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Program Note


“I hope all the things that speak snuff it.” On the surface Una's life flows quietly by, but in her mind a battle is raging. Preparing to take the high-pressure civil service entrance exam, her days appear monotonous and dull, but inside long-suppressed feelings are trying to find their voice. Their only outlet is through her dreams.  In her mind, the words spoken by her closest family are piling up like heavy lumps: Her father, Yeongnam, prizes his own face above his wife or daughter.  Her mother, Hyesuk, is a typical everywoman who takes out her frustration with life by manipulating those she considers weaker.  Her boyfriend, Soohyeok, hides his violence behind a caring voice. The words they spit out at Una become embedded in her mind.  Today, she realises the heavy burden of the words she is carrying, the words uttered by those closest to her. Today, on the bus, her reality and dreams collide.



Likes: Maths, because it provides clear answers.

Hates: Cats. All they do is eat and sleep, but their upturned noses unsettle her.

Desire: To overcome societal and parental pressure and grow into a healthy adult.

Struggle: It is difficult for her to judge what is right and wrong due to the fact her normative cognitive system has been built on regular exposure to verbal violence

Soohyeok (Una’s Boyfriend)

Likes: Brand clothing, bags. (Status symbols)

Hates: Non-brand apartments, people living in non-brand apartments, people who look stupid, people who look weaker than he is, brand products that are vulgar (in his personal opinion).

Desire: To be loved and respected.

Struggle: His desire to be better than others makes him feel like a failure.

Hyesuk (Una’s Mother)

Likes: Travel

Hates: Infidelity

Desire: To live her own life

Struggle: Cannot face the reality that her relationship with her husband is on the rocks.

Yeongnam (Una’s Father)

Likes: Fishing. Catching and slicing raw fish gives him pleasure.

Hates: Alcohol. He is worried his emotions might escape if he drinks it. He holds people who get drunk in complete contempt. When he sees people who do not follow traditional societal norms (digital nomads, LGBT people, social activists etc.), he becomes very angry inside due to his own suppressed emotions.

Desire: To live freely.

Struggle: It is hard for him to control his feelings for a woman he met at a mountain climbing club.


Violent language, like physical violence, leaves a deep scar on the victim. It mainly manifests itself in relationships in which there is an imbalance of power (asymmetric relationships). Tragically, we are unable to see our own minds, so if our ego is damaged or broken as a result of verbal violence, it can easily go unnoticed and we may not seek to escape from a damaging situation. When the problem is eventually noticed, the damage has already been done, making the healing process far from simple. In fact, healing is only possible if the mind effects a type of self-recovery, which is particularly hard to achieve if the mind has never experienced a state that could be deemed “healthy”. This story seeks to serve as both a reminder of the serious harm that can be caused by violent language and to suggest a possible path to recovery.

Intention of author

Curiously, the song that first came to mind when the idea of a project about violent language was proposed to me was this: “We all clap our hands together, we all clap our hands together, we all sing joyfully together, we all clap our hands together.” There is a different version of this bright, nonsensical song in Scotland, called 'Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny Aff the Bus'. In standard English, the title translates to “You Cannot Push your Grandmother Off the Bus”. This macabre nursery rhyme has a similar melody to “We All Clap Our Hands”, but with a much darker twist. From the very beginning of the writing process, this bizarre song kept running through my head and was the inspiration for using a bus as the setting for the story’s key turning point. The people closest to us and, conversely, the ones we hurt the most, are family. If you look at the statistics on murder cases in 2020 in South Korea, they were mainly perpetrated by close friends and family of the victim. Indeed, 24.3% of the murders were committed by relatives. What causes a knife fight to break out between people who are so close? Perhaps it is this very proximity and the often unsatisfied expectation of mutual love that can lead to such strong hatred. There are always two sides to family relationships. In fact, this duality exists not only in family relationships but in all human relationships. However, since families spend a lot of time together and thus form deeper bonds, conflicting pressures within a family have a far greater impact on a person. What are these conflicting pressures? Simply put, it means that what is expressed outwardly by a family member is different to what is felt inwardly. In family relationships, especially parent-child relationships, there is a fixed moral code that all are expected to follow. Members of Korean society, in which familism plays a prominent role, have a rigid normative ethical view of what parents and children should do. While there is nothing wrong in ethics-based relationships between parents and their children, maintaining a toxic family relationship simply for the sake of societal propriety is not healthy for the human mind. Prolonged loveless family ties lead to a damaging build-up of guilt, anxiety, and fear on both sides. Although the theme of the script is violent language, I opted not to use ostensibly vulgar language within it. The usage of such words is automatically frowned upon and takes the focus away from the more serious psychological impact language can have. If swearing in itself is the only problem, it is easy enough to remedy. Swearing in an affectionate tone to a friend is unlikely to cause any significant damage or offence. The main reason violent language can leave a big scar on a human is not because the words themselves are vulgar, but because the context in which the words are spoken comes from a worldview that sees humans as objects, love as conditional, and the self as all important. For example, let's say a child has been told “I’m doing this for you” by his parents over a long period of time. Even though there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the words themselves, if they are spoken out of a parent’s selfish desire to exert control over their child, a weight will be placed on the child's mind. Yet the words themselves are not necessarily bad. In fact, they could come from good intentions. This shines a light on the inherent duality of family relationships. The normative ethical view that families should be happy, that families should love each other, and that they should always take care of each other often stands in direct conflict with the personal desires and selfishness of each individual. It is at precisely these times that verbal violence occurs. This work seeks to dramatise the conflicting pressures of inter-family relationships and exhibit the true weight of the words we speak. Why would you want to shove your mother's mother off the bus?

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