The Ending of Parasite, Explained

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Summary

  • Parasite explores the separation of social classes and how the rich exploit the lower-class for their menial work.
  • The film showcases the resentment and exploitation felt by the lower class towards the ultra-wealthy, emphasizing the “eat the rich” storyline.
  • The brutal ending of Parasite leaves audiences shocked, with the protagonist’s fate symbolizing the hopeless struggle to escape from their lower-class status.


It is said that blood is thicker than water, families stick together through good times and bad, and when faced with great challenges, you can always turn to the people who raised you. These are nice sentiments, and plenty of people truly believe in the strength that comes from the love and respect in their own families. However, has it ever crossed your mind just how far you would be willing to go to help your family if they were in need, whether that be simple, financial, or even a life and death situation? This is a question that is explored in Parasite.

While working on Snowpiercer, the brilliant Bong Joon-ho was able to draw on his own life experiences when he was a math tutor for a very wealthy and prominent family (per THR). He thought back to his younger days when he was introduced to a more lavish lifestyle at the expense of helping the family’s son with his education. Upon seeing the entirely different dynamic of the “haves” and the “have-nots” (the wealthy individuals and their lower-class hired help), Bong realized there was a much bigger story to tell about the separation of classes and how both are able to leach off one another.

The rich get richer by having lower-class individuals do all of their “menial work,” such as cooking, cleaning, helping with education, and taking care of unruly children. Then, in turn, those labor workers gain trust and can easily take advantage of their employers. We see both sides go to the extreme in Bong’s black comedy thriller Parasite. By the end of the film, so much has happened, not one character seems redeemable, and audiences are left scratching their heads at the fate of a couple of characters. Allow us to fully explain the ending of Parasite.

parasite
Parasite

Release Date
May 30, 2019

Rating
R


What Happens in Parasite?

In Parasite, the Kim family has struggled with money for quite some time, as Mr. Kim’s jobs always seem to fall through, and Mrs. Kim and her two adult children try to make ends meet by doing odd jobs for companies. However, when Ki-woo manages to take over his friend’s tutoring job for a very wealthy family, their luck changes. He also gets his sister, Ki-jung, hired by the family, claiming she is a friend of a friend who knows all about art therapy and working with children. The siblings then manage to get the chauffeur fired and their father (who is posing as Ki-jung’s family’s former chauffeur) hired in his place. Lastly, it takes a moment to get the housekeeper fired as she has been there longer than the family, but when there’s a will, there’s a way; Ki-woo and Ki-jung’s mother is hired in her place.

At first, audiences want to be happy for the Kims for rising through the ranks and having stable jobs — this is capitalism, after all — but audiences can’t shake the feeling that their carefully crafted plan will be foiled. The Kims become conceited as they brag about how they have fooled the Parks, and one celebratory night in the beautiful house without the Parks present turns into a deadly nightmare.

Related: 10 Movies Like Parasite to Watch Next

The Kims learn that they are not the only ones who have managed to take advantage of their naive employers. The former housekeeper, Moon-gwang, has kept her husband in the Parks’ basement for the last four years, and they also have enjoyed the home when they were the only ones there. Unfortunately, as these secrets come out, no one trusts one another, and push comes to shove (literally). Moon-gwang gets shoved down the basement stairs, her husband gets tied up, and the Kims have to hatch a plan to keep everyone calm and quiet.

Why the “Eat the Rich” Storyline Is so Important

In films and literature, “eat the rich” storylines deal with individuals in lower financial classes realizing how unfair the world works when taking a look at how the ultra-wealthy live. Resentment, hatred, and exploitation are common themes in such works, and it’s actually a scary concept when people consider how real these things are in our very own world.

There are people who have never had to touch a dirty dish or do a load of laundry in their lives, as they have staff to do such tasks for them. While those who are hired by these people are grateful for their jobs, it is easy to become resentful and angry at just how hard one has to work to make another person’s life that much easier. This constant reminder that the two will never be equals is enough to justify some evil thoughts, but rarely does anyone act on such ideas.

Related: The Case Against Remaking Parasite (Or Any Other International Film)

In Parasite, the social classes are blatantly obvious. The Kims live in a semi-basement apartment that floods and is infested with cockroaches, while the Parks have a beautiful two-storey home with a large garden, a basement, and a fourth level (an underground bunker) that even they do not know about. The symbolism of living upstairs and downstairs is important, as those who live below others feel as if they are beneath them in many different ways.

Parasite’s Brutal Ending

Song Kang-Ho coming upstairs in Parasite
CJ Entertainment

Much like the entire film, the ending of Parasite is not something anyone saw coming. Of course, secrets were expected to be revealed, but to have a birthday party turn into a complete bloodbath was horrifying and brilliant all at the same time. Mr. Kim’s hatred of being looked down on by Mr. Park finally came to a head when the latter could not bear the smell of a dying poor man, and something in Mr. Kim finally snapped. He made no hesitation to put a knife in Mr. Park’s chest, but afterward, just like his wife previously mentioned, he scurried away from everyone like a parasitic cockroach.

Instead of being on the run like the news suggested, Mr. Kim immediately went into hiding in the secret bunker space inside the Parks’ home. There, he continues to live under the floorboards that belong to wealthy individuals, and, at some point, his son, Ki-woo, is able to decipher his father’s Morse code in the living room light. Through a letter, Ki-woo swears to his father that he will one day purchase the home, and all Mr. Kim will have to do is come up the stairs to live semi-freely. However, the camera cuts away from this idealistic scene to Ki-woo still in his basement-like apartment.

In reality, Ki-woo knows he will never be able to make his dream a reality, and his father may actually perish as a man who is literally below more fortunate people. It’s an ambiguous ending, and audiences would like to imagine that Ki-woo would just go into the house and retrieve his father. However, the idea that whatever he does will never be enough is heartbreaking and all too relatable.

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