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Gwisin (Korean: 귀신) is a general term for ghosts in Korea. They are considered similar to a Yogoe (Korean: 요괴); they are people who have died, not monsters or creatures such as Dokkaebi. They can be found in many places, but most commonly in abandoned buildings, houses, cemeteries, forests, and schools. When a person dies without completing something that they must do (e.g. revenge or staying longer with their family), their spirit remains on earth to complete the task before going on to the underworld. However, very strong gwisin do not go to the underground world if they want to remain on earth, and over time these gain strength.
There are a lot of legends about Gwisin. Because they are a common form of ghost, children often make them up to scare others or parents tell stories to their children to teach them a lesson. Most legends are about revenge, revenge for their families or about men who cheated on their wives, or murdered the victim.
Gwisin are usually transparent, legless and float in mid-air. Old Gwisin usually have white Hanbok (한복) which are worn for funerals. They have long, drooping black hair and sometimes they are faceless, depending on their personality. Male Gwisin are somewhat rare, and may appear different.
There are many ways they can appear.
Gwisin can appear as her/his true self.
- They're seen floating, legless
- Standing still, usually facing the person who is witnessing the Gwisin.
- Photographs or films; however, Sponge (a Korean show that presents true trivia facts) has proven that you can make a photograph by your own reflection.
- Other creepy appearances shown in movies, television and comics
Gwisin can also appear to move things or prank you to get attention.
- Objects falling down, clattering, moving
- Physical contact with someone (e.g., pulling your shirt)
- Objects missing
- TV volume up or down
- Something has changed, even though you haven't changed anything
- They'll do anything to get attention, even if they have to flood your entire house with tap water.
When a Gwisin approaches, the atmosphere changes most of the time.
- Wind, breeze
- Suddenly cold
- You feel something that is touching you (e.g. a cloth gently touching your skin, hair feels like it's being played around with)
Personality and attitude
Gwisin have their own reasons to be on earth, usually that they have unfinished business. Depending on their personality and attitude, their strength and maliciousness can vary. For example, a very calm person who's always nice may not harm or bother other people. She/he will stick to her/his reason. A very aggressive ghost can harm people, even by accident. To become a Gwisin, they must have a very strong urge to stay, or they will have to go to the underground world. Here are some common reasons Gwisin stay on earth.
- Wanting to stay longer
- Wanting to stay longer with someone (e.g. family, friend, even other Gwisin)
- Revenge for someone
- Revenge for her/himself
- Rampaging or causing trouble
- Unsuccessful birth
- To prank or trick people
- Other jobs to finish
- Other reasons
Though they're ghosts, that does not mean their personality and attitude change. If they do not get a person's attention, they can become impatient. For example, they might want attention to send a message to a mortal human being, but if they do not understand or notice, Gwisin may become a little aggressive.
Malicious Gwisin who trick or kill people are extremely dangerous, yet no one has sighted one yet. However, people spread rumors about abandoned places, mountains and forests. Schools are another place that ghosts can come out, but it is rare. However, students who committed suicide or were killed do appear, often looking for justice or a chance to graduate.
Gwisin, just like any other ghosts, become stronger as time passes. They learn to touch things and grab them. Because they are spirits who have no physical human body, their spirit body is transparent and goes through things. After time they learn how to touch and control things.
Very old, ancient villages and towns very often have Gwisin. There is at least one sighting of a Gwisin in every place in Korea. Many people claim to have seen or heard Gwisins.
In popular culture
- Jon Dunbar (December 15, 2011). "Supernatural Creatures of Korean Mythology". Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- World of Human and Gwisin, Korea Creative Content Agency (Korean)