It’s been a while since I saw the movie Parasite, but the movie still lingers from time to time. I’m also surprised that people all around the world find this movie relatable to themselves. I thought there were many inside jokes, but I guess that the most part is not that different around the globe. But I thought one thing cannot be understood correctly and that is the Taiwanese cake shop.
You might not recall it at all. When Chung-sook followed Moon-gwang under the basement, Moon-gwang explains how she and her husband got into that situation. Geun-sae, her husband, mentions that he got in debt that haunts him to that day by the Taiwanese cake shop business. It might just seem oddly specific but there’s the deep meaning of that specific business.
Taiwanese cake was a “trend item”
In South Korea, there are A LOT of franchise shops. Like, A LOT. What’s more crazy is that many of them won’t survive for long. In fact, 4 out of 10 small business owners shut down their business in less than a year. The reason is that so many people dive into businesses that are trending. A place where I usually hang out with my friends is especially trend-sensitive and I can make a list out of outdated trends. It can be anything: Claw machine, Korean Bing-su, Fruit juice, Beer, Honeycomb icecream, and finally, Taiwanese cake. Every trend that I’ve listed ended up being outdated and failed. There were various reasons, excessive competition, season-off, or scandal highlighted by media. What’s devastating is that if something becomes a trend, everyone starts their own business with it. And if it goes wrong for some reason, everyone dies out, leaving the empty stores that would probably be replaced with another trend shop.
The media killed the business
Taiwanese cake shop is quite special among them. It surely was destined to die out. There were simply way too many of them. They were almost everywhere. But what makes it special is that the whole business was death sentenced by the media. The cake was accused of on a TV show being unhealthy and being unhygienically baked. The problem is that their accusation was not even right. They made those cake look bad for using oil in them, which is obviously not at all wrong. But after it got aired, the businesses died out shortly after like a domino.
Most of the people who started the business were just normal, retired middle-aged person who can’t get a job after their retirement. They often start a business by getting very expensive consulting. Losing their life savings on it, they end up being bankrupt or start other, risky business that is doomed to fail. The movie perfectly catches that tragedy and mixes it with the story. Starting a business in South Korea is not full of hopes and dreams. It’s full of tragedy and desperation.
The movie is even more tragic if you know it
Ki-taek’s face when he heard that Geun-sae failed the cake business was pure empathy. Both Ki-taek and Geun-sae had a dream of being a successful shop owner. They both failed and felled to a low-class parasite. The bitterness that was in less-than-a-minute conversation can’t be put into words. You can see your father, your neighbor, or even yourself.
The problem is on-going. Most recently, Taiwanese brown sugar tea is on-trend. I see them everywhere, just like every other trend did. I’m very concerned about it. Frankly, they’re not even that good. But I get a cup of them occasionally, thinking about how long it will last and how many Geun-sae is enough.