Unlike Japanese and Chinese folklore, Korean folklore is not a subject area that many explore, consider, or think about when studying Korean history and society. Even though they all share similar mythological beliefs, those of Korea are unique and feature many interesting creatures and legends. Ranging from faceless atrocities to supernaturals causing calamities, the creatures of Korean folklore will leave you terrified with some of the vicious acts and appearances that they take. Now, even though most are seen in a negative light, there are also some that are instead seen as guardians. So, let us explore four creatures of Korean folklore that are listed from the most vicious to the most admired by locals!
- Dalgyal Gwishin
The Dalgyal Gwishin is one of the most vile creatures that has ever surfaced in Korean folklore. Known for lacking facial features, the Dalgyal Gwishin is commonly referred to as an egg ghost that roams the mountains of Korea. In Korean folklore, these creatures are said to be the most terrifying and are known to stalk and even torment hikers who have the misfortune of coming across one of them. It is said that if one looks at one of these frightening spirits, they will die immediately. Furthermore, it is believed that these creatures are people who died without having any family. For this reason, they are portrayed as inhumane and emotionless while they go about their lonely existence in the mountains.
The gumiho is a beautiful shape-shifting nine-tailed fox that often takes the form of a human, but despite its unearthly beauty and majestic behavior, this creature has a deadly side. In order to survive, they feast upon human hearts or livers. Like many other supernatural beings, there are many stories surrounding the gumiho. In fact, it is said that if this creature does not feast on a human’s heart or liver for a thousand days, they can remain human. On the other hand, other individuals believe that the gumiho will only be able to become human if it eats at least one liver a day for a thousand days. Overall, the gumiho is usually portrayed as a beautiful woman who seduces men before she feasts on their organs.
Known for being a hideous goblin, the Dokkaebi is portrayed as a red colored being with protruding eyes, and occasionally horns on its head. Even though it has an ugly appearance, this goblin has the ability to take on many forms. Furthermore, it is known for possessing magical items that can make it invisible and give it the ability to summon objects. According to many stories, the Dokkaebi is not a creature that is harmful, but it does have a habit of sometimes tricking people or helping them. So, the Dokkaebi can be righteous at times, but it can also be evil. Overall, the Dokkaebi is mostly portrayed as a mischievous creature that likes to trick evil people in order to punish them.
Highly esteemed among the creatures in Korean folklore, the Haechi is seen as a guardian that protects humans from fire and other disasters. This creature is portrayed as part lion, sheep, and unicorn, and it is covered in scales and feathers. Even though it looks formidable, this creature is actually the epitome of justice and punishes evil. Furthermore, statues of this creature were built in many palaces throughout Korea to protect against any calamities and to retain a fair governmental system. As can be seen, the Haechi is a respected guardian that is admired and favored among other creatures that one can find in Korean folklore.
It is quite evident that South Korea has its own fair share of unique creatures in its folklore that have made a difference in the lives of locals throughout the centuries. Are there any interesting creatures from your country that you believe are just as captivating? If so, let us know in the comments below!
Written by Valeria Voelkl