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In Session: Questioning Korean Cinema’s Foreignness in the 21st Century
3: Loving Subtitles: The Translation of Parasite (2019) and the Articulation of Global Korean Cinema
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Smith College, United States
This presentation revolves around the enthusiastic responses by Korean audiences toward the English subtitles for Bong Joon-ho’s award-winning feature, Parasite (2019). Among film fans in South Korea, the discussions over Korean subtitles for international films have tended to involve negative reviews for their “mistranslation.” As a subordinate translation to its original audiovisual text, subtitling is inherently vulnerable to such criticism due to the technical restrictions of time and space. The case was different for Parasite. As the film won Cannes’ Palm d’Or in 2019, its English subtitles—done by Darcy Paquet—were quickly named as among the most contributing factors that made Bong’s masterpiece more accessible to non-Korean-speaking audiences. Korean film fans lauded Paquet’s English subtitles for achieving the impossible task of translating the highly untranslatable details in Bong’s film, which have been considered a feature that characterizes the director’s thorough approach to filmmaking. What sets such Korean audiences’ enthusiasm for English subtitles apart from their quick dismissal of Korean subtitles for international films? With the question in mind, my presentation delves into the discussions of audiovisual translation of Parasite on popular platforms such as online forums, YouTube videos, and comments to news entries. Navigating Koreans’ celebratory reactions to English subtitles—a visual element foreign to the film’s initial form that renders its dialog into a foreign language—the presentation illuminates the popular articulation of global Korean cinema.