Where ‘Parasite’ comes to life: A visit to each of the award-winning film’s iconic filming locations
Since the historic wins by Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” at the Oscars last week, tourists and visitors have flocked to locations where the film was shot, and now city governments are thinking of developing a “Parasite”-themed tour route in Seoul and reviving the film’s set in Goyang, Gyeonggi.
“The Seoul Metropolitan Government is mulling over whether to develop a special tour route through these locations,” the city government said in a statement Wednesday. “We may tie them in with other locations in Bong’s other works, like ‘Okja,’ ‘The Host’ or ‘Memories of Murder.’”
The film sets that held the homes of the Park family and the Kim family - and the narrow alleyways of Kim’s neighborhood - were demolished when the movie finished filming.
“What if we tell you that you could eat chapaguri while watching ‘Parasite’ on the set where it was all created?” read a statement released by the Goyang city government on Thursday. “This may come true by 2026, as the city government is working on reviving the set, to include Ki-taek’s apartment in the half-basement and the overall neighborhood.”
The extravagant home of Mr. Park in the movie was built on a film set in Jeonju, North Jeolla. The city government of Jeonju is also considering whether to rebuild the set.
The Korea JoongAng Daily recently visited key locations from the movie scattered throughout Seoul, including the stairway to Jahamun Tunnel that the Kim family runs down in the pouring rain and others, to check out what’s going on at the so-called “Parasite” shrines now that they’re known the world over.
Stairs play a major role throughout “Parasite,” highlighting a class divide between the Kim and Park families. Stairs in alleyways, down a tunnel, and even in homes - they appear so often that even Bong called it “a staircase movie.”
One of these stairs is situated just steps behind the Dwejissal Supermarket, which is dubbed Woori Supermarket in the film.
The supermarket is located close to a cluster of furniture shops in Ahyeon-dong in Mapo District, western Seoul. If you’re taking public transportation, buses 600 or 7013 will take you to Ahyeondong Furniture Store Complex Station. The store is located just minutes away from the bus stop.
The stairway is visible on the right side of the supermarket. In the movie, the stairs lead down to the alley where the Kim family’s home is located. The stairs cut through tightly situated homes and small apartment buildings.
The area has been undergoing years of redevelopment featuring new apartment complexes that tower over older neighborhoods.
“God knows how long the redevelopment is going to go on for,” said Seo Mi-ran, a 40-year-old resident of the area, who has been living in a small villa there for 30 years. “It’s been like this for the last 20 years. But there are untouched pockets in this neighborhood where you almost feel like you’ve stepped back in time.”
Does redevelopment mean that the narrow alleyways and stairways in this part of town will no longer exist in a few years?
“We’re still examining this area to figure out whether redevelopment is the way to go,” said Park Jin-il, from the housing department at the Mapo District Office, on Friday. “We’ll also have to hear from residents about whether they want the area to be redeveloped.”
2. Woori Supermarket
“Parasite” Oscar-mania is probably most visible inside the small, yet now iconic supermarket in western Seoul.
Upon entering the store, fans of the movie will easily find FiLite, the beer enjoyed by the Kim family in “Parasite,” placed near the entrance, and Chapagetti black bean noodles and Neoguri spicy noodles, the key ingredients to chapaguri - which appeared in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes - placed next to each other.
The outdoor parasol and makeshift drinking area - both commonly found outside of small independent convenience stores in Korea - seen in the movie was part of the film’s set and have been replaced by the store’s ice cream cooler.
The owners of the store are happy to talk to visitors, though one thing would probably make them even happier.
“Our sales haven’t gone up,” Kim said with a good-natured smile, “but some visitors will buy a bowl of tangerines or something, that’s always nice.”
These small supermarkets are a go-to spot for local residents who need a quick carton of milk, a dozen eggs, sesame seed oil or other common ingredients for dishes in Korea. There are at least three such supermarkets within a block’s distance from Kim’s place.
“Filmmakers actually come to this area quite often because it shows a side of Seoul that has not changed for years,” said a woman surnamed Shin, owner of Sanghee Supermarket in the area. “We’ve had less visitors since the coronavirus outbreak, but the Oscars win changed all that.”
Perhaps the most memorable scene involving stairs in the movie is when members of Kim’s family run from the Park home back to their home, taking several flights of stairs in at least three different locations in Seoul.
The trio, soaked in the downpour, runs down a staircase located on the northern end of the Jahamun Tunnel in Jongno District, central Seoul.
The tunnel can be reached by taking buses 7016 or 1711 and getting off at the northern end of the tunnel. If you wish to see the staircase from the same angle shot in the movie, there is an opening on the east side of the northern end of the tunnel.
The staircase is located on the west side of the northern end, and leads to the entrance of a walkway through the tunnel. The tunnel is about 500 meters (1,640 feet) long.
The tunnel is open to anyone who wishes to walk through, but for those hoping to relive the scene from the movie, we recommend visiting after sunset, especially when it’s raining.
When the Korea JoongAng Daily visited last week, it was both nighttime and raining. The sound of the wet tires against the asphalt echoing inside the tunnel can easily make one feel like a fugitive, especially as the bright escape signs with its symbol of a green human figure in flight draw your attention.
Once outside of the southern end of the tunnel, the scene continues at another stairway in Huam-dong, Yongsan District in central Seoul, moving on to the stairway in Mapo.
4. Road to the Park family home
The road to the Park home, an extravagant 7,110-square-foot villa with a spacious front yard, is located in a northern pocket of Seongbuk District, central Seoul.
The road is seen in the film when Ki-woo walks to the house to interview for a tutoring position.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk to the location from Hansung University Station, or you can take the Seongbuk 09 bus to get off at the Seongbuk village stop, located minutes from the road.
5. Pizza Generation
The pizza joint dubbed Pizza Generation in the movie, that provided the boxes to the film crew, is actually Sky Pizza, located in an old neighborhood in Noryangjin, southern Seoul.
The owners, Eom Hang-ki and Kang Yang-hee, have been running the place for 17 years. Due to the recent spike in interest, their ingredients tend to sell out early, so it is recommended that you visit there early. They are open from 11 a.m. There are just four tables inside.
Their best-selling pizza is the rich-gold sweet potato pizza, which can be ordered with fried chicken on the side.
When the Korea JoongAng Daily visited on Thursday, the owners were clearly not concerned with how famous they’ve become.
A number of reporters stood at the entrance to the kitchen to ask Kang for some comments. They stood there for a while.
“How long did you say you’ve been waiting?” Kang asked one customer before running back into the kitchen.
“I’ve known them for years, they’re honest people,” said the owner of Areum Hair, located a block down from the pizza joint. “I don’t think they’re the kind of people interested in making money out of all this attention.”
The couple opened the pizza joint after they folded their bakery due to slow sales.
“The pizza joint was our last resort,” Eom said. “It felt like we were going through a long tunnel. Maybe we’re finally starting to see the light at the end.”
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]