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North Korea uses award-winning movie from South to praise own regime

/ 05:36 PM June 19, 2019

An award-winning South Korean film about social inequality was used by North Korea on Tuesday, June 18, to claim its citizens live a better life than their cross-border neighbors.

“Parasite”, a tragicomic tale about the widening gulf between rich and poor in South Korea, last month became the first film from the country to win the Cannes film festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’Or.

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South Korea's biting satirist Bong makes history at Cannes

South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho (L) poses during a photocall with South Korean actor Song Kang-ho after he won the Palme d’Or for the film “Parasite (Gisaengchung)” on May 25, 2019 during the closing ceremony of the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival. Image: AFP/Alberto Pizzoli

“This film gaining popularity in South Korea is clearly letting people know that capitalism is a rotten and sick society with a malignant tumor of the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots that has no hope or future,” said an editorial on the North Korean propaganda website DPRK Today.

“The movie realistically portrays a sub-basement apartment with severe fungus odor, without wifi and that gets flooded with (sewage) water when it rains,” it added.

“In contrast, others admire and envy North Korea as anyone in the country lives a life with a sense of equality and fairness.”

In reality, North Korea operates a system known as “songbun” that rewards individuals according to their perceived loyalty to the regime, and which results in hugely differing living conditions and opportunities.

The isolated country — which is under several sets of sanctions because of its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs — also suffers chronic food shortages. It recorded its worst harvest for a decade last year, according to the United Nations.

Average incomes were about four percent of those in the South in 2017, according to the most recent statistics available from Seoul.

But South Korea, Asia’s fourth biggest economy, also grapples with social problems.

The country currently has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, and scholars say social inequality — linked to the country’s long work hours, high cost of housing, education and child rearing — is one of the major causes.

As of 2017, over 17 percent of the country lived in relative poverty — defined as surviving on less than half of the median household income — according to South Korean government data.

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“Parasite” also features a character who mockingly imitates a North Korean news presenter, but the filmmaker has said the scene was more of a joke and should not be understood as a criticism of Pyongyang. RGA/NVG

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TAGS: Cannes Film Festival, North Korea, propaganda, South Korea
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