Have you ever watch MBC”s runaway hit, 태왕사신기, starring Bae Yong Joon, which took the country by storm in 2007? By chance, do you still remember about the legend of 단군왕검(Tangun Wanggeom) featured in the earlier episodes of the drama? If you haven’t seen the drama yet, don’t fret. Let’s read together, shall we?
Can you recall the white apparition in Episode 1 that looks a little like Bae Yong Joon (see above)? That’s 환웅(Hwanung ), by the way. He is said to be the young son of 환인(Hwanin), who is potrayed as the Heavenly King in ancient mythology. 환웅 had one wish - to descend from heaven and live among humans in the human world. 환인, aware of his son’s wish, examined the earth’s three great mountains and eventually chose 태백산 (Taebaek Mountain, now known as 묘향산 Myohyang Mountain of North Korea) as the most suitable place for his beloved son. He then gave 환웅 three heavenly gifts and commanded him to rule over his people.
With this, 환웅 descended from heaven to the human world and landed under a sandalwood tree of 태백산, together with 3,000 of his loyal followers. He, then named this special place 신시(Shinshi or City of God) and gave himself the title 환웅촌왕(Hwanung Chonwang or Heavenly King). Along with his trusted ministers of rain(현무/Hyeonmu), wind(백호/Baek-Ho) and clouds(청룡/Cheongnyong), he taught the locals more than 360 useful arts, including agriculture and arts, and imparted moral principles and instituted code of laws.
One fine day, a female bear and a tigress, who prayed to 환웅 request a blessing from the Heavenly King to be reincarnated as human beings. Taking pity on them, he gave them mugworts and 20 pieces of garlics each and said, “If you eat this holy food and do not see the sunlight for 100 days, your wish will be granted”.
The female bear and tigress took the food, ate them and retired into the same cave. Within 21 days, the bear which had been faithfully obeying 환웅’s words, soon transformed into a woman. On the other hand, the stubborn tigress which failed to obey the rules, remained in her original form.
Meanwhile, the former-bear, who is now a woman, had trouble finding a husband. So she prayed again to 환웅 under the same sandalwood tree to be blessed with a child. Upon hearing her prayer, 환웅 married her and the God-bear couple were blessed with a son named 단군왕검(Tangun Wanggeom), who is described by many as the founder of Korea.
Years later before 2000 BC, it was believed that 단군 came to 평양(old Pyongyang, now South Korea’s Sogyong 소굥), built his royal residence there and named it 고조선. He then set up his capital in 아사달 (Asadal. The exact location is said to be in Manchuria) and ruled for 1,500 years before a man named 기자 (Kija) succeeded his throne. 단군 was left with no choice but to move to 창탕경(Changtang-Gyeong), only to return again to 아사달 (Asadal), where he became a mountain god at the ancient age of 1,908!!
So there you have it, the legend of the founding father of Korea. Interesting, right? If one day, someone were to ask you who the founder of Korea is, you can confidently say “단군왕검” ^^
If you have any question, feel free to comment. We wanna hear from you ^^
(Excerpts of the legend was taken from 삼국유사)