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In Bong Joon-ho's Parasite (2019), lead character Kim Ki-taek (driver of Mr. Park) suddenly

kills Mr. Park at the end when he says something about the "smell of rotten stink".

But in the entire movie, they have shown the Park family to have a good heart (though they are rich and dumb). Even in the scene where Mr. Park tells his wife about his driver's bad smell, he in fact heaps praise of his driver for not “crossing the line".

So why did Kim

kill Mr. Park?

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6 Answers 6

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You mentioned two things right: the smell, which indicated the belonging of the poor family, and crossing the line.

The driver concluded a few times to Mr. Park that he really loved his wife. For Mr. Park it was entering his private territory, which he could not accept from a servant, because he thought of himself to be the upper class. At the party Mr. Park told the driver to do his job, which he was paid for. He didn't want to get close to him on a human level.

When the killing happened, the driver was grieving about his daughter, and Mr. Park didn't care about her and only wanted to save himself and his son. While it's right for the father, he should have thought of taking the wounded girl to the hospital as a human being, or saving others, but not running away. He didn't ask to drive him away, but rather demanded the keys from the driver, leaving everyone behind, and was disgusted by the smell.

In this critical situation he didn't care about his manners and showed his arrogance and ignorance. He still considered himself to be supreme. The driver lost his daughter and decided not to let the rich guy get away. He has assumed the role of the God and killed him.

So the main parasite (the driver) eventually kills his host, Mr. Park. It refers to the title of this film, "Parasite".

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    Nice reply. I would not categorically say that the title refers to the driver or his family however ; as it can be interpreted in both sides. Are the parasites the poor family earning money by serving the riches, or are the parasites the rich family leaving off the lives of many many poors they or their ancestors got their wealth from?
    – wip
    Jan 3, 2020 at 16:09
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    Nice answer - just a little clarification, though. I'm pretty sure Mr. Park does, initially ask the father to "get the car" (implying that he wanted him to drive him away). Only when he hesitates does he demand the keys.
    – rinogo
    Feb 19, 2020 at 7:54
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    Awesome answer super Mar 7, 2020 at 21:23
  • One of the best answers I have read on this site. The observation regarding the death of the host is completely unique to me, due to most peoples tendencies to just look at the general parasitic behaviour of the Kim family + Moon-gwang and her husband. Jul 4, 2020 at 6:25
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I agree with the top answer, however, I believe there's specifically one thing that triggered him to kill him.

It was when Mr. Park looked disgusted after smelling the basement guy and ran off with the key. Kim knew how much the basement guy respected Mr. Park and it seemed like after a while, he started to feel empathy for him. You can see Kim's face change expression when Mr. Park covered his nose and just ran with the key. So when Mr. Park treated the basement guy like garbage, in Kim's eyes, that's when he crossed the line.

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    Also I believe that in that way Kim understood that Mr. Park considered him and the basement guy 'the same thing': lower class people that stink. We was equating him with the weirdo living in the basement (which in Mr Park's eyes was the same. 'The others')
    – papakias
    Nov 22, 2019 at 13:19
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One thing to consider: the wife said that in time of crisis, he (the husband/driver) would scatter like a cockroach exposed to the light. In the crisis, he initially did freeze as the wife took on the killer. Eventually, the husband sprung into action and the only thing he could do was to attack Mr. Park.

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Kim killed Park at the end because of the reasons well-stated above, I like to add that it perhaps also because Mr. Kim finally saw the true nature of the Park family. The wife didn't even bother to call an ambulance, nor did anyone else at the party, and the husband was still disgusted by the basement guy's smell as he went for the keys. This showed the prejudice and the cold-hearted characters of the so-called upper-class "elitists".

Park thought money is everything, and if I pay you, you better be my bitch... at some point, the person on the other end of the job just won't take it anymore. Because Park never, nor did his wife, respected their servants (The odor is just a symbol, cannot be taken literally. It stroke home for Kim when Park showed Kim that he crossed the line when Kim mentioned to Park about Park's wife when Kim only said it because he thought Park could be a friend. Park never considered Kim, and everyone working for him as equal).

Is living in the basement, becoming another "parasite", losing a daughter and a half a son (brain damage) a good ending? Kim would probably eventually rot to death in the same old basement, without a proper burial. Would anyone consider that a nicer ending versus getting killed?

Living isn't everything, it is more about how you live, whether or not like a parasite...

