Who is Bong Joon-ho?
Bong Joon-ho is a South Korean director and screenwriter whose movies ‘The Host’ and ‘Snowpiercer’ are the highest-grossing films in the country. ‘The Host’ is a monster movie that released in 2006, while the sci-fi action film ‘Snowpiercer’ hit cinemas in 2013. He is also known for directing the action-adventure film ‘Okja’ (2017) and the 2019 dark comedy ‘Parasite’. ‘Parasite’ earned him a Palme d'Or at the ‘2019 Cannes Film Festival’, making him the first ever Korean director to earn the award. Joon-ho was born in Daegu and while he was still in middle school, he expressed his wish to become a movie director. Being the son of a graphic designer and grandson of a noted author, he grew up in a highly intellectual environment just like his brother who currently serves as a literature professor. Joon-ho studied sociology at the ‘Yonsei University’. Following his graduation, he worked in the Korean film industry for five years before making his debut with the 2000 dark comedy flick ‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’. The celebrated filmmaker is also quite active in politics, and is currently a member of South Korea’s left-wing political party, New Progressive Party.
Childhood & Early Life
Bong Joon-ho was born on September 14, 1969, in Daegu, South Korea. His father Bong Sang Gyun worked as a graphic designer and his grandfather Park Taewon was a noted author in South Korea.
Despite his interest in cinema, he did not study theatre due to his parents’ disapproval and decided to major in sociology instead. He was a member of the film club at his alma mater, the ‘Yonsei University’.
Joon-ho attended the ‘Korean Academy of Film Arts’ in the early 1990s. During his stint there, he made several short films, including ‘Incoherence’ and ‘Memory Within the Frame’.
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Following his graduation, Bong Joon-ho started to assist other film directors in various capacities. He was given assistant director and screenplay writer’s credits in Park Ki-yong's 1997 film Motel Cactus. In 1999, he got writing credits for the action thriller ‘Phantom the Submarine’.
He made his feature film debut with the 2000 dark comedy ‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’. The film premiered at the ‘San Sebastian International Film Festival’ before winning awards at the ‘Hong Kong Film Festival’ and the ‘Slamdance Film Festival’.
His second movie ‘Memories of Murder’ released in 2003. The film about a real-life serial killer premiered internationally at ‘San Sebastian’ and subsequently won three awards.
Joon-ho directed segments of ‘Influenza’ and ‘Twentidentity’. Then in 2008, he collaborated with Leos Carax and Michel Gondry for the triptych feature ‘Tokyo!’
His fourth film ‘Mother’ was premiered at ‘2009 Cannes Film Festival’. The plot revolved around a doting mother who strives hard to save her disabled child from a murder accusation. The movie was a critical success and earned three awards at the ‘Asian Film Awards’.
Joon-ho directed a segment of the 2011 anthology film ‘3.11 A Sense of Home’. The series was created by 21 directors in response to earthquake and tsunami, which had hit Japan that year.
He directed his first ever English-language movie ‘Snowpiercer’ in 2013, which was an adaptation of the science-fiction action novel ‘Le Transperceneige’ by Jean-Marc Rochette and Jacques Lob. It starred Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Song Kang-ho, Jamie Bell, Go Ah-sung, Octavia Spencer and John Hurt.
The year 2017 saw the release of Joon-ho’s ‘Okja’, a film about a young girl who risks everything to prevent a multinational company from taking away her best friend Okja - a mysterious beast. The movie competed for the Palme d'Or at the ‘Cannes Film Festival’ that year.
The South Korean monster movie ‘The Host’ (2006) was a turning point of Bong Joon-ho’s filmmaking and screenwriting career. Starring Song Kang-ho, Park Hae-il, Byun Hee-bong, Go Ah-sung and Bae Doona, the film revolves around a monster that emerges from a river and starts attacking people in Seoul. The film was an international success and was premiered at the ‘2006 Cannes Film Festival’.
Bong Joon-ho wrote and directed the dark comedy film ‘Parasite’ in 2019. The movie featured Lee Sun-kyun, Song Kang-ho, Park So-dam, Cho Yeo-jeong and Choi Woo-shik in leading roles. It earned a Palme d'Or at the ‘2019 Cannes Film Festival’, making Joon-ho the first South-Korean director ever to receive the honor.
Family & Personal Life
Bong Joon-ho has a brother named Joon Soo who works as an English literature professor. He also has a sister named Jee Hee who is a fashion designer.
He is the grandson of noted author Park Taeweon who is famous for his book ‘A Day in the Life of Novelist Gubo’.