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Bong Joon-ho is a South Korean director, screenwriter, and producer known for making films with social themes, genre-mixing, dark humor, and mood swings that can send you on a roller coaster of emotions. He was nicknamed ‘Bong Tae-il’ by the Korean film industry insiders. Bong Tae-il, when pronounced in Korean, sounds similar to the word detail.

Wiki/Biography

Bong Joon-ho was born on Sunday, September 14, 1969 (aged 53; status 2022) Bongdeok-dong, Nam District – Daegu, North Gyeongsang Province South Korea, His zodiac sign is Virgo. While Bong was studying in elementary school, his family moved to Jamsil-dong in Seoul. From there he was educated at Jamsil High School, Songpa-gu, Seoul. He enrolled at Yonsei University in Seoul in 1988 to major in sociology. In 1992, Bong returned from compulsory military service and graduated in 1995. He completed a two-year program in filmmaking at the Korea Academy of Film Arts (KAFA), Busan.

Physical appearance

  • Height: 6′
  • Hair Color: Black
  • Eye color: Black

Bong Joon-ho

Family & Ethnicity

Ethnicity

Bong Joon-ho comes belongs to a Catholic family.

Family and Siblings

Her father, Bong Sang-Kyun (died 2017) was a graphic designer, professor of applied arts at Seoul National University of Science and Technology, and her mother, Park So-young, was a homemaker.

Bong Joon-ho's father

Bong Joon-ho’s father

He is the youngest of the siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters). His brother, Bong Joon-soo, is an English professor at Seoul National University. His sister, Bong Ji-hee, is a fashion designer and a professor of fashion design at Hanyang University.

Bong Joon-ho's sister

Bong Joon-ho’s sister

Wife and Children

He married screenwriter Jung Sun-young in 1995. The couple has a son named Bong Hyo-min, a filmmaker.

Bong Joon-ho's son

Bong Joon-ho’s son

Career

Short films

During his college years, he formed a film club called “Yellow Door” with students from nearby universities like Hongik University, Ewha Women’s University, and Sogang University. He made short films with them; the first being “Paradise” (1994) and “Baeksaekin (White Man)” (1994). Of which, the latter screened at the Vancouver and Hong Kong International Film Festivals. He directed other short films such as “Incoherence” (1994), “The Memories in My Frame” (1994), Twentidentity (2003; segment- Sink & Rise), Digital Short Films by Three Directors (2004; segment- Influenza), Tokyo! (2008; segment- Shaking Tokyo) and 3.11 A Sense of Home (2011; segment- Iki). He has also collaborated with his classmates on several occasions, including serving as the cinematographer in Jang Joon-hwan’s highly acclaimed 2001 short film “Imagine” and Hur Jae-young’s short film “A Hat.” ” He also worked as a lightning bolt director in Choi Equan’s “Sounds From Heaven and Earth” and “The Love of a Grape Seed.”

Feature Films – Director and Producer

After graduation, he worked with other directors in various directorial capacities. He received partial screenwriting credit for the 1996 film “Seven Reasons Beer Is Better Than My Lover.” In 1997, Bong Joon-ho made his debut as a screenwriter with the 1997 movie “Motel Cactus.”

Motel Cactus (1997)

Motel Cactus (1997)

He made his directorial debut with the film “Barking Dogs Never Bite” (2000)

Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)

Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000)

He achieved international notoriety with his film “The Host” (2006). The film received an ecstatic premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. His first English language film “Snowpiercer” was released in 2013. He directed and wrote the screenplay for many films such as Memories of Murder (2003), Antarctic Journal (2005), The Host (2006), Mother (2009), Snowpiercer (2013), Sea Fog (2014), Okja (2017) and Parasite (2019). He made his debut as a producer with the movie “Sea Fog” (2014). He also produced the films Okja (2017) and Parasite (2019).

Television

He made his television debut as executive producer of the 2020 American television drama series “Snowpiercer.”

Snowpiercer (2020)

Snowpiercer (2020)

He is also the executive producer of the upcoming US TV show “Parasite”. He appeared on the American television show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in December 2019.

Other Works

He starred for the first time in his own short film “Incoherence” (1994) as “Delivery Boy”.

Bong in

Bong in “Incoherence” (1994) as “Delivery Boy”

He made appearances in films like No Blood No Tears (2002), Crush and Blush (2008), Can I Borrow a Light (2009), and Doomsday Book (2012). He also made appearances in documentaries such as Two or Three Things I Know about Kim Ki-young (2006), Kurosawa’s Way (2011), Ari Ari the Korean Cinema (2012).

