Site icon

Culture Bound Mental Illnesses in Korea — Bananaloft

I was poking around in Bananaloft, a website devoted to Asian-Canadian goofing-off and fun, and found an article on several, er, conditions that seem to be culture-bound to Korean society, as they say. Well, I would actually say it’s two mental conditions, and one folk-belief.

Fear of Fan Death, absurd though it is, seems mainly to be the result of media talking crap; we don’t consider the belief in a higher suicide rate around Christmastime — or fear of the same — a “mental illness” but it’s quite disconnected from reality — a similar folk myth in the Western sphere. (Snopes has the dirt, though, short version? It’s Mondays and back-to-work days, not big holidays, that drive people over the edge.)

As for hwabyung (fire disease) and shinbyung (spirit disease), well… I’ve never heard of hwabyung outside of Korea, but I’m pretty sure lots of societies have something vaguely like shingpyung. After all, we do have our own word for it: spirit possession. The cultural explanation differs from place to place, of course, and they’re all just likely different mythologizing explanations of what is really just serious mental illness, but particular cultural explanations are still interesting… for horror movie plotting, if nothing else.

Exit mobile version