K is for Korea

Published April 20, 2012 by caitlinnicoll

Korea is considered to be one of the oldest countries in the world. Ancient Korea was split into Three kingdoms, The Silla, Goguryeo, and Bakje. In the 7th century AD, the Silla conqured the other two kingdoms, uniting Korea into one kingdom.

Moon goddess of Goguryeo

Korean mythology (much like Japanese mythology) believed that everything in nature had a spirit residing in it. People would offer tributes and sacrifices to assaude the spirits from causing harm.

The moon (Haesik) and the sun (Daesun) are brother in sister. In folklore, their mother was a poor rice cake seller who got tricked into giving all her rice cakes away by a tiger. When she had run out, the tiger became angry with her and ate her. Disguising himself as her, he went to her house, and tried to trick Haesik and Daesun to open the door so he could eat them too. Daesun prayed to the heavens for a strong rope to save them, or a rotted one if they were dammed. A strong  robe was sent down and the siblings climbed it to the heavens where Haesik became the sun, and Daesun the moon. Later, they switched places because Daesun was afraid of the dark.

The Chollima is a winged mythical horse, much like the pegasus. It is often depicted as having eight legs. In legend, the Chollima was too fast for any mortal man to catch, therefore ride.

Koreans also have their own version of a Kitsune, a Gumiho. However, in these legends, the Gumiho would transform into a beautiful girl who would seduce men so that she could eat thier livers. They are also capable of casting powerful curses and illusions. Another differentiation from the other legends is that a fox would become a Gumiho after living for a thousand years. A fox that is over a hundred years old is called a Bulyeowoo.

A Dokkaebi is a Korean goblin that is sometimes evil, but aso mischevious. They are the transformed spirits of inanimate objects, and are gruesome to look upon. Some tales say that they have a cap that will make the wearer invisible. They will usually torment bad people and reward good people.

Book recommendations for reading challenges:

Fantasy                                                      Sci-fi

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3 comments on “K is for Korea

  • Love these myths! Especially the Korean goblin and the moon/rice cake ones. I teach at an art college and we have a lot of Korean students. I like a lot of them, and I’ve read papers they’ve written about Korean history, which is nuanced and fascinating, just liek these myths.

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