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The Legend of Hong Gil Dong


Hong Gil Dong – 홍길동 – is the fictional character from a very common and traditional folk tale of Korea: Hong Gil Dong Jeon. He is the Korean version of Robin Hood but his name is used commonly as the Korean version of John Doe. For example, his name is used commonly on the forms of various bank application, public offices, airports and so on. But what is this story that made Hong Gil Dong an household name in Korea. Lets find out below.

The Legend of Hong Gil Dong

Hong Gil Dong was a very clever and hardworking boy who was born as a son to the second wife of his father. Now there is nothing wrong with being the son of the second wife but it was a major cause of concern for Hong Gil Dongs. Hong Gil Dong’s ambition was to be a highest official rank for the Government but however as per the government rule only the sons of the first wife could work for the King and his government. And because of this all the important positions were closed for Hong Gil Dong.

When Hong Gil Dong grew old enough for working he left his parent’s house. He decided to travel the land but had no definite plans, so he wandered aimlessly for a few months. He traveled across the mountains, rivers, valleys with the hope of finding some job.

One night while he was sleeping under a tree, he could hear some voice talking to him. Initially he thought it was some bad dream, but then he woke up with a jolt as the voice grew louder and he saw a man with a long and white flowing beard. Just like the white flowing beard of Gandolf from Lord of the Rings.

Now this man was every bit similar to Gandolf and he took Hong Gil Dong under his wing and taught him martial arts, a few tricks on magic and gave him the wisdom of the most famous and respected masters of his time. When the old man felt that Hong Gil Dong had learned enough he left him to his own device having utmost faith in him, that he would not misuse his power and wisdom that he has received from the old man.

Hong Gil Dong, now all super charged, came to a village where a fair was going on and a few rough men were competing to see which of them could lift the largest rock. When Hong Gil Dong volunteered to participate they all laughed at him looking at his size. Our main was as good the size of an hobbit.

They said to him. “Come on you Frodo lookalike, show us how strong you are”. Hong Gil dong picked up the largest rock and flunged it like a basketball to some faraway mountains until the rock disappeared completely from sight.

The men amazed by his power, requested him to become their leader. But when Hong Gil Dong came to know that they were petty thieves he refused. Later he gave in when they agreed to stop being thieves. Our man had his minions (oops fellowship) now.

They came to some big town where the mayor was notoriously corrupt and exploited his people by forcing them to give him grains, jewels, gems, precious stones and money. Hong Gil Dong decided to teach him a lesson and act Robin Hood by taking his riches and give it back to the poor, so he came up with this plan where he pretended to be some high-ranking officer. The mayor on hearing of his arrival invited him for dinner. Hong Gil Dong by some magic added some rocks to his share of food, and got hurt while chewing them. He shouted, “How dare you serve me food with rocks in it. You invited me to kill me. And I am not gonna leave you so easily..”. He punished the mayor, tied him and then took away his riches and gave it all to the poor. Before long Hong Gil Dong was famous through out the land. Everywhere poor people praised him because he took wealth from the corrupted government officials and gave it to the poor – The Korean Robin Hood was born. The corrupted officials now feared him.

The King was not pleased by Hong Gil Dongs activities and then he ordered his men to find Hong Gil Dong. But Hong Gil Dong tricked all the King’s men and tied them up side down to a tree. This infuriated the King. He now offered a big reward to anyone who would capture Hong Gil dong and he also arrested Hong Gil Dong’s father by putting him in prison.

Hong Gil Dong knew that he had to get his father out of prison, so he made 8 scarecrows out of straw, which looked exactly like him. And using some of the magic he brought these scarecrows to life and sent them across the country. Everywhere they went they shouted, “I am Hong Gil Dong”. People caught the scarecrow so that they could get the reward and bought it to the King. On seeing multiple Hong Gil Dongs the King lost it and started singing eminem – “May the real Hong Gil Dong please stand up, please stand up”.

All 8 scarecrows came forward and all spoke in one voice. “I am the real Hong Gil Dong. I could not work for you coz I am not the son of the first wife of my father. Now I am working for the people. I will take from these corrupted officials everything that belongs to my people and give it back to them. And if you cheat my people, I’ll take it from you too..”. The 8 scarecrows then turned back into straw and fell to the floor in front of the King’s eye.

The King now decided to try one last plan to capture Hong Gil Dong, so he put notices all over the country with a message for Hong Gil Dong, saying, “I am sorry my dear friend that we could not offer you a position in my government. Please accept my apologies and at the same time my offer to you as the highest minister in my office. Please meet me in my palace after you read my message. And yes if you join us within a week then we have decided to offer you some joining bonus as well as relocation expenses.”

Hong Gil Dong, after reading the notice, could not contain his excitement, so he rushed to the King’s palace. As soon as he entered, the soldiers captured him and took him to the King. The King with a smirk on his face said “See I have captured you now. you moron and I will capture your soul too. You will remain my prisoner until you die.”. But Hong Gil Dong laughed hard at the Kings innocence and disappeared like a whiff of colorful smoke in to the thin air.

Hong Gil dong then returned to his minions (oops fellowship) and along with them he went to the island far away across the ocean to form his own new country. Hong Gil Dong said, “In this country everyone would be born equal. Ours would be the first Equal Opportunities Country. The laws would be the same for all”. The other members shouted in chorus – Ahem!

But wait… Just in case you are wondering whatever happened to Hong Gil Dong’s father.. well to tell you the truth.. no body knows… Wait a minute, the last I know that he is doing the rounds of the Visa office so that he can get a visa for this new country.

And in conclusion let me share a small prank you can play with your Korean friends. So just in case if a Korean asks you.. Irumi Mwoeyo (Whats your name?).. so at that moment take out your hankie.. tie it around your neck (if you are a girl) or head (if you are boy) and shout (out loud) that I am Honggggggg Gilllllllll Donggggggggg….

And please stop laughing.. coz this is a serious story…

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