Parasite (a.k.a Gisaengchung) is a 2019 Korean film written and directed by Bong Joon-ho. The film won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. This was the first time that a non-English film won in the main category, a glorious moment for Joon-ho. His acceptance speech was amazing too. His earlier films include Mother, Snowpiercer, and Memories of Murder, to name a few. He has a unique style of storytelling that always blurs the lines between the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Parasite cast is excellent and comes together to present a circumstance that escalates so quick, you’re left wondering if its the same film that you are still watching at the end. Thanks to everyone who recommended this movie to me. Here’s the plot and ending of the movie Parasite explained.
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Parasite Movie: Plot Explained
Let’s have a quick look at the definition of a parasite:
An organism that lives in or on another and benefits by deriving nutrients at the other’s expense. This can be applied metaphorically between two humans.
The family in the half-basement
We are introduced to the Kim family, which consists of Ki-taek, Chung-sook – his wife, Ki-woo – his son, and Ki-jeong – his daughter. We see them leeching off nearby unprotected WiFi connections. They barely make ends meet by folding pizza boxes. However, they are a happy family and enjoy their time together in their half-basement apartment. These four individuals are pretty smart but are poor because of the lack of opportunities (economic divide) and their laziness.
We’re presented this family as the protagonist, but if you’ve seen other Joon-ho Bong’s films, you’ll know that he’ll blur the line between the protagonist and the antagonist.
Ki-woo’s friend, Min-hyuk, plans to go abroad to study. He offers to introduce Ki-woo to the wealthy Park family to tutor their daughter. The Park family consists of Dong-ik, Yeon-gyo – his wife, Da-hye – his daughter, and Da-song – his son.
Now, Min-hyuk really likes Da-hye and tells his friend that he will propose to her after she gets to high school. He trusts Ki-woo to keep his relationship in the limits of a tutor. Min-hyuk offers Kim’s family with a Scholar’s Rock for good fortune and leaves.
To just tutor or not to just tutor
Ki-woo is quick to assess the household to be wealthy enough to afford an art therapist for their young son, Da-song. He introduces Ki-jeong as his sister’s friend, a well-reputed art therapist. Ki-jeong offers her service at a hefty price. Ki-woo also enters a romantic relationship with Da-hye dishonouring his friend’s trust.
On her ride back with the Park family’s chauffeur, Ki-jeong leaves her panties in the car as a trap. The chauffeur is not a dirty guy, but he was quick enough to flirt with Ki-jeong and tries hard to drive her home. Soon, the undergarment is found, and Dong-it fires his chauffeur. Ki-jeong introduces Ki-taek as her uncle’s driver, who gets the job.
The Kim family now targets the housekeeper at the Park’s home, Moon-gwang. They identify her allergy to peaches and use that to seem like she has tuberculosis. Ki-taek says he knows a service for high worth individuals and hands a card to Dong-ik. Yeon-gyo calls the service (faked by Ki-jeong), asking for a housekeeper.
Finally, Moon-gwang is let go, and Chung-sook is hired. The Kim family leeches on to the Park household in full capacity like parasites, but wait, there’s more.
Moon-gwang’s hidden treasure in Parasite
The Park’s home has a hidden bunker where she’s been keeping her husband, Geun-sae, secretly. This also explains why Dong-ik knows her to eat the quantity of two people. Geun-sae took some bad loans, and in fear of the loan sharks, he abandoned his freedom to live inside the bunker. Moon-gwang and her husband have been parasites in the Park household as well.
The Parks head out camping and the Kims decide to have their little drinks party that the giant household. Moon-gwang shows up pleading to enter. If you think of it, had Chung-sook refused, stating the family is out, we would have had a completely different turn of events. But taking pity, Chung-sook lets Moon-gwang in. Soon the hidden husband is revealed, and Chung-sook threatens to call the cops. The rest of the Kims who are hiding at the stairs fall down, exposing that they are all one family.
Moon-gwang captures the Kims in a video and threatens to send it to the Parks. Neither groups offer a truce. Given Geun-sae had to stay in the bunker, and the Kims needed Moon-gwang to go away quietly, they could have come to a cease-fire, and scratch one another’s backs. But no, both sides wanted it all, and a brawl breaks out as Moon-gwang is making fun of a North Korean news reporter. All hell breaks loose, and the Kims call saying they are almost back home due to the rains that canceled their camping trip.
In the scuffle, Geun-sae is tied up, but Moon-gwang gets pushed down the stairs, and her head slams against the wall. Ki-taek locks them in the bunker and hides under the center table in the hall along with Ki-woo and Ki-jeong.
It’s the smell, if there is such a thing
Da-song wants to camp in the yard, and Dong-ik and Yeon-gyo decide to sleep on the couch to keep an eye on their son. Dong-ik states that he can smell Ki-taek in the living room. He talks about how the one thing he’s unable to stand is the same smell that floods the insides of the car. Considering the state of their impoverished existence, Ki-taek is visibly upset about this comment.
Years back, on his birthday, Da-song takes his birthday cake out of the fridge at night and gleefully gobbles it. Geun-sae exits the bunker, thinking everyone would be asleep, and he can fix himself a night-snack. Unfortunately for Da-song, he sees Geun-sae and takes him to be a ghost. This triggers a seizure, and Da-song is rushed to a hospital. Ever since, the family has kept a close watch on their son.
