Inform. Inspire. Influence. That’s the mission behind the impactful social network, Asians in LA, and it’s actually the perfect depiction of its founder Nancy Yoon. She is the Korean American female trailblazer who is the AAPI publicist for the Oscar-nominated movie Minari. Yoon helped catapult the movie Minari from a hidden treasure to a global phenomenon, a transformation which brings more meaning than ever in the face of anti-Asian racism amidst the pandemic. I had the opportunity to speak with Yoon about her Minari journey.
JYC: How did you become the publicist for the film?
NY: A24, the entertainment production company behind Minari approached me near the end of last year through my partners at Grace Hill Media, the largest faith agency in the world, because of my background in entertainment, PR and as a community leader with Asians in LA. As a Korean American, I jumped on it knowing this was a great chance to give back to our AAPI and Korean communities. I am always searching for finding fulfillment, purpose and giving back in everything I do. One of the reasons I founded Asians in LA was to “help our community help others.”
What was your strategy in promoting Minari?
I started from ground zero. The publicity surrounding Minari started as a grassroots effort in the beginning where I dedicated “1000%”. I literally was living, breathing and eating Minari – pun intended, considering minari is a Korean vegetable (minari is similar to watercress or parsley). I felt it was my mission and my passion as a Korean American to help get this film all the attention it deserved. I have always been so passionate about pushing for diversity and representation in Hollywood and giving a bigger voice to our Asian American communities.
It’s amazing to me that Minari has now gotten six Oscar nominations! Three of them have made Oscar history. This is a huge deal! Steven Yeun is the first Asian American nominated for Best Lead Actor while Youn Yuh-jung is the first Korean performer to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Also, Minari is up for Best Picture and Christina Oh is the first Asian American woman producer nominated in Oscar history. It’s all so amazing for our Korean and Asian American communities, a very proud moment for us all!
How was this experience for you?
It has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The last few months have been full of extreme highs and extreme lows, working around the clock to generate all the buzz around the film, which had plenty of challenges. I recall first watching the film and what came to my mind was WOW #THISISOURSTORY! It’s really a beautiful immigrant story that anyone can relate to not only for Korean Americans and Asian Americans, but for ALL immigrants and anyone who can relate to family and our parents’ sacrifice and struggles of seeking the American Dream, especially with everything that’s happening in our country right now.
I so connected to this story personally as a Korean American, as I remember coming to the U.S. at the age of 4 and recalling my parents’ incredible struggles and sacrifices for our family of seven with a few suitcases emigrating from Korea to Koreatown, Los Angeles. And now I feel so very proud and connected to my Korean heritage more than ever.
I will never forget where I came from and hope our next generation can use our voices, influence and power for great change to help raise our Asian American collective voices because our parents couldn’t. All the work, passion for this movie is dedicated to my parents who have both passed. Minari also happened to be my father’s favorite vegetable, so I felt it was meant to be. I feel that I was on this campaign for a reason and I’m truly honored just to be a part of it.
What are some of your Minari highlights?
A favorite moment for me happened early this year on Korean American Day on January 13. Korean American Day commemorates the arrival of the first Korean immigrants to the U.S. in 1903. I could not think of a better way to elevate Minari’s exposure and rally our community around the world. It blows my mind that a lot of folks including myself didn’t know about Korean American Day and the promotion of Minari really helped raise awareness of this important day for us.
To really get the most out of Korean American Day and drive Minari’s publicity in its honor, we rallied participation from all our Korean American and AAPI leaders, partners, influencers, politicians, community organizations, and advocates that I could think of, from the very first Korean American Congressman Andy Kim and first Korean American Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland to Asian farmers and faith leaders around the world.
The Korean churches and pastors were “key” in all of this and I really appreciate their support and how Director Chung included the church experience in the film because it’s a significant part of our Korean American story. So many of us relied on our Korean churches and communities to get our start in the States. There’s such an amazing faith element to this Minari movement for me personally and Minari broke records for all of us. It was so historic for our Korean American community.
How awesome was it that they were able to publicize a Korean American movie on Korean American Day?! That made such an incredible impact for all of us as Koreans throughout the world. We had over 5000 people watching Minari together from all over the world. And so many felt emotional on that special day, as actress Sandra Oh moderated the historic Korean American Day Minari screening and Q&A as a Korean American talking about a Korean American immigrant story and shared tears with Steven Yeun, such a beautiful moment for everyone. People still talk about this special Q&A that touched them personally so much.
What’s it been like to promote Minari in the midst of the pandemic?
It did put a slight damper on in-person screenings and events, but everyone has been rooting for this movie, our entire Korean and Asian American communities, partners, film festivals and organizations have been so incredibly supportive we couldn’t have done this without all of them and their incredible support. I’m so thrilled that Minari was also able to have a highly visible in-person screening in Taipei which was hosted by Rotten Tomatoes Co-founder Patrick Lee. He hosted the movie screening event along with YouTube Co-founder Steve Chen and his wife, Jamie Chen, who’s Korean American and they all wanted to help promote this Korean American movie. They were amazing to help make that happen!
I also had the privilege to meet Alan Kim, (who plays the son named David) with the Korean Consul General. I’m so happy he won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer. I hope you got to see his adorable acceptance speech that went viral. The whole world fell in love with this talented 8 year old Korean American actor so watch out for him!
How are you feeling as the Oscar ceremony approaches?
I don’t want to jinx anything and make predictions, though I admit I do have high hopes in what I expect could happen. But, to be honest, we’ve surpassed all our goals of not only getting Oscar nods for Minari but modeling its success toward creating change for the future! This is really just the beginning as we work towards pushing for diversity and representation in Hollywood and raising our collective Asian American voices, together! I’m all about collaboration, synergy and partnerships and what we can all do if we work together.
What are you going to be doing post-Oscars since Minari has been such a huge part of your life?
I’m going to spill the beans on a big announcement for the next Asians in LA campaign. I’m so excited to share that we will begin working with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and the Bentonville Film Festival (THE film festival championing Diversity) on the very first Asian representation in Hollywood research study. This has never been done before! We’ve been working hard on getting strategic partners to help raise awareness and funds to help with this historic study that will be a catalyst for change in Hollywood. This is what Asians in LA is all about; bringing change to Hollywood in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion!
To top it off, Asians in LA just won Facebook Community for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM) 2021. I can’t be more overjoyed that our incredible online community and all our hard work is being used for good.
What are you feeling at this moment?
I am super proud of being Korean American and being part of building this awareness surrounding Minari, elevating OUR story to share even with non-Asians, non-Koreans. And I’m so grateful to all our partners for their passion and support, including Patricia Liu and her Best of Korea team who supported Minari with their theater buyout. Thanks guys! And of course, our entire incredible Asians in LA team especially Cory Wong, who all helped so much in the process. It really involved a whole community worldwide! Every one of us are connecting through a film that shows our parents’ immigrant struggles. Minari is about our Asian American family story and a beacon of life and hope especially now, in light of the anti-Asian hate crimes.
About Nancy Yoon:
Nancy Yoon is the AAPI publicist for the Oscar-nominated movie, “Minari”. She is the founder of “Asians in LA,” @AsiansinLA a social network of Asian American influencers for GOOD from politics, entertainment, nonprofit and community leaders and Yooniq Media, a PR media agency for the Asian American community in Southern California. Yoon is also a diversity storyteller, actor, TV host, and digital content producer. She and her Austrian husband co-founded Europeans in LA, one of the largest social network of Europeans in Los Angeles. As an Asian American influencer and community leader, Nancy is helping to push for diversity and inclusion for minorities including Asian Americans and women in entertainment, corporations, and boards.