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Smell is an important element in the film. Mr. Park seems to have an aversion to the Kim family's smell, likening it to the smell of poor people. ("People who ride the subway have a special smell.") Ki-Taek and the rest of the Kim family notice this aversion, which mirrors the class difference between them and the "elites," like Mr. Park. At the end of the film, Ki-taek had enough of the "elites." Ki-taek just witnessed his daughter get stabbed, and no one from the "elites" — either the party guests or the Park family was attempting to help his daughter. In desperation, the final straw for Ki-taek was Mr. Park's reaction of disgust to the smell of a "poor person", Geun-sae (the man living in the basement).

According to an interview of Bong Joon-ho (director of Parasite) (emphasis mine):

Question: Smell is a pivotal force in the film. I know it’s the most evocative sense, but are there any other reasons why you wanted to use it to push the narrative forward?

Bong Joon-ho: The jobs that these characters take—tutoring, housekeeping, and driving—feature a rare moment where the rich and poor are together in a very private space and so close to one another that they can smell each other. It was kind of the perfect device in the story.

Source: Parasite Director Bong Joon-ho on the Art of Class Warfare — GQ

Parasite writer-director Bong Joon-ho thinks about the trajectory of his protagonist—the patriarch of the Kim family, Ki-taek—like a volcano. Midway through the class thriller, Ki-taek finagles a job as a driver for the ultra-rich Mr. Park. He hears Mr. Park comment on his unsavory smell, and “he begins to feel more and more pressure until the very end,” Director Bong says. “The last 30% of the film is basically just the magma continually boiling and gurgling until it reaches that explosive moment.”

Question: That scene manages to be both a bit ridiculous and funny, but also very intense. How did you thread that needle?

Bong Joon-ho: I'm grateful for that question because that's what I wanted to achieve with that scene. That man in the basement comes out with the knife in his hands, but even before then he basically cracked his head with the scholar stone, so the violence had already begun. But when the man first comes out into the sunlight, at first he sort of hesitates and almost is shy. Even in my storyboard, I added a note that he should seem like this introverted killer. So it's an absurd moment that's also pretty funny too.

The next thing that happens is he runs with the knife, stabs the daughter, and the violence explodes from that moment on. Everything happens at a very fast speed, almost too fast for the audience to recognize what's going on. It's like a whirlwind. And then, the next moment is the meeting between Mr. Park and the man in the basement. It finally happens and it's a pretty absurd moment. He gets stabbed with a sausage skewer on his side, and even amidst all that pain, he shouts "Respect, Mr. Park," so that's very funny but also sad. And then, because of the smell of this man, Mr. Park holds his nose, and I remember telling the actors to look at the man like he’s this stinky bag of food trash, and that's very cruel. And Mr. Park's reaction has to be that intense for it to act as a trigger for Ki-taek.

Source: Parasite’s Wild Ending, Broken Down — GQ

Related dialogue:

Da-song: It's the same! They smell the same! [referring to Ki-taek and Chung-sook]
Mrs. Park: What are you talking about? Go up to Jessica.
Da-song: Jessica smells like that, too.

Mr. Park: Where's that smell coming from?
Mrs. Park: What smell?
Mr. Park: Mr. Kim's smell.
Mrs. Park: Mr. Kim?
Mr. Park: Yeah.
Mrs. Park: Not sure what you mean.
Mr. Park: Really? You must have smelled it.
That smell that wafts through the car, how to describe it?
Mrs. Park: An old man's smell?
Mr. Park: No no, it's not that.
What is it?
Like an old radish?
No.
You know when you boil a rag? It smells like that.
[...]
But that smell crosses the line. It powers through right into the back seat.
Mrs. Park: How bad can it be?
Mr. Park: I don't know. It's hard to describe. But you sometimes smell it on the subway.
Mrs. Park: It's been ages since I rode a subway.
Mr. Park: People who ride the subway have a special smell.

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Nice answers and discussions. I had the same questions about why a poor, under-educated, and rather "coward" could make a hard decision by killing his boss. I would rationalize from the previous scene when the "parasite" father told his son that they should not live on a plan. It is better leave the plan at God's hand. So, he seems not to like radical thinking but rather making decision based on the momentary emotion which essentially reached the climax when he saw his daughter got stabbed to death. As well, the subsequent ignorance of the boss in tandem with his expression of disgust did make the killing nature (the animal part) in Kim overwhelmed his mind. The killing may not happen if both of them behaved with little empathy. However, sadly both of them ended up like a selfish money-making robot (the Park) and the savage animal of no return (the Kim).

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    First of all, your haven't provided an answer, just gave your opinion on the discussion. Second, Kim feels humiliated by Park's disgust. There are many points of tangency with Kafka's opus. When I began reading your post, I hoped to hear something concrete. 🙁
    – PinkyWay
    Jun 23, 2020 at 22:43
  • @Invisible There's an answer here. The answerer described Ki-Taek's frame of mind when he killed Mr. Park. Jul 16, 2022 at 2:04

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