Song Kang Ho (‘Parasite’) on how Bong Joon Ho’s film ‘transcends’ borders [Complete Interview Transcript]

Song Kang Ho is attracting Oscar buzz for his performance as Kim Ki-taek, father of a struggling family in Bong Joon Ho‘s acclaimed film “Parasite.” He and the cast are nominated at the upcoming SAG Awards.

Song recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria about working with Bong, the awards “Parasite” has received, and why the film has transcended and resonated all around the world. Watch the exclusive video interview above and read the complete transcript below.

Gold Derby: Song, you are one of the most prolific actors in Korea. Do you consider “Parasite” to be the highlight of your career to date?

Song Kang Ho: Perhaps you can say that, however, as an actor, I will be continuing to work on other projects as well, so it could be the highlight of my career, but at the same time, I hope it is not.

GD: Yeah, that’s actually a really good point. What do you think when people call you, in Korea, a national treasure?

SKH: That is over-exaggerating. As I continue to work on good pictures and new pictures, I think I have a chance to come upon such a marvelous project as “Parasite.”

GD: You’ve been in some really great movies with Bong. I think this is your fourth one. What do you most love about working with him?

SK: Director Bong is a very humorous person and he’s very fun to hang out with together. Not only is it embodied in his pictures but also when you’re together at the production set and even in the private setting, he’s a very fun guy to be with together. I think that has to do a lot.

GD: Does it excite you that after all these years that Bong’s been working in Korean cinema that after “Snowpiercer,” this film has really become a global phenomenon?

SKH: Yeah, practically 10 years prior, from 10 years ago, he has been one of the greatest Korean film director and he’s a young artist that I happen to respect highly and as an actor myself and as a fan myself, it’s very exciting to see how finally “Parasite” has opened up and he has been well-received as an artist himself all over the world, not only in Korea. And I’m happy to be part of it. It’s such an honor to see this unfolding, him getting the respect that he deserves.

GD: And speaking of that respect, when he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, you were there. It was a wonderful moment to see you and he together accepting that award. Tell us about the highlight of being in Cannes and winning.

SKH: Both of us didn’t expect at all to receive such a highly respected prize. To be honest, director Bong and I were very excited to receive it, yes.

GD: What about all this other talk of awards? People are saying your film might even receive awards at the Oscars. Does that excite you? Do you care about stuff like that?

SKH: I mean, obviously it’s really great to receive such a reception from all over the world and to be honest, we don’t go about making movies in order to collect awards. However, just the mention about us being a contender for the Oscars is a big boost for us and especially for director Bong. I think it’s gonna give him great energy for the next project moving forward.

GD: Let’s talk about the film in some detail. For me, it was surprising. It kept me guessing the whole movie. When you read the script, were there moments where you were quite surprised where the film was headed?

SKH: The most surprising part for me, there was a lot of rain so I expected there would be heavy rain (laughs).

GD: There was a lot of rain. And also, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I saw it months ago now and I think about it often. Why do you think that is? What is it about this film that has really resonated with people?

SKH: On the foundation, we have director Bong’s superb directing, how he has put everything together, but at the same time, the movie is talking about the reality of the world we are living in right now. It’s talking about class struggle and the social problem that we are facing and I guess, because of the message that it’s speaking, the picture is able to transcend and go over the border and speak to the audience globally. With that message at the same time together with director Bong’s directing, it has accumulated into a great piece of art.

GD: Yeah, absolutely. What I also really appreciated was it’s also quite funny. It’s very dark but it’s funny. Did you enjoy the comedy aspects of doing this film?

SKH: Yeah, humor, that is one thing that is very authentic and director Bong, he’s best at it. I guess I can term it as electricity, the humor of it, because you cannot turn on any lights without the electricity, but director Bong has this electricity to the point that he has it in his own unique way and at a surprising peak he’s able to offer us his distinctive humor into the film.

GD: So it’s funny and it talks about class but what I think is most powerful is that it’s morally ambiguous, because the Kim family are not all good and the Park family are not all bad. Did you appreciate how the film kept shifting in terms of who we were rooting for?

SKH: I think that’s a great question. I went to the Telluride Festival and talking to the people who have seen the movie at that festival and even back in Korea, people would be asking, “So who exactly are the villains? Who are the parasites? Is it the Kims or is it the Parks? Who exactly are the parasites?” But I guess everybody. We are all parasites and that is exactly the beauty of this film that throws audiences this question to ponder about.

GD: Yeah, it really does. I wondered throughout the whole movie, “Am I supposed to like the Kims or supposed to like the Parks,” and by the end of it, it’s very violent and very wild and crazy. I wonder, when you walk out of the cinema, did you want to side with the Parks or did you want to side with the Kims?

SKH: I wouldn’t say it’s rooting for either the Kids or the Parks. Maybe emotionally we tend to side with the Kims. However, at the same time, the Parks didn’t actually do anything wrong. Both sides are sort of innocent, in a way. So it’s not about, I should say, rooting for one or the other but the beauty is how the picture talks about the society we live in today and how we should go over this hump of this tragedy, the world that we live in, and to go towards the optimistic. That offer has to do with the message that we are trying to portray.

GD: And I think ultimately for me, I related to your character. There’s something about what you bring to this film that is very relatable, and I wonder, looking back at your career, a lot of your characters are quite relatable. Why is that? Do you do that on purpose?

SKH: Did I lend you some money, is that why? (Laughs.) First and foremost, I appreciate your kind words but I guess it’s because of my physical features, that I look like a person, next-door neighbor you could see in a very ordinary setting. To be honest, I’m not that handsome, I’m not that glamorous, and perhaps that has to do with it, how you can feel friendly to me and I think that’s working for me as an actor.

GD: Okay, we’ll go with that. Song, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it and good luck this American award season.

SKH: Thank you very much!

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