Han Kang Interview: The Horror of Humanity


“I always move on with the strength of my writing.” In this powerful portrait, South Korean writer Han Kang – winner of the 2016 Man Booker International Prize – reveals the story of how she became an author, and how writing helps her pierce her distrust in human beings.

Han explains how she has always found it overwhelming to look at human beings: “All the things human beings have committed throughout history and throughout the world… When we are confronted by the horror of humanity, we have to question ourselves.” For her, this is a constant inner struggle: “Because I want to embrace this world, and embrace life, but certainly there are points where we cannot…” In connection to this, Han talks about the massacre in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980 – the Gwangju Uprising. Han and her family had just left Gwangju, and the incident sparked a long period with an overwhelming sense of survivor’s guilt: “It was the feeling that some people were hurt instead of us.” That feeling of remorse stayed with Han, who “grew up with this memory that I experienced indirectly.” She never planned to write about it, but with time she felt the need to “penetrate this doubt about human beings through writing,” and so, she started writing ‘Human Acts’. At the end of the interview, you can experience Han reading from the novel.

Han Kang (b. 1970) is a South Korean author of novels, poetry, and short stories. In 2016, she won the Man Booker International Prize for fiction for ‘The Vegetarian’ (2007/2015). Other books include ‘Convalescence’ (2013), the poetry collection ‘I put the evening in the drawer’ (2013), ‘Human Acts’ (2014/2016), and the autobiography ‘The White Book’ (2016/2017). Han is also the recipient of the 25th Korean Novel Award (1999), Yi Sang Literary Prize (2005), and the Korean Literature Novel Award (2013), among others. In 2018, she became the fifth writer chosen to contribute to the Future Library project. For more see: http://www.han-kang.net/biography/

Han Kang was interviewed by Christian Lund in May 2019 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard

Produced by Christian Lund

Edited by Klaus Elmer

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2020

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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