1. The Venue of 93rd Academy Awards
- Dolby Theatre and Union Station
At the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021, the movie <Minari> was nominated for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and Original Score. And Yuh-jung Youn won the Best Supporting Actress. A Korean-American director Lee Isaac Chung was in charge of the script and directing. Mr Brad Pitt's production of <Minari> achieved a tremendous achievement that exceeded expectations. It is truly an impressive result. <Minari> has won countless awards; People's Choice Award at Denver International Film Festival, Best Foreign Language Film at Golden Globe Awards, Best Original Screenplay at Florida Film Critics Circle, Best Narrative Film and Best Original Screenplay at North Carolina Film Critics Association, U.S. Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival etc. It may have been not easy to hold the ceremony due to Covid-19, but the Academy Awards was held at Dolby Theater in Hollywood and Union Station in L.A. downtown. Actress Yuh-jung Yoon received the award at Union Station.
2. Meet the real person that inspired the main character of <Minari>
While introducing the two places where the Academy Awards was held, I started looking for people related to the movie <Minari>. Finally, a few days later, I heard about someone who appeared in the film as Chicken sexer. Surprisingly, he is Steven Yeun's father in-law. I soon made an appointment for an interview with him.
Interview with John Park, who played the chicken sexer
Jun: Mr. Park. Can you introduce yourself please?
Park: I am John Park. My American life started in 1982 after I had immigrated to Arkansas, and I worked as a chichen sexer. After three years, I committed to the foodservice industry, and up to date, I run five restaurants (Shogun Fayetteville, Arkansas). The director of <Minari>, Lee Issac Chung, is my wife's brother's son, and Steven Yeun, the main actor and also producer of the film, is my son-in-law.
Jun: I heard that you were on the film <Minari>
Park: Yes, I was on the film in a minor role in the hatchery scene. It was an exceptional experience for me and reminded me of old memories. Also, I worked on arranging movie props.
Jun: Do you visit Lee Issac Chung's family often?
Park: As it is now, in the past, we lived here together from childhood to high school, so we have many good memories.
Jun: In the film, the relationship between the siblings who played the child roles seemed very good. How was
it in actual life?
Park: They were both born in America. But they had a grandmother, so they were very fluent in Korean. They were grown up in rural area, so they are rich in emotion. Besides, in the school, they are honour students. They have shown monumental academic achievement here.
Jun: What are the reactions of people around you who have seen the movie?
Park: The movie <Minari> was covered in various media as an excellent movie. A specialty was born in a rural area. This place has not changed much for 40 years and stays the same, but it becomes a fantastic place by the film <Minari>. Especially the school's teachers like and proud of it. Here is a small town in Arkansas where the film set has a population of only 4~500 people. But it had a lot of attention from the media. The whole city including this city is the secondlargest one in Arkansas but has around 550,000 (2.5 million total). The size of the city is about 1.3 times bigger than that of South Korea. The scale of rice farming in this city is no.1 in the United States, and it has the highest productions of chicken, cattl, and soybeans. Also, people are usually innocent and naive. We have such joke as "it's a good place to live where even deer keep the 'Stop Sign'". Most of all, thanks to the film, the reputation of Korea has increased more than before.
A while ago, at the outdoor theatre considering the pandemic in Arkansas, many people came to the free cinema screenings. The propagations of culture seem to be greater than those of technology.
Jun: Would you tell us about your feelings or any episode you experienced while taking part in this film?
Park: I was surprised by the passion and hard work that goes into a film. It was also awe-inspiring to see the actors doing their roles. The film's location was mainly in the city of Tulsa in Oklahoma, and every day the temperature was above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), and there was no air conditioner. However, no one complained or seemed to get tired. When it comes to Youn Yuh-Jung, we worried a lot about her in these poor conditions, but she held up surprisingly well. Instead, she took care of the other actors and the staffs, so I couldn't help but be impressed. Also, I was surprised and delighted at the same time as I watched her taking care of the staff's meals with Korean food.
Jun: Thank you very much for your time. I hope to see and talk to you again with better news.
Park: Thank you. As they say, you reap what you sow. I think I have spoken through my life and also in the film that the passion towards the work, the trouble and the effort should be rewarded. I pray for those who live in the life of immigrants in any foreign country and stay strong.
Han-gil Chung, the Real-life person of Jacob
Many people have been interested in the film <Minari>, the autobiographical story of director Chung, a second-generation Korean-American. So, I came to have an interview with Han-gil Chung, who is the reallife person of 'Jacob' and the father of director Lee Issac Chung.
Jun: Could you briefly introduce yourself, please?
Chung: I am Han-gil Chung, the father of director Issac Chung of the movie <Minari>.
Jun: Many people are interested in the film <Minari>, the autobiographical story of director Chung. Can I ask your impression of watching the movie?
Chung: I got married to my wife in 1975 and came to America with only 200 dollars. I never thought my story would become a movie. But it is not only my story. When I think about the story, it is also Director Chung's story. The first snows were falling a lot when Director Chung was born on the 19th of Oct. in 1978 in Denver. At that time, I was very young, and I danced in the parking lot with snow.
