"Hwabyeong", a Korean Cultural Syndrome The Case of "The Vegetarian", by Han Kang, and "Kim Jiyeong, Born 1982", by Cho Nam-Joo

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Diana Budeanu


Hwabyeong is known as a Korean cultural-bound syndrome which is situated at the intersection between depression and anger syndrome. Translated as “anger illness” or “fire illness”, hwabyeong is a mental illness resulted from repressed feelings, which has a specific somatization in middle-aged Korean women: lump in throat or chest, feeling of suffocation, palpitations, heat sensation, burning feeling in the stomach, insomnia etc. While this syndrome is often stressed as a clinical study case, hwabyeong can also be found in Korean literature, proving the power it holds within the society. Two such cases from Korean contemporary literature are The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, and Kim Jiyeong, born 1982, by Cho Nam-joo. Despite the fact that no one mentions hwabyeong, the main characters show clear symptoms of the disorder. They also match the pattern of those who suffer from this disease. At first glance, someone might say they are gone mad, but looking more closely at their background, their symptoms and behavior, they are no different from many other Korean women. Yeong-hye and Kim Jiyeong are two women from South Korea who experience body rebellion because of society’s failure to let them express as individuals with personal needs, ambitions and feelings.

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How to Cite
Budeanu, D. “"Hwabyeong", a Korean Cultural Syndrome: The Case of "The Vegetarian", by Han Kang, and ‘Kim Jiyeong, Born 1982’, by Cho Nam-Joo”. Linguaculture, vol. 13, no. 2, Dec. 2022, pp. 51-62, doi:10.47743/lincu-2022-2-0313.
Author Biography

Diana Budeanu, University of Bucharest, Romania

Diana Ioana BUDEANU is a PhD candidate at the Doctoral School in Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Bucharest. She graduated from the Faculty of Letters with a specialization in Korean and French at the Babeș-Bolyai University and completed a Master’s degree in East Asian Studies at the University of Bucharest.


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