By: NIAH MADIGAN
On April 25, during the 93rd annual Oscar’s Youn Yuh-Jung (Korean spelling 윤 여정) won best supporting actress for her role of Soonja in the film Minari. She made history as the first ever Korean actress to win in an acting category.
With Youn’s win in Minari and Bong Joon Ho’s win last year with his film “Parasite”, many people have noticed a slight increase in appreciation for Asian stories, though there is still not nearly enough recognition and appreciation for diversity. When asked how she feels about the increase in appreciation for Asian stories, Youn said “It’s about time. It’s very nice to understand each other, and we should embrace each other… We are equal human beings. We have the same warm heart.”
In her acceptance speech, she thanked Lee Isaac Chung, the director of Minari and the “Minari family”: Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Han Ye-Ri, Noel Cho, and Esther Moon. “I don’t believe in competition,” she said later in the speech. “How can I win over Glenn Close? I’ve been watching her, so many performances… all the five nominees, we played different roles, so we cannot compete with each other. Tonight, I have a little bit of luck, I think. I am luckier than you.” She finished her speech by thanking her first director, Kim Ki-Young, and her two sons.
Youn made her first appearance in 1971 in the movie “Woman of Fire”, where she played Myeong-ja, a live-in maid. She won Best Actress for the role at the Sitges Film Festival. But she never planned on becoming an actress, and only turned to acting when she failed to get into one of the top universities in Korea. “It was very shameful,” she told Hollywood Reporter. “I felt so sorry asking my mother for tuition to go to a secondary college, so I was looking for a job.” She continued to often play fairly small roles, despite growing in fame. “But I am the one who needed the money,” she said. “That’s why I did all those roles, whatever came to me.” She said she continued to throw herself into her work despite becoming depressed to support herselves and her family.
Minari follows a Korean American family that moves to a farm in Arkansas in search of the “American dream”. Amidst challenges they learn what a home really is and the strong bonds of family. It is available on Youtube, Apple TV, Vudu, Google Play, and Amazon Prime Video.
Minari was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score (score written by Emile Mosseri), Best Actor (for Steven Yeun), and Best Director (directed by Lee Isaac Chung), but won none of them.