The Life Story of South Korean Actress Youn Yuh-jung, And Her Upcoming Special Retrospective

A special retrospective of actress Youn Yuh-jung will be held at the American Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the largest film-dedicated museum in the United States. It’s for the first time since actor Song Kang-ho.

The Program “Youn Yuh-jung” Will Feature Eight Films Showcasing The Captivating Performances Of Her

From May 17th to the 25th, 2024, the program “Youn Yuh-jung” will feature eight films showcasing the captivating performances of her.

This retrospective highlights her acting career spanning over 50 years. It will feature a range of her works, from her debut film “Fire Woman (1971)” to her latest acclaimed performances such as “Minari (2010),” the first Korean film to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, “The Bacchus Lady (2016),” “The Housemaid (2010),” “A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003),” “The Woman Who Ran (2016),” “Boomerang Family (2013),” and “Lucky Chan-sil (2019).”

“As I look back on my acting career, when I was young, everyone said I was good, so I thought I was really good at acting. It wasn’t until after a gap of ten or so years that I realized I wasn’t doing well. I couldn’t hear my own voice, and my body wouldn’t move as I wanted it to. In my late thirties, it was really bleak. I hit rock bottom hard. From then on, I practiced really hard. It was around my forties that my mind started to feel a little more at ease. Now, I’m over sixty, and every actors around me are doing great job. I have hope that I’ll do even better next year. Acting is an endless challenge. I’m constantly competing in an obstacle race by myself. Perfect acting may not exist, and if things align well, people say you did well. We’re foolish, so if others say we did well, we think we really did well, but that’s an illusion. There can’t be a right answer when expressing someone other than myself. Saying whether it was good or bad, right or wrong, is just going down a road with no answer.”

– In an interview with Cine21 following the release of “The Housemaid” in 2010. –

Who Is Youn Yuh-jung?

Youn Yuh-jung was born in 1947 in Gaeseong-bu, Gyeonggi Province. She fled to the south during the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, when she was four years old. In 1966, while studying Korean literature at Hanyang University, she began her acting career as a theater actress. That same year, she debuted as an actress through TBC.

In 1971, she gained significant attention for her remarkable acting skills when she portrayed the villainous character Jang Hee Bin in the historical drama “Jang Hee Bin.”

Her screen debut came later that year with Kim Ki-young’s film “The Housemaid,” where her unique acting skills brought a fresh sensation to the film industry. She won awards such as the Blue Dragon Film Award for Best Actress, the Grand Bell Award for Best New Actress, and the Best Actress award at the 4th Sitges Film Festival.

At the height of her popularity in 1974, at the age of 27, she married singer Jo Young-nam and took a break from acting to immigrate to the United States. After divorcing Jo Young-nam in 1987, thirteen years into their marriage, she returned to the entertainment industry to raise her two sons.

In 1984, after wrapping up her life in the US, Youn Yuh-jung returned to the entertainment industry with MBC in Korea. At the time, during an interview with Korean media, she expressed her feelings about her return, saying, “I don’t like flashy comebacks. I thought everyone had forgotten about me as I was lived as a housewife for a long time, so I am just grateful that people remember me.” Looking back on this period later, Youn Yuh-jung reminisced, “I didn’t hesitate to take on small roles or supporting roles to make money.”

In the 1990s, Youn Yuh-jung continued to perform in various roles, ranging from lead roles to supporting roles. However, due to the prevalent negative perception of divorce in Korean society at the time, she didn’t receive the same level of attention from the public as before. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, she continued to tirelessly showcase her talents, solidifying her position as a seasoned actress. While mainly appearing in dramas, she made a comeback to films in 2003 with director Im Sang-soo’s “A Good Lawyer’s Wife” after an 18-year hiatus. For her performance in this film, she won awards such as the Grand Bell Award and the Busan Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her relentless dedication to her acting has persisted ever since.

“Youn Yuh-jung is the only actress in Korea whose roles have expanded as she has aged. There are few actresses who can play both grandmother and femme fatale simultaneously.”

– Kim Hyo-jung, film critic –

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