Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon of the 21st century: the DONG-A ILBO
Writers tend to reinterpret the classics in creative ways. “The Ghost of Daebul Hotel”, a gothic horror novel by Kang Hwa-gil, is a good example. The novel implies that it is ultimately based on a classic tale known as “Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon”, which is why we have to focus on the tale of the fork.
“Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon” is a well-known story about two sisters who died on a false accusation from their mother-in-law. As their resentful ghosts kill a number of leaders, authorities try to avoid meetings in the city. Then an official volunteers to be the leader and listens to the sisters’ stories to resolve their resentment. They finally find peace in the hereafter. This is when “Janghwa Hongryeon jeon” ends and the creative reinterpretation of Kang begins.
From this point on, the novel focuses on the chiefs who were killed by the sisters. They also died harmlessly and became ghosts. The resentment of the sisters led to more grudges. What is problematic is that the sisters who caused such resentment are no longer on earth. The dead leaders become malicious and kill children and passers-by. The chief who resolved the sisters’ grudges begins to listen to the story of the deceased chiefs. They finally find a way to let go of their grudges and the city becomes peaceful again. What they needed was not revenge, but someone who listened to their story.
The leader who listens to the ghost story can be compared to an artist who comforts others in the world. Even though “The Ghost of Daebul Hotel” is a post-Korean War ghost story, which is a different context from the Joseon era of “Janghwa Hongryeon Jeon”, it is not much different in appearance than anyone. ‘One listen to the ghost story and help them resolve their resentment. Artists can be a type of leader who listen to the oppressed voices of others – not just Janghwa and Hongryeon but everyone’s voices. The warm welcome of others is the essence of art.