When I read this story, I could really see when people say myths explain things we don’t know or don’t understand could be true. The truth is the people who are on the Korean peninsula now originally came from China. There were people when they got here, but they don’t know much about them. Some friends of mine took me site seeing once, and we came upon some big flat rocks. There were several rocks, and they were in a configuration where two would stand on their ends, and another was over them creating a kind of entrance because the rocks were big enough to walk through. They are kind of like the Korean Stonehenge. The Korean people only speculate about the people who put the rocks there. They know they were there in ancient times, but they don’t know anything about the people or why they stacked the rocks the way they did. There is more.
The early Koreans lived on the top of mountains for protection, and on that hill, the entrance to their house was built way up high, and you had to climb lots of steps to get there. If you climbed the hill and the stairs, you were completely out of breath when you got to the top. Their enemies would have a hard time getting to them. Their houses were built that way for protection.
Something else I found interesting in this story is that I know that many of the American Indian tribes thought bears were their brothers because they walked upright. Many tribes would kill and eat meat, but they left the bears alone. In this story, a bear actually becomes human. The ancestors of the Koreans came originally from Mongolia through China, and the ancestors of many American Indian tribes came from Mongolia across on an ice bridge to the Americas. I’m not sure how much of a connection there is, but there are definite similarities. Now, I will tell you the story.
Once upon a time, (the Koreans say yen-na yen-a rae), there was a god who ruled the Heavens. His name was Hwan-In. His son wanted to go to earth, so he did. His son’s name was Hwan -Un. His son lived on top of the highest mountain he could find. If you read the different accounts, they actually differ on which mountain Hwan-Un lived on.
Once, a bear and a tiger came to Hwan-Un and said they wanted to become human. Hwan-Un gave them each a bag of food and told them to go live in a cave for 100 days. The bear stayed in the cave eating the food. The tiger gave up and left.
After 100 days, the bear had become a woman. Hwan-Un really liked the woman. Her name was Ungyeo. Hwan-un decided to marry Ungyeo. They had a baby boy. His name was Dang-Un.
When Dang-Un grew up, he became the first emperor of the Korean people, the first emperor of the GoJeosan Dynasty in 233 B. C. He ruled for a thousand years. When he died, he became a mountain god.
The Korean people are not like the Japanese, though. Shintoism, the Japanese religion, taught the Japanese that their emperor was a god and that they were descended from the gods. Koreans never thought their emperor was a god. Shintoism also taught the Japanese they were destined to take over the world, but the Koreans never believed that about themselves either. This belief, however, is what caused the Japanese to constantly invade Korea. After all, Korea was the closest country. This Japanese Shinto belief also caused the Japanese involvement in World War 2. They actually thought they were descended from gods and were destined to take over the world. It is why the kamikaze pilots didn’t mind crashing their plane into an American aircraft carrier killing everyone on the carrier plus themselves. If you are descended from the gods, you will be fine when you die, and if you are destined to take over the world, then you would do anything to make it happen. However, the Japanese have changed. They no longer believe the myths of Shintoism because of the atomic bombs that were dropped on them. They are no longer a threat, but the older Koreans still don’t like them. The Koreans don’t believe their old myths either, but these stories are thousands and thousands of years old, very interesting, and do have some degree of truth in their basis if we can figure out what it is. However, I love both countries, and love to read about them. I have a Korean son in law, but I also have a Japanese son in law.