symbolism of the subterranean tunnel connecting the two residences

A significant symbol in the film is the subterranean tunnel that connects the Kim family's semi-basement apartment to the Park family's mansion. This tunnel represents the invisible connections and pathways through which the lower class can infiltrate the lives of the wealthy. It symbolizes the hidden depths of socioeconomic mobility and the lengths to which the Kim family is willing to go to escape their impoverished circumstances.

The facade of social mobility and the illusion of meritocracy

"Parasite" explores the facade of social mobility and the illusion of meritocracy, revealing how systemic barriers prevent the lower class from achieving upward mobility purely based on merit.

Ki-woo's forged diploma and his subsequent employment as a tutor

Ki-woo forges a university diploma to secure a job as an English tutor for Da-hye, the Park family's daughter. This act highlights the limitations placed upon the lower class, as Ki-woo's qualifications are based on a lie rather than genuine merit. It exposes the unequal opportunities that hinder upward mobility for those without access to education and resources.

Mr. Kim's reference to the metaphor of an "indigenous weed"

Mr. Kim uses the metaphor of an "indigenous weed" during a conversation with his son, highlighting the systemic biases against the lower class. He suggests that, like an indigenous weed, the lower class is considered an undesirable presence that must be eradicated. This metaphor emphasizes the perception of the lower class as intruders or parasites within a system that favors the privileged, reinforcing the challenges they face in breaking free from their marginalized status.

Exploitation and Dehumanization

The Parks' obliviousness to the struggles of the working class

The film "Parasite" showcases the obliviousness of the Park family to the hardships faced by the working class, further exacerbating the dehumanization of those beneath their social status.

Mrs. Park's dismissive attitude towards those beneath her social status

Mrs. Park exhibits a dismissive and condescending attitude towards those considered beneath her. This is evident in her treatment of the Kim family, whom she sees as mere employees rather than individuals with their own aspirations and struggles. Her lack of empathy reflects the dehumanization that occurs when social classes become disconnected from one another.

The scene depicting Mr. Park's disdain for the smell of the subway

In a memorable scene, Mr. Park expresses his disgust toward the smell of the subway when Ki-taek, the patriarch of the Kim family, is chauffeuring him. This disdain for the lower-class environment highlights the Parks' detachment from the realities faced by the working class, emphasizing the dehumanizing effect of their privileged lifestyle.

The Kim family's continuous manipulation and deception

While the Kim family faces exploitation and marginalization, they, too, resort to manipulation and deception to improve their circumstances, blurring the lines between victim and perpetrator.

Mr. Kim's forging of documents to secure employment for his wife

To secure a position for his wife, Mr. Kim forges documents, highlighting the desperate measures the lower class may resort to when opportunities for social mobility are limited. This act of deception demonstrates the precarious position the Kim family finds themselves in and the moral compromises they must make.

The scene where the Kim family enjoys the luxury of the Park household while the Parks are away

When the Park family is away, the Kim family indulges in the luxuries of their mansion. They relish in the abundance of food, take pleasure in using the luxurious amenities, and briefly experience the comforts of the wealthy. This scene underscores the desperation and yearning of the Kim family to escape their impoverished lives, even if it means taking advantage of the absent Parks.

The basement as a metaphor for the hidden struggles and suffering of the lower class

The basement within the Park residence serves as a metaphorical representation of the hidden struggles and suffering endured by the lower class.

The revelation of the hidden secret within the Park residence's basement

As the film unfolds, the audience learns about the hidden secret within the Park residence's basement. This revelation highlights the stark contrast between the surface-level appearance of wealth and happiness and the concealed suffering beneath. The metaphorical basement symbolizes the hidden struggles that the lower class faces, while the upper class remains unaware or indifferent to their plight.

The flooding scene symbolizing the harsh realities faced by the lower class

During a heavy rainstorm, the Kim family's semi-basement apartment is flooded with water and sewage, exposing the harsh realities of their living conditions. This scene serves as a powerful metaphor for the relentless challenges faced by the lower class, as they are constantly subjected to external forces beyond their control. The flooding scene serves as a poignant reminder of the dehumanizing conditions endured by the marginalized.

Desperation and Moral Ambiguity

The descent into desperation and the loss of moral boundaries

In "Parasite," desperation drives the characters to make choices that blur the lines of morality, as they seek to secure their positions and improve their circumstances.

The Kim family's opportunistic actions to secure their positions

The Kim family's desperation leads them to seize opportunities and manipulate their way into the Park household. Their actions, such as forging documents and creating false identities, showcase their willingness to cross ethical boundaries to improve their social standing. This opportunism demonstrates the extent to which individuals can be driven by desperation when faced with limited avenues for advancement.

The climax of the film and the violent turn of events

As the tension escalates, the film takes a violent turn in its climax. The characters' desperation reaches its peak, resulting in tragic consequences. This escalation highlights the devastating impact of desperation and the potential loss of control and rationality when individuals feel cornered by their circumstances.

The grey areas between right and wrong

"Parasite" explores the moral ambiguity that arises when individuals are pushed to their limits, revealing the complexity of ethical decision-making in desperate situations.

Ki-taek's final decision regarding the Morse code signal

Towards the end of the film, Ki-taek is faced with a crucial decision regarding a Morse code signal that holds implications for the Park family. This decision serves as a moral dilemma, as Ki-taek grapples with the consequences of his choice. The film raises questions about the limits of empathy and the difficult choices individuals make when faced with conflicting interests.

The final shot of the film and its implications for the characters' futures

The film's final shot depicts Ki-woo, the son of the Kim family, looking towards the Park residence from a semi-basement apartment. This open-ended shot suggests uncertainty and raises questions about the characters' futures. It invites viewers to reflect on the consequences of their actions and contemplate the potential cycle of desperation and moral ambiguity that perpetuates in society.

"Parasite" challenges traditional notions of right and wrong, highlighting the complexities that arise when individuals are driven to desperation. The film poses thought-provoking questions about the moral boundaries people are willing to cross and how circumstances shape their choices. By leaving the characters' futures unresolved, the film invites introspection and prompts discussions about the systemic issues that perpetuate desperation and moral ambiguity within society.


"Parasite" masterfully explores a range of interconnected themes, providing a thought-provoking examination of societal issues and human nature. The film delves into the complexities of the socioeconomic divide, the depths of human desperation, the exploitation and dehumanization faced by the working class, and the moral ambiguity that arises in desperate situations.

"Parasite" has had a significant impact in raising awareness about social inequality and class struggles. By vividly depicting the disparities between the Kim and Park families, the film serves as a catalyst for conversations surrounding wealth disparity, privilege, and the systemic barriers that hinder social mobility. It sheds light on the often invisible struggles faced by the lower class and challenges societal perceptions of the marginalized.

Through its layered characters, intricate plot, and evocative imagery, "Parasite" captures the complexities and contradictions of contemporary society. It compels audiences to question their own positions within the social fabric and reflect upon the structures that perpetuate inequality. By provoking such critical engagement, "Parasite" exemplifies the power of cinema to ignite social consciousness and incite meaningful change.

Overall, Bong Joon-ho's "Parasite" serves as a profound and resonant exploration of themes, leaving an indelible mark on both the cinematic landscape and the collective consciousness of its viewers.


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My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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