Han and/as ressentiment: Lessons from minjung theology

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Following calls in recent critical debates in English-language Korean studies to reevaluate the cultural concept of han (often translated as “resentment”), this article argues for its reconsideration from the vantage point of minjung theology, a theological perspective that emerged in South Korea in the 1970s, which has been dubbed the Korean version of “liberation theology”. Like its Latin American counterpart, minjung theology understood itself in explicitly political terms, seeking to reinvigorate debates around the question of theodicy—the problem of suffering vis-à-vis the existence of a divine being or order. Studying some of the ways in which minjung theologians connected the concept of han to matters of suffering, this article argues, offers an opening towards a redirection from han’s dominant understanding within academic discourse and public culture as a special and unique racial essence of Korean people. Moreover, by putting minjung theology in conversation with contemporary political theory, in particular the works of Wendy Brown and Lauren Berlant, this article hopes to bring minjung theology to the attention of critical theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021


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