The unprecedented Oscars haul for “Parasite” is the culmination of a corporate push into Hollywood that Lee has spearheaded for years.
In 1995 she invested $300 million in the DreamWorks studio as it was set up by Hollywood heavyweights including Steven Spielberg.
She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the powerful organisation that awards the Oscars, and has connections throughout showbusiness in the US, where she moved after her blacklisting.
Lee supervises CJ ENM, one of the South’s biggest media groups, which has operations in television, K-pop, film studios and multiplexes, subsidiaries in at least six countries, and a market capitalisation of 3.7 trillion won ($3 billion).
The South’s “popular culture industry is as controlled by chaebol conglomerates as the production of semiconductors, ships or cars”, according to Vladimir Tikhonov, a Korean studies professor at the University of Oslo.
South Korean reports say the firm spent $8.5 million on an Oscar campaign for “Parasite” — including screenings, adverts and publicity events to appeal to voters — although the company declined to confirm the figure to AFP.
In the event it took home four Oscars, including best director, best screenplay and best international feature film, but So-Rim Lee of the University of Pennsylvania pointed out that none of the acceptance speeches, including Bong’s, raised “the actual social issues they purport to address through the film”.