Ghosts That Only Lives In the East

by Isabel Bang

Gumiho (Nine-Tailed Fox)

In the East Asian folklores and tales, there are always stories about these attractive nine-tailed creatures. When a fox lives more than a thousand years, they get to possess supernatural powers and the ability to transform into a beautiful person. Detailed stories of these so-called “monsters” vary in each country, and in Korea, they were known to be feared since the Silla dynasty. Legend has it that these foxes transform into the most alluring person and live amongst the villagers. They would seduce people to eat their liver to become a human themselves. However, legends also say that these creatures are actually kind spiritual beings that do not harm others. Instead, they secretly long to become human to feel loved and not feared, and escape their endless and meaningless immortal lives.

Cheonyeo Gwisin & Mongdal Gwisin (Virgin Ghost)

Twitter @gomgome0526

If you try googling Korean Ghosts, you’ll mostly see images of long-haired women in white hanbok called ‘sobok’ - what Koreans used to wear when someone passes away. These ghosts are called ‘Cheonyeo Gwisin’, the grieving spirits of young women who died before fulfilling their Confucian purpose of getting married. The male version of these virgin ghosts is called Mongdal Gwisin. These ghosts are known to terrorise newlyweds in jealousy, so families whose single daughters or sons had passed away would come together to hold a “soul marriage” (aka. Ghost marriage). Only after this ceremony, they thought their child would go to heaven and live happily with each other in the afterlife. 

Jeoseung Saja (Grim Reapers)

Artist Kim Tae Hawn

There are different descriptions of Grim Reapers in every country. In Korea, Jeoseung Sajas tend to have pale skin, black lips, sharp eagle eyes and wear a black Durumagi (outerwear Hanbok) & a black Gat (men’s hat from the Joseon dynasty). Unlike Grim Reapers from the West that are treated as sublime and terrifying beings, Korean Jeoseung Sajas are treated as overworking guides to the underworld. They’re under the ruling of King Yeomra, the supreme King of the underworld, their job is to pick up dead souls from the dead bodies. They say that if you could convince these grim reapers, they could even give you a couple of days to pack up your unfinished duties & say your goodbyes.

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