Seen in Jeonju

Countdown to Halloween Final: Death

31st October 2011

death 2deathToday, we will look at our final creature of the darkness on the Obscure Monster Countdown to Halloween, Death. However, calling Death obscure is not quite fair. Death is a common theme in quite a few Korean films and spans all of the genres. But did you know that Korea has a personification of death?  Just as Europe and North America have the Grim Reaper and Angels of Death, East Asia has Jeoseung Saja.  Dressed in billowing black robes and wearing his telltale tall black cap, the Jeoseung Saja walk the Earth seen only by those who are about to die. Pale skin and sunken eyes which stare unrelentingly at their target, these death-beings visit those at the point of death and call for their souls. For the most part, there is no escape from his firm grasp as he cannot be reasoned with or swayed from his task.. .(except in the comedy short film collection of Dasepo Naughty Girls Series in which the Jeoseung Saja allows the students and teachers of the school to barter for their lives with sexual favors).

If you have watched any television programs in the summer in Korea, you eventually come across a Jeoseung Saja, maybe on a comedy show or a sitcom. He might appear in a music video or in a movie. The first time I saw a Jeoseung Saja was on an episode of Legends of the Hometown and I couldn’t figure out what he was.. I thought he was simply a male ghost. But, he turned out to be much more than that. Jeoseung Sajas were never human, they are pure spirits in the employ of the Great King Yeomna who rules the underworld and judges the spirits of the recently deceased. Yeomna dispatches the Jeoseung where needed and the personifications of death collect the spirit and guide it safely along the Hwangcheon Road– the road to the afterlife– and even assist them in crossing the river, much like the god Charon along the river Styx in Greek/Roman mythology. They are not evil, but they are frightening, especially to those souls who refuse to admit that it is their time to die.

While the Jeoseung Saja have appeared in many films, they have never been the subject of a movie. Maybe it is time someone corrected that… 

Happy Halloween!

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