“Koreans say you can tell a person’s disposition by reading their facial expression at rest. It’s called insang. You could say a person has a warm insang, or a nervous insang, or an insang that shows they’ve been through a lot of hardship. My mother’s face settles into a flat, almost stern look. It is the face of someone who doesn’t normally face others. I imagine I wear that face when I am in front of the computer screen at night. One might call it apathy or stoicism. One might say there has been damage to the cerebral cortex affecting the emotions. Or one could say it is a well-managed denial of loneliness. I watch my mother and I long for her to say something to me, anything. My affections send their little minions to her door and stand there, waiting expectantly. But her door has been shut for years, covered with a heavy overgrowth of ivy. ”
—from the short story, “Learning to Walk,” by Ann Shin
“Han”: A play on “Hanguk” which means “Korea”; also refers to a history of suffering among Koreans. It can also mean “big,” “some,” or “one.”
“Kut”: Can mean agitation, grassroots ritual, political art, collective action, or noisy, also describes a type of spiritual exorcism conducted by a mudang (female shaman).
Han Kut: Critical Art and Writing by Korean Canadian Women is an anthology of writing and visual art that asks what are the creative possibilities of being Korean, Canadian, and a woman at this particular historical moment? This book offers a variety of meanings and perspectives on how the identities of race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, religion, and nationality shape and inform the ways in which Korean Canadian women are seen, and more importantly, see themselves. From deeply personal vignettes to broader critiques of Canadian society, this anthology provides a diverse collection of short stories, prose, poetry, visual art, academic and personal essays that contribute to building a more complete landscape of published works by, for, and about Korean women in Canada.