‘Minari’ stars Youn Yuh-jung, Steven Yeun react to historic Oscar nominations

Published March 16, 2021, 6:13 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

The stars of ‘Minari’ with director Lee Isaac Chung (Photo courtesy of A24) 

Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung and Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, stars of the film “Minari,” made history by garnering Oscar nominations on March 15.

Youn Yuh-jung, 73, known for her TV variety show “Youn’s Kitchen” and “Youn’s Stay,” is nominated for best supporting actress for “Minari” at the 93rd Academy Awards that will be held on April 25 in Los Angeles.

She became the first ever Korean actress to be nominated for an Oscar while Steven Yeun, 37, is the first Asian-American performer to be nominated for Oscar best actor.

Youn Yuh-jung has just started her 14-day quarantine in South Korea on March 15 when she heard her nomination. She flew back to South Korea on March 15 after filming “Pachinko,” starring Lee Min-ho, in Canada.

“It’s very strange to me. I don’t know how to describe it with my lack of English, but I am trying to speak from my heart. This is more than enough. I feel like I’m already a winner,” she told the Los Angeles Times. She celebrated her nomination with a glass of Champagne.

“Minari” has been nominated in six categories at the Oscars: best picture, best director and best original screenplay for Lee Isaac Chung, best actor for Steven Yeun, best supporting actress for Youn Yuh-jung and best original score.

Last year, Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” won best picture, best international feature film, best director and best original screenplay.

Youn Yuh-jung is described as the Meryl Streep of Korea but she said, “I tried not to listen to that, because I didn’t think it would happen to me. I know being called the Korean Meryl Streep is a compliment, but for me, somehow it was not comfortable. She’s a worldwide famous lady. I’m just Yuh-Jung Youn from Korea. Everybody is different. I like to be myself, always. I felt sorry for me and her to be compared together.”

When asked about him being called the first Asian-American nominee for best actor, Yeun said, “From my perspective, I’m just doing me. I carry with me so many things — including being Korean and Asian American. I’m glad and happy that I might be contributing to a larger, deeper understanding of who we are to each other. But I’m really just trying to play my part as well as I can.”

In a statement, he said, “Thank you to the Academy for this honor to be nominated alongside such incredible artists. I am also grateful to see the talent of Lee Isaac Chung, Yuh-Jung Youn, Emile Mosseri, and Christina Oh be recognized as well. If I’ve learned anything from this past year and from the experience of this film, it is that this life is shared. I am blessed to have shared in this with our brilliant cast and crew and I am only here because of them,” according to the New York Daily News.