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Kim Young-ok (김영옥)

A pillar of the entertainment industry, Kim Young-ok received not only the Baeksang Daesang (Grand Prize), but also the Bogwan (Precious Crown) Order of Cultural Merit, 3rd Class, awarded by the South Korean President.

GwenchaNoona | Actor's Profile: Kim Young-ok

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Birthday: December 5, 1937

With seven other rapping grandma contestants in Hip-Hop Nation, she is dubbed “Halminem,” a portmanteau of halmeoni (grandmother) and American rapper Eminem. This is perhaps inspired by her iconic Old Miss Diary character, who hurls rapid-fire insults at a restaurant owner. The "National Grandma," she has portrayed grandmothers in movies and television, including Dear My Friends (2016), Reply 1988 (2015), Boys over Flowers (2009), and Coffee Prince (2007).

In 1957, she debuted in South Korea’s first TV broadcasting station HLKZ-TV, which was launched a year earlier. She received the Daesang (TV) in the 15th Baeksang Arts Awards for her role in I Sell Happiness in 1979. A year after the release of Yesterday’s Green Grass (1991), she won Most Popular Actress (TV) during the 28th Baeksang Arts Awards.

A prolific actor, she has been in at least one released movie or series every year since 1993. In fact, in 2021 alone, she appeared in five dramas, namely, Mouse, Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, Squid Game, Young Lady and Gentleman, and Jirisan. Never slowing down, she was cast in guest roles in Pachinko (2022) and eight other series. She supported the hit rom-com King the Land (2023) and two other k-dramas. Taking on major roles, she starred in the films Take Care of My Mom (2022) and Picnic (2023).

While she tends to be mostly cast as a halmeoni, her characters are notable and heartwarming. As Kim Gam-ri in the healing rom-com Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, she looks after her “adopted” grandson Hong Du-sik (Kim Seon-ho), who deprives himself of love and happiness because of a tragic past. At a crucial point in the series, she imparts her wisdom:

“Life seems to be very long, but after living it, you will realize how short it is. Get rid of superfluous thoughts and live true to yourself.”

It is befitting that in her fruitful career spanning decades, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in the 11th Korea Drama Awards in 2018. In the same year, South Korean President Moon Jae-in awarded her the Bogwan Order of Cultural Merit for her significant impact in culture and arts during the 9th Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards.

The achievements of the hardworking halmeoni prove that being at a ripe age is not an obstacle to enjoying and excelling at what one loves.


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