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The Truth About Bong Joon-Ho's Translator, Sharon Choi

At the 2020 Oscars ceremony, the international film scene finally got its due when the South Korean black comedy thriller Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho, became the first-ever non-English-language movie to win Best Picture in the Academy's 91-year history. Despite fierce competition from directors like Sam Mendes, Martin Scorsese, Todd Phillips, and Quentin Tarantino — as well as their powerhouse films 1917, The Irishman, Joker, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — Bong and Parasite reigned supreme. Not only did Parasite win Best Picture, but it also took home Best International Film, as well as Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Bong. While Parasite's Oscar wins were a welcome surprise and a huge victory for international cinema, it wasn't completely unprecedented, as Bong had already picked up multiple accolades during the competitive awards season. 

Throughout it all, from press junkets to film festivals to the many awards stages he's taken, Bong has been accompanied by his lightning-fast and whip-smart translator, Sharon Choi. The 25-year-old Korean-American mostly speaks for Bong, except for the occasional brief sentences he gives in English — like when he told the audience at the 2020 Oscars, upon winning Best Director, that he would be "drinking until the next morning."

If you're curious about Choi, you're not alone. Though she's a familiar presence to everyone who's followed Parasite's meteoric rise to the top, there's still a lot to discover about Bong's intrepid translator. Here's everything you need to know about Sharon Choi.

Sharon Choi only started working with Bong Joon-ho less than a year ago

Though it seems like Choi has been with Bong for ages, the pair have only worked together for less than a year, according to The Guardian. When Parasite started making the rounds at the Cannes Film Festival (where it won the coveted Palme d'Or) in May 2019, Choi came on board to lend Bong a hand with all of his future English-speaking endeavors. 

Since then, they've become a formidable duo, and as Bong's star has risen, he's relied on Choi to stand by his side throughout the awards process. Speaking with E! during the red carpet event ahead of the 2020 Oscars, Bong gave Choi a major compliment in Korean, which she translated to English with a slight smile: "It's very embarrassing to translate, but he said that thanks to me, this campaign has been a smooth journey."

Bong Joon-ho's translator has a fandom of her own

Bong is far from the only person who has an appreciation for Choi. After appearing alongside Bong for all of his victory laps, Choi, who currently lives in Seoul, has attracted plenty of positive attention on social media.

"How about a hand for Sharon Choi, the interpreter who's been just as excellent in speaking for Bong Joon-ho this awards season!" one Twitter user wrote. Another put out a request for Choi's friendship, writing, "Parasite translator sharon choi i am free and available to hang out on thursday." Fans have also made photo edits honoring Choi as the Best Translator winner at the 2020 Oscars, and have crafted meme-like videos praising Choi for her intelligence and general demeanor.  

Several of Hollywood's elite count themselves as Choi fans as well — including Crazy Rich Asians actor Henry Golding and The Farewell director Lulu Wang, who was sadly shut out of the 2020 Oscar nominations despite her film receiving heaps of critical praise. "Sharon Choi for president," Golding wrote on Twitter, while Wang tweeted during this year's Academy Awards, "DIRECTOR BONG!!!!!! SHARON CHOI!!!!!! Yes, I am screaming."

Some of Choi's non-famous fans spoke with BuzzFeed News about why they admire her. "Often times interpreters will translate the words but not the emotions or ideas as well, so I think Sharon's doing an amazing job," an 18-year-old fan named Rachel Choi told the outlet. "Also as a Korean who isn't fluent, I feel in awe every time I see Sharon do her thing. She's so, so cool."

In that same pre-Oscars chat with E!, Bong admitted he's aware Choi is beloved by many: "I know she has a huge fandom."

Sharon Choi's confidence might all be an act

One of the most remarkable things about Choi is her unwavering confidence. Throughout the 2019-2020 awards season, as she stood up in front of legends like Martin Scorsese and Tom Hanks, she never lost her cool, working quickly to bring Bong's words to life clearly and expediently. But, as it turns out, her cool head may be a bit of an act.

In a video interview with The Hollywood Reporter in early January 2020, Choi shied away from the camera when it was turned towards her. "This is so embarrassing," she said, making it clear that she wasn't comfortable being the pure focus and would rather just continue translating for Bong. She also described herself as "always super anxious," though she hides it well.

Meanwhile, Choi's boss has had nothing but praise for her. Switching to English, Bong said of Choi in the same sit-down with THR, "She's perfect, and we all depend on her." 

In the end, Choi could have fooled us about feeling nervous, as she always seems cool, confident, and assured on stage. 

Sharon Choi wants to get behind the camera

In an exciting twist, Choi has huge ambitions, and is planning to get behind the camera herself to make what sounds like a delightfully meta feature film. TheWrap reporter Steve Pond revealed the news in a February 9, 2020 tweet that read, "Bong Joon Ho's translator, Sharon Choi, is a director. When awards season ends (i.e., tomorrow), she says she wants to start making a movie ... about awards season."

Bong corroborated this at a backstage press junket after the Oscars. During a question-and-answer session after the ceremony ended, Bong said, "You already know she's a filmmaker. And she studied film [at] university, yeah, so I'm so curious about her script. Actually, she's writing some feature-length script. I'm so curious about it."

Clearly, Choi is getting more comfortable in front of a crowd, and with a mentor like Bong, her cinematic future is definitely promising. Whether this awards season feature would be a drama or a comedy remains to be seen, but now that Choi is a familiar face on the awards circuit, she'd likely fit right in going forward.

Bong and Choi can now enjoy a well-deserved break, and audiences can rest easy knowing they haven't seen the last of either of these talented people.