2016 / Editorial / Photo Essay

Kibun: Public Face and Private Lives in Korea

  • Photographer
    Laughlin McKee

Kibun – The word kibun has no literal translation in English. However, as a concept that permeates every facet of Korean life, it can be described in terms of pride, face, mood, or state of mind. One must show the proper respect and avoid causing loss of face. In a culture where social harmony is essential, the ability to identify another’s kibun, often referred to as nunchi, is crucial. For this reason, you must be aware of subtleties in communication, observing non-verbal and indirect cues that often suggest the true sense of what is being communicated Through the surface can we see glimpses of meaning, history and societal will?