Silent sorrow, blind revenge : the cultural complex han in new Korean cinema

Amalya Ashman

Research output: ThesisNon-UWA Thesispeer-review


Han is an expression of grief, rage and vengeance specific to Korean culture. Han is not merely a feeling but a concept with a distinct history and political inclination in twentieth century South Korea. The minjung movement, an anti-establishment faction, championed han in the 1970s and 1980s as an emblem of the people’s history of suffering to incite the ire and revenge of the oppressed to rise up against the totalitarian state. The cry of the minjung movement lost its voice post democratisation in the 1990s but the emotional after-image of han lingered on in the films of that era, classed New Korean Cinema. This thesis considers the manifestation of han on screen as a projection of cultural trauma of social change in the guise of a cultural complex: a socio-historical motif tinged with emotion and symbolism for a particular culture. Through the lens of analytical psychology an archetypal drama unfolds revealing a history of intergenerational conflict and symbolic ‘incestuous’ healing. The film selection looks back to the turbulent twentieth-century history of South Korea, with collective nostalgia in Sŏp’yŏnje (1993), in the hope to reconcile with traumatic memories as in A petal (1996). Looking forward, the texts also relate a quest for new sense of Korean-ness in the dehumanising postcolonial atmosphere of Address unknown (2001) and the malaise of postmodern South Korean society depicted in Oldboy (2003)
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • La Trobe University
  • Waddell, Terrie, Supervisor, External person
  • Scanlon, Christopher, Supervisor, External person
Award date14 Oct 2014
Place of PublicationMelbourne
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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