Bong was born in Seoul to an elite artistic family — his maternal grandfather was a renowned novelist while his late father and all of his siblings are university professors in fields including fashion and fine art — and studied sociology at the South’s prestigious Yonsei University.
He reportedly took part in street protests as a student at Yonsei during the country’s pro-democracy movement in the 1980s, and once told an interviewer he had been arrested for using petrol bombs.
He has also candidly spoken about dealing with severe anxiety while being a celebrated filmmaker, in a country where mental health has long been a taboo topic.
Throughout his career, he has often tackled dark and difficult subjects, including violent crime, systematic oppression and the climate crisis.
“Resolution is not something Bong might expect to gain from any of the films he makes, but that doesn’t stop him from using them to exorcise the modern anxieties that plague him,” wrote Jen Yamato of the Los Angeles Times.
“Deliciously entertaining genre blenders, his stories tend toward cutting, witty and ultimately humane social critique, twisty puzzle boxes that reflect our world back to us.”
Pierce Conran, a Seoul-based film critic and producer, described Bong as a “socially-minded and consummate artist”, and said his deft skill as an entertainer — combined with his other qualities — has given him a unique ability to connect with global audiences.
His Golden Globe win stands as a “significant breakthrough for a foreign film in Hollywood’s awards season”, he told AFP, adding it would help to establish Bong as “one of the all-time greats of cinema”.