By Minwoo Park and Daewoung Kim
SIHEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – For one South Korean couple who spend nine months a year farming minari, watching the leafy green become world famous at the Academy Awards brought pride and excitement.
“Minari”, which tells the tale of an immigrant Korean family trying to farm in the United States, brought home six nominations and one Oscar – for supporting actress Youn Yuh-jung – on Sunday.
The movie uses minari, a green with interconnected roots that takes at least a year to grow, as a metaphor for the immigrant experience. Youn’s character cultivates the plant in a creek bed when she arrives from South Korea to look after her grandchildren.
Ham Byoung-gab, 58, who owns a 23,000 square meter (5.7 acres) minari farm in Siheung, just outside Seoul, said the movie took him back to his early days 30 years ago when he first stepped into farming.
“Watching the movie ‘Minari’, I thought that’s my story … I went through some harsh times in the early days,” Ham told Reuters. “I underwent a lot of hardships and at times wanted to give up, but couldn’t since I had kids, family.”
He said was delighted that Youn became the first Korean actress to win an Oscar, and was even happier the movie used minari as a main theme.
“I am very proud, as a minari farmer, for an independent film winning over those big blockbuster movies. Wonderful minari, wonderful minari!”
Ham is out in the fields with his wife, Lim Mi-seon, nine months a year and harvests six times during that time.
Lim, 55, said Youn’s performance as a spunky grandmother in the movie reminded her of her mother-in-law, who was also a farmer and had the same love for her children.
“I felt touched when I felt that deep inside both my mother-in-law and Youn Yuh-jung had this big heart that worried about their children.”
(Reporting by Minwoo Park, Daewoung Kim; Writing by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith; Editing by Giles Elgood)