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07/24/2017 Special > Special

Title

Dokkebi, the Korean Goblins

Dokkebi from the past to modern day TV drama

김승준

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Contents
Korean goblins, known as dokkebi, are often described with high horns, big eyes, clothes made out of tiger leather, and carrying an iron mace. These goblins often appear in old Korean tales and if we take a careful look into these tales, it is not hard to find that the image that people have about dokkebi is quite wrong. The idea of dokkebi with horns came from Japan’s Oni, which is a Japanese version of goblin. The famous story of “old man with a lump” is also what has been spread to Korea during Japanese colonial times. Diverse types of myths exist on where they came from, but it is hard know where they really came from.
 
Different Types of Dokkebi
 
Bride dokkebi is the only goblin with the shape of a beautiful lady. They are known to appear at night to fool around with drunk men. They have the best trait of a dokkebi in that they lure people well. Most of the men who are lured by the bride dokkebi are found under the bridges or inside the bushes talking nonsense. These goblins showed traits of god which rewards the good and punish the bad.
 
One-eyed dokkebi is one of the most famous goblin which are known to appear in Jeolla province or around Jeju island. Other than being one-eyed, they have good appetite which can be guessed from their huge mouth and belly. With their appetite, they sneak into people’s houses and eat up buckwheat jelly, steamed rice cake, and rice wine as much as they could then disappear the next morning.
 
One-legged dokkebi is also one of the most popular characters used in the traditional comics and tales. Although they only have one leg, they love doing Korean wrestling (ssireum). They are known to smell fishy and because they have one leg, it seems easy to beat them but it’s actually harder to win against them for some reason. One tip for winning against them is to push them towards the left since they won’t move an inch being pushed towards the right. Later on, these creatures have been brought back into the spotlight as TV drama characters.
 
This is a commonly mistaken idea of how dokkebi looks like which is actually Oni, a Japanese goblin.
(Photo courtesy of fr.aliexpress.com)

Dokkebi in Korean soap opera
 
Dokkebi became quite an issue through Korean drama earlier this year. By recreating the image of dokkebi in the modern world, it depicted the goblin as a god-like figure with ultimate power. Although some scenes described dokkebi different from what it should have been, there were aspects similar with the conventional goblin in  Korean traditional tales. 
 
Dokkebi has been depicted as a god-like figure in modern day drama
(Photo courtesy of tvN)

These goblins are known to be well adapted to warfare and they are born from old broomsticks, furniture, or materials that have human blood on it. The dokkebi from the drama is also a great warrior and was born from a sword stained with blood. Real, or older dokkebi is generally depicted as a huge, hairy man who enjoys wearing white trousers and bamboo braided hat. Drama depicted the goblin as tall, handsome man (being hairy yet to be identified) who wears a stylish outfit.
 
As for the characteristics they have, it shares quite similar traits while being quite different suited to modern day style. These goblins are known to be party animals being surrounded by people all night long drinking rice wine. They are quite naïve that they are tricked by humans a lot. In addition, they are known to be playful yet ill tempered. The drama shares a similar trait in that they are competitive yet naive. Other than that, this goblin does not enjoy being around people or drinking alcohol a lot. As such, the character of dokkebi created in the modern drama refers to the original idea of the goblin although changes have been made to suit the modern day viewers.

As such, there are diverse types of dokkebi in Korea and the list would go on ranging from baby ones to elderly and even the furniture being a type of dokkebi. Although some of them may seem quite different from humans, a lot of Korean goblins share a similar trait that they reward the good and punish the bad. For they are quite fair and square, it would be best to be kind to people around you to avoid any mishaps.

 
Korean dokkebi would look similar to this picture, a hairy man without horns.
(Photo courtesy of blog.naver.com/kcis)

 
Kim Seung-jun        nzdave94@hanyang.ac.kr
 
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