PSA of the day: Say no to drugs! (Or too much beer, for thou shalt regret it.) Alas, that frosh season has begun.
As always, many thanks to Luv for the screencaps.
SONG OF THE DAY
Kim Gun-mo – “슬픈 휴식” (Sad rest) [ Download ]
Episode 6: Gisaeng House Ghost Story
A bunch of nobles are having a night party, with the usual crowd of gisaeng simpering at their sides. One of them excuses himself (presumably for the bathroom). He staggers drunkenly to the misted pond but sees a shoe floating around. He scoots closer to the edge of the water and reaches out to the shoe but is pulled underwater by a ghost.
Being drunk, he drowns rather quickly.
(Points for creepiest opening yet.)
The next morning, the noble who hosted the party receives a personal visit from an investigator, who has ruled the death an ‘accidental slip’. The investigator tries to suck up to the noble but ends up getting in trouble for mentioning ghosts. He receives veiled orders to stamp on any rumours of a ghost, and is summarily dismissed. (The noble is a bit too disturbed about this haunting rumour to be uninvolved. Oh yay.)
At the gisaeng house in question, a man demands to be let in, but since there was a death the night before, the place isn’t open to entertaining. The man ends up injuring his waist in the struggle to enter, which attracts the attention of one of the gisaengs.
She leads him inside, and when he remarks that the doorsteps of the gisaeng house are higher than even the noble houses’, she gets all happy, thinking that he might be a noble. Luckily, common sense prevails. They meet a rather deranged gisaeng, who walks around with disarranged hair and a kitchen knife – doing her share of contributing to the ghost rumour, I suppose.
The crazy gisaeng confronts a girl in prayer, accusing her of bringing ‘her’ here. The visitor is disturbed, obviously, but his guide explains that the two started acting weirdly about half a month ago – one became mute and the other is the knife girl.
The knife girl hears a gayageum playing, and she’s freaked out because the playing sound like that of the dead girl’s. When she opens the door, a white-faced ghost looks up accusingly at her. Knife girl starts stabbing at the floor mat.
The head gisaeng comes and orders knife girl to be taken away. She also gives orders that no one is to let knife girl out without permission.
The visitor’s guide gives him some tea and refreshments in her room. He asks about the knife girl, and is told that she almost became a lesser wife of Kim Won Ik, the most powerful noble in the district, but then he fell in love with another girl. Curious, he asks the gisaeng to introduce him to the ravishing gisaeng who enchanted Kim, but the gisaeng changes the subject and asks to see what he has in his scroll case.
He takes out a painting of a pretty girl – who looks astonishingly like the second gisaeng Kim fell in love with. (Hm, I wonder why.) He wants to see the girl in the painting right away, but the gisaeng he’s with is offended that he would go looking for another woman – so he makes a promise – he paints one of her, and he gets to stay the night. (Not that way, I don’t think.)
At night, the mute gisaeng is still praying – she probably does this day and night. The ghost comes to haunt her, but when the mute girl looks up, there’s nothing there.
The man continues his search for the girl in his painting. As he stands still, the ghost reaches her hand toward him, but he walks away. He feels followed, however, and goes back to the courtyard. He rips open a set of doors only to disturb a sleeping gisaeng. She screams in surprise. Oops.
In the warehouse, knife girl screams and pleads innocence as the ghost rises out of a water tank. Hmm. She keeps saying that she didn’t do it. The ghost has a trail of blood running down from one eye, and she advances toward knife girl.
When the man climbs on the roof and peeks in, there’s nothing there, besides knife girl batting away at straw. However, when he’s gone, and she goes to investigate the water tank, the ghost pulls her in.
The next morning, the chatty gisaeng who welcomed the visitor comes to deliver some food to knife girl, only to discover her body. The visitor is disturbed at the head gisaeng’s lack of emotion (the chatty gisaeng seems to be the most kind-hearted, the others merely sniffle). However, as an outsider he is escorted away.
Elsewhere, Kim wants to know whether or not the girl committed suicide. Knife girl, before she went crazy, was high-spirited and proud. It would seem unlikely that she would go off her nut just because minister Kim rejected her.
Kim promises a higher position to the investigator if he can figure out what’s going on at the gisaeng house. They pass the mysterious visitor as they leave.
Knife girl is buried in a canvas sack, without any ceremony. The chatty gisaeng feels that this is too little, but the head gisaeng tells her to mind her own mouth. The mute servant girl walks away.
The visitor dude claims to be a messenger from Lord Lee’s widow, with the painting as a gift for mourning. He’s a very talented painter, and claims to be able to paint people’s emotions.
The head gisaeng looks at the mass of people dragging the pond under the investigator’s orders, and shrewdly invites him in for a few drinks. His men too, are offered refreshments. She’s either hiding something or trying to avoid bad business.
One worker leaves his snagged net in the water and goes off to have lunch. After he leaves, the net gets tugged down into the water.
While working, the painter asks permission to see the prettiest gisaeng in the area. The noble grants him permission, but warns him that there exist ‘poisonous flowers’ who kill men.
The murdered ghost is So Wol, who is presumed missing by all the others. She’s also got a rather proud personality. (Yeah, too many jealous girls in one place and things will end up happening. It’s called high school.) Anyway, the chatty gisaeng gets in trouble for mentioning her. However, the head gisaeng leaves her alone with the investigator, with discreet ‘orders’.
(I mentioned this before, but the music in some parts sounds really quite good.)
