Human Acts by Han Kang (Translated by Deborah Smith) - review by Luke Davies

Luke Davies

After Gwangju

Human Acts


Portobello Books 224pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Following the assassination of the South Korean military dictator Park Chung-hee in 1979, his protégé Chun Doo-hwan extended military law, banning political protest and closing universities. This resulted in the now infamous Gwangju Uprising in May 1980, in which students and factory workers joined forces to protest against government violence and censorship. The army responded ruthlessly and the resulting massacre left six hundred dead, as well as large numbers of people physically and psychologically damaged by the torture, imprisonment and bereavement that followed. 

Han Kang’s Human Acts interweaves the stories of several different characters involved in the uprising, tracing their lives from 1980 to the present day. One chapter is told from the point of view of the spirit of the murdered Jeong-dae as he watches his body get piled up with a

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