Composure: a qualification of adults

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Composure: a qualification of adults




The author is a national 2 team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
I was reminded of actress Yoon Yeo-jeong, 75, when I learned that 78-year-old actor Oh Young-soo won the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in Series, Miniseries or Television Film.

Shortly after the announcement of the award, Oh — who famously said, “We are kkanbu [a Korean term for ‘friend’]!” in Netflix series Squid Game — turned down my request for an interview. “I have a play to perform tomorrow. It is more important to prepare for the play,” he said.

Last year, when Yoon won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, she asked for a glass of her favorite white wine and began the press conference. At the climax of their acting careers, both Oh and Yoon remained composed.

Watching the actors who became the first Koreans to win trophies at two major American awards, I thought about the role and weight of being “adults.” They are both over 70. A society without adult-like adults — and admirable adults — is unfortunate. Kim Ji-soo — a former editor of Vogue Korea, also known as Jennie Kim — interviewed 17 people at the average age of 72 and published a book titled “Philosophers of Their Lives.” It was a process of seeking answers to “Where did all the adults go?” When you think over how to live, a word from an adult who lived through his or her own life offers something to reflect on. 

Oh and Yoon won awards for supporting roles, not leading roles. After gaining fame with “Squid Game,” Oh said on a variety show, “Sometimes, society goes as if it means nothing if you are not the first. But if the runner-up lost to the first place, he won over the 3rd place. Everyone is a winner.” At a press conference after winning the Oscar, Yoon said, “I don’t want to be the best. I don’t like competition. Rather than becoming number one, can’t I be the best middle?” Her comment made the entire audience burst into laughter. It’s a remark that can only be said by someone who lived an original life. Young people in their 20s and 30s rave over the adults who say it’s okay not to be the best and first.

Last year, before the presidential race began in full swing, I had a dinner with a politician who served three terms in the National Assembly. He told me to pay attention to the “two elders” in the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition People Power Party (PPP). The two elders are considered the kingmakers who helped presidential candidates to win elections. I agreed at the time, but I’m skeptical now. One broke up from the candidate of the PPP while the other doesn’t have much presence. It is not desirable if they act like a “former king.” But it is also a problem if there is no elder in our politics. Am I too greedy to expect a mature adult in the field? 

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