Korean Language Blog

About Korean Actress Youn Yuh-jung Posted by on Mar 8, 2021 in Korean Language, Vocabulary

March 8th is International Women’s Day. I know that there are many international women’s stories I can talk about, but there is a woman who made me proud of where I am from. Her name is 윤여정 (Youn Yuh-jung).

윤여정 is a South Korean actress, who is at the top of stardom. She has been acting for over 55 years and her spectrum of 연기 (yeon-gi: acting) has been diverse and authentic. People recognize her name by her quality of acting. Top celebrities in Korea respect her as a 선생님 (sun-sang-nim: a teacher), which means a master. My opinion, as a viewer, is that she has always seemed atypical, strong, and 진솔하다 (jin-sol-hah-dah: honest). 


Image by Pixabay


윤여정 is atypical. Being an atypical in Korea does not always bring good things, particularly back in her early career. She has been a 중년배우 (joong-nyun-bae-ooh: middle-aged actor/actress) ever since I have been watching her on TV shows. When I was young, I remember her as an 조연 (joh-yeon: a supporting role) 배우 (bae-ooh: actor/actress). She usually played roles such as a typical Korean mother or grandmother. Despite being an actress who played minor roles, people always remember what she played on shows. As I got older, I started seeing her as an actress who plays more significant roles on shows. 


She had her prime time when she was younger. In one of her interviews, she said that she was not known as 전형적인 (jun-hyung-juk-in: typical)  미인형 (mi-in-hyung:  a type of pretty face) actress. I thought her voice was unusual as a 여배우 (yeo-bae-ooh: an actress). Her voice distinguishes her from other 여배우. Her voice sounds scratchy, even husky for an actress, but I think that is one of the charms. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu658JJlRxM)


Nonetheless, her talents in acting made her famous quickly. While being a famous 여배우, she got married to a Korean singer. Soon, they left Korea to emigrate to the United States. In America, I understand that she didn’t work as an actress because of the language barrier. 


Everything seemed to be good even after she left all her 부귀영화 (boo-gui-yong-hwa: wealth and fame)  in Korea. Everybody thought she lived happily ever after. However, her Cinderella story had ended sorrowfully. Her ex-husband cheated on her and the rumor spread notoriously fast, even in Korea. Their marital issue became big 화제 (hwa-jae: an issue, a scandal) in Korea. People patronized her. She basically lost everything in her 40’s.


She returned to Korea with nothing. 대중 (dae-joong: the public) had forgotten her as a famous 여배우. She came back as a 중년여배우 (joong-nyun-yeo-bae-ooh: middle-aged actress) who was involved with scandalous events with a notorious title of 이혼한 여자 (ee-hon-hanh-yeo-jah: a divorced woman), which probably was not easy to deal with back then.


Unlike in her glorious days, she didn’t have a lot of choices in terms of acting. She had to start all over again. She probably had to swallow her pride many times. She worked hard. She did whatever roles she could get until people no longer spoke about her scandalous past. She proved to herself and to others that she is a strong woman who overcame her tribulations in life. 


Image from movie Minari, Official Trailer HD A24 via YouTube,  A24, Plan B Entertainment, photo by FlyHighOyster


The reason why I wanted to exclusively talk about her is that she still challenged herself in her 70’s. She is a successful actress who is recognized by her talents and fame, not by her life’s heartaches. Although she played a relatively small role in a movie called 미나리 (Minari) proving to the world that she is an actress who should be taken seriously. I enjoyed the movie, but I really appreciated her skill in taking on a role that was so different from what everyone expected of her. 


There are many stories of other women, who didn’t withhold themselves from life’s 우여곡절 (ooh-yeo-gok-jul: vicissitudes, ups and downs). I admire their strength and passion in life. They are strong people. I hope I can become one of them. 

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About the Author: Flying Oyster

Hi, I was born and raised in Seoul, S. Korea. I have lived in Seattle for a while and I am traveling the world with my husband since 2016. It is my honor to share Korean culture with you all. Don't be shy to share your thoughts and comments! :) Talk to you soon. H.J.