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Ghost Beliefs Among Koreans

안녕 하세요! I am Vaibhavi from India. As we all know, Korea is a country that is rich in folklore and legends, and one of the most prominent aspects of Korean mythology is the belief in ghosts.


Ghosts have been a part of Korean culture for centuries, and the idea of ghosts is deeply rooted in the Korean psyche. In Korean culture, ghosts are often associated with death and the afterlife.



Traditional Korean funeral customs involve the belief that the deceased person's spirit remains with the family for 49 days after their death, and that the family should provide offerings to the spirit during this time. Whether or not one believes in ghosts, they remain an intriguing aspect of Korean mythology and culture.


The Korean word for ghost is "괴물" which is derived from the Chinese character "鬼". In Korean mythology, ghosts are believed to be the spirits of deceased individuals who have not yet found their way to the afterlife. They are often depicted as malevolent beings who seek to harm the living.



Some Ghosts Koreans Believe In:


1) Gumiho (구미호) - The Nine-tailed Fox

구미호 is a legendary creature from Korean mythology. It is often depicted as a beautiful woman with nine tails, who possesses powerful magical abilities and is known to be a shapeshifter. The concept of the gumiho has been popularized in Korean pop culture, including in the K-drama "My Girlfriend is a Gumiho".


In Korean folklore, it is believed that gumiho can transform into a human form and seduce men in order to feed on their liver or heart. They are also known for their ability to control the elements and can manipulate fire and water at will.


2) Dokkaebi (도깨비) - Goblin


Dokkaebi are mischievous spirits that are often depicted as goblins or imps. These ghosts are said to live in the mountains and forests, and they are known for playing pranks on humans.Korean goblins are created through spiritual possession of any object that is stained by the human blood.


Dokkaebi are usually depicted as having horns and carrying a club. They are not usually considered harmful, but they can be tricksters who enjoy causing mischief and chaos.


3) Cheonyeo Gwishin (처녀 귀신) - The Virgin Ghost

처녀 귀신 is a spirit of a young woman who died before getting a chance to live a happy married life and take care of her husband and family. It is believed that these ghosts are lonely and jealous of those who are still alive and able to marry. The 처녀 귀신 is said to appear in a white 한복 (traditional Korean dress) and has long hair that covers her face.


She may appear to young men and lure them to their deaths. The 처녀 귀신 is also said to haunt those who disrespect women or engage in promiscuous behavior.



4) Gwishin (귀신) - The Vengeful Ghost


The most common type of ghost in Korean folklore is the 귀신. These are spirits of the dead who were not able to find peace after they died. 귀신 are often depicted as vengeful or angry, pale, gaunt figure wearing tattered clothes. and they may haunt the living to seek revenge or to resolve unfinished business. There are various reasons why a person may become a 귀신, such as dying a violent or sudden death, being wronged by someone in life, or having an improper burial.




5) Cheuksin (측 신 ) - Outhouse Goddess


측 신 is found in the outhouse of older traditional Korean houses which were always dark and isolated. It was said that before you go inside the outhouse you are supposed to cough 3 times to alert the goddess giving her time to go away. Failing to do so, you will cause the goddess immense rage. She in return will get back at you by strangling you with her hair while being suspended from the ceiling.


According to Korean Floklore, Toilet ghosts called “화장실 귀신” are a close cousin and an updated version of 측 신, for they too reside in washrooms. In the Drama 'Let's Fight Ghost' Bong Pal (2PM’s Taecyeon), an exorcist bumps into one while brushing up in the washroom. Enshrouded in dark mist, the long-haired woman would have floated past until she realizes the exorcist can see her.



6) Sansinryeong - 산신령 - The Mountain God's Ghost


산신령 is a type of ghost that is believed to reside in the mountains and protect the wildlife and plants. It is said that those who disturb the natural environment or hunt animals without permission may encounter this ghost. 산신령 is depicted as a tall, muscular man with a beard, wearing a tiger skin robe.


7) Dalgyal Gwishin (달걀귀신) - The Egg Ghost


Depicted as emotionless, faceless with smooth, slight statures, Korean egg ghosts are thought to have been childless individuals in their former lives. Without descendants to hold memorial rites for them, these spirits are gradually stripped of what humanity and personality they once had and are cursed to a wretched existence in their afterlives. Even though they have no discernible motive, egg ghosts inevitably cause instant death to anyone who sees them, milking life out of their victims the way they once experienced.

8) Mul Gwishin (물귀신) - The Water Ghost


Victim of accidental drownings, 물귀신 are ghosts who inhabit water. Chained to the realm of the living by the shackles of trauma, they do not realize they have died and instead avidly pursue other swimmers for help, company, or for sheer schadenfreude. While they are usually described as an invisible force that keeps to their watery depths, such ghosts are sometimes portrayed with long hair and arms that jut out of the stillness to grab at any unfortunate swimmers.



In conclusion, belief in ghosts is deeply rooted in Korean culture. While some of these ghosts may be viewed as scary or malevolent, others are seen as harmless or even sympathetic. Regardless of one's personal beliefs, these ghosts continue to play an important role in Korean folklore and storytelling.


That's it for today's lesson. I know this all sounds freaky but it won't harm us to know about these things. On that note, let's meet in next not-so-spooky lesson. For more interesting and free lessons visit our website.





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