IIn one of the opening scenes of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, a brief conversation between wealthy college student Min-hyuk and his friend Ki-woo turns out to be a pivotal moment in the Oscar-winning film. “Guardian of a rich child. It pays well,” the scooter Min-hyuk tells poor Ki-woo, who lives in a basement house with his family. And when Min-hyuk offers Ki-woo the opportunity to return to his job as tutor for the wealthy Park family, he acts as a bridge between the two worlds, and sets the film’s plot in motion.
Min-hyuk is played by Park Seo Jun, and despite Park’s brief appearance in Parasite, this will be the first time most international audiences will see him up close. Park is a big name in South Korea, however, thanks to a string of hit domestic TV series – mostly romantic comedies such as She Was Pretty and Fight for My Way – and Netflix’s hit Itaewon Class. Now his international profile is set to be raised, after it was confirmed he will be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Captain Marvel 2: The Marvels, appearing alongside Brie Larson, Iman Vellani and Zawe Ashton. , making him the third South Korean actor to join the MCU.
“When I first heard that the Marvel Cinematic Universe wanted to talk to me, I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I couldn’t believe it,” Park says. He remains tight-lipped on the details, though. “I’m just trying to be careful with Marvel-related matters,” he laughs, looking a little stressed. It’s no surprise the MCU actors are sworn to secrecy.” I’m not someone who’s afraid of a challenge, but whether I’m shooting in South Korea or overseas, everything is a challenge for me. So, I felt some nerves at first. But everyone was so helpful and welcoming that I was able to find my bearings very quickly.
As of the day we speak, Park is in Seoul, having just returned from filming in London. He looks sharp in a green bomber jacket and denim shirt, and is happy to start talking before his Los Angeles-based management joins the call to monitor any sensitive Marvel information. “I don’t come from a wealthy family and we had to move around a lot, but I got to meet a lot of different people at school and that made me more mature.” He pauses. “Some of my earliest childhood memories are of me just trying to find my way, instead of memories of being happy all the time.”
The themes of Korean social inequality and financial hardship that Parasite so brilliantly exposed also found their way into Park’s other work. In the 2017 series Fight for My Way, Park played a taekwondo athlete, Ko Dong-man, who is forced to cancel his dreams of going to the Olympics after being weighed down by family debts and surgery. who changed his sister’s life. Dong-man abandons his dream and becomes a pest exterminator. “People in their twenties in South Korea actually have a lot of difficulty, when it comes to life in general,” Park says. “At the beginning of my acting career, it was very difficult for me. In my twenties, you have to work very hard, but also pay attention to everything. Life, love, career, passion – everything. Fight for My Way was one of the best dramas that could portray those feelings. I could connect with Dong-man. Sometimes he failed and got frustrated with himself, but he endured and showed up for himself Among all the young people who were experiencing difficulties, I was able to express the difficulties of one young person.
In Itaewon Class, Park plays an ex-con. On the surface, it’s a story of revenge and retaliation, but it also features strong social commentary on how the wealthy abuse power. It was an instant hit. “Itaewon Class emerged amidst the boom in Korean movies and dramas, and I was able to gain a lot of international fans,” Park explains. It was only a matter of time before the world woke up to the world of Korean film and television, the actor believes. Netflix and other streaming platforms have given international audiences access to these projects, and he says the Korean entertainment industry has offered something new. “I personally think that South Korea has put a lot of effort and a lot of time into creating good quality movies and series, but it’s always been a bit of a hidden gem. There are a lot of good movies and dramas and I want them to be recognized. I am proud to be able to contribute to this Korean boom.
Park is also part of Wooga Squad (“I don’t know why we named him that; it just happened”), a friendship group with actor Choi Woo-Shik (who played the role of Ki -woo in Parasite), BTS V member, actor Park Hyung-sik and artist Peakboy. “They’re really good friends to me and very comforting,” Park said. It seems like they are helping her cope with the intense pressure on Korean actors and “idols”. “Not only do we share the same values, thoughts and outlook on things, but we’re in similar industries, so we’re able to share advice. We’re trying to comfort each other as human beings because what I’m going through might be something others might go through in the future.
I ask him what he does to relax. “I haven’t found the solution to that one yet!” he says. I tell her that I learned to crochet to help cope during the early days of the pandemic. A little puzzled by what I’m trying to play, he turns to the interpreter. “Crochet? But once he realizes what I’m recommending, he laughs. “Okay I will try !”