The South Korean government is taking an active step to improve the lives of low income households by vowing to financially support 1,500 families living in semi-basement apartments. The news comes after the record run of Boon Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” the first South Korean movie to win the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or and the first South Korean film to win Oscars, including Best Picture. A semi-basement apartment is one of the film’s most important settings and is the home where the Kim family lives. During one of the film’s most intense set pieces, the Kim’s semi-basement is destroyed by a flood caused by a rainstorm.
According to The Korea Herald, the South Korean government is partnering with the Korea Energy Foundation and the Seoul Metropolitan Government to offer “up to 3.2 million won per household to enhance heating systems, replace floors, and install air conditioners, dehumidifiers, ventilators, windows, and fire alarms.” The Herald notes that 78% of householders occupying semi-basement apartments are from the bottom 30% income bracket.
Semi-basement apartment householders who earn less than 60% of the country’s median income will be able to submit applications to the government to be selected for renovation. The plan is for the range of recipients to expand each year. There were approximately 383,000 semi-basement apartments in South Korea as of 2015.
Before “Parasite” became a box office hit in the United States with nearly $50 million, it was first a box office sensation in its home of South Korea. “Parasite” grossed a huge $72 million in South Korea, which is nearly 43% of the movie’s $164 million international total. As of this writing, “Parasite” has grossed a remarkable $204 million and counting around the world.
“Parasite” fever has hit South Korea so strongly following the movie’s history-making Oscar wins that there is even a movement to get a Bong Joon Ho statue erected and a Bong Joon Ho museum built in the director’s hometown of Daegu. People are also lobbying for Daegu to rename streets in honor of the South Korean filmmaker, whose additional credits include “Memories of Murder,” “The Host,” and “Mother.” Bong was born in Daegu in 1969 and lived there before his family moved to Seoul while he was in elementary school.
“Parasite” continues to play in theaters while also now be available to rent digitally. The movie will be available o stream on Hulu beginning April 8.