Korean Folktales

Korean Folktales

Korean folktales are similiar to other folktales in that most of them have morals. They have had a definite influence on Korean culture as many aspects of folktales blend into regular society and vice versa! You may want to utilize an answering service to find out more information.

Korean folktales are similiar to other folktales in that most of them have morals. They have had a definite influence on Korean culture as many aspects of folktales blend into regular society and vice versa! You may want to utilize an answering service to find out more information. For instance, the mirror in The Looking Glass symbolizes a reflection of one’s self for modern Koreans. The Teacher’s Secret reflects the feelings of many about the schools they grew up in. In The Young Man and The Wild Ginseng, the ginseng is a sacred root which is sort of a cure-all for many diseases. A common nickname for Korean children who misbehave is chung-gaeguri, or green frog, which comes from a folktale called “The Green Frogs”. People who take escorted tours of Korea may come across mythology books that have many interesting folktales. Below are some of the most common Korean folktales.

The Teacher’s Secret

There is a strict teacher that warns his students that if they eat the snacks he keeps in a basket in his closest, they will die. When he goes out of town, the children eat all of the snacks and come up with a lie to tell the teacher. When the teacher returns, he finds them sprawled out on the floor and asks what happened. They say they broke something and felt so bad that they ate his snacks so they could die as punishment. The teacher said nothing and left. Once he’s outside, he smiled and said, “Hmmm, they are growing!”

The Magistrate and the Little Boy

One day, a cruel magistrate orders a man to gather fresh fruit in the middle of winter. The man tries but falls gravely ill. His 10-year-old son goes and tells the magistrate that his father was bitten by a snake. The magistrate tells the boy that there are no snakes out in winter and the boy outsmarts him by saying that if the magistrate acknowledges it is winter, then his father cannot find fresh fruit and he must rescind his order.

The Seat of Honor

A group of animals contest to see who gets to sit at the “head” of the table, the seat of honor. The animals tell stories to convince each other that they’re the oldest and deserve to sit there. Animals make up great tales until a frog starts crying, saying he is old enough to remember his grandson who died many years ago. The frog gets the seat.

The Looking Glass

A man buys a mirror and takes it home, not telling anyone he has it. Nobody in his house has seen a mirror before so when his wife looks in it, she doesn’t recognize herself and assumes her husband has brought home a mistress. When she shows it to her mother, all she sees is an old woman and her father sees an old man. The woman then throws the mirror onto the floor, smashing it.

The Young Man and the Wild Ginseng

A young man with a wife and son is caring for his desperately ill father. A priest tells him the only way to save him is to boil his own son and feed the broth to his father. The man does it and his father recovers. The next day, his son returns home from a friend’s house. At first, the man doesn’t believe it. Later, he dreams of the priest who tells him that the “son” that he cooked was actually a thousand year old wild ginseng. Apparently, the priest was highly impressed by the young man’s filial piety.

The Great Fortune-teller

This story tells the story of two scholars, Stone and Toad, who come up with a plan to get rich. Toad is going to pretend to be a diviner. Stone steals a royal seal and hides it. Then Toad “divines it” and set off a chain of events which made Toad famous throughout the land. Stone and Toad become rich and live happily ever after.

The Insane Magistrate

There is a cruel magistrate who is hated by all his subordinates. They decide to teach the magistrate a lesson. One of them slaps him and when he tells his coworkers what has happened, nobody believes him, saying, “Who would dare?” As he keeps insisting he was slapped, the magistrate’s son was told he was insane. When the magistrate’s son confronts him, he kicks his son. It happens that a provincial magistrate is passing through and he relieves the cruel magistrate of his post. The magistrate spends the rest of his life in a home, insisting his subordinate had slapped him with no one believing him.

The Tiger in the Trap

A tiger is caught in a trap and a man comes along and saves him. The tiger tries to kill the man because he says that the trap was set by humans in the first place. First, they go to the cow who agrees that it’s the fault of humans. Secondly, they go to the pine tree who takes the side of the tiger. Finally, they meet a rabbit who tricks the ungrateful tiger back into the trap.

The Salt Peddler and the White Fox

A poor salt peddler travels to a village to sell his salt and camps overnight on the way home. He sees a white fox turn itself into a woman and go towards the town. Following it, he discovers the old woman making a very rich man sick. He kills the woman, who turns back into a fox, and the man gets well and rewards him.

The Magpie and the Bell

A young scholar kills a snake in order to save a small magpie, not knowing the snake has a companion. The other snake tries to lure the man into a trap for revenge but many young magpies rush in and save him from being killed.

The Goblin’s Mallet

Kapdong is a very greedy man while his younger brother Uldong is very kind. One day, Uldong got lost when he went out to gather nuts for the family. While taking shelter in an abandoned house, Uldong heard Goblins that night and hid in a closet. Goblins came in and pounded on the floor with mallets. Uldong put a nut into his mouth to keep his teeth from chattering but he cracked it and the sound scared the Goblins off. They left behind a bag of gold and a magical mallet that could produce gold. Kapdong was jealous and went to the house but the goblins beat him up.

The Substitute Son-in-law

A man goes in search for a suitable husband for his daughter. He sees a handsome boy and goes to the boy’s father to set up a marriage. However, the boy’s father sends his servant, a wood-gatherer, in place of his son. Though the man is upset, his daughter agrees to marry the wood-gatherer. Five years later, the man has made the family rich by selling all of his firewood and ten years later, he becomes a state official. The handsome boy spends the rest of his life in poverty.


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