Youn Yuh Jung Reflects On Her Decades-Long Career, Her Experience At The Oscars, And More

After making history at the 93rd Academy Awards for her Best Supporting Actress win for her role in “Minari,” Youn Yuh Jung held a press conference with Korean reporters that was broadcast live on KBS 1TV.

At the press conference, Youn Yuh Jung praised her fellow nominees and said, “I’m still in a daze. I didn’t think I would win. I wanted Glenn Close to win.” She said that she had seen Glenn Close in a play in 2000 and said, “I thought she was amazing. She’s the same age as me, and I sincerely wanted her to win. The ‘Minari’ people said that I would get it, but I didn’t believe them. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived a long time and gone through a lot of betrayals, but I didn’t get my hopes up.”

About her witty speech, she said, “I’m not good at English, but I could have done better than that. I messed it up.”

Youn Yuh Jung said that she had met with Bong Joon Ho, who made history during last year’s Academy Awards for winning Best Director, Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Film with the critically acclaimed “Parasite.” “Bong Joon Ho went to the Oscars before the pandemic began [in the United States], so he came with his entire crew,” she said. “This year, nominees could only bring one person. I have two sons, so it’s not like I could take just one of them. I have a friend named Lee In Ah, who worked with me on the movie and helped me on the Oscars campaign. My younger son told me that she deserved to come with me more than him.” She also shared that Lee In Ah, who is a producer, was the one who had given Youn Yuh Jung the script for “Minari.”

Youn Yuh Jung said, “I decided to appear in ‘Minari’ because of a friend’s suggestion rather than because of the script. When I turned 60, I changed how I chose my projects. Before I turned 60, I was calculating about it, but after I turned 60, I made a promise to myself. If it was a good person, if I trusted the producer who brought me the project, then I would do it. Since then, I’ve decided to live luxuriously. Living luxuriously means being able to make your own decisions about how you’re going to live your life.”

She continued, “I’ve read scripts for a long time, so I know at first sight whether something is real or not. ‘Minari’ is very pure, very sincere, and it was very real. It’s not a project written out of brilliant technique, but truly written from the heart.”

In her speech, Youn Yuh Jung mentioned the director of “Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung, and also Kim Ki Young, the late Korean director. In the press conference, she said, “I met him when I was in my twenties. I feel apologetic because I only started to feel grateful toward him after I turned 60. Before then, I didn’t know, I thought he was really strange. People said he was a genius, but he was difficult for me to deal with.”

She continued, “I met Kim Ki Young when I was young, and I met Lee Isaac Chung when I was old. Lee Isaac Chung is younger than my sons, but I marveled at how calm he was and how easily he managed dozens of people. He manages people in a calm manner that doesn’t embarrass people or condescend to them. He respects people while giving direction.”

“I have a lot of friends, and they all tell me that Lee Isaac Chung is the only director whom I couldn’t find a fault with,” she said. “He’s Korean-American. He has Korean roots and was raised in the United States, and grew up to become a very refined person. I feel a sense of hope when I see him. He’s a 43-year-old kid, but I respect him.”

Youn Yuh Jung also shared her determination to continue acting for as long as possible. “It’s not over just because I won an Oscar,” she said. “There’s something I’ve been vowing for a long time. As I get older, it’s harder to memorize lines. I don’t want to be a burden on others, so I want to keep doing this work for as long as I can do it without becoming a burden. I’ve often thought that I’d like to die still working this job.”

The actress also discussed actor Brad Pitt, who announced her category at the Oscars and whom she mentioned in her speech. “He’s a famous actor, so I told him that there were lots of people that liked him in Korea and that he should come,” she said. Brad Pitt is also the CEO of Plan B Entertainment, which produced “Minari.” “I suggested that he should spend more money next time,” she quipped. “He said that he would definitely come to Korea. I don’t believe what Americans say, they speak too flamboyantly. He told me that he respects me and all that, but I don’t fall easily for other people’s words.”

At the end, she shared, “I could understand how national athletes feel. I had no plans while I was shooting the movie, but somehow it became like this. I was worried about what would happen if I didn’t win when so many people were supporting me. It was an honor just to be nominated. I could understand how athletes feel, how the soccer players at the 2002 World Cup must have felt, how chaotic and confusing that time must have been. I could understand how hard it was for [figure skater] Yuna Kim. It was the first time I’d experienced this kind of stress, so it wasn’t that fun for me.”

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