[KS] Re: Golem/Frankenstein Motif in Korean or Other Asian Tradition?

Mickey Hong hong at HUMnet.UCLA.EDU
Tue Mar 14 19:08:29 EST 2000

Dear David,

Here's a random list off my head of genetic oddity & wonder in both modern &
premodern Korean literature:

1)  The heroes in _Samguk yusa_ are extraordinary because they're
proto-/quasi-animals i.e. Hwanung, the illegitimate son of Hwanin
(interestingly enough, since we had discussed about Hong KT), turns a bear
into a woman who would give birth to Tangun.  HyOkkOse, Suro, T'arhae, & many
others are all hatched from eggs.

2) My favorite: Chang Yonghak's WOnhyOng ui chOnsOl (1962).  Hate to give away
the plot but it's about  Yi Chang, an illegitimate child (what do you know,
again!), whose Oedipal obsession w/ his origin leads him to the tragic
discovery that he's a product of an incest rape.  Quite a stunning
concept/image in the novel is that of "Ingan chaebae" (Human cultivation) in
the main character's nightmare.  There's field of ginseng (insam) that's,
indeed, "literally" human.  He pulls out one then bites it--shockingly, a
foetus that cries then bleeds.  Yi comments that Martians [who cultivate
humans] really exist & they're actually humans themselves.  Wow, all this
conspiracy theory long before the "X-File" ever aired.

Mickey Hong

David Kosofsky wrote:

> I've been thinking recently about the folklore motif of the Golem, in
> which human beings use God-like powers to create a human being from a lump
> of clay (Hebrew `gelem' = lump).  The notion has been explored in the
> Jewish tradition for at least 1800 years, and its influence in the
> Christian world can be found in all manner of `black magic' stories,
> Frankenstein, Sorcerer's Apprentice, and so on.  Renewed interest in this
> notion has come from popular journalism about robotics and artificial
> intelligence, and most recently the advent of cloning.
> What I'm trying to learn is whether the Judeo-Christian tradition is
> uniquely obsessed with humans taking on God-like creative powers, or
> whether the same idea finds expression elsewhere. To that end I would
> appreciate any examples that any list-members can supply of Golem-motif
> folklore in Korean or other Asian traditions. Any, say, Taoist
> wonder-tales where a sage creates a human or quasi-human being?
> With thanks,
> David Kosofsky
> Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
> Seoul


More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list