SEOUL — “Minari,” the critically acclaimed film a couple of hard-luck household of Korean immigrants within the United States, was not precisely a industrial blockbuster in South Korea: Fewer than one million folks watched it in 54 days of screening throughout the nation.
But when considered one of its stars, Yuh-Jung Youn, received the Academy Award for greatest supporting actress, South Koreans rejoiced not solely as a result of it was a primary for a Korean actor, but additionally due to the recipient.
On Monday morning, the South Korean media despatched out information flashes when Ms. Youn received her Oscar. Cable channels introduced plans to display her earlier movies. Social media was abuzz with followers congratulating her.
“Her performance brilliantly helped us relive the memories of our own mothers and grandmothers,” President Moon Jae-in stated in an announcement, referring to Ms. Youn’s character within the movie.
Ms. Youn was the primary Asian girl to win the perfect supporting actress Oscar since 1957. But it’s her life story — in addition to these of her characters — that made her award resonate so deeply in South Korea, significantly amongst ladies who’ve lengthy struggled beneath the nation’s male-dominant hierarchical order.
Minari is a parsley-like vegetable that’s ubiquitous in Korea. It grows anyplace with a smidgen of moisture, together with swamps and deserted rice paddies.
If there may be anybody like minari within the South Korean film trade, it’s Ms. Youn.
Long earlier than her Oscar, Ms. Youn’s picture as a fiercely unbiased girl with an typically irreverent wit had endeared her to South Koreans. In her 55 years as an actress, she typically took on any work that she may get, together with Korean cleaning soap operas, indie films and actuality exhibits. Her success defied the predictions of male producers who thought-about her plain-looking and located her raspy voice grating and unappealing.
“The producers said they would eat their hat if I would make it as an actress,” she as soon as advised a South Korean cable channel. “Unfortunately, they are all dead now.”
For most of her profession, Ms. Youn didn’t have a selection however to take the work because it got here. She had early success in movies akin to 1971’s “Woman of Fire,” however left performing to marry Jo Young-nam, considered one of South Korea’s best-known singers. In the 1970s, she adopted him to the United States, the place Mr. Jo tried on a profession as a gospel singer. The marriage resulted in divorce within the 1980s.
Ms. Youn returned to Seoul to select up performing once more at age 38. South Korean society on the time nonetheless held deep prejudices in opposition to ladies who had been divorced, forcing her to scrape by. With two sons to boost, she stated she “never had the luxury of actresses who have wealthy husbands and can pick and choose movie roles.”
“I did my work for survival and to put food on the table,” she advised a South Korean tv station in 2009. “An actress can do her best work when she is most starved for cash. When you are hungry, you put your desperate best into your work.”
Her versatility landed her roles because the femme fatale, the loving grandmother and even an over-the-hill prostitute. When producers had been casting for “A Good Lawyer’s Wife” (2003), many actresses declined the position of a girl who has intercourse with one other man whereas her husband is terminally unwell. Ms. Youn took the position, saying she may use the cash to redo her front room.
She as soon as carried out the position of a spiteful queen in a Korean cleaning soap opera so effectively that folks typically cursed after they noticed her on the road.
“People like her because they know her life story,” stated Huh Eun, a retired school media professor in Seoul. “When they think of her, they don’t think of the glorious spotlight usually associated with film stars, but of a woman who has struggled to make a living all these years like the rest of us.”
Ms. Youn’s international breakthrough got here when she was provided a job in “Minari.”
As the information of her award hit on Monday morning, fellow actresses and feminine followers in South Korea flooded social media with their favourite dry humor from Ms. Youn.
“I am 67 this year and this is my first time being 67,” the actress Kim Hye-soo quoted Ms. Youn as saying. “This is our first time living this life, so we can’t help but feel regretful and hurt.”
Ms. Youn’s Oscar acceptance speech went viral for a attribute tongue-in-cheek angle. The award was offered by Brad Pitt, whose manufacturing firm financed the movie. “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally, nice to meet you!” she stated to the American famous person. “Where were you when we were filming in Tulsa?”
“Minari” depicts a Korean household struggling to construct a life as farmers in rural Arkansas within the 1980s, when many poor Koreans headed for the United States for a greater life. It is the second movie about Koreans to make historical past on the Academy Awards, after “Parasite,” directed by Bong Joon Ho, received 4 Oscars final 12 months.
“Parasite” grossed greater than 10 million viewers inside two months of its launch. Part of the explanation “Minari” failed to attain the identical industrial success in South Korea is that the immigrant expertise of the 1980s that it portrays is rapidly fading.
These days, far fewer Koreans to migrate to the United States, and those that do are normally the kids of wealthy households who go there to check. That could change, too, as Koreans watch hate crimes involving Asian-American victims soar within the United States.
But Ms. Youn struck a chord with South Koreans in her position as Soonja, the foul-mouthed however loving grandmother in “Minari” who strikes from South Korea to the United States to maintain her grandchildren. Her grandson doesn’t contemplate Soonja a “real grandma” and complains that she “smells like Korea.” They slowly construct a bond by taking part in playing cards collectively and sharing Mountain Dew, which Soonja appears to assume is a well being drink as a result of it’s constituted of “dew from the mountains.”
After “Minari” started accumulating awards at movie festivals in current weeks, followers began calling Ms. Youn “the Meryl Streep of Korea.” She has performed what no different Korean actor or actress has performed: While “Parasite” received greatest image and greatest director, none of its actors had been nominated for Oscars.
On Sunday evening throughout the award ceremony, Ms. Youn stated her true inspiration was her two kids. “I’d like to thank my two boys who made me go out and work,” she stated whereas holding her statuette.
“This is the result because mommy worked so hard.”