Gwishin (귀신) is the general term for “ghosts” in Korea(n). The term relates specifically to people who have died, not monsters or creatures, such as “goblins” (“도깨비”). Found in many places, (i.e. abandoned buildings, houses, cemeteries, and schools), there are three main types of gwishin that appear often in Korean folklore -- Cheonyeo Gwishin (virgin ghost), Mul Gwishin (water ghost), and Dalgyal Gwishin (egg ghosts). When someone dies without completing something they must do, their spirit stays, haunting others.
We took to the South Korean countryside this spring to the modern Concrete Box House and Earth House by Seoul-based architect, Byoung-Soo Cho. Both homes were built with a focus on “the primal relationship between nature and humans.” They became the ideal backdrop for us to explore Korean folklore and traditions, in some of our favorite pieces from this season’s collections.
We by Dante Matero
It was just beginning to be night and we were playing dress up to pass the time. The day was crumbling and a snake sprang loose from the grass in our yard, wrapping itself snugly around a rat, as if it were in love. We wandered around our dark home and waited for him, sensing that it wouldn’t be long now--positive that he would come back to us tonight, to the place where he made us what we are, on the twentieth anniversary of our deaths. And what did it feel like when, as the twilight dissolved into blackness, he was there? Walking straight through us—not yet seeing us—so handsome with his wrinkled work suit and square jaw? It was bliss. It seemed that in the last twenty years he hadn’t aged at all. Just like us. And before we knew what to do, before the earth was diced and dissolved by the strength of our rage, we reached out our arms and put our hands on his solid shoulders, and felt his body vibrate beneath us. We hadn’t remembered how strong he was, the muscles of his back taut as mousetraps. But now, as he shuddered at our embrace, we remembered how he had looked with that crowbar in his hands, swung high above his head and coming down on us like hail. We remembered and smiled, and led him into our home.