Book Review: Han Kŭt Critical Art and Writing by Korean Canadian Women


“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.”

“Kŭt”: Can mean agitation, grassroots ritual, political art, collective action, or noisy, also describes a type

of spiritual exorcism conducted by a mudang (female shaman).

The book immediately starts with the editors’ explanation of the cryptic title.  Likewise, the other stories in the collection are also ways of sharing the voices of Korean Canadian, often unspoken, mitigated and not understood.  Han Kŭt Critical Art and Writing by Korean Canadian Women is an anthology of original art and writing by Korean Canadian women across the country from established professional writers to people engaged in professions normally unrelated to creative writing.  Printed in 2007 by Inanna Publications, Toronto, Han Kŭt stands out as a unique cultural piece that “offers a variety of meanings and perspectives on how… Korean Canadian women are seen, and more importantly, see themselves.”

The anthology is made of different types of writing and visual art, similar to the different characters and personalities present within the Korean Canadian community, and the collection includes short stories, critical essays, non-fiction pieces, graphic novel, photography, visual art and poetry.  27 contributors offer their distinct perspectives into the Canadian society, and their stories in turn offer us an insight into their worlds.  Also, the stories take place in different times of Korean Canadian immigration history in different parts of Canada involving 1st generation immigrants to Korean Canadians who have shared cultural heritages and at least something in the book should resonate and connect with the different readers.

The writings are distinct in their perspectives and subject matter, but they do have a loose thematic unity as a response of Korean Canadian women to fill in the voids of the cultural history of the Korean Canadian community.  Sometimes cheeky, sometimes sentimental, and other times, plain bold, the stories of the women reveal sides that are unseen to the outsiders as well as provoke further thoughts into the structural relationships between groups of people in the Canadian society.

The anthology came together through the cooperation of the Korean Canadian Women’s Anthology Collective, a group of Korean Canadian women who did not necessarily have any ties to the publishing world.  The project initiated out of their concern for the lack of the presence of Korean women’s voices in the Canadian culture.  Amassing Korean women across the country and in different professions, the anthology came together to demonstrate also the collective will within the community.  The editors present this volume as “the beginning of a much needed and long-term dialogue amongst ourselves and with other communities.”


Categories: 2014

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