Like Japan, Korea also has its share of tales of things that go bump in the night. Whether you’re studying for an exam or taking a soothing dip, you better always keep an eye out for some ghosts and spirits because some may intend to kill!
If you’re swimming during the summer, maybe you should panic if you feel something grabbing at your ankles because a mul gwishin may be dragging you to your death!
Mul gwishin are the lonely souls of drowning victims who do not want to swim the cold waters alone and want someone to keep them company. Their actions have led to the phrase “mul gwishin tactics” in Korea which is a take on “misery loves company.” If you are burdened with something, you may pull a mul gwishin tactic to drag someone into your misery like suggesting someone is willing to help you on a project to your teacher or boss even though that person may not want to do so: “If you go down, you’re going down with me!”
Beware, the Gumiho
One of the most popular legends in Korea involves Gumiho or nine-tailed foxes. According to lore, Gumiho are foxes who have lived for 1,000 years. These foxes have shape-shifting abilities, but mostly they take the form of a beautiful young woman who then causes a young man to fall in love with her just so she can one day eat his liver to gain human form.
But, the aforementioned is just one of the many accounts of the Gumiho tale. Other narratives include:
- Gumiho disguising themselves as young brides. Their true fox form is revealed once their clothes are removed.
- Some accounts suggest that if a Gumiho can hide his identity, remains a helpful individual, and does not kill a human for 100 days, he can become human or risk being turned into an evil spirit. A take on this tale is the theme of Gu Family Book.
- If a Gumiho falls in love with a human, marries, and lives with that person for a 100 days without his or her true form discovered, he or she will become human.
- If Gumiho abstain from eating a human for 1,000 days, he or she can become human.
- If the man a Gumiho falls in love with knows her true identity and keeps it a secret for ten years, she can become human; otherwise, she will turn to foam.
Has your date been acting weird lately? Maybe that person is hiding a Gumiho identity.
The Cheonyeo and Chonggak Gwishin
The Cheonyeo gwishin is said to be a young woman from traditional Korea who did not completely fulfill her womanly duties of serving her father, husband, and sons. A woman who dies as a virgin ghost led a meaningless life.Because of this, her spirit is not allowed to depart this world. Since her spirit cannot leave, people often see the virgin ghost wandering in her traditional sobok, her long black hair flowing free.
Although rare in Korean lore, there is a male counterpart for the Cheonyeo gwishin called the Chonggak gwishin. Like the Cheonyeo, he did not fulfill his duties as a man and cannot depart this world.
In order to help the souls pass, shamans may hold soul weddings for a Cheonyeo-Chonggak couple so they may find peace. Other ways to appease their souls include phallic sculptures and annual food offerings to the souls.
Nighttime Study Periods are Killer!
Schools are not a safe place during exam time, especially when you have to stay for late night study sessions. There may be dark hallways and classrooms that creak and moan sending shivers down your spine while you diligently hit the books.
There are many stories about school hauntings from children sitting in the dark reading to high school girls who’ve committed suicide beckoning to the living to join them. Statues and paintings seemingly come alive as the night wears on adding to the fear factor.
One such story involves a painting of Ryu Gwansun, a student from Ewha Womans University. She is known as being a martyr during the 1919 March 1st Movement where she and her family actively protested the Japanese occupation of Korea. She was arrested during the protests and sentenced to jail time where she was beaten and tortured, but she stood by Korea’s need for independence until she died in prison.
Students say that if you stare at her picture and say her name, her portrait will move. Some say her statue walks around every March 1 shouting for Korean independence. Others say that certain ways you look at her portrait, you can see the scars of her torture.
No matter where you go, schools have interesting stories of hauntings. Are any schools safe?
What Korean ghost stories have you heard? Share with us! We enjoy a good scare!
— Joelle Halon