Jun: Of course, all of your family members are real people of <Minari>, so I can understand. Then can you tell us about the scenes that impressed you or some scenes that you felt were different from reality?
Chung: Actually, it was many years ago, so I can't remember everything, but in the movie, the farm was described as growing only Korean vegetables, but it was a pretty large farm with various vegetables, 3,650 Korean pear trees, and over 100 elks. The most impressive scene was the fire scene which was the most desperate and challenging one. Only the vegetable warehouse burned down in the film, but a large fire burned down half of the pear orchard. After that, the pests got worse, and I had to give up the orchard.
Jun: As we know, the central axis of this film seems to be the grandmother(Yuh-Jung Youn). I heard that the grandmother, played by Youn, had passed away. Please tell us about the similarities and the differences between the grandmother in the movie and the real grandmother.
Chung: My mother-in-law, Young-soon Lee, the real character of soonja in the movie, lost her husband during the Korean War. When her husband(Kim Hyun-Tae), a student of Dongguk University, went to war as a student soldier and died, she was pregnant with my wife. She gave birth and raised my wife alone. She raised her only child by digging up shells on the Incheon coast. And I brought such a precious woman to America. After that, she also took great care of
her young grandson Director Chung. She had a tremendous gentle smile. When she spoke swear words with her laugh, I could feel another meaning of love in it. Of course, Yuh-jung Youn acted more sophisticatedly, but I am very thankful that I can feel the love of my mother-in-law through her acting.
Jun: How many scores would you give to <Minari>, regarding your authentic story about your past?.
Chung: I didn't know that he remembered such a little detail on the past. I was surprised every time I found my memories I had forgotten in the film. Also, I was amazed at the movie because everything was just the same as it happened. Director Chung was seven years old when he arrived at the shabby trailer house in Arkansas. Not only did I lift the children to enter the trailer without stairs, but the clothes and the props I wore back then are all the same as back then. In terms of the details of the film, I would like to give more than 90 scores.
Jun: I am also curious about the reactions of the people around you.
Chung: I am very thankful that many people are sympathizing and being proud of the film. After the film's release, we are presenting the tickets of <Minari> to firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses who work for the COVID-19 in Colorado Springs. If there are more chances, I would like to give more tickets to more people as gift, and I hope they will be comforted by the film. As I said before, I am more than grateful because people who watched the movie empathized deeply with me rather than felt new feelings because we all lived together.
Jun: There are many speculations about the ending ofthe movie. After the film, how do the characters live now?
Chung: Director Chung's grandmother had dementia, and after she had passed away, she was buried here. I currently live in Colorado with my daughter and grandchildren. Occasionally, I visit the hometown of <Minari>.
Jun: It is said that your children have grown up so wonderfully.
Chung: Yes. Both children grew up like buttercups and went on to one of the lvy League universities, Yale University. I wanted my son to become a doctor, but I was very disappointed when my son switched to film. At that time, Director Chung said to me. "I will become a doctor who heals people's hearts through movies."
Jun: Then director Chung kept his promise. From his first film <Moonyooranggabo>(2007) to <Lucky Life>(2010), <Abigail>(2012) and <Minari>(2020), all of his films are works of deep love for people. Is there a family member you would like to talk to in particular?
Chung: In fact, my daughter-in-law received more attention than Director Chung at this Academy Awards. She has been volunteering at an orphanage in Rwanda for a long time. And now, he is serving as a psychotherapist for prisoners and marginalized lowincome people. I believe that she is a good wife and wise mother. Currently, she lives in L.A. with director Chung and her daughter, a first-year elementary school.
Jun: Please say something to the fans who love <Minari> and readers of <Cultura>.
Chung: I thank so much to those who loved, sympathized with and supported <Minari>. I believe this work of art is a film of hope for immigrants and families. I am grateful to my wife, who never left me, endured a hard time together, and raised two kids so well. Many Koreans in America are having hard times these days due to COVID-19. I believe that the tough times will soon pass. Many people want to hear about the story after <Minari>. But like any other piece of art, I don't think it's necessary to add anything else to an already finished work. I hope that <Minari> will give people hope for a new beginning. Also, I hope you can empathize with the life of all immigrants around the world.
Han-gil Chung's words reveal more vividly the meaning of the movie <Minari> and Yuh-jung Youn's Academy Award. In particular, winning the Academy Award is the joy of actress Youn and Koreans and the history of Union Station, where various cultures coexist, and the history of Hollywood. It is a unique event in the country of immigrants, where the language and the stories of immigrants passed on to other immigrants and aroused sympathy.
After the interview with John park and Han-gil Chung, the birth of the movie <Minari> came to have a more significant meaning. During the interview, I felt that the emotions in the movie reached the roots of the immigrants' hidden lives.
While watching the movie's last scene, I thought there couldn’t be any other ending, and it might be the best representation of immigrant life. About how they have lived through, how they have overcome, why they don’t care, why the un-seen can be the more dangerous etc..
Another step of the ordinary daily life by someone seems to be the image of an old immigrant who couldn’t see the future, and furthermore the reflections of myself. I could not erase some kind of heaviness for long.
Juncheol Kim(Reporter, President of Korean Literature Society of America) / Translated by Hwang Jae-Hun