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[Newsmaker] 8 stars of ‘Parasite’

The cast of “Parasite” poses on the red carpet during the Oscars arrivals at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, on Monday. (Reuters-Yonhap)
The cast of “Parasite” poses on the red carpet during the Oscars arrivals at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, on Monday. (Reuters-Yonhap)

When “Parasite” became the first non-English-language movie to win the top honor of best ensemble cast at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, actor Lee Sun-kyun joked, “I am a little embarrassed. It feels like we are parasites of Hollywood now.”

He was being humble.

Bong Joon-ho’s satire-thriller “Parasite” on Monday won best picture, best director, best international feature film and best original screenplay at the Academy Awards, becoming the first Korean movie to win at the world’s biggest film event.

From veteran actor Song Kang-ho, who has been central to Bong’s filmmaking, to Korea Canadian actor Choi Woo-shik joining Bong for the second time, the following is a brief look at the career of the main actors in “Parasite.”

Song Kang-ho, best fit for Bong (Kim Gi-tae, father of a down-and-out family)

This is not the first film that Song, who plays the father of the down-and-out family in “Parasite,” has worked with Bong.

Their first film together, “Memories of Murder” released in 2003. In the film based on true events, Song played the lead role as an incompetent rural detective.

In the ensuing years, Kang starred in two more Bong films -- “The Host” and “Snowpiercer.” These two films proved that Bong was not the only one who enjoyed seeing Song in his movies. Korean moviegoers also love the pairing.

“The Host” drew over 10 million viewers in Korea, considered a mark of an elitely successful movie in Korea. Bong’s English-language debut “Snowpiercer” also sold more than 9 million tickets in Korea. “Parasite” reached more than 10 million tickets sold in Korea.

Although it is true that Song shines in Bong’s films, Song is a box office power in his own right. Two other films starring Song -- “The Attorney” (2013), directed by Yang Woo-suk, and “A Taxi Driver” (2017), by Jang Hoon -- have also passed the 10 million viewer mark.

Song is widely known as a chameleonesque actor who adapts to different roles across diverse genres. In his early career he showed his talent for making people laugh with down-to-earth characters in comedies like “No. 3” and “The Foul King.” In later movies like “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “The Throne,” he proved he could handle more serious and charismatic roles. Throughout his career, Song has done a phenomenal job of portraying multidimensional characters with both down-to-earth and charismatic sides.

Lee Sun-gyun, angel and demon (Park Dong-ik, father of rich family)

Moviegoers who saw Lee for the first time in “Parasite” are likely to think it natural that Lee plays an arrogant businessman. However, the actor is known for pulling off both angelic and demonic roles.

He played a corrupt detective with a bad temper in “A Hard Day” in 2013. That role landed him the best actor award at the 2015 Baeksang Arts Awards.

Lee also is known for the romantic leads he played in hit TV dramas “Coffee Prince” and “Pasta.”

Cho Yeo-jeong, look at her now (Park Yeon-kyo, mother of rich family)

Nobody would have guessed Cho would be standing at the Academy Awards or so magnificently play the matriarch of a rich family when she started her career. Cho was a high school student when she debuted as the 15th host of long-running children’s television show “Popopo” in 1997.

She started getting noticed through leading roles in “The Servant” in 2010 and “The Concubine” in 2012. 

In November last year, Cho finally got top-line recognition. She won the prize for best actress at the Blue Dragon Awards, one of the most prestigious film awards in Korea, for her role in “Parasite.” In her acceptance speech, the 38-year-old actress said she had thought of acting as a one-sided love.

Choi Woo-shik, not just another pretty face (Kim Gi-woo, son of down-and-out family)

Choi plays the son of Song’s character and the English tutor to the rich schoolgirl who has fallen for him. The Korean Canadian actor gained recognition for his role in “Train to Busan” in 2016, which sold over 10 million tickets at the Korean box office.

He must have made a good impression on Bong when he played a minor role as a truck driver in his 2017 action-adventure film “Okja.”

His latest action-thriller, “Time to Hunt” will hit Korean theaters later this month.

Park So-dam, girl who sang “Jessica Jingle” (Kim Gi-jung, daughter of down-and-out family)

If Park’s “Jessica Jingle” became your earworm and you would like to discover more about her, watch mystery thriller “The Priests.”

Although the movie was an unfamiliar subject matter for many Koreans, it sold more than 5 million cinema tickets. Her role as a possessed high school student won her multiple best new actress awards, including one at the 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards.

Lee Jeong-eun, voice behind “Okja” (Kook Moon-gwang, housekeeper)

Lee plays a housekeeper who dramatically appears in front of the Park family’s home. The atmosphere of “Parasite” instantly changes in this stormy scene.

Lee’s acting career began in 1991. For nearly three decades, she has excelled in supporting roles in Korean dramas, including “Oh My Ghost,” and “Mr. Sunshine.”

No matter how small her role, she always shone brightly, and it was no exception when she played the voice of the titular genetically modified super pig in Bong’s “Okja.”

Jang Hye-jin, 16 long years to work with Bong (Kim Chung-sook, mother of down-and-out family)

Although this is Jang’s first time working with Bong, this is not the first time she had an offer from the director.

Jang had an offer for a role in Bong’s early “Memories of Murder” in 2003. Ultimately, she declined the role. Years later, she returned with director Lee Chang-dong’s award-winning “Secret Sunshine” in 2007, which drew more than 1.6 million viewers.

Park Myeong-hoon, man who could not appear on Cannes red carpet (Oh Geun-sei, housekeeper’s husband)

Even though he was in Paris, when “Parasite” won the top prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Park could not appear on the red carpet because his presence there would be a spoiler.

Although Park is relatively new to the Korean motion picture scene -- his first movie “Alive” was released in 2014 -- he has been performing on theater stages since 1999. In 2005, he also performed “Run for Your Wife” with Lee Jong-un, his wife in “Parasite,” which ran for six months on stage.

By Song Seung-hyun (