Published as READERS WRITE-IN COLUMN on Baradwaj Rangan’s blog
NOTE: I’m assuming you have seen Parasite. If not, the writing wouldn’t make any sense.
A lot has been spoken about the Parasite’s social commentary. The way the film takes on capitalization in a not-so-subtle manner made the audience across the globe empathize with the story. Writer-director Bong Joon Ho in a late-2019 interview said he made the film to represent a particular section of South Korea but the fact that capitalization is the film’s core allowed people from different countries and cultures to correlate it. I query why the whole class-difference conversation has somehow been subdued post the Oscars.
In this piece, I’ll draw parallels between Parasite’s class representation and the corporate work environment. But the fundamentals before beginning are this.
The Park Family – The upper management
The Kim Family & Gook Moon-gwang – The ground level employees
Some points from the film that fit in the corporate environment are:
1 – “We will find someone else”
After the Kim family succeeds in getting rid of the current housekeeper, Moon-gwang, Park Dong-ik tells Ki-taek in a generic conversation while returning home from work, that his wife wouldn’t tell him the reason why the housekeeper left. He also acknowledges that Moon-gwang, indeed did a great job in keeping the house neat and tidy. Besides, he adds finding a replacement is an effortless task.
It is apparent from this short conversation that Dong-ik is least concerned about why his house-keeper left. Although he acknowledges her hard work, he never goes beyond the ‘line’ to know why she quit. Because he doesn’t care and is quite confident in finding another worker.
Viewing it from a corporate perspective, the message is ingenuous and lucid. The upper management doesn’t heed whether the employees stay or leave. Irrespective of the employee’s performance and metrics, he/she is disposable and replaceable; no questions asked. Had Dong-ik wished to uncover what precipitated Moon-gwang to leave, he could have found it out with ease. Pushing his wife to learn the truth is all that’s needed. Another little conversation is what it would have taken to understand the case, but he didn’t mind having the conversation because he discerns that finding someone to fill in her shoes wouldn’t be an arduous assignment.
Moon-gwang has stayed with the family for years and is a part of the family, we assume. When Jessica asks Yeon-gyo she needs to talk with her in private, Yeon-gyo holds Moon-gwang and says she’s one of us, implying the bond the family has with her. It is only after Jessica insists, Yeon-gyo asks Moon-gwang to give them some space. But when the time arrives, Yeon-gyo lets her go forever. Years of knowing each other didn’t come in handy.
Similarly, in the corporate world, the number of years an employee works for the company is of no significance. After dozens of birthday parties, monthly-gatherings, and team outings, if the time comes, that’s the time to leave. Note that no one looks back and the one impacted is the one who is leaving, not the others.
“You have been a great employee. Thank you for your services. We wish you all the best!”
All Dong-ik wants is to have good food, which his wife is not skilled at, but no issues, he’ll manage it for the time being until another housekeeper takes over.
2 – “We’ll give a hike over your current CTC”
Kevin passes the test and successfully lands the ‘English-tutoring’ job. Now, it’s pay-time. Yeon-gyo puts X amount in the envelope, then takes out a few notes from it, and hands him a Y amount.
Here, Y = X – few notes
Y = Expected Salary(ETC)
X = Current CTC
Few notes = The disguised hike
But while paying him, she says she wanted to pay equally as Min, but added some for inflation.
She’s a liar!
In this case, Kevin is similar to an unemployed fresher in the dire need of a job. He is entitled to accept whatever pay he gets because the question is about survival, not standard.
In the film’s context, Kevin would have accepted whatever little amount they pay him without asking a single question. Such is his desperation. The companies comprehend this need to the fullest and use to pay much lesser than what an employee actually deserves. By deserve, I don’t bring in his talent and skill to consideration, but merely the market value. The logic by which they(the corporate) sells is “Something is better than nothing”. For someone who is hunting a job, getting one would be more than enough. The salary is secondary. Who is to blame for here? The employee for accepting an underpaid job in the first place? The company for utilizing the employee’s desperation to lower the pay scale? Or the eternal power which created this situation in the first place, the government?
3 – “We are paying for your efforts”
Anyone who ever had a desk-job must have heard these,
“Going the extra mile”
“Pushing the boundaries”
“Setting new standards”
And the stupidest of all
For Da-song’s birthday impromptu, Ki-taek is asked to be a part of a little skit. When Dong-ik notices Ki-taek’s discomfort, he tells Kim to consider this a part of his job.
There exists a predicament. Organizations believe they own the employees, and paying them makes up for everything. That’s wrong. One cannot buy time with money. Yes, money recompenses for the effort, but what about the time lost. If paying for ‘overtime’ exists, that only partially compensates. I strongly doubt whether the concept of paying overtime works exists in small and mid-sized organizations. Majorly, working overtime is camouflaged as silly excuses like putting in the extra effort and going the extra mile. Who benefits from it? Is it the hard-working yet replaceable employee? Or the organization that is built on thousands of such employees’ shoulders. The time, though, is gone-by.
All we can hope is that the organizations treat their labor as humans first, as an employee second.
Irrespective of the organization’s size, these 3 points exist nevertheless, and it’s the sad reality in which we all are cemented in.
To add these are only the aspects I could identify and explicitly link to the corporate work environment. If I find more, I’ll make sure I update the piece.
For Parasite, a film that transcends physical and social boundaries with its layering, all I have is gargantuan RESPECT!
Read the full piece on Baradwaj Rangan’s blog