The movie is a black comedy thriller film which tells the tale of a poor family (the Kim family) who scheme to become employed by a wealthy family (the Park family) by infiltrating their household and posing as unrelated, highly qualified individual. One of the themes that I have identified in this film is internalized capitalism. It shows different ways in which this has been manifested.
One of the main facets of capitalism is the notion that we have to work hard in order to climb up the social ladder. The academic qualification that Ki-jung helped forged for Ki-woo in order to convince Yeon-gyo during the job interview symbolizes how a capitalist society values college students who work hard. It also shows how universities usually operate which is to produce qualified workers by conveying basic knowledge and skills to the next generation – a functionalist aspect of education. This functionalist aspect works within a capitalist system as it serves a system that is mainstream within a society. This academic qualification is just a piece of paper representing years of hard work when their hard work could be made by cheating their way through university (eg. paying others to do their assignments for them). I think the act of forging the academic qualification and what that piece of paper is used for can be juxtaposed with the method in which the Kim family eventually climbs up the social ladder and earning more money than they had previously.
Another important facet of capitalism is competition. It is apparent in the movie that it is about class conflict. While the conflict between the rich (the Park family) and the poor (the Kim family) is evident, competition among the poor (Kim family and Moon-gwang) is a type of conflict where they have internalized this facet of capitalism. Both sides had to compete within a capitalist system in order for them to have a decent life or salary. The conflict and fights that they had to go through with each other is the embodiment of such conflict. By referring to the symbolism used in this movie, which is the stairs, when one was about to go up the stairs, the other kicks them down the stairs. When the character goes up the stairs, that means you have gone up the social ladder and vice versa. From a Marxist perspective, the working class is the victim in a capitalist system. But among the working class, the capitalist system has produced a social hierarchy within the working class and the conflict that emerges is a manifestation of internalized capitalism coming from this group of social class. The Kim family is a level higher than Moon-gwang because the former has a higher household income.
|A graphic representation to show the position of the families in the social hierarchy|
The frequent repetition of the talk about ‘plans’ is another aspect of internalized capitalism. Toward the end of the movie, Ki-woo plans on how he and his mother could have a more affluent life by hoping to buy the house that the Park family had previously stayed in. This is probably due to his determination to get his father out of the house basement in which the place that he went into hiding after killing Dong-ik, the father in Park family. Perhaps it is alluded in the movie that Ki-woo won’t be able to achieve his plans, but even by only thinking and planning in such manner, capitalism has been internalized as the only way for him to purchase the house is through climbing up the social ladder and collect enough money through his job and hard work.
To take into account of the economic background of South Korea, they now emerge as one of the world’s developed, high-income economy. From being the poorest country, capitalism is the idealogy that helped the country’s economy grow at a quick speed in just a few generation. Hence, in a society where capitalism is the dominant ideology of how one seeks survival, even the victims of such system have to operate within it by any means necessary, even if it’s against the law. These are the ways in which how capitalism has been internalized among the working class.