'Minari' Director Lee Isaac Chung Says Oscar Nominee Youn Yuh-jung Is the Film's 'Secret Weapon'

Lee Isaac Chung's Minari could make history at Sunday's 93rd Academy Awards in the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and/or Best Supporting Actress categories

Oscar nominee Lee Isaac Chung's family drama, Minari, has already broken new ground in visibility for Asians in America — and there's one "secret weapon" he's proud to have in his film.

In a PEOPLE exclusive clip of Friday's NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, the director of the Oscar-nominated film credits veteran South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung for being the heart of the family drama.

"I thought she's our secret weapon," he tells NBC News correspondent Kathy Park. "I mean, she's phenomenal."

Lee Isaac Chung, Yuh-Jung Youn
Rich Fury/Getty; Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock

Chung, 42, is also nominated for an Oscar for Best Director alongside fellow nominees Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), David Fincher (Mank) and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round).

Minari is Chung's semi-autobiographical film about a Korean immigrant family that moves to a farm in Arkansas in pursuit of the American dream.

Minari Yuh-jung Youn
Courtesy of A24

While the movie largely features Korean dialogue, it's been labeled the quintessential American movie with its admirers pointing to how the film's themes are as American as they come.

It was also an important story for Chung to tell, not just for audiences, but also for his 7-year-old daughter.

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"[The movie] something that I want my daughter to watch, you know, years from now..," Chung says in the clip. "I wanted to present things very truthfully and honestly so that she could remember my family's story."

Minari has been nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actor for Steven Yeun, Best Supporting Actress for Youn, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score.

RELATED VIDEO: Minari's Youn Yuh-jung Endears Fellow Nominees as She Wins SAG Award for Best Supporting Actress

The film won the Golden Globe for best motion picture - foreign language. Accepting the award virtually, Chung's daughter sweetly hugged her dad and proclaimed, "I prayed! I prayed!"

The director said his daughter was "the reason I made this film."

"I just want to say that Minari is about a family. It's a family trying to learn how to speak a language of its own. It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language. It's a language of the heart, and I'm trying to learn it myself and to pass it on, and I hope we'll all learn how to speak this language of love to each other, especially this year," he said. "God bless you all, and thank you."

Chung's full interview airs tonight on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt at 6:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. CT.

The 93rd Academy Awards will air live on Sunday, April 25 starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on ABC.

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