Choi Woo-shik: “Soju One Glass”
If the Marvel Cinematic Universe has its post-credits scenes, the South Korean Best Picture nominee Parasite, written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, has its own “for the fans” treat once the screen goes black, though the film has far less clear distinctions between the good guys and the villains than the Avengers. As a denouement to this darkly comic capitalist hellhole thriller about a family of scammers infiltrating a rich household is a bittersweet, folk-ish tune sung by Choi Woo-shik, the 29-year-old actor who plays “Kevin,” the son of the impoverished Kim family. This end credits song (an if-you-know-you-know bonus for the Bong Hive) was composed by musician Jung Jae-il with lyrics written by the director himself, who wanted audiences to hear Kevin’s voice one last time while leaving the theater. The track, “Soju One Glass,” was shortlisted (but not nominated) by the Academy for Best Original Song, a surprise nod even for a film that’s received many accolades since its Palme d’Or win at Cannes last May.
Though it starts with a solemnly plucked electric guitar, the song builds up to a fast-strummed ditty, the lyrics playfully enunciated by the boyishly-toned Choi, whose voice seems to constantly be on the verge of a pubescent crack. The song plays unsubtitled, and if you don’t speak Korean it feels almost misplaced—too chipper, too inviting of foot-stomping, almost distasteful following a rather traumatic series of events in the film’s final act. But comprehension of the lyrics spotlights the strain in Choi’s voice as he sings about an exhausting life that feels realistic for his scrappy character: living in the haze of Korea’s poor air quality, hands and feet rough and nonexistent muscles burned from hard labor. The melody picks up with an extra bounce as Choi dives into the chorus: numbing it all at the end of the day with cold soju spilling over from his glass. Then the comedown hits. It’s rather fitting for a film built on faux optimism followed by a bluntly shattering reality check.