Actor Jean Yoon shared her “difficult” and “painful” experiences on the Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience, defending co-star Simu Liu’s statements following The Globe’s article about the show’s end.
Yoon wrote on Twitter in response to [the article’s writer] Doyle: “Dear sir, as an Asian Canadian woman, a Korean-Canadian woman w more experience and knowledge of the world of my characters, the lack of Asian female, especially Korean writers in the writers room of Kims made my life VERY DIFFICULT & the experience of working on the show painful.”
Yoon is known for her role as Umma in the series, with Simu Liu playing her son, Jung. The series follow the Korean-Canadian Kim family, and their misadventures running a convenience store.
She continued on in the defense of Liu, “Your attack on my cast mate @SimuLiu, in the defense of my fellow Korean artist Ins Choi is neither helpful nor merited. Mr. Choi wrote the play, I was in in. He created the TV show, but his co-creator Mr. Kevin White was the showrunner, and clearly set the parameters.”
Simu Liu replied to Yoon’s tweet saying he thinks Doyle “blocked [him] so [he] wouldn’t be able to respond” to the story.
Yoon continued on in the tweet thread to discuss specific problems with “overtly racist” and “culturally inaccurate” scenes in season five that cast members fought to have removed. She also revealed that if she hadn’t said anything, all of the Korean food represented in the series would have been incorrect, writing, “Ins doesn’t know how to cook or how things are cooked, no one else in the writers room were Korean, and THEY HAD NO KOREAN CULTURAL RESOURCES IN THE WRITERS ROOM AT ALL.” She ended her thread with a reference to a final scene in the series:
“In the final bedroom scene in S5, Mrs. Kim weeps because she believes that God has abandoned her. The more she prays for something, the more certain it will get worse. That’s what it felt like. The love died. 사랑 없으면 소용이 없고 아무것 도 안입니다.”
Shortly after Yoon’s Twitter thread, the Kim’s Convenience Twitter account shared a Facebook post from co-executive producer Anita Kapila, where she praised the BIPOC and women writers on the show. Kapila is of South Asian descent, and none of the writers highlighted are of Korean descent. This is not pointed out to diminish the role of these writers in the series, but to say the response does not address Yoon’s issues stemming from the lack of Korean writers on a show about a Korean family. Additionally, treating Asian cultures as a monolith in any context is inappropriate, but especially when the series seeks to highlight the story of one specific Asian culture. It’s unclear whether Kapila’s statements were made in response to Yoon’s and Liu’s statements.
On March 8, the producers announced that the fifth season would be the final season of Kim’s Convenience, as the co-creators Ins Choi and Kevin White move forward to work on other projects. Liu shared a lengthy Facebook post on June 2, the day the fifth season aired on Netflix, detailing his experience and why the show was coming to an end. He also went on to discuss lack of adequate pay and support from the crew.
“Our producers were overwhelmingly white, and we were a cast of Asian Canadians who had a plethora of lived experiences to draw from and offer to writers,” Liu writes. “I can appreciate that the show is still a hit and is enjoyed by many people… but I remain fixated on the missed opportunities to show Asian characters with real depth and the ability to grow and evolve.”
These statements came shortly after the announcement of a spin-off series focused on the white character Shannon, played by Nicole Power, which Liu addresses this in his statements.
“The producers of the show are indeed spinning off a new show from the Shannon character. It’s been difficult for me,” Liu says. “I love and am proud of Nicole, and I want the show to succeed for her... but I remain resentful of all of the circumstances that led to the one non-Asian character getting her own show. And not that they would ever ask, but I will adamantly refuse to reprise my role in any capacity.”