If you like watching korean TV shows, you might have seen already a few mythical creatures in some of them. But have you ever wondered what is the meaning of each? If you did, then we are about to introduce you 5 mythical creatures of korean culture, which we have already seen in some TV shows.
A mythical creature is a supernatural being that its existence cannot be proved. But since they appear in folklore stories, for some people it is real. And for others, it is just a legend.
Since South Korea likes embracing their own floklore, you see them often in some TV shows. Now, it is time to look at them in depth.
The 9-tailed fox spirit is an evil creature capable of taking any shape it likes. But generally, it chooses to become a young woman to seduce and devour men. Although it also feeds on human livers.
In Korean tradition, the term 여우 (Fox) is used to refer to women with a bad reputation. Therefore, the legend of the gumiho follows this line of approach.
Even if it is said that they are evil creatures, some legends tell the story of a certain gumiho who wanted to become human, and for this, she had to follow several steps. Firstable, she had to find the Gumiho’s true nature and keep it as a secret for 10 years, and for a period of 100 days, must not show its true form to a human. Lastly, the Gumiho needed to consume the livers of 1,000 men over 1,000 years.
Another story tells that for a Gumiho to be able to ascend to the heavens, she has to get the energy of 100 men. To do this, she must pass a jewel from her mouth to the man’s, since the jewel will take care of the energy. Guided by her desire, the gumiho of this story pretends to be a student and manages to gain the energy of 99 male students. However, when she tries to do the same with the 100th man, he swallowed the jewel. By doing so, he gained the knowledge necessary to end the gumiho’s life. Consequently, he hunted down the gumiho and killed her with the help of other people.
If you are a fan of k-drama, I recommend you to watch ‘My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho’.
Grim Reaper (저승사자)
The grim reaper is the servant of the the underworld’s lord (염라 대왕). Who fulfills the same function as the ‘Death’ we know. By this, we mean that his purpose is to guide both good and evil souls to the afterlife.
He wears a 갓 (Korean traditional hat from the Joseon era) as well as a black hanbok. Plus, it is rumored that he carries a book with the death dates of every living soul.
Legends say that he manifests himself as a handsome person before good people. On the other hand, for bad people he will manifest himself as a strange and dark being.
If you are a k-drama lover, you might have already learned about this character due to the drama ‘Goblin’. And it is also appears in a lot of different TV shows. Take as an example the video below.
Dokkaebi, or else, the goblin, is a mischievous creature that spends much of their day fooling evil people. And rewarding those who are good. In fact, they love to play with humans.
In the past, they used to look like mysterious humans, but over time they took the shape of gnomes.
They can possess inanimate objects, plus they can take their real form at night. Besides, they always carry a kind of weapon that has the name of 도깨비 방망이, which they use to summon objects.
They reside in forests, cemeteries, as well as in abandoned houses or roads.
An old legend tells that an old man befriended a goblin who visited him in human form, inviting him to drink and thus be able to talk. However, he was suddenly got surprised when he saw the reflection of his friend, as he was turning into a creature! That is when he realized that he was a goblin. Feeling betrayed, the man spread cow’s blood all over his house, as it is the fear of a goblin. Emerging victorious as he played a prank back on the mischievous goblin.
If you are a k-drama fan, you might have already watched ‘Goblin’!
The Inmyeonjo is a sacred bird that has a human face. Which originally, in folktales was the representation of war. However, every country has its own perspective on it. For example, in the west they think of them as beasts of death, like Harpie, while in the East they think of them as gods in Taoist and Buddhist legends.
On the other hand, in South Korea they believe that it connects heaven with earth. And comes to earth when there is peace.
He took part in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games as an important figure in Korean folklore and as a symbol of peace. Although it looks more intimidating than the other characters of this 5 mythical creatures of korean culture list, this one is 100% good.
Haechi is a mythical creature that appears in ancient legends of East Asia. Such as in China, where they call him Haetae (해태). And he is said to have the ability to judge the right and the wrong.
His appearance is similar to a lion, but what makes it different, are the horns that it has in his head. Which look like the ones the giraffe has. Also, it has bells on its neck and scales in its entire body.
People believe that this creature picks up the person who acted wrong and hits him with his horns. As if the situation was not already bad enough, he eats him up.
In fact, this animal looks into a person’s heart and judges well and wrongs. Because of this, the uniforms of judges had elements representing it. Plus the coffins were called Haechigwan (해치관).
In the case of Korea, it was used as a symbol of protecting the private constitution, which inspects Joseon officials and enforces laws, just like the drama Haechi. The Haechi was carved on the rank badge of the official uniform worn by Dae-heon, the head of the private constitution.
Even in modern times, you can find a statue of Haechi in the National Assembly of Korea and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. By putting it there, they are showing their will to be on the side of justice and deal with the law fairly. Just like the Haechi.
In addition, there are a pair of Haechis in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace in Gwanghwamun, as it is considered a new way to fight off fires or disasters.
Even if most of these 5 mythical creatures of korean culture, are actually not from korean origin. It still interesting to see their perspective on them. And of course, to see the difference between other asian countries’ beliefs.
Now that you have read, what do you think? Is there similar characters in your country? Let us know in the comments!
Also, don’t forget to visit my profile to continue reading interesting posts about South Korea! Click here