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Oh was born in the Ottawa suburb of Nepean, to middle-class Korean immigrant parents Joon-Soo (John) and Young-Nam, who had come to Canada in the early 1960s. Her father is a businessman and her mother a biochemist. Oh has a brother, Ray, and a sister, Grace. She grew up living on Camwood Crescent in Nepean, where she began acting and ballet at an early age. At the age of 10, she played The Wizard of Woe in a class musical, The Canada Goose.
Later, at Sir Robert Borden High School, she founded the Environmental club BASE (Borden Active Students for the Environment), leading a campaign against the use of styrofoam cups. While at Sir Robert Borden High School she was Student Council President. She also played the flute and continued both her ballet training and acting studies; however, she knew that she "was not good enough to be a professional dancer" and eventually focused solely on acting. This interest led her to take drama classes, act in school plays, and joined the drama club where she took part in the Canadian Improv Games and Skit Row High, a comedy group. Against her parents' advice, she rejected a four-year journalism scholarship to Carleton University to study drama at the prestigious National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal, paying her own way. She told her parents that she would try acting for a few years, and if that failed, return to school. While studying at the National Theatre School, she portrayed a waitress in the made-for-television film, School's Out, in which her co-worker, Caitlin Ryan (Stacie Mistysyn) also considers turning down her acceptance into Carleton University's journalism program.
Soon after graduating from the National Theatre School in 1993, she starred in a London, Ontario stage production of David Mamet's Oleanna. Around the same time, she won roles in biographical TV films of two significant female Chinese-Canadians: as Vancouver author Evelyn Lau in The Diary of Evelyn Lau (Oh won the role over more than 1,000 others who auditioned); and as Adrienne Clarkson in a CBC biopic of Clarkson's life.
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