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21st-century Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon

Posted November. 03, 2021 07:30,   

Updated November. 03, 2021 07:30


Writers tend to creatively reinterpret classics. “The Ghost of Daebul Hotel,” a Gothic horror novel by Kang Hwa-gil, is a good example. The novel implies that it is aesthetically based on a classic tale known as “Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon” in the end, which is why we need to focus on the fork tale.

“Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon” is a well-known story about two sisters who died under a false accusation by their stepmother. As their ghosts holding a grudge kill a number of chiefs, officials try to avoid appointments to the town. Then, an official volunteers to be a chief and listens to the sisters’ stories to resolve their resentment. They finally find peace in the afterlife. This is when “Janghwa Hongryeon jeon” ends and creative reinterpretation by Kang starts.

From this point on, the novel focuses on chiefs who were killed by the sisters. They also died without doing any harm and became ghosts. The sisters’ resentment led to more grudges. What’s problematic is that the sisters who caused such resentment are no longer on the earth. The dead chiefs become malicious and kill kids and passersby. The chief who resolved the sisters’ grudges begins listening to the dead chiefs’ story. They finally find a way to let go of their grudges and the town becomes peaceful once again. What they needed was not revenge but a person who listened to their story.

The chief who listens to the ghosts’ story can be compared to an artist who comforts others in the world. Even though “The Ghost of Daebul Hotel” is a story about ghosts after the Korean War, which is a different background from the Joseon era of “Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon,” it is not much different in the aspect that someone listens to ghosts’ story and help them resolve their resentment. Artists may be a type of chiefs who listen to the oppressed voices of others – not just Janghwa and Hongryeon’s but everybody’s. The warm reception of others is the essence of art.