Why Youn Yuh Jung Is A Total Boss

Yoon Yeo Jung, Yuh Jung Youn

Youn Yuh Jung made history with her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win for her compelling performance in Minari as the first Korean actress to garner an Academy Award. Even though she may be a new name to Western audiences, the 73 year old actress is a well respected veteran in her home country with a 50 year career full of accolades and awards to back it up. Those of us who have been fans of her already knew how cool she is. Her memorable acceptance speech filled with acerbic wit, charisma and humor showed that to the world. She started by calling out presenter Brad Pitt for never visiting the film set in Tulsa. This was a playful jab because he was an executive producer of Minari not because she was trying to flirt with him as many people rushed to assume. 

She lightheartedly corrected the pronunciation and formation of her name as well as forgiving everyone for botching it. In Asia, the surname comes first so her actual name is Youn Yuh Jung. When westernized it becomes Yuh Jung Youn so her name is not Youn Yuh but Yuh Jung, She can also be addressed as Ms. Youn. By the way when I write about Asian actors/actresses on here, I use the Asian form of their names. 

Ever humble and gracious, Ms. Youn was thankful and showed a genuine admiration for her fellow nominees while attributing her win to just being luckier. She thanked her two sons "who made their mommy go out and work hard." In the midst of her career, Ms. Youn abruptly retired from acting and moved to Florida following a marriage to singer Jo Young Nam. Finding herself divorced with two boys to raise a decade later, she moved back to South Korea and took on any acting work she could get. In an interview, she said  “I did my work for survival and to put food on the table. 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.” In addition to just trying to restart her career and make a living, she had to fight the stigma against divorced women in a traditional patriarchal society as well. In time her talent, range and work ethic established her as a pillar in the acting industry while she personally expressed regret for not being able to spend more time with her children due to her career which often happens to single moms. When not working on films and dramas, she has starred in a number of variety reality series including Youn’s Kitchen, a show where she and other Korean celebrities open pop-up restaurants and work as the staff in foreign countries. I believe this is is still airing.

Ms Youn closed out her speech by dedicating her award to the first director who hired her. This is deeply meaningful and sentimental. Working in an industry that often values looks over talent with "actresses" that sometimes look like they rolled out of a plastic surgery factory, Ms. Youn was not considered a classic Korean beauty and she faced derision by male directors and producers who deemed her looks and husky voice unattractive. Believing in her talent, Kim Ki Young cast her in a number of pivotal roles that ultimately helped launch her career and this is something she did not forget. She once quipped on a Korean tv show that back in the day producers said they would eat their hat if she could make it as an actress and unfortunately they are all dead now. LOL she gets the last laugh because she proved them wrong.

Similarly Ms. Youn was full of grace and wit in her backstage interviews where the American press seemed to be more interested in what she thought of Brad Pitt and what he smelled like rather than the fact that she had just made Oscar's history and was an esteemed actress in her own right. Like the total pro that she is, she defused the rude and inappropriate question with her answer “I didn’t smell him, I’m not a dog!” It was disappointing and embarrassing that these journalists didn't do their research because her career accomplishments and life are way more interesting than what she thinks of Brad Pitt but that's dumb American centrism. Surely they wouldn't be insulting Meryl Streep with a moronic question like that. I loved how her attitude was like thank you Hollywood but I'm not all that impressed. And why should she be.

I grew up on TVB dramas from Hong Kong and started watching Korean dramas in the 2000's. Hotelier was one of my first ones and Youn Yuh Jung had a supporting role in that show. Even though her character ended up passing away in the middle, she made such an impression with her acting. We have watched her in various films and dramas through the years and it's cool that a new audience is now discovering her talents. Minari is an excellent film and her performance is a real standout. Youn Yuh Jung will next be playing the the main character of Sunja in Pachinko, a television series adaptation of the bestselling historical fiction novel by Korean American author Min Jin Lee. The series is in production and will be aired on Apple TV+.

8 comments

  1. It was really such a joy to see her win, chingu! I must admit I haven't seen the movie but just the trailer, but it's on my to-watch list for sure. I love that part when she said "I'm not a dog."...like....what the heck?!?! So gross that journalist even asked her that. But anyhoo....a big YAY for her win for sure:) Seriously....if it's not for you, I would not have discovered the joy of Kdramas and movies, so I owe you a lot:) XOXO

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  2. I didn't know her, but it's very interesting to read her story: such a great woman, indeed!
    Kisses, Paola.

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  3. It's a shame the video isn't available in my country, she sounds like a great lady and it's impressive she has had such a long history in acting, and it sounds well deserved she won the award even if the questions after were rather silly!

    Hope that your week is going well :)

    Away From The Blue

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  4. So well deserve and impressive woman.

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  5. I wasn't able to see the video (not available for viewing in my country) but I enjoyed reading about Youn Yuh Jung's life. She sounds like such a brave and inspirational woman. It takes a strong person to shine under pressure. True acting talent isn't always recognized. To be a great actor, one has to be vulnerable and many celeb actors are too vain to really put themselves out there. Ms. Youn sounds like a great actress and an amazing woman. It is wonderful that she won the Oscar. I also sympathized with her life story. Life is hard for a single mother. You have double the responsibility. A woman always feels guild if she doesn't spend a lot of time with her kids, even if she has to work to put the food on the table. However, I think children can always sense when their parents love them and can understand when they are absent for work.

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  6. I didn't know about Ms Youn but I loved reading about her. She sounds wonderful!
    xoxo
    Lovely
    www.mynameislovely.com

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  7. I didn't know her, but her story is really inspiring. That question about Brad Pitt is so stupid, but I like how she answered.

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