The actress Yuh-jung Youn has been working in the industry for decades—but American audiences have come to know and love her based on her role as the grandmother, Soonja, in Minari. She started out awards season strong, winning accolade after accolade. But even more thrilling were her various viral acceptance speeches—at the BAFTAs, where she won the award for Best Supporting Actress, she jokingly referred to the English as being “very snobbish, but not in a bad way.”
On Sunday night at the 93rd Academy Awards, Yuh-Jung Youn made history as the first Korean woman to win Best Supporting Actress (she is the second Asian woman to win the award, after Miyoshi Umeki won for Sayonara in 1957). And her speech, which she reportedly did not plan ahead of time, did not disappoint.
Youn began by promptly freaking out over Brad Pitt, who announced her win. “Mr. Brad Pitt, finally, nice to meet you,” she said breathlessly while he stood offstage. “Where were you when we were filming? I’m very honored to meet you.”
“As you know, I’m from Korea and my name is Yuh-jung Youn. Most European people call me Yuh-youn, and some of them call me Yuh-jung. But tonight, you are all forgiven,” she went on to much laughter from the crowd. “Okay, let me pull myself together.” After thanking her Minari costars Steven Yeun and Alan Kim, Youn shouted out director Lee Isaac Chung “our captain and my director.”
But she was not through with the hijinks just yet. “I don’t believe in competition,” she continued. “How could I win over Glenn Close? I’ve been watching her many performances.” (Minutes after the actress made her speech, the internet had already taken the idea of a Close-Youn friendship and run with it.)
“All of my [fellow] five nominees, we’re winners for different movies, we play different roles,” Youn said. “Tonight, I just have a little bit luck, I think, maybe. I’m luckier than you. And also, maybe, it’s American hospitality for a Korean actor—I’m not sure.” (At this point, the camera panned to Amanda Seyfried, who visibly said “I love her!”)
But Youn, ever the loving and maternal type, ended her speech on a more serious note—albeit with a bit of cheek. “I’d like to thank my two boys, who make me go out and work,” she said. “This is the result, because mommy works so hard.”
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