It all goes down the drain
The trio manages to sneak out from under the table and make a run for their home. When they reach, they find that their basement is flooded by the heavy rains. The whole neighbourhood takes a nasty beating and is left homeless. Back at the bunker, Moon-gwang dies because of the blow to her head.
A birthday party instead
The Parks have always gone out for their son’s birthday ever since the seizure, but since this time the camping trip was a failure, they decide to throw a party in their home. Each of the Kims gets invited too. Ki-taek is asked to report in for work and is paid overtime.
Economic inequality that can never go away
At the Park’s home, Ki-woo realizes that it is only a dream of his to propose and marry Da-hye. Looking at the party, it becomes very obvious to him that he will never belong to this stratum of people. This also reinforces the decision he has made to kill the two people in the basement to ensure his family can have a livelihood. Ki-woo could have played it quietly until he met in private with his family. But a strange sense of ownership takes him over, and he heads down.
As Ki-taek drives Yeon-gyo home, he hears her thank the rains because the sky now looks pretty. Ki-taek and his neighbours have just lost their houses because of the downpour, and the affluent section of the society considers the rain to be fantastic because they have a beautiful sky to look at. He also observes Yeon-gyo rolling down her window because of the way he smells.
Da-song loves shooting his toy arrows, and hence the Parks plan a surprise for him. Dong-ik dresses up himself and Ki-taek as native Americans and explains that they are to act like they are attacking Ki-jeong, who will be carrying the birthday cake. Dong-ik feels Ki-taek is doing no favours here by doing this as he’s already paid overtime. Dong-ik blissfully extracts whatever work he needs even though Ki-taek is being paid for the work of a chauffeur.
We all fall down
Ki-woo heads to the bunker to kill the two residents. This event really triggers the gruesome ending of Parasite. Geun-sae ambushes him and knocks him out with Schollar’s stone. Filled with vengeance, he picks up a knife and heads up. He locates Ki-jeong and stabs her in the chest. Chung-sook, in turn, impales and kills Geun-sae. Seeing Geun-sae triggers another seizure for Da-song, and he falls to the ground.
Dong-ik, worried for his son, and not knowing that the art therapist is Ki-taek’s daughter, yells at Ki-taek to leave and prepare the car. Overwhelmed by his bleeding daughter and son who’s being rushed out by Da-hye, Ki-taek only manages to toss the car keys halfway to Dong-ik. As he rushes to pick up the keys, Dong-ik covers his nose because of the smell from Geun-sae. Ki-taek’s crazy switch flips on after seeing this, and he thoughtlessly approaches and stabs Dong-ik in the chest and flees into the bunker.
Parasite Movie Ending: The Aftermath
Both Ki-jeong and Dong-ik die from their stab wounds.
Thanks to Da-hye, Ki-woo was tended to at a hospital. She would have later been devastated to know that it was Ki-woo’s father that killed hers.
Ki-woo wakes up from his coma almost a month later to learn that his sister has died, and his father went missing. The authorities not knowing about the bunker or the reason behind the bloodshed, only punish Chung-sook and Ki-woo with probation.
The surviving Parks sell their house to a German family and move away. Ki-woo never meets Da-hye again. But for the sake of nostalgia, he likes staring the Park’s home from a distance every now and then.
Parasite: Ending Explained
In the ending of Parasite, Ki-woo notices a flickering light in the Park’s home. He knows that the switch to the bulb is at the bunker. Seeing that the pattern is morse code, he writes it down to decipher a message from his father, who is now the bunker’s new resident to avoid being arrested for murder. Ki-woo writes a letter to his father, stating that he plans to earn enough money to buy that house, after which Ki-taek could just walk out. We are shown a visual of this happening, but in reality, Ki-woo is still in his basement house trapped by the economic inequality, which makes the contents of his letter only a dream.
The thing about Bong Joon-ho’s films is that you can’t say who the protagonist and antagonist are. He loves to blur that line. Like in many of his earlier films, he begins his story by allowing you to identify with the so-called good guy and bad guy. But the end of the film leaves you wondering who was really the antagonist here? Was there a protagonist at all? Parasite is no different.
The Kim family clearly is. For their own benefit, they ensured they got the other employees of the house fired. They leeched on to the Park household a bit much. Had they kept away and not feasted in the house when the Parks were out, much could have been averted. For example, fearing for her safety, Chung-sook would not have opened the door for Moon-gwang. The bunker may not have been discovered in the violent way it was.
The Park family is too. In the sense, they represent the blissfully unaware rich who live off the working class. They merely part with is their money to gain services but are entirely ignorant about the terrible quality lives of the labour class.
Ki-woo also broke his word to his friend and began dating Da-hye in secret. He even says the same thing as Min-hyuk, “Year after next, when she enters university, I’m going to officially ask her out.”
The prim and proper Moon-gwang also had her dark secret. They were using the Park household to hide and sustain her husband. They, too, enjoyed the comforts of the home when it was empty and were unwilling to make a truce.
Dong-ik took liberties with his staff to make them do things that weren’t really part of their job description. While this might be a much lower form of parasitical behaviour, it still is leechy in nature. That said, he didn’t deserve death.
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