South Korean media were quick to celebrate veteran Youn Yuh-jung’s best supporting actress Oscar win for “Minari” — the first Oscar acting prize ever for Korea. Official Chinese media, on the other hand, were much quieter about the triple triumph for “Nomadland” by Chloe Zhao.
The Korea Herald newspaper ran a splash story and picture as the lead in its English-language edition on Monday morning local time. The Korea Times did the same and included a Yonhap news agency follow-up story titled “Korean Film Industry People Shine At Oscars For Second Year In A Row.”
The Korean Film Council did not immediately update its website, but used its Kobiz Twitter account to announce the facts: “Youn yuhjung Wins Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.”
Netflix Korea got in on the act, taking to Twitter to recycle part of Youn’s acceptance speech. “There is no competition in our society. I just got the award because I was a little more lucky.” Congratulations to Yoon Yeo-jung’s first Korean actor to win an Oscar.
"우리 사회에 경쟁이란 없습니다. 그저 제가 운이 좀 더 좋아서 수상을 하게 된 거죠."
— Netflix Korea｜넷플릭스 코리아 (@NetflixKR) April 26, 2021
American TV writer Karen Chee joked “I like this classic American tradition of a Korean person winning an Oscar every year.” That was a reference to “Parasite,” which won multiple Oscars last year, including best picture. It may also have signaled a sense of relief that recognition has at long last come for Korea’s extraordinary supply of acting talent.
i like this classic american tradition of a korean person winning an oscar every year
— Karen Chee (@karencheee) April 26, 2021
Yonhap noted that Youn “became the second Asian actress to win the best supporting actress title after Japanese actress Miyoshi Umeki from 1957’s ‘Sayonara.’”
In Japan, which has tense political relations with both Korea and China, media happily played up the historical nature of the wins for Youn and Zhao.
“Chloe Zhao became the first Asian woman to win an Academy Award for best director, crashing through one of Hollywood’s toughest barriers with her film #Nomadland,” tweeted the Nikkei Asia newspaper.
Chinese state media paid the Oscars little attention. That was in line with an official advisory from the Communist Party’s propaganda department a few weeks ago for media not to carry live transmission of the ceremony and to generally play down the event. The Chinese government had been irked by the nomination of “Do Not Split,” a picture about the Hong Kong protest movement in the best short documentary category. After Chinese nationalists dug up extracts from past interviews in which Zhao was less than complimentary about China, it was inevitable she would be shunned.
Multiple Hong Kong sources including government owned broadcaster RTHK and pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily reported that more than a million comments about Chloe Zhao and the Oscars had been posted on the Weibo microblogging site in the hours immediately after the ceremony’s start at 8.00am Chinese time. Many users hailed Zhao’s historic achievement as Asia’s first female director to win an Oscar. Others praised her acceptance speech for citing a Chinese poem which included the line that people at birth are inherently good.” But the Hong Kong media reported that all posts relating to the Academy Awards had been removed from Weibo by between 11.30am and noon.
The ban on live coverage also meant that Chinese audiences did not get to hear the acceptance speech from “Collette” co-directors Alice Doyard and Anthony Giacchin, who won the short documentary prize. In acknowledgement of the other films nominated, Giacchin said: “The innocent children of Yemen and the protestors in Hong Kong are not forgotten.”
China’s normally excitable Global Times tabloid carried an AFP story in advance of the Oscars describing a pandemic era ceremony. Another state-backed paper, China Daily managed to run a Reuters news agency story noting: “Chloe Zhao nabs historic best director win for ‘Nomadland’.” Chin’a most important paper, The People’s Daily, led with a story criticizing the U.S. for not doing more to help coronavirus-ravaged India.