Junior Fellowship: Julia Im


Printed with permission of Julia Im

Julia Im ’23 poses in front of the Hacienda Hotel in San Diego. Im traveled back and forth between Korea and the U.S. for her fellowship.

Eden Conner

Julia Im ’23 traveled back and forth between Korea and the U.S. for her Junior Fellowship to study Hwabyeong, a syndrome found in Korean women that is caused by culture-bound anger.

Im said Hwabyeong is close to her heart because her mom experienced the cultural syndrome.

“My mom and I became very close over the pandemic, and she told me about her experience with Hwabyeong, which I had never heard of before,” Im said. “The applications for fellowships came soon after, and I thought it was a sign to dive into the topic and share it with as many people as possible.”

Hwabyeong includes symptoms of insomnia and depression, according to a journal article in Boston University. journal article. The illness’ prominence among female Koreans was attributed to female gender roles and patriarchal structure in the country. Hwabyeong is chronic, and its treatment is a combination of psychosocial therapy and religious healing methods, according to a journal article by Yonsei University College of Medicine.

During her time in Korea, Im interviewed doctors Jonghyun Lee and Si Hyung Lee. She said she was fascinated to learn about the cultural differences in attitudes towards mental health and how Hwabyeong changes as Koreans immigrate to the U.S.

“America has a super specific vision on mental health, and it is very science-based,” Im said. “You are diagnosed and given medication to combat your illness. Hwabyeong is different, as it is rooted in folk medicine, which I was very interested in.”

With the guidance of Visual Arts Teacher Alexandra Pacheco Garcia, Im created a photo project and website for her research.

“I did not realize research could be incorporated into something creative,” Im said. “All of the teachers are open to artistic expression in order to present our research better.”

Im said her fellowship taught her valuable life and research skills.

“The experience taught me the art of interviewing and pushed me to overcome language barriers,” Im said. “More importantly, it provided me an opportunity to connect with the people that I know about Hwabyeong.”