Youn Yuh-jung, the foul-mouthed grandmother of ‘Minari’ who can win the Oscar | Culture

Thank you for the award. Each award is valuable, but this one is more, because it is a recognition from the British, known for their snobbery [snobbish], who accept me as an actress. And that makes me very happy. Thank you”. This is how Youn Yuh-jung’s speech of appreciation ended Sunday night, the Korean actress who plays the foul-mouthed grandmother of threats after winning the BAFTA for best supporting actress. Without mincing words, provoking humorous comments among the English media with the joke, Youn portrayed in one sentence both his character and that of his character in Lee Isaac Chung’s drama, which has won six Oscar nominations, and that she just has her best asset to achieve a statuette. A recognition for a woman who began in the cinema in 1971, reached stardom quickly, retired when she married, and who in this 21st century has once again become one of the most popular faces in her country, with more than 80 roles in series of TV.

In an interview with EL PAÍS, Chung joked: “After the success last year of Parasites, and as it goes with us threats we could inaugurate a new category at the Oscars for best Korean film of the year. ” It is true that his film is 100% American, and that almost all of its actors are Asian-American. But there is some connection between one of the films indies of the year in the US and the booming Korean film industry. And one is Youn, popular with moviegoers on the lookout for festival premieres, and who has now seen his legend grow. “In my country I am very famous, because I have been in this profession for many years. But don’t ask me about my international future or about the Oscar, because I don’t know what’s going to happen, “he said at the post-BAFTA press conference, in which he responded from Seoul. With the pandemic he has been spared, as Bong Joon-ho, the director of Parasites, of having to do a very long promotion in the US from city to city and from lunch to lunch behind the Oscar. His life has been reduced and simplified to an eternal Zoom. She is the favorite, after winning the British award, the Screen Actors Guild trophy, being a candidate in her category at the Spirit Awards for independent film and having been rewarded with a score of awards from critics associations and festivals. And in her appearances, Dior Haute Couture wears her.

The actress was born in 1947 in Kaesong, in the north of her country, although she grew up, fatherless, in Seoul. She had started studying Korean Literature and Language at university when she passed an acting test for TBC television. He dropped out of school and made his debut on the small screen in 1967. He jumped into the movies in a big way, in 1971 with Woman On Fire, from Kim Ki-young, initiator of modern Korean cinema, in which he played a fatal Woman, her specialty in these early days, with which she won her first award: best actress at the Sitges festival. Under Kim’s direction, the actress was not afraid to take chances on titles like The Insect Woman (1972) and Be A Wicked Woman (1990). That jump in time illustrates Youn’s first and risky life decision: At the peak of her career, she married the singer and television star. Jo Young-nam, and they moved to Florida. There, retired from the entertainment world, she was the mother of two children, until she divorced and more than 10 years later she returned to her native country. In an interview in The New York Times, Youn recalls how complicated that return was: “The viewers called the networks and said: ‘She is a divorcee. It shouldn’t be on the screen. ‘ Now they idolize me. It is strange, but human. It was worth it, although I considered giving up and going back to the US Today, finally, I enjoy acting. “

Youn Yuh-jung, on the Sunday before the BAFTAs, dressed as Dior Haute Couture with a Maria Grazia Chiuri design.
Youn Yuh-jung, on the Sunday before the BAFTAs, dressed as Dior Haute Couture with a design by Maria Grazia Chiuri.Yoon Jiyong & Alvin Goh

Youn did and accepted everything to bring his offspring forward: any minor character in a television series was worth it. Until her children went to university, they did not need her financial support and she began to be able to select their jobs. When he turned 60, he promised to collaborate only with whoever he wanted. And so, in this 21st century, the Korean woman became a regular face of festivals for her appearances in films by two greats: Hong Sangsoo and Im Sang-soo. With Hong he has participated in four films, such as In other country O Before yes, now no. With Im in four others, and his work dazzled in The maid. Yet he has not disdained television. In recent times he has presented in Korea a reality show cooking (it is already in the third season) and a non-fiction series in a hostel. The Oscar nomination caught him freshly home from Vancouver (Canada), where he had recorded the series for Apple TV Pachinko.

Chung, whose Threatening illustrates the vicissitudes of his family in Arkansas in the eighties, he met him at the Busan Korean festival in 2018, one of the most powerful in Asia. The director, who like Bong is a fan of Woman On Fire, he wanted to meet his protagonist. They hit it off, and in the chat with The New York Times, the actress affirms: “He is a very calm man. I wish it were another of my children ”.

By the way, after the Bafta, Youn clarified his comment: “Well, it comes from my personal experience. I have visited the UK quite a few times and even took an acting course at Cambridge 10 years ago. And people are snobbish, but not in a negative way. They have a long history behind them, and that makes them proud. As an Asian woman, I feel like they are really snobs. “

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