Ghostly encountersA female announcer fainted on the spot where the radio serial “Ghostly Legends of the Country” was recorded.
She lost consciousness because she was scared to death when she listened to the climax of a ghostly legend from the radio series. Many people shivered while listening to the show, or even when they heard its musical backdrop, Claude Debussy’s “En Bateau.”
The serial was first broadcast in May 1966. It inspired the movie world to produce “Public Cemetery in the Moonlight,” which was acclaimed to be “a model film that features a female Korean ghost.”
In 1968, a film under the title “Ghostly Legends of the Country,” directed by Chang Il-ho, was released.
The popularity of the radio drama owed a lot to the ghostly voice of narrator Yoo Ki-hyeon.
He used to say, “In a remote mountainous area of Gangwon Province, there lived an ill-natured mother-in-law and a beautiful daughter-in-law .?.?. in the end, the heavens moved and gave her a blessing.”
A group of old people from the countryside once came to the broadcasting station to see Yoo. When they encountered a man in his 30s, they didn’t believe he was the famous Yoo. So they angrily demanded the “real Yoo Ki-hyeon.”
When Yoo was recording the last episode of the show in October 1978, he couldn’t control himself and actually burst into tears, revealing that he had terminal breast cancer.
Yoo was awarded the Grand Radio Broadcasting Prize that year, but he died soon afterward. The radio serial established a record as the longest-running drama, with 4,408 episodes.
But it repeated similar stories toward the end of its run, its creative resources exhausted. As the audience repeatedly heard stories about the dragon finally ascending to heaven, they scoffed that heaven was quickly running out of space.
In 1977, a television station started a similar serial, which was called “Home of Legends.”
The most successful episode was “Deogdae-gol.” Viewers shuddered in terror when a character in one of the episodes screamed, “Give my leg back!”
A deogdae-gol is a type of burial ground where the bodies are placed on a board and covered with a straw mat. In this episode, a woman who received advice that her sick husband should consume human flesh to cure his disease visits a deogdae-gol to cut up the body of a man who passed away recently. While the woman is running, holding the man’s leg in the rain, his body rises up behind her and chases her, screaming and leaping on one leg. That scene gave many viewers the creeps. It is said that the film is similar to “Han,” directed by Yoo Hyeon-mok, who passed away in June 2009. But that is difficult to verify since Yoo Hyeon-mok’s film is lost.
It is also said that “visual ghosts” on television are not as frightening as those on the radio that stimulate the imagination of listeners. They also say that black and white ghosts are more terrifying than today’s technicolor ones. Television stations aired Home of Legends again this summer - too bad it wasn’t as thrilling and scary the second time around.
The writer is a columnist on culture.
By Lee Sang-kook
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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