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  1. #1
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    The Korean concept of Han

    I've come across this concept several times in my reading. Both times it was defined as a grim acceptance of one's fate and hardship.

    Wiki gives some contradictory definitions. So I'd like some perspective on what you think it means, whether it is still part of Korean culture today, both in Korea and in the US and if other cultures have an equivalent.

    Thank you!
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    Do you mind if I ask what book you are reading?

    Han is often said to be a concept you don't get unless you are Korean. To be honest, I don't get it for the following two reasons: 1) I wasn't born and raised in Korea 2) I'm too young to have experienced it.

    Wiki is acting up, so I don't know how they define it, but I would say your definition is very close. When you repeatedly experience hardships beyond your control, you come to accept it as your "fate". Sort of like bitter Nirvana.

    I believe Korean peninsula's geopolitical position has given rise to the concept of Han. It is a tiny piece of land, but its position has acted as route to the continent for Japan and route to the ocean for China, Mongolia, etc. Largely because of its strategic positioning, Korea had been invaded at least once every five years. In fact, from the end of the Korean War to the present is the first time for Koreans to experience any semblence of peace (here comes in the part where I said my generation has no grasp of Han).

    I'm sure there is more to it, and I would appreciate if other Korean FSUers share their thoughts.

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    Thank you for your thoughts.

    I first encountered the term in the book Free Food for Millionaires and again while reading Honolulu.

    Wiki said the same thing, that the concept of Han is due in part to frequent invasions. The reason I said it was contradictory is because my understanding of it was that you accept fate and yet Wiki cited some TV show (West Wing?) episode where the concept was also said to include hope. Yet neither one of the books that mentioned it mentioned any kind of hope which was the whole point.

    I'd love to hear more!
    "Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."

    from Speedy Death

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    Interesting. I can see how Han can contain element of hope though if the "hope" is not referring to the possibility of immediate resolution but to vague longing for betterment. The reason I coined the term "bitter nirvana" in my previous post is because Han, while mostly about sorrow and bitterness, ultimately implies acceptance and sublimation of the said sorrow.

    Wow, I feel like I just talked out of my arse talking about something I'm not so familiar with

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by IceAlisa View Post
    I've come across this concept several times in my reading. Both times it was defined as a grim acceptance of one's fate and hardship. !
    In Russian its "горе" as in "на душе горе", "у нее в жизне горя", "человек переживший глубокое горе".

    I can't think of an english equivalent. It's not exactly "woe" or "sorrow" in a single event’s case. It's a "sorrow" in a more cosmic sense... which is part of your life. It’s more like a permanent element in your state of mind or emotional world, which you no longer actively react to, just “keep it with you every minute” and it colors your life in a given light...... but you go on living. A state of mind of a parent who witnessed his child shot to death... who has other children and must go on.

    Remember the Russian jargon phrase “ну все, тебе хана” – nu vse, tebe hana! – the curse of sorrow is upon you?
    Last edited by Tinami Amori; 10-26-2010 at 03:30 AM.

  6. #6

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    Very interesting thread here indeed. I love how some languages have words to express concepts or states of being that have no direct equivalent in English, like schadenfroh/Schadenfreude or saudade.
    My job requires me to be a juggler, but that does not mean that I enjoy working with clowns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    Very interesting thread here indeed. I love how some languages have words to express concepts or states of being that have no direct equivalent in English, like schadenfroh/Schadenfreude or saudade.
    In Russian there is an EXACT equivalent to Schadenfreude - злорадство (zloradstvo) - Zlo - evil harm, -radstvo - happy feeling.

    Now if someone can find me an exact English equivalent of "Sympatico".... I've been searching for 30+ years.

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    I'm surprised to hear that, given that German and Russian are not related. On the other hand, saudade (Portuguese) has no equivalent in French, Italian, or Spanish.
    My job requires me to be a juggler, but that does not mean that I enjoy working with clowns.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    On the other hand, saudade (Portuguese) has no equivalent in French, Italian, or Spanish.
    Saudade ... nostalgia ... "I want to go back and do it all over, but I can't go back. I know." ... Even if I were to go back, it would not really be the same because I am different, they are different, and the place is different

    The type of word that comes when a large portion of the population, Jews, were scrabbling during the Inquisition and when a population is too small to administer its empire, so one's livelihood takes one far from home and family, often never to return.

    (I want to call my mom.)

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    Saudade ... nostalgia ... "I want to go back and do it all over, but I can't go back. I know." ... Even if I were to go back, it would not really be the same because I am different, they are different, and the place is different

    The type of word that comes when a large portion of the population, Jews, were scrabbling during the Inquisition and when a population is too small to administer its empire, so one's livelihood takes one far from home and family, often never to return.
    You describe saudade (according to my understanding) quite well, but "nostalgia" is not really the English equivalent. Saudade is deeper and more complex than that.
    My job requires me to be a juggler, but that does not mean that I enjoy working with clowns.

  11. #11
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    That's another interesting concept. Wiki offers the English verb "to pine" as a version. Does that work?

    This is another, um mention of words and concepts that don't exist in English since the thread is taking this turn.
    http://www.justabovesunset.com/id1157.html
    Last edited by IceAlisa; 10-26-2010 at 07:15 AM.
    "Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."

    from Speedy Death

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    You describe saudade (according to my understanding) quite well, but "nostalgia" is not really the English equivalent. Saudade is deeper and more complex than that.
    I think "Saudade" as "nostalgia" is used in lighter-context Fado ballads..... But you're right, the general meaning of "Saudade" is much more complex.

    I do believe we have exact equivalent in Russian - Toska. Тоска (in russian).

    Nostalgia is close, but when one has "nostalgia" it can be for a place one loves and can visit during next vacation, or return to and "cure nastalgia"...

    Well, you can't cure "Saudade" by going back to "that place"....

    .....because you can NEVER go back to that place, that state of mind, that environment, that critical part of your being, such integral part of your persona and identity, such one of a kind place which can't be recreated....... because it is no longer there in the shape and form as when you left it..... or no longer there at all. It is a sense of permanent loss which you carry with you forever, and no gold and diamonds of the world will ever take its place.

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