Posted by Meditation USA on January 14, 2021
Jinwoo Yoo / Musical Actor
“Now I need you France, but you will need me later.” In 1995, when actor Yu Jin-woo went to Paris to study, the unsuccessful actor climbed up the Eiffel Tower and made this pledge. Five years later, he became the first Asian professor at the world-renowned school of theater “Ecole Jacques Lecoc.” He taught “movement acting” to young theater artists from all over the world and was so admired that he was called “Maestro,” a title given to the best masters. He credited Meditation for making him realize the relationship between the body and mind.
I felt an emptiness and wanted to resolve it
In a mountain village in Jeongeup, Jeollabuk-do, there was a boy who quickly followed the song of a popular singer Lee Mi-ja. His grandmother was happy to have such grandchildren and proud to show them off to people. She believed that her young grandson would grow up and become a singer.
Whatever he imitated, his gestures caught people’s attention. The high school teacher, who noticed his talent, recommended the theater department. The theater department opened his eyes to his interests and talents, and he would remain after the class, training his body and making passionate efforts to move his body for mask dances, acrobatics, stretching, and handstands.
Jinwoo Yoo debuted as a mime professional actor in 1992. He became known in his local area, but there was always something missing in his mind. “The more I appeared on stage and the more I was recognized, the more I felt that something was lacking. I felt like the body seems to be free, but it doesn’t seem to be one with the mind.” It was around this time that I decided to study abroad in Paris, France, famous for the art of mime. He entered the “Ecole Jacques Lecoq,” an international theater school founded in 1956 by contemporary theater actor Jacques Lecoq. This school, which intensively teaches “movement and action,” has a high reputation for producing the world’s best theater artists, including actors, writers, and directors.
“All we need is Jinwoo Yoo, and he’s Korean”
Jinwoo Yoo, who expresses any movement as if it were copied almost entirely at once, is the first Asian to pass a leadership course in 45 years of school history, where only 40 people have passed. Jacques Lecoc, who passed away in 1999 as a teacher and principal who taught “movement acting” at the time, was delighted, saying, “You are my fellow professor now.” Two years later, he became a visiting professor with active recommendations from the professors who taught him.
However, the French government at the time opposed the appointment of the professor because he was Korean. At this time, there was a famous anecdote that the school said, “All we need is Yu Jin-woo, and he is Korean.” He was known in Korea as “a Korean who had achieved the myth of success.” But even with the praise of “the best,” the problem was still there. Yu Ji-woo said that it was this Meditation that solved his unsolvable problem— “the lack that he felt in his performance.”
As a professor at Ecole Jacques Lecoc. The students expressed respect for Yu Jin-woo, who is known for his dynamic and energetic classes, calling him “Our greatest maestro.” Jinwoo Yoo was selected as one of the top “100 Proud Koreans Who Have Moved the World,” sponsored by KBS and the Beautiful Foundation in 2005.
In early May 2002, when his story was spread to Korea through South Korea’s public television network, KBS1, a woman sent an email from Seoul and they started exchanging emails. They got closer and closer as they shared their calming everyday stories in a fun and special way (she would later become his wife). She often told him about the meditation that she was doing. She said “When I emptied my mind, I became one with everything in the world. After cleansing my mind through meditation I learned that my body and mind are one.”
This was the most important thing for him to learn so that he could express things with his body. But he had only imagined it, and didn’t really learn it yet. So of course, he was very interested.
The following year, a meditation center was established in Paris as well, and he started meditating without hesitation. Having abandoned the minds that were blocking him, he could see how the body and mind are one, and even solved the questions he had about life.
“I realized that answering those questions was more important than the original problem of lacking, I was trying to solve. I began to reflect on my inner self, which I had been ignoring because I knew nothing but work. The past years of racing to become the best came to mind like a picture. Every moment of my life was just a time of greed and obsession. I was the only one that knew this and I could see the illusions that I had to throw away.
“I didn’t really live a true life. I felt empty but not because I was lacking some acting skills I sought. I knew I had to fulfill my true nature. I realized this after training my mind through meditation. Nothing can be done without being true to your heart. My life became real only after practicing this meditation. In the past, I was so stubborn and the mind that I was right was so strong that I didn’t listen to other people very well. In the early days of teaching, I wasn’t even able to answer questions from students well. When I heard someone talk about me, my pride was easily hurt and I would worry about improving myself. Now I can listen to anyone’s story and talk to them with true caring and without my ego getting in the way.”
Seeing myself doing my best without greed, realizing that I am now truly mature
“I also abandoned ‘Professor Yu Jin-woo,’ and after giving up my six-year tenure as a professor I decided to return to Korea and start over again. However, when I came back, there were few places where people recognized me as the famous “Professor Yu Jin-woo.” I could have gone back to France because of my pride, but now I was following my heart.
“Because movement acting was still an unfamiliar field in Korea, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to look back on myself and fully eliminate those minds of pride and other self-centered minds.”
Today Professor Jin-woo Yoo is teaching movement and acting at the National Arts Group and Kookmin University. He is able to appreciate being a person that can give selflessly to the world. He is grateful to meditation for allowing him to realize that true maturity is when you can do your best for others and not for your own self-interest.