Prizes and Honors

  • British Academy Film Awards – Best Original Screenplay and Best Non-English Film for ‘Parasite’ in 2020
    Bong Joon ho with his British Academy Film Awards

    Bong Joon ho with his British Academy Film Awards

  • Writers Guild of America Awards for Best Original Screenplay for the film “Parasite” in 2020
    Bong-Joon ho with his Writers Guild of America Awards

    Bong-Joon ho with his Writers Guild of America Awards

  • Critic’s Choice Movie Awards for Best Director for the movie “Parasite” in 2020
    Bong-Joon ho during his acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Movie Awards

    Bong-Joon ho during his acceptance speech at the Critics Choice Movie Awards

  • Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award for Best Asian Film for “Parasite” in 2020
    Bong-Joon ho with his Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award

    Bong-Joon ho with his Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Award

  • Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit (the second highest class of national cultural medals) by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (South Korea) in 2019
    Bong Joon-ho receives Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit

    Bong Joon-ho receives Eungwan Order of Cultural Merit

  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Director for the film “Parasite” in 2019
  • Asia Pacific Screen Awards for Best Feature Film for “Parasite” in 2019
  • Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for the film “Parasite” in 2019
    Bong Joon-ho with Palme d'Or

    Bong Joon-ho with Palme d’Or

  • Order of Arts and Letters – Officer in 2016

Oscars

  • Best film for “Parasite” in 2020
    Bong Joon-ho posing with his Oscar

    Bong Joon-ho posing with his Oscar

  • Best director for the movie “Parasite” in 2020
  • The best original screenplay for the film “Parasite” in 2020

Blue Dragon Film Awards

  • Audience award for the film “Memories of Murder” in 2003
    Bong Joon-ho during his acceptance speech at the Blue Dragon Film Awards

    Bong Joon-ho during his acceptance speech at the Blue Dragon Film Awards

  • Best Film for “The Host” in 2006
  • Audience Award for the film “The Host” in 2006
  • Best film for “Mother” in 2009
  • Best director for the movie “Snowpiercer” in 2013
  • Best film for “Parasite” in 2019
  • Best director for the movie “Parasite” in 2019

Buil Film Awards

  • Best film for “Mother” in 2009
  • Best Film for “Snowpiercer” in 2013
  • Best film for “Parasite” in 2019
  • The best screenplay for the film “Parasite” in 2019

Grand Bell Awards

  • Best Film for “Memories” of Murder” in 2003
  • Best director for the film “Memories of Murder” in 2003
  • Best director for the film “The Host” in 2007

Korea Film Critics Association Award

  • Best Film for “Memories of Murder” in 2003
  • Best director for the film “Memories of Murder” in 2003
  • Best film for “Mother” in 2009
  • The best screenplay for the film “Mother” in 2009
  • Best Film for “Snowpiercer” in 2013
  • FIPRESCI Prize for the film “Okja” in 2017
  • Best film for “Parasite” in 2019
  • Best director for the movie “Parasite” in 2019

Controversies

  • Actress Kim Hye-Ja, at the screening of the black-and-white version of the film “Mother” (2009), said that Bong Joon-ho allegedly asked actor Won Bin to touch her chest; when the scene was not in the script. The issue was brought up in 2019, social media users and various news outlets called the incident a “MeToo Story”. When things got out of control, Hye-Ja, clarifying the matter, said, 

I was absolutely flabbergasted when I saw the articles and comments. I have blisters on my lips because I was so upset. It was my mistake to try to explain it in a funny way, but to say it was “me too” as if I had witnessed something big? To say that director Bong and Won Bin planned to cheat on me and sexually harass me? I feel scared and embarrassed even saying that. Mother’ was a movie where I talked a lot with director Bong and he said to me, I’m not a mom so I think you’ll probably know the mom spirit in the movie more than I do.” Explaining the situation at the time, she said: “Now that I think about it, director Bong said to me before filming started, ‘Could Joon put his hand on his mother’s bosom,’ and I said, ‘What if he gets his hands on it. A mentally handicapped son can sleep by touching his mother’s breast.” According to the actress, she spoke with the director before filming the scene, and this continued after discussing it beforehand.”

  • In 2012, The Weinstein Company brought the distribution rights to the film “Snowpiercer” (2013) from CJ Entertainment with a plan for a large-scale release in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Harvey Weinstein, the owner of The Weinstein Company, requested that 20 minutes of the film’s footage be edited and that the opening and closing monologues be added, but Bong did not agree. This caused the release of the film to be delayed. Eventually, Bong managed to release the film in uncut form. However, the film’s distributor switched to TWC later.

Signature

Bong Joon-ho's Autograph

Bong Joon-ho’s Autograph

Favorites

  • Food: Ramen, Jjapaguri
  • Filmmakers: Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Shohei Imamura, John Frankenheimer, Sidney Lumet, and John Schlesinger, Martin Scorsese
  • Movie: The Wages of Fear (1953)
  • Modern Horror Movie: Midsommar
  • Band: Pink Floyd

Net value

He has an estimated net worth of Rs. 214.53 crores (as in 2020).

