Minari: who is Yuh-Jung Youn, the first South Korean actress to win an Oscar? – Cinema News


In Minari, Yuh-Jung Youn plays a whimsical grandmother who will come to support the couple formed by Steven Yeun and ye-Ri Han. Focus on this 74-year-old veteran actress, who has just won an Oscar.

Directed by Lee Isaac Chung, Minari caused a sensation at numerous festivals, including winning the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.

If the work has marked the spirits, it is in particular thanks to an earthy character who brings a lightness in a sometimes difficult story. This character is that of the grandmother, Soonja, played by Yuh-Jung Youn.

As a reminder, Minari tells the story of an American family of South Korean origin. She settles in Arkansas where the father wants to become a farmer. Her little boy will have to get used to this new life and the presence of a Korean grandmother he did not know.

This benevolent, slightly eccentric granny is therefore played by Yuh-Jung Youn. Born June 19, 1947 in Kaesong, she grew up in Seoul. She first studied Korean language and literature at Hanyang University before going to auditions in 1966 organized by the TBC television channel.

The young woman is passionate about comedy and decides to give up her studies. She made her acting debut the following year in the TV movie Mister Gong. In 1971 began his collaboration with Kim Ki-young. It is thanks to this filmmaker, of whom The Servant is a world reference, that Yu-Jung’s career takes off.

In Hwanyeo, she slips into the costume of a femme fatale who sows discord within a couple. The film is a great public and critical success. She will find Kim Ki-young the following year in La Femme insecte.

The work is a domestic thriller based on a recurring theme of his filmography: that of strong women, sometimes Machiavellian, who interfere in the daily life of a family and vampirize it. Despite these remarkable beginnings in the cinema, Yuh-Jung Youn put her career on hold after her marriage to singer Jo Young-nam in 1975 (from which she divorced in 1987).

The actress then flies away for a while for the United States. She returned to live in Korea in 1984 and resumed her acting career. She was only seen twice on screen until the 2000s, including one in front of Kim Ki-young’s camera who directed her one last time in 1995 in Cheonsayeo aknyeoga doila.

In this feature film, two women plan to get rid of their husbands. Since the 2000s, Yu-Jung has had a prolific career on both the small and the big screen. If the television often allows her to take on the roles of matriarch in family series, she is illustrated on the contrary in more ambiguous and complex roles on the big screen.


Yuh-Jung Youn at the 2021 Oscars

For example, in A Korean Woman (2003), she plays a wife who abandons her dying husband to continue extramarital affairs.

We can also mention her role as a retiree forced to prostitute herself in The Bacchus Lady (2016). In 2010, she slipped into the costume of a perfidious bourgeois stepmother in The Housemaid, remake of The Servant by Kim Ki-young, as a nod to the one who revealed her forty years earlier.

Fetish actress of Im Sang-soo and Hong Sang-soo (HA HA HA and In Another Country among others), she also turns under the direction of young talents, like Kim Yong-Hoon in the thriller Lucky Strike. If her participation from 2015 to 2017 in the series of the Wachowski sisters, Sense8, allowed her to become known beyond the borders of her native Korea, she achieved international notoriety in 2021 with Minari by Lee Isaac Chung.

Her performance as an eccentric grandma in this independent drama earned her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, a first for a Korean actress. She also won the BAFTA in the same category. We will soon find her in Heaven: To the Land of Happiness, by Im Sang-soo. She will give the reply to Choi Min-Sik (Old Boy).


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