[FOUNTAIN]Heat makes water demons stirIn a small village by the sea there lived Byeolnye, who was an orphan after her mother drowned herself to follow her deceased husband. Her neighbors would not come close to Byeolnye because they believed in the water demon. They feared that her mother’s sad soul could take them. Byeolyne also was haunted by the thought that she should comfort the soul of her mother and committed suicide with her lover by sinking a boat in the sea.
The above is the plot of “Seokwhachon,” the short story by Lee Cheong-jun, a famous novelist of Korea. The story explained well what Koreans thought of the water demon. Drowned persons become ghosts that could not go to heaven. They drift in this world until they take a victim into the water. Byeolnye’s neighbors ostracized her because they did not want to become a victim. There are some kinds of gut, shamanism rites in Korea, such as the soul picking-up gut, a gut for the drowned and a gut to console drowned souls; all of them were performed to send the drowned souls to the world of the dead.
There is an eerie story concerning the Maple River in Illinois in the United States. A girl was drowned 100 years ago and the body was not found. After the incident, something in the water pulled the feet of swimmers there; more than thirty persons died. In Australia, there is a legendary lake in which is said to appear a demon. In Greenland there is a habit of not drinking the water from fountains because the water is believed to invite a demon.
Water demons live in human societies too: people who circulate boilermakers just when the party is ending; those who sing of others’ faults at the police station even though they are not being questioned.
In the name of working for their bosses or groups they belong to, they do not hesitate to act badly. When problems are triggered by their misbehavior, they use their organizations as a shield against the punishment due them. In recent times, a series of water demon stories are drifting around at Yeouido, where the National Assembly is located. In connection with the Goodmorning City scandal, the tip of an iceberg of presidential election funds has been disclosed and a list of politicians who allegedly received money has been printed. It is rumored that this all has to do with the deeds of water demons trying to escape their own plight. In the height of summer, beware of the water.
by Lee Kyu-youn
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.