Youn Yuh-Jung’s Oscar Win

Written by: Jessica

Edited by: Anusha

Visuals by: Solenne

The night where Hollywood’s most acclaimed actors, actresses and filmmakers are brought to the red carpet. Standing ovations across the Dolby Theatre would leave viewers teary-eyed. Heartfelt speeches are made to an audience of thousands across the world. A typical, picture-perfect scene from the previous Academy Award ceremonies. The 2021 Oscar ceremony, however, was arguably the most unique in the last several years. Not only with its adaptations to COVID-19 guidelines, but also in its advancement towards inclusivity in its nominations and winners. As the director of Nomadland, Chloe Zhao was the first Asian woman, and the only second woman, to have ever won the award for best director. Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson received an Oscar for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, being the first Black women to receive an award for that category. Finally, Youn Yuh-Jung won best supporting actress for Minari, the second Korean film to receive recognition from the Oscars.

With the rise in the Korean wave, the Korean film industry has gained a huge following worldwide. However, the traditional Academy Awards have not been very accepting of foreign industries. This glass ceiling has shattered starting from 2020, with Parasite winning four Academy Awards, being the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. This year, the 2021 Oscars marks yet another huge milestone in the South Korean acting industry as Youn Yuh-Jung became the first ever Korean to win an Oscar in the acting category. 

Youn was awarded best supporting actor for the film Minari, written and directed by Lee Isaac Chung. A widely acknowledged actor in South Korea, Youn has starred various Korean movies and dramas for over 50 years. Many South Koreans celebrated her win, as Youn’s life story has let many women empathize with the many issues surrounding  the country’s deep rooted patriarchal views. As a divorced woman with two sons in South Korea, the taboos surrounding divorce, made it difficult for her to provide for herself and her children. As she continued to act, she proved herself as a versatile actress, and the country came to admire her breakthrough from years of struggle. Youn  thanked her children in her speech saying “I’d like to thank my two boys who made me go out and work. This is the result because mommy worked so hard.”

Youn’s Oscar win was widely celebrated across South Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in even praised the actress, remarking  “her performance brilliantly helped us relive the memories of our own mothers and grandmothers.” 

Many Koreans in the ISM community had also reposted Youn’s Oscar win on social media. Ninth grader, Andy, expressed his excitement for the veteran actress’s win, saying, “She’s the first Korean actress who’s won an Oscar, and I am happy that more and more Korean people are becoming recognized in the film industry.” 

Andy also mentions the ongoing Asian hate crimes as he explains “I think that this has brought more attention to the Asian community as a whole. As more and more Asian people get recognized for their achievements, it will advance the movement against Asian hate crimes.” With the current hate crimes, racially motivated attacks on Asian Americans have been increasing. ISM student Christine also said “what’s happening right now is not justifiable in any way.” However, reports against anti-Asian hate crimes have increased drastically with a 164% rise across 16 of America’s largest cities and counties compared to this time of year in 2020. The diversity in the Oscars is a step towards change, slowly having people of color gain the deserved recognition.

Works Cited: