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Youn Yuh-jung becomes first Korean to win acting Oscar

Posted April. 27, 2021 07:23,   

Updated April. 27, 2021 07:23


She was desperate. Struggling to make ends meet for her two sons. She fiercely pushed her envelope because she believed in the values of fulfilling one’s given part, always doing your best for perfection, and making contributions to those you care about.

“I’d like to thank two boys who make me go out and work, so my believed sons, this is the result because mommy works so hard,” said Youn Yuh-jung with a big smile, a 74-year-old actress who has become the first South Korean actor to win an Oscar, culminating her 55 years of acting career with an Oscar that was characterized by challenges, hardships, and oftentimes prejudices.  

Debuted in 1966, Youn has starred in over 90 dramas and 33 movies as an irreplaceable icon in South Korea, and now she finds herself in the global stage. Though she often jokes she does acting for a living, everyone else is praising her as one of the great actors ever alive. On Sunday (local time), Youn won “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” with her role in the movie “Minari” at the 93rd Academy Awards held at Union Station and Dolby Theatre. While Director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” swept four trophies last year - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film, actors awards had remained an unchartered territory for South Korea. The last time an Asian actor won an Oscar was back in 1957 when Miyoshi Umeki won Best Supporting Actress awards with “Sayonara.”

Youn’s achievement is especially meaningful as she has torn down the entry barrier of Oscars for the first time in 64 years that have been harsh towards Asian actors and actresses. She also rewrote the history of the Academy Awards notoriously labeled as “white festivities” and “white supremacy.”

Entering the stage at Actor Brad Pitt’s inviting call, Youn stole the show with her unique sense of humors and quips. “Finally, Brad Pitt. Nice to meet you! Where were you when we were filming in Tulsa?” she opened her speech with a delightful banter with Brad Pitt, making the audience bursting into laughter. Brad Pitt is a co-founder of Plan B, the production company of the movie “Minari.”

Jae-Hee Kim jetti@donga.com