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The Peninsula

Praise Without Representation?

Published January 18, 2022
Author: Korea View

On January 9, O Yeong-su made history by becoming the first Korean actor to win a Golden Globe. This historic win follows Youn Yu-jung becoming the first Korean actress to win an Oscar last year. These milestones ask whether the Korean entertainment industry might be breaking through the persistent underrepresentation of Asian actors and actresses in major U.S. award shows – and set the stage for greater opportunities for actors of all genders and races.

In 2020, South Korean blockbuster Parasite collected a plethora of awards and nominations for the film in the United States, but none for individual performers. This underscored how Asian products often receive recognition in the U.S. market, but not Asian performers. This extends to Asian actors in American products as well. Case in point, Sandra Oh became the first Asian-American actress to win a Golden Globe only in 2019.

In this context, Golden Globe nominations for two actors in the Korean Netflix show Squid Game are monumental. However, this also exposed a gender skew – none of the actresses from the show were nominated. In particular, Jung Ho-yeon was lauded for her outstanding performance and became the first Korean to make a solo appearance on the cover of Vogue. However, she did not receive any nominations from the Golden Globe.

Asian actors and actresses are not the only ones looking to overcome underrepresentation in the U.S. entertainment industry. Notably, the widely acclaimed 2018 superhero movie Black Panther was praised for its representation of Afro-futurism and received 7 Academy Award nominations. But none of them were for individual actors and actresses.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of  Kayla Harris, Yubin Huh, David Lee, Sarah Marshall, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from Flickr account of geniusmark30@yahoo.com

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