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How the Korean Concept of “Han” Teaches Solidarity
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Yes! Magazine


Yes! Magazine, August 4, 2022
Posted: November 19th, 2023
https://www.yesmagazine.org/opinion/2022/08/04/korean-concep...

At the heart of the Korean spirit is a concept called “Han.” I define Han as “irreparable sorrow.” A more accurate definition might be achieved by describing how Han expresses itself—through storytelling, song, poetry, prayer. It is the language of humanity. Suh Nam-Dong, one of the founders of Korean minjung liberation theology, described Han as “a feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong—all these combined.” What is omitted from such definitions, though, is the very quality that makes Han transcendent; that is, the poeticization of these profound feelings of grief and loss. It gives us a common song. That is why the African American tradition of blues serves as a great model for resilience—joy, even—in the face of unimaginable adversity. It is all the sorrows of the world experienced in communion with others. Communion and fellowship are what will get us through, no matter what the bastards do. I also think of my Quaker grandmother, Elinor Ashkenazy, who helped organize the peace boat, the Golden Rule, in the 1950s. The tiny ketch first set sail across the Pacific in 1958 with the intention of stopping the U.S. from dropping atomic bombs on the Marshall Islands. Its story was another kind of prayer, another kind of poetry—and the inspiration for the founding of Greenpeace and many other peace projects.

Note: This article was written by respected journalist and environmental activist Koohan Paik-Mander. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


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