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Thanks to Parasite, Seoul Is Working to Improve Living Conditions in Its Semi-Basement Apartments

Characters from Parasite look at their phones in front of a toilet in their semi-basement apartment.

(Neon/CJ Entertainment)

The government of Seoul, South Korea has announced that they will take active steps to improve the living conditions of those living in “semi-basement” apartments. There are more than 380,000 of these apartments in South Korea, and about 60% of those are in the capital of Seoul. But the decision to act seems to be a direct response to one fictional family–the Kims from Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite.

The Kim family’s apartment plays an important role in the movie. It’s as clear an indicator as you can get of the extreme class disparities between the Kims and the family they con into employing them. In one memorable scene, the apartment (and their entire neighborhood) floods with sewage water during a rain storm.

Now, according to the Korea Herald, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, along with the Korea Energy Foundation, will offer up to 3.2 million won (about $2625 USD) per household “to enhance heating systems, replace floors, and install air conditioners, dehumidifiers, ventilators, windows and fire alarms.”

“As portrayed in Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s film ‘Parasite,'” the outlet writes, “apartments like this tend to be cramped, damp and smelly due to a lack of sunlight and ventilation, especially when the city gets flooded in summer.”

The government will offer assistance to those who earn less than 60% of the median income for a Korean household–about 1,500 families.

The news brings to mind the attention that is finally being paid to the 1921 Tulsa race massacre. For nearly a century, the fact that a white mob burned down Oklahoma’s “Black Wall Street” district of Greenwood and murdered hundreds of Black people there has gone virtually unnoticed by most (especially white) Americans. It and other incidents like it are not taught in schools, and until last year, if you’d asked white Americans about the event–even those born and raised in Tulsa–most would probably have responded with a blank stare.

Then HBO’s Watchmen aired and not only were we all taught this horrific part of our country’s history, but Oklahoma finally–a century later!–decided to start telling new generations of students about it. There is no way you can argue that this is not because of a television show.

It absolutely should take a television show or a movie to bring attention to these sorts of injustices, both historical and current, but at the very least, no one can say art and entertainment don’t have the potential to profoundly impact the real world.

(via IndieWire)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.