Korean Emotions Korean Emotions: Cheong and Han When discussing what uniquely defines the Korean people, two words that often come up are “Cheong” and “Han”. Both describe complex emotions pertaining to Korea with meanings difficult to capture in translation, but these two are often seen as important to the Korean psyche as a whole. These two words derive from Chinese characters, 情 and 恨. Cheong is frequently translated as “affection or emotional attachment” and Han as “deep, lingering sorrow.” However, such simple definitions cannot fully capture the nuanced meaning each emotion entails. Although no idea will apply to every individual in a group, these two are often seen as important to the Korean psyche, despite their representing very different ideas. That said, what are “Cheong” and “Han” and why should Koreans feel them particularly strongly? This video gives a taste of what Cheong represents through the way Koreans interact with a foreigner visiting a traditional market. Fundamentals: Cheong & Han The next several resources look at Cheong and Han at a fundamental level to explain what they are and how they are relevant today. There are various Korean idiomatic expressions, including “Cheong”, such as “하나만 주면 정 없어 (There is no affection if I give you only one)”, “이러다 정들겠어 (someone may grow on you), and “정때문에 산다 (living with/putting up with someone because of the past history, not love).” Also, Cheong can even be felt toward someone you fight with constantly as there’s a sort of connection that builds up (called 미운정). Meanwhile, this document briefly explains the background of Korean emotion, “Han”. The Power of Cheong This resource is a video discussing the power of Cheong to bring people closer together, but also to cause harm. What at first glance seems wholly a positive can become detrimental if taken to the extreme. For example, believing one has an automatic connection with other people might encourage kindness and generosity on the one hand. However, on the opposite end such closeness can remove positive social norms, like those preventing us from making critical comments to one another we would otherwise keep to ourselves. A Multi-Faceted View of Cheong This blog post provides a multi-faceted explanation of what Cheong is. As the article describes, one could easily say Cheong is more than merely a fleeting emotion; it derives from and influences one’s attitudes towards other people. It brings a warmth to daily interactions and makes the world a brighter place. However, at times this extent of attention and concern can seem burdensome, or even an invasion of privacy, Orion’s Choco Pie One of Korea’s most iconic snack foods, Orion’s Choco Pie, is famous for its ad campaign centering on Cheong. In addition to each Choco Pie wrapper having the Chinese character for Cheong (情), there are a number of television ads including Cheong as a catchphrase. This video contains a number of such advertisements. The common catchphrase translates as “Even though you don’t say, I know what you are saying.” Although this sentiment can be very subjective and personal, it also includes the idea of collective social responsibility. Korean Proverbs with Han There’s a phrase related to Han that is still used very frequently in daily conversation: “여자가 한을 품으면 오뉴월에도 서리가 내린다”, which roughly translates as “if a woman has embraced Han, there will be frost even in the heat of summer.” Put more familiarly, it has a similar meaning to the English “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” For a more nuanced explanation, Korean learners can reference this video. Examples of Han in Pop Culture The video above provides 5 examples of Han in Korean pop culture. Meanwhile, this article looks at Korea’s modern history to explain why Han is an emotion felt intensely by many Koreans today. Tragedies tracing back to the Japanese colonial period have resulted in unresolved heartbreak that continues to the present. Such lingering pain has left its mark in the form of Han. Young Generation’s Voice Some individuals argue that Han is not an emotion particularly abundant among younger Koreans, largely due to the economic growth and democratization in Korea of the past few decades. Whereas previous generations dealt with such issues as colonization, war, hunger, and dictatorship, the younger generation has not. Nonetheless, today’s youth face a unique set of issues that could easily engender Han. To this point, the next article looks at the contemporary crisis of intensifying class distinctions as an example of Han felt by younger generations. Outside Perspectives Although Cheong and Han may be said to be Korean in nature, they can both be understood by anyone through experience. As a result, it is interesting to hear foreigners living in Korea or who have spent significant time studying Korea talk about their thoughts on these “Korean” emotions. Although it has an ineffable quality hard to capture in words, Cheong is something hard not to feel while spending time in Korea. As a result, one needn’t look far to find videos showcasing foreigner’s perspective on Cheong. I Feel at Home in Korea! Because Cheong’s meaning is difficult to convey verbally, real-world examples can provide a clearer picture of what it is. In this video, a foreigner living in Korea explains Cheong by showcasing situations where he experiences it. Cheong in Korean Food Culture In this touching video, a group of Polish friends sit down to dinner with a Korean family that had hosted one of them in Korea previously. The video clearly exhibits how Cheong comes up in Korea’s food culture, with the mother of the family taking care of her guests like children of her own. Interview with a Japanese Professor In this lengthy interview with a Japanese professor of Korean studies, he elaborates on the notion that Han is at the core of the continuing Korean-Japanese conflict. As a result, to have a better relationship it is essential for both sides to fully acknowledge and come to terms with their difficult history—an effort that the Japanese government has been particularly reticent to take part in. Are They Really “Korean” Emotions? Languages besides Korean may not be able to fully capture the emotions Cheong and Han express, but that does not necessarily mean the two are uniquely Korean sentiments. Many people, both Koreans and non-Koreans, have questioned whether Cheong and Han can be called “Korean” emotions. This essay written by a Korean university professor analyzes some of the nuances of Cheong, whether it is a uniquely Korean emotion and why it is important. The following are two articles (SNU News, Naver Blog) questioning the notion of Han being isolated to Korea. The authors look both at Korea’s history to understand the assumed context for Han, and at other nations to see whether they may have significant Han themselves. Continuing with this idea, these final three articles look at ways Ireland and Scotland’s long histories dealing with English domination have caused a level of Han: Scotland Han From William Wallace’s fight for Scottish independence in the 1300s to the 2014 referendum on the same issue, this article discusses England and Scotland’s long and contentious relationship. Although the two are united on a map, sharp divisions between them dating back centuries continue to cause issues to this day. Ireland Han This article concerns the Irish Potato Famine, a hallmark event in the history of the Irish people that resulted in the death or emigration of nearly a quarter of the population. The English government, then in control of the island, exhibited an extremely callous response emblematic of historical interactions between the two nations. Ireland Han Movie The film “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” discussed in this article, concerns the emotional story of two brothers fighting for Irish independence in the early 1900s. Although the story is fictional, it paints a moving story of the modern push by the Irish for independence from England. Although Ireland ultimately became an independent country, the question of Northern Ireland has remained a point of tension that has resulted in terrible violence more than once. A person is defined as much by how they respond to life’s hardships as the experiences themselves. The same is true of a nation, but on a larger scale. Korea’s history has often been a difficult one, a story of frequent invasions and times of scarcity. Cheong and Han represent two diverging responses to that history. Now, as that troubled past grows more distant, the question of whether they will survive into the future as defining characteristics looms large. Will the unique challenges faced by today’s younger generations generate similar emotions or completely new ones? Only time will tell.