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Tangun: A Korean Creation Myth

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Sonia Gupta

on 30 September 2013

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Transcript of Tangun: A Korean Creation Myth

Tangun: A Korean Creation Myth
Creation of the Earth:
The Beginning
In the beginning, there was only darkness and chaos. The world did not yet exist, and there was no order or structure to the way of things. There was only darkness.
Suddenly, a crack appeared, and the Sky split from the Earth and exuded a heavenly light.
A drop fell from the Earth towards the sky, and another fell from the sky towards the Earth. The two drops met, and as they mixed, the world was created in their place.
The Creation of Civilization
It is said that the heavenly Prince Hwangun looked upon this new Earth and desired to possess both its beauty and its people.
His father, Hwanin, foresaw that Hwangun would be a suitable leader for Earth, and his subjects would be happy and prosperous under his care.

He therefore chose Mount Taebak as the place upon which he should settle.
Hwangun arrived and created a holy city, bringing with him 3 heavenly seals, and 3,000 loyal subjects.
Hwangun also brought along three ministers, the Earl of Wind, the Master of Rain, and the Master of Clouds, who were responsible for controlling the environment and natural resources on Earth.
The myth diverges here to tell the tale of a bear and a tiger, both wishing to be human beings. Hwangun provided a series of tests for them, and should they pass, they would be granted humanity. They were to survive without sunlight for a period of days, and sustain themselves only upon mugwort and cloves of garlic. The tiger quickly failed, abandoning his tasks, but the bear succeeded, and went on to be transformed into a beautiful woman, Ungyo, who became the wife of Hwangun.
Their son, Tangun, for whom the creation myth is named, rules as the first King of Korea. After his period of holy reign, he retreated to Mount Taebak to become a mountain god.
This creation myth is meant to exemplify the ideal Korean traits of peacefulness and serenity, as their explanation describes the world forming in a calm, efficient manner without resorting to violence of any kind.
The Korean Culture
Korean culture today exudes many elements shared in this creation myth, and it is apparent in their cuisine and in their beliefs that their society is greatly based upon these old stories.
The Korean cuisine is heavily reliant on garlic and an array of spices, vegetables, and meats. Interestingly enough, the creation myth has the bear and the tiger rely solely upon mugwort and garlic in order to prove themselves worthy of becoming human. Mugwort is a series of aromatic plants, and these plants are often used as flavoring in dishes today.
In the tale of the Creation of Civilization, the focus is primarily on the bear and the tiger, using them to depict the creation of human life. In current Korean societies and lifestyles, tigers are dominant, and the bear is also present in the thick forest regions of northern and central Korea.
-Sonia Gupta
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