When Youn Yuh-jung won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Minari, the audience was charmed by her acceptance speech almost as quickly as they’d been by her portrayal of Soon-ja, the bold and playful grandmother in the film.
In an interview with NBC News, Youn shared her thoughts on working in Hollywood, which were amusingly brief.
“When some project comes from America, people in Korea think I admire Hollywood,” she said. “No, I don’t admire Hollywood. The reason I keep coming is because if I come to the States and work, maybe I’m able to see my son one more time. That’s from the bottom of my heart.”
Although her role in Minari was the first to gain international acclaim in Europe and the U.S., Youn has been acting in television and films in South Korea since the late 1960s. After her long and successful acting career in South Korea, working in Hollywood isn’t some great honor, it’s just a chance for a free trip to visit her Korean-American sons.
At the beginning of her acceptance speech, Youn joked with presenter Brad Pitt—who also owns Plan B Entertainment, the production company responsible for Minari—wondering where he was while they were filming the movie in Tulsa. When asked about meeting Pitt after her Oscars win during a news conference hosted by the South Korean Consulate General in LA, Youn said she “told him to provide more money to the movie.”
“I also told him to come to Korea,” she added. “He promised that he will. But I don’t really believe the words of Americans. Their vocabulary is so fancy. He said my performance was very respectable and whatnot, but I’m old. I don’t fall for those words.”
When asked why she’s getting such effusive praise for her role in the film, Youn responded, “there’s nothing I did well. The script was well-written.” (Both can be true!)
“The absolute love and sacrifice of our grandmother and parents are a universal story,” she said in the Korean news conference. “That probably pulled the heartstrings of many. [Lee Isaac Chung] wrote the script with deep sincerity.”
“It’s a very happy moment, when I got the award. But it’s not going to change my life,” Youn said, breaking into a smile. “I’ll be going back home, and I will start working again.”
It makes me chuckle every single time Americans have to be reminded that the rest of the world simply does not care that much about our silly little award shows that pretend as though films made in the U.S. are the only ones that actually exist. As Parasite director Bong Joon-ho casually commented during an interview with Vulture, “the Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.”