Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Immigrant Health

pp 862-863



  • Kristi NinnemannAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University

Hwa-Byung translates into English as anger or fire disease. Often termed a Korean folk illness, it is characterized by physical and psychological symptoms that arise as the result of chronically suppressed anger. Reported most frequently by women, hwa-byung is believed to develop through an interaction of culturally supported emotional repression, avoidance of conflict and external expressions of anger, and the experience of chronic hardships and oppression.

Traditionally, Korean culture discourages outward displays of conflict and emotion, particularly those labeled as negative, with a cultural emphasis placed on personal temperance and the maintenance of harmonious interpersonal relationships. Consequently, negative emotions, such as anger, disappointment, and sorrow, are internalized. Hwa-byung may develop due to the accumulation of internalized emotions and their interaction with the hardships many Korean women report, such as stressful familial and marital relationships, domestic a ...

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