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‘Minari’ actress is nonchalant about new fame outside of South Korea




Yuh Jung Youn attended the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, to promote the movie “Minari”.

Photo: Taylor Jewell, INVL / Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea – When Youn Yuh-jung was asked what she thought of being nicknamed “Meryl Streep of South Korea” in a recent interview, she said she was flattered by the comparison. But she had her own presentation.

“I’m just a Korean actress in Korea,” said the 73-year-old actor. “My name is Youn Yuh-jung. So I like to be myself.

Youn doesn’t need to be featured in South Korea, with a film career spanning more than five decades. But it has just been discovered by audiences outside the country through “Minari”, a semi-autobiographical film based on the childhood of Korean American director Lee Isaac Chung about a family who moved to the countryside of Arkansas to start. a small farm.

Youn plays Soonja, who leaves Korea to join her daughter and stepson and develops a loving but comedic relationship with grandson David (Alan Kim), the only family member born in the United States.

The film wowed at Sundance and is one of the main Oscar contenders for Best Picture; Youn is nominated in the Supporting Actress category.

She said she hadn’t given much thought to giving an award. “It would be something that I can’t and won’t imagine, so I don’t know…. For me, an award means getting my next job. “

Born in 1947, she rose to fame in South Korea with her 1971 debut, “Fire Woman”. While at the peak of her career, she married popular singer Cho Young-nam, who convinced her to move to the United States so that he could perform at Reverend Billy Graham’s Church.

Youn was offered a role in a Christian film, and she stayed with a director in Florida for eight months to try and learn English. It did not work.

“The project disappeared because I didn’t speak English,” she laughs.

Youn lived in the United States for almost a decade, without performing, before returning to South Korea. She separated from Cho and returned to the theater.

The United States was considered a “dream land” by Asian American immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s, when “Minari” was established, she said. But it is difficult for her to “fully understand” and identify with their struggles, including dealing with identity crises and anti-Asian racism.

“Second-generation Asian Americans think they are American, but to Americans they don’t look American,” Youn said. “There must be a dilemma like this.”

Youn was impressed with Chung’s “realistic and genuine” storyline, which gave her the freedom to modify her character and dialogue, including an impromptu scene where Soonja steals a $ 100 donation made by her daughter on the plate. ‘church fees.

Youn said that when she suggested the scene, Chung was slightly hesitant because he was a “very godly Christian,” but ended up filming it, “I really appreciated Isaac for accepting all of my suggestions.”

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