People Youn Yuh-jung takes home an Oscar for Korea

Youn Yuh-jung takes home an Oscar for Korea
Youn Yuh-jung, winner of the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for ″Minari,″ poses in the press room at the Oscars in Los Angeles. [REUTERS/YONHAP]
Youn Yuh-jung, winner of the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for ″Minari,″ poses in the press room at the Oscars in Los Angeles. [REUTERS/YONHAP]
 
Youn Yuh-jung won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 93rd Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.
 
Youn followed the milestone set by Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” by becoming the first Korean to ever win an Oscar for acting. 
 
In director Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” (2020), she plays a grandmother named Soon-ja who tries to hold her family together as they chase the American dream.  
 
Youn began her acceptance speech by calling out presenter Brad Pitt, whose production company, Plan B Entertainment, was behind “Minari.” 
  
"Mr. Brad Pitt, nice to meet you finally," she told the actor. "Where were you while we were filming?" 
 
Although she was smiling, it was evident she was nervous as she took to the stage, but plowed through a speech in English.
 
“Actually my name is Yuh-jung Youn," she continued, "and most of European call me Yuhyoung and some of you have called me Yoojung but tonight all are forgiven ...  
 
“See, I don’t believe in competition. How can I win over Glenn Close? I’ve been watching so many performances [by her] so this is just all the five nominees we know for the different movies. We play different roles so we cannot compete [against] each other. Tonight I’m here [because] I have a little bit of luck. [Maybe] I’m luckier than you and also maybe [the award is given] as an American hospitality for the Korean actor.”
 
Youn ended the speech by dedicating her award to director Kim Ki-young, who cast her in “Woman of Fire” (1971), which was her screen debut and led to stardom in the local film industry.
 
“I’d like to dedicate this award for my first director Kim Ki-young, who was a very genius director,” she said. “I made the movie together with him, [my] first movie. I think he’ll be very happy if he’s still alive.”
 
Kim died in 1998.
 
The other actors nominated in the category were Maria Bakalova for “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” Glenn Close for “Hillbilly Elegy,” Olivia Colman for “The Father” and Amanda Seyfried for “Mank.”
 
With her Oscar, Youn has collected 39 awards for her performance in “Minari” including a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award and a Screen Actors Guild award.  
 
In the Oscar’s 93-year history, Youn is only the second Asian actor to win the best supporting actress award. Japanese-American Miyoshi Umeki was the first for “Sayonara” (1957).  
 
Youn won the only award for “Minari,” although it was nominated for six Oscars. It didn't win best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best original score or best actor for Steven Yeun.  
 
Other Asian recognition includes Chloé Zhao, who made Oscar history by becoming the first woman of color and the first woman of Asian descent to win best director for “Nomadland.” She was also the second female director to win after Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” (2009).  
 
Director Bong Joon-ho, who was the last Best Director winner, presented the award from Seoul with his translator Sharon Choi. 
 
BY LEE JAE-LIM   [lee.jaelim@joongang.co.kr]  
 
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