When Things Fall Apart, Can the Family Hold? Family versus Individuals in Minari (2020)

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This article studies the representations of Korean migrant families in the US and the sociological implications in Minari (2020). Minari is a semi-autobiography movie of the Korean American writer and director, Lee Issac Chung. The plot revolves around a couple, Jacob and Monica, who moved to the US from South Korea in search of a better future. Their financial condition gets worse after giving birth to their children. Not contended with the job of being a chicken sexer in California, Jacob decides to move the family to the rural part of Arkansas and becomes a farmer of Korean crops. The couple even decides to fly Monica’s mother to the US to look after the children so that they can continue to work. The family is almost secluded by the rest of the neighbourhood as they rebuild their lives. Despite the huge leap they take, their long-overdue American dream soon falls short again as Jacob becomes more and more fanatical about his farming and thus alien to the family. While Asian families are stereotypically characterised by a strong sense of collectivity, the movie seems to propose the opposite. Rather than relying on the narrative of the strength of being one family, Lee champions the unique individuality of every single member. As such, this article argues that it is by excavating the collective family identity and celebrating the individuality that the family in Minari can create their own “third space” (Bhabha 1994). By investigating the power relations of the couple, parent-children, as well as the grandmother and the grandchildren, I argue that when the family is disillusioned by the American dream, it is the “roots” they individually grow that sustain the family.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Asian Family in Literature and Film
Subtitle of host publicationChallenges and Contestations. Volume II South Asia, Southeast Asia and Asian Diaspora
EditorsBernard Wilson
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 May 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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