Judge Hong

Judge Hong’s first name was Seok-Gi. He lived in Goseong Village when he was young, but he married into the Kang family of Pyoseon. After he got married, he settled in that village, and some of his descendants still live there. Although he was unattractive, being quite short and having a pockmarked face, he was very skilled at writing. His father-in-law was well-versed in the Chinese classics, so he taught writing classes for children and was appointed as a government administrator. Since his father-in-law was so good at writing, Judge Hong learned how to write from him after he got married, and he became well known throughout the three counties of Jeju as someone highly skilled at writing. At that time, classes were taught at Confucian schools in each of the three districts – Jeju, Jeongui and Daejeong. Judge Hong always took first place in state examinations and became well known among scholars.  

One year, there was a murder in Ddoemi, which is now called Wimi Village. Someone had been dragged to a certain location by the arms, legs and head, and was then tied up tightly into a ball with rope. The victim was murdered by being hit with a hard, round, black stone. We don’t know who committed the crime or why. The offices of the minister of justice and minister of labor had to prepare and submit a report stating the results of their investigation into the facts of the case, but it was so strange that they had difficulty explaining the situation in words. Even after the judges and labor department directors from each of the three counties had spent a few days gathered together discussing the situation, they still found it difficult to express in Chinese characters the fact that the victim had been tied up into a ball and had been killed by being hit with a stone. They were under pressure to send the report to the capital quickly, and being unable to finish it, the governor expressed his concern and got involved.

After several rounds of discussions, they decided to call together all the scholarly men from the three counties. One of the labor department directors suggested that they ask Seok-Gi Hong of Jeongui County to write the report, since if anyone could do it, he could. The governor agreed. At the time, Seok-Gi Hong was living with his in-laws, which is where he received the message that the governor had summoned him. The fences at his in-laws’ house were overgrown with arrowroot vines. He plucked a few of them, pounded them into soft filaments with a rock, and made a writing brush by tying them to a piece of bamboo. He stuck the brush into his leggings and left for Jeju City.

When Mr. Hong entered the city through its southern gate, everyone who saw him laughed at the sight. The short little man with the pockmarked face, shabbily dressed like some third-rate country scholar, was simply too much. The judges, labor department directors and scholars from each of the three counties were all gathered around talking at the governor’s office, and when Mr. Hong entered, they also started giggling at his appearance. The governor was sitting in his office when the country scholar came in. He looked at him and asked the assembled men “Who on earth is that guy?” The labor department director who had recommended him told the governor that “It’s Seok-Gi Hong from Jeongui County.” The governor pointed at Mr. Hong, saying “That guy…! Really, that guy…?” Judging by his appearance, the governor couldn’t believe that he was truly capable of writing. The labor department director who had made the recommendation responded “Even though a dangyuja is all bumpy and unappealing to the eye, it’s the first food to be placed on the table during ancestor memorial ceremonies, isn’t it?” The governor agreed to give him a try at writing the report.

Seok-Gi Hong went up to the governor and bowed down before him. The governor explained the details of the case and told him to try writing the facts down in Chinese characters. Nothing was spared in making preparations for the writing of the report, with one man spreading out a large piece of white paper, another grinding the ink stick, and one holding a brush, waiting to present it to Mr. Hong. But he refused the brush that had been elaborately prepared for him, instead pulling out his own home-made arrowroot vine brush from his leggings and dipping it into the ink himself. It only took Mr. Hong a few short moments to describe in one cleverly crafted sentence the details of the case. He wrote down the characters ‘必字繫之不稜石打之云云’   which meant “The victim is said to have been tied up so that his body was curled into the shape of the character 必 (pil), and was struck and killed with a round stone that has no rough edges.” With that one short, elegant sentence, the report was finished.

The governor loudly applauded Mr. Hong’s skill at writing, and made him a government official right then and there, giving him the position of judge. In addition, he was given a piece of land in the area of Pyoseon Village known as Yeondwibengdi. The land was one seomjigi in size. The eldest descendant of the Hong family still tills that land and feeds his family with it today.  

As recounted on March 2, 1975, by Mr. Hong Seong-Chi (73) of Pyoseon-ri.

From 99 Legends of Jeju Island, a compilation based on accounts compiled by Hyun Yong-Joon.

Ancestors’ Memorial Services

   Memorial services held in the honor of departed relatives and ancestors are called jesa (제사: 祭祀). In Korea, the memorial service is held each year on the anniversary of the person’s death. A special table called a sang (상: 床) is set up in the place in which the service is to be held, and a picture of the deceased is place on that table, or in its stead a piece of paper on which is written “mother’s spirit” or “father’s spirit”. Food such as rice, soup, fruit, vegetables and rice cakes are placed in front of the memorial tablet. Once the spirit has arrived, the participants make deep bows of gratitude in front of the picture of the deceased or the memorial tablet. Alcohol is offered up to the person’s spirit, who is considered to partake of its essence, along with that of the food placed on the table. Once the spirit of the departed has finished the drink and accompanying meal, the participants bid farewell and the spirit returns to ‘that world’. The participants in the ceremony then share the food and drink among themselves.

Chinese characters

   Korean used to be written solely in Chinese characters. The unique Korean writing system called hangeul (한글) was created in 1443 under the direction of King Sejong.

Dangyuja : 당유자

   This is a type of large citron. 

Ddoemi : 뙤미 

Goseong Village : Goseong-ri : 고성리 : 古城理


   During the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1897) dynasties, the term mok (목: 牧) was used for an administrative district that included a large town, but it was also used to refer to the town itself. The largest town on the island was called Jeju Mok (Jejumok: 제주목: 濟州牧), and is the site of present day Jeju City. The chief administrator of a mok was called a moksa (목사: 牧使), here translated as governor.

Judge Hong : Hong Hyeongbang : 홍형방

   Seok-Gi (석기 : 碩基) Hong (홍: 洪) was a hyeongbang (형방: 刑房). During the Joseon Dynasty, each province had a hyeongbang, whose job was to take care of all matters related to the dispensation of justice. The hyeongbang played the role of both prosecutor and judge.

Judge Hong’s father-in-law

   The position he was assigned was ibang (이방: 吏房). During the Joseon Dynasty, ibang were placed in each district to oversee such matters as the management of personnel, performance reviews of government officials, and the awarding of medals and decorations.

Minister of Labor 

   This government position was called an ibang (이방: 吏房). See the footnote on Judge Hong’s fatjer-in-law.

Pyoseon Village : Pyoseon-ri : 표선리 : 表善理


   A seomjigi (섬지기) was a unit of land measurement that equaled the area that one seom (섬) of millet seed would fully cultivate. A seom was a unit of measurement for grains equal to about 180 liters.

Three districts

   During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897), there were three administrative districts in Jeju, known as the Three Eup (Sameup: 삼읍: 三邑): Jeju Mok (제주목: 濟州牧), Daejeong Hyeon (대정현: 大靜縣) and Jeongui Hyeon (정의현: 旌義縣).

Wimi Village : 위미리 : 爲美里

Yeondwibengdi : 연뒤벵디

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