Emotions felt while you wait for someone you love can be more universal than others. Jeongeupsa, a folklore song written in the ancient Baekje period, has been passed down for way more than 1,000 years thanks to its universality. Stories of wives waiting for their husbands who went to work to come home are also those of the mothers.
Jeongeupsa depicts one such story. A wife awaits her husband who went peddling. She starts to get worried as he does not return home by the usual hours. So, she climbs up a hill and keeps looking down from a rock on the hill top to see her husband return. She is extremely worried as the way back home is a messy mire and easy to get stuck, especially after dark. The wife prays to the moon to rise higher so the moonlight can light up a long way. She prays dearly so that her husband does not stumble and get stuck in the mud on his way back home.
The song is based on a true story, and the details are described in ‘Sinjeung Dungguk Yeoji Seungram,’ the Revised and Augmented Edition of the Survey of the Geography of Korea. Worries and prayers of a wife living in Jeongeup Village were turned into a song wishing her merchant husband to come home safe without encountering an unexpected accident or stumbling across a mire. A map drawn during the ancient Joseon Dynasty points to the foot of the Duseung Mountain in Jeongeup as the rock on which the wife was waiting for the husband. The map among other things proves that the more-than-one-thousand-year-old folklore song is based on a true story. The story is backed by concrete evidence that says it actually happened.
However, with time, the concrete details had been removed, and the song of a wife living at the foot of the Duseung Mountain changed into one sung by a mother waiting for her beloved ones to return safely. The prayer for safe return is now not only about the husband but the whole family members. The song becomes a myth. That is how a myth is born. Citing a quote from the novel ‘Sanha’ by a Korean novelist Lee Byeong-ju, "a story becomes a history if faded by the sunlight and a myth if tinged by the moonlight." Jeongeupsa, a story that became a myth by the touch of the moonlight, is now a song of mothers of our time.