Facts/Anecdotes

  • He enjoys watching movies and collecting Blu-rays.
  • Bong Joon-ho’s artistic sense comes from his family. Her father was a graphic designer and her maternal grandfather, Park Taewon, was a renowned Korean writer.
  • He never had the chance to meet his maternal grandfather because their family had separated after the Korean War. His grandfather lived the rest of his life in Pyongyang, North Korea. His mother’s sister also lived there and reunited in 2006 after 56 years.
  • Since childhood, he loved to watch movies. In college, he decided to become a director.
  • He was part of the student protests of the South Korean democracy movement, where Yonsei University had become one of the centers of the movement. Bong, as a student activist, demonstrated the expansion of democratic rights, unions, and reunification with North Korea. Speaking, he says,”We hated going to class. Every day was the same: protesting by day, drinking by night. With the exception of a few people, we didn’t have much faith in the teachers back then. So we formed our own study groups covering politics, aesthetics, history. We drank late into the night, chatting and chatting. . The main organizers probably thought I was a bad activist.”
  • During his years as an activist, Bong, along with the other protesters, mixed Molotov cocktails from a mixture of paint thinner and water, which were visually explosive but less dangerous than gasoline-based ones. He was even arrested for throwing explosives.
    Students demonstrations at the South Korean Democratic Movement

    Students demonstrations at the South Korean Democratic Movement

  • During the demonstrations, demonstrators threw stones and police threw tear gas canisters from cannons. He was also subjected to tear gas during the first two years of his university, describing the experience, Bong said,

“It was a very traumatic smell. It’s impossible to describe: nauseating, pungent, hot. It’s strange, sometimes I feel it in my dreams. Usually, dreams are pictures, but sometimes I have this feeling of feeling it. It’s really awful, but I guess it would be like that.”

  • During his college years, Joon-ho taught children from wealthy backgrounds in his locality.
  • He was once a member of the now dysfunctional New Progressive Party and supports the Democratic Labor Party.
  • Many American celebrities like Chris Evans, Brad Pitt, and Quentin Tarantino talk about Bong Joon-ho and express their desire to work with Bong. In an interview, Quentin Tarantino, speaking about Bong, said,

“Of all the filmmakers of the last 20 years, he has something that [the 1970s] Spielberg has. There is this level of entertainment and comedy in his films. [The Host and Memories of Murder] are both masterpieces…excellent in their own way.”

Bong Joon-ho with Quentin Tarantino

Bong Joon-ho with Quentin Tarantino

  • In an interview, Bong confessed that he writes his scripts and does the storyboarding himself. Additionally, he said he wanted to become a cartoonist in his next life; how he loved manga.
    A Storyboard Sketched by Bong Joon-ho

    A Storyboard Sketched by Bong Joon-ho

  • Bong’s films take years to plan; while the idea for his Oscar-winning film “Paradise” (2019) came to him in 2013.
    Bong Joon-ho during the Shooting of Parasite (2019)

    Bong Joon-ho during the Shooting of Parasite (2019)

  • During his Oscars award speech, Bong Joon-ho said that he grew up watching Martin Scorcese’s films and also quoted a sentence from Scorcese,

“The most personal is the most creative.”

  • In 2020 Bong made Time Magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people, and he also got his name on Bloomberg’s list of the top 50.
  • He gives a huge importance to the backgrounds and locations in his films in addition to the actors.

I feel as excited as if I’d found a great actor!

  • Parasite, his Oscar winning film, first started out as a play!
  • Bong says that he does not believe in having any villain but instead, his films are based on misunderstand and the miscommunication between the characters.
  • Bong’s second movie, Memories of Murder, was based on the real-life hunt for a serial killer in the 1980s, who had never been caught.
  • The dish in the movie Parasite is actually a made up word by thetranslator who used “ram-dom” for the noodle dish. It is actually a mixture of two different types of instant noodles: one is a black bean and one is a spicy seafood flavor.
  • Bong in an interview said that his cretaivity is because of  a “very simple lifestyle,” which involves drinking coffee, writing and not meeting a lot of people.
  • The hashtag “#Bonghive” started showing up on Twitter after Parasite picked up the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The hashtag is named after the film’s quirky and extremely meme-able Korean director Bong Joon-ho.
  • The diploma that Ki-jung cobbles together in Photoshop in the film Parasite is embossed with the crest of Yonsei University, which isn’t just one of Korea’s three most exclusive universities, but also Bong’s alma mater (he graduated in 1995 after making his first short films, founding a movie club, and being teargassed during several student demonstrations).
  • Bong tells in an interview that “Parasite” was directly inspired by “Fury Road.”
  • The name of Mr. Park’s company in the movie Parasite is only mentioned once, but viewers were quick to flag “Another Brick” as a reference to the anti-establishment anthems of Pink Floyd. Bong confirms the nod on the commentary track, and elaborates that Pink Floyd was his favorite band in college, when his political convictions were first taking shape.

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