Mr. Hong the Devoted Son

During the reign of King Hyeon-Jong, there was a man with the last name Hong who lived in Goseong Village. He was an especially dutiful son from a young age, and received praise from far and wide for his exceptional filial piety. When his father got sick and became bedridden, Mr. Hong was so worried that he could hardly eat or drink, and he spent all his time at his father’s bedside. At that time, most people in Jeju were poor and had trouble meeting the needs of daily life such as preparing a decent bed to sleep in. Mr. Hong’s situation was no different, but he did all he could to provide his father with a comfortable place to lie down, while he slept on the floor dressed in fur clothing, tending to his father’s needs.  

Mr. Hong smelled his father’s feces every day that he was sick. As time went on, it became sweeter and sweeter. Mr. Hong said to himself “People only live long when their feces smells foul, so considering how sweet my father’s smells, he must surely be on the verge of death.” It is said that Mr. Hong was so miserable that he wailed inconsolably to the heavens. 

People also said that Mr. Hong never killed a living thing. After a few months of sleeping on the floor in fur clothing and taking care of his sick father, Mr. Hong was crawling with lice. Caring for nothing but the health of his father, he neither showered nor combed his hair, so it was only natural that he would become infested with lice. He had so many of them that they were embedded between each of the hairs of his fur clothing.

One warm spring day, it seemed as though his father’s condition had improved a little, so Mr. Hong decided to rid himself of the lice. He sat in a sunny spot in the front yard and started to remove them. Even though he plucked them out with his fingers, he did not kill them. Rather, he picked out each little white louse crawling between the hairs of his fur clothes and very carefully placed them on the ground. One should spare even the lives of lice, he thought.  

At this time, a horse hair merchant was going from door to door in Jeju to get material to take up to the mainland to sell. When he entered the front yard of Mr. Hong’s house, he stood and watched for a while as the man removed the lice from his clothing. He was astounded at how many lice there were, and couldn’t help but laugh at the way Mr. Hong was so carefully saving the life of each louse and placing it on the ground. He decided it would be fun to play a trick on the foolish man.

“Hey, you there! Why are you picking out all those lice one by one? There’s a way to get rid of them all at once,” he said. The horse hair merchant told Mr. Hong that if he put his fur clothes in a clay pot used for steaming rice and steamed them, he could get rid of all the lice. Though Mr. Hong was a very dutiful son and took care never to kill a living being, he was a little soft in the head. He did not know that if you steam fur clothing it completely dries out and becomes like roasted squid, making it impossible to wear again.

Mr. Hong called his wife, handed her his fur clothes and said “Put these in the clay steamer pot and steam them to get rid of all the lice.” After steaming the fur clothing, they of course dried out and were ruined for good; Mr. Hong heaved a sigh of despair. “Well now, look at this. I listened to that useless fool and ended up not only killing all the lice, but completely ruining my fur clothes as well!” He went on lamenting like this day after day, while the horse hair merchant bought up all the horse hair he could. 

Once he had enough material, the merchant found a boat that would take him back to the mainland, but the wind was too strong and the large waves it was kicking up made it impossible to leave. Every time it seemed that the wind and waves were dying down, he would set off in his boat, but then the weather would turn bad again, and he would have to return to the island. For three months and ten days he waited, while the strong winds kept him from departing.

The horse hair merchant was so frustrated that he sought out a fortune teller for advice. The fortune teller said “You’re having this problem because you committed the crime of misleading one of the world’s most dutiful children and making him act in opposition to his principles.” Realizing how sinful it was to have made such a mockery of Mr. Hong, the horse hair merchant went to see him. He bowed down low to the ground and offered a heartfelt apology, saying “I beg your forgiveness for the wrong that I have done.” It was only then, after relieving Mr. Hong’s anger, that a fair wind began to blow, allowing the horse hair merchant to sail back to the mainland.  

Mr. Hong also believed that he must avoid taking life even when offering up fish at his ancestors’ memorial services, so when the time came to catch some fish as a sacrificial offering, he would use a kind of straight hook that did not kill them. Mr. Hong believed that the fish he caught were sent from the Lord of Heaven. It is said that only fish that were perfectly suited for use as sacrificial food would get caught on his straight hook. According to one account, he would put the fish that he caught in a bowl of water and place it on the sacrificial table, then release them back into the sea when the ceremony was finished.

Darangshwi Oreum

King Hyeon-Jong died while Mr. Hong was still alive. Mr. Hong climbed to the top of Darangswi Oreum in Pyeongdae Village, offered up some incense, made four deep bows facing north, and wailed bitterly. It is said that the smell of the incense spread all the way to Seoul, so that even the royal palace knew that Mr. Hong of Jeju was burning incense for the deceased king. After that, a memorial stone praising Hong’s filial piety was sent down from the capital; it still stands to this day on the road from Goseong Village to Susan Village. That is why that stretch of road is called the Devoted Son’s Memorial Gate Road.

As recounted on February 28, 1975, by Yang Gi-Bin (69) of Siheung-ri, Seongsan-myeon, and the mother of Gim Mun-Ha of Goseong-ri, Seongsan-myeon.

From 99 Legends of Jeju Island, a compilation based on accounts compiled by Professor 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”. This piece of paper, or ‘memorial tablet’, is called a jibang (지방: 紙榜). Food such as rice, soup, fruit, vegetables and rice cakes are placed in front of the memorial tablet. Incense is burned in order to purify the environment, making ‘this world’ (iseung: 이승) – the world of the living – suitably sacred for a visit by the spirit of the departed, coming from ‘that world’ (jeoseung: 저승) – the world of the dead. 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.

Darangshwi Oreum : 다랑쉬 오름

   Oreum (오름) is the word in the dialect of Jeju used to designate the volcanic hills that dot the island. According to The Oreums of Jeju (제주의 오름), a study published by the Jeju Provincial Government in 1997, there are 368 oreums in Jeju.

Devoted Son’s Memorial Gate Road : Hyojamungeori : 효자문거리

Goseong Village : Goseong-ri : 고성리

King Hyeon-Jong (헌종: 憲宗) of the Joseon Dynsasty reigned from 1659 to 1674.

Lord of Heaven

   The word used is haneul (하늘), meaning sky, designating the highest and most powerful of the gods, the Lord (or Emperor) of Heaven (Cheonje: 천제: 天帝). In Korean mythology, the Lord of Heaven is called Hwanin (환인: 桓因), and he allowed his son to come down to Earth. That son was Hwanung (환웅: 桓雄), and he had a child with a bear. The child’s name was Dangun (단군: 檀君), and he became the progenitor of the Korean race.

Pyeongdae Village : Pyeongdae-ri : 평대리

Susan Village : Susan-ri : 수산리

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