“Minari,”directed by Korean-American Lee Isaac Chung, has won best foreign language film at the Golden Globes on Sunday. It is the second year in a row that a Korean-language film won a major American film award, following director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” last year. It is also a feat that has proved the power of Korean-language content in the center of the international pop culture.
“Minari” is director Chung’s semi-autobiographical story about growing up as the child of Korean immigrant family who migrated to Arkansas in search of the American dream. Before winning the Golden Globe, the film has won 74 film awards, including the top awards at Sundance Film Festival last year. In particular, Youn Yuh-jung, who plays the grandmother Soon-ja, has come into the spotlight by winning 26 awards for best supporting actress.
It is not easy for a film that features more than 50% Korean dialogue to be recognized in Hollywood, which is particularly close to movies with subtitles. Director Chung first thought of making the film 100% in English for fear that he might not attract investment but changed his mind, thinking it would be difficult to capture the identity crisis of Korean immigrants if the characters spoke English. The characters in the film won the hearts of the mainstream audience by vividly capturing the dilemma of immigrants, who speak Korean at home and English outside the home, failing to belong to either culture.
“‘Minari’ is about a family. It’s a family trying to learn a language of its own. It’s a language of the heart,” said director Chung, accepting the honor. It was an indirect criticism of the Golden Globes for shutting out “Minari” from the best picture categories, which sparked controversy and drew accusations of racism, because it was not in English. Since there are no language rules at the Academy Awards, “Minari” can compete for best picture and best supporting actress awards. After winning the Golden Globes last year, “Parasite” gained momentum to win four honors at the Academy Awards, including best picture, as the first non-English-language film.
Korean is no longer an unfamiliar language in the pop culture world. South Korean boy band BTS topped the Billboard charts with their Korean-language songs and many Korean-language films and dramas, such as “Space Sweepers” are enjoying popularity on over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, which have a lower language barrier. Hopefully, new and creative Korean-language content continue to touch the hearts of international audience and win major international awards.