Honor The Life Of Legendary Korean Actor Yoon Jeong-Hee With Some Of Her Greatest Films

Surely one of the wildest and most potent films in Yoon’s catalog, at least of those still available to watch, “A Shaman’s Story” is an unsparing look at the religious conflicts that led to Korea becoming one of the primary global dominions of evangelical Christianity.

Yoon was often cast as naive idealists, dreamy naifs, and lonely optimists, but she got to show off a completely different side of her range with Mo-Hwa, the ferocious, angry, and entirely self-possessed woman at the center of “A Shaman’s Story.” Mo-Hwa is the powerful shaman of a rural fishing village whose son, sent off on a Buddhist retreat, returns home a converted Christian. He was successfully evangelized on the road after escaping the retreat, and has come to the village to spread the gospel. This draws him into a conflict with his mother so deep it feels primordial: the new vs. the old, the colonizer vs. the indigenous, the natural world vs. the material world.

The 1972 film culminates in what can only be described as an exorcism competition: Mo-Hwa versus her son, the individualism of the messiah and the community of shamanism in a head-on conflict that Yoon enacts with supreme agony and indignation. You can watch it here on Youtube.

Yoon Jeong-hee’s distinct combination of vulnerability, poise, aloofness, and strength meet no match in our contemporary moment. Her presence will be greatly missed. Let’s give Yoon’s character Mija in “Poetry” the parting words — from her poem “Agnes’ Song”:

“Will time pass and roses fade?

Now it’s time to say goodbye

Like the wind that lingers and then goes,

just like shadows.”

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