The investigator wakes up at the middle of the night to feel a really cold bedmate, who seems to be the ghost. He runs outside, in a panic, but all the doors are slamming shut (and conveniently, no one hears him). He ends up running to a pavilion near the pond.
As he sits in the pavilion, catching his breath, the ghost rises up behind him and pulls him over the concrete steps, breaking his neck.
The painter hears of the news and goes to check on the chatty gisaeng, who’s petrified with terror. Poor thing. But she seems a bit too honest and clueless to be a victim.
Kim goes to see the body of his (if not friend, then) associate. His limp is even more pronounced now. And now he has to act in his official capacity as magistrate. First order: bring in all the occupants of the gisaeng house for investigation.
During the interrogation, Kim terrifies the chatty gisaeng by putting her on the stand. Besides the fact that the girl sleeps like a hog, she also mentions So Wol (who seems to be a taboo subject these days) and a bunch of nonsense. As the one who was with him last, she is under the most suspicion. (But the girl is a lackwit, dudes.)
The head gisaeng is willing to talk to lord Kim alone if he lets all her girls go. Soo… when they’re alone, she tells Kim that according to her intuition, that it’s the fault of the ghost. Lord Kim doesn’t believe her. He threatens her with death if she doesn’t tell the truth.
The head gisaeng replies that the life of a gisaeng is worth even less than a street dog’s, and almost challenges Kim. Kim lets his temper fly and slices in the general direction of her head, and then threatens to carve her heart out if she doesn’t tell him the truth. But the head gisaeng is certain this is a ghost.
The painter pays the chatty gisaeng to tell him what’s really going on. So, apparently Ae Hyang was the knife girl who was found in a water tank. So Wol came from a yangban family and was not willing to debase herself, which angered Ae Hyang. As a result, Ae Hyang always picked on So Wol.
The mute girl was So Wol’s servant, and would protect her. But the beatings went on.
Then, half a month ago, So Wol agreed to entertain Lord Kim. Obviously Ae Hyang was angry, and came to confront So Wol. When So Wol directly told Ae Hyang that she wouldn’t get to marry Lord Kim, Ae Hyang presumably killed So Wol and spread the rumour that she had run away.
The rumour was easily believed, as So Wol had a lover named Hyo Rang before she came to the gisaeng house. The painter gets really distressed, and walks off for some alone time (he’s distressed at the news of her death).
As he walks around, he recalls painting So Wol, who was dressed as a noble girl, back in some fuzzy, happy time when he didn’t wear a beard.
Lord Kim asks Hyo Rang if he’s had any interesting news from the capital. He recounts the story of a lord who was accused of treason, and his whole family sent to be slaves. One of the young ladies of the house was the girl in his painting, and when she was being sent off, he gave her a jeweled pendant as a keepsake.
However, the lord was falsely accused. In addition, it was done on purpose and out of greed. Kim is obviously disturbed, though he doesn’t show it. Hyo Rang warns him of Heaven’s revenge, then leaves after a rather timely peal of thunder.
Once alone, Kim drifts into remembering a visit to the gisaeng house. He and Lee had gloated over sending So Wol’s father to his death. So Wol had probably planned to kill him, but only managed to stab him in the shoulder. So then he had her killed.
Kim goes to visit the head gisaeng, who asks him what happened the night So Wol was with him. She asks to be let back to the gisaeng house, to more effectively shut the mouths of the curious gisaeng. He threatens her, obliquely, that she had better keep her mouth closed too, or she would be killed.
The head gisaeng goes home, and Kim sends assassins after her anyway. Luckily, So Wol’s lover rescues her, and orders his guard to fetch more people.
His mind fully settled, Kim goes home, only to find Lee (not the one that died, the other one) waiting for him. Lee tells him that he didn’t send anyone with a painting, and also that a minister who has the authority of the king is rumoured to be somewhere around the area.
Kim connects the dots, obviously.
The head gisaeng tells Hyo Rang about her troubles as a gisaeng, and also that she never stopped waiting for him, no matter what happened. The only thing she knows is that So Wol disappeared after spending time alone with Kim.
Kim rides off to torch the gisaeng house with lots of soldiers.
At the same time, So Wol’s lover and the head gisaeng ask Ok Seom (So Wol’s servant) about what happened. The girl maintains her muteness. As Hyo Rang gives up, he recognizes the pendant he gave So Wol on Ok Seom. This leads to the servant girl to recognize him and speak up.
So Wol chased Kim out of the room, dagger in hand (it was such a small dagger, though – I would suggest something larger). At the pavilion, just as she was about to kill him, the investigator from earlier slashed her across the back. Not one to give up, So Wol stabs Kim really hard in the leg (hence the limp) and gets stabbed through the heart.
Ok Seom only saw this because she noticed that So Wol had dropped the pendant in her pursuit of Kim.
As she died, So Wol swore to get to Kim, even if she was dead.
The two men are interrupted in their plans to dispose of the body by Ae Hyang, who, for whatever reason, was wandering out there at night. She helps dispose of So Wol’s body into the pond.
Back to the present – So Wol’s lover is very hard hit by the news that she is dead. The poor servant, finally relieved of her burden, is also giving way to grief. The painter pockets the pendant and leaves.
At the door, he is stopped by Kim and his score of guards. Kim accuses him of killing the investigator, and sets his guards on Hyo Rang, but then a group of elite fighters dressed in white come to the man’s aid.
Fighting ensues, and obviously So Wol’s lover gains the upper hand. Kim tries to run off, but is blocked. (His hat is half sliced, which amuses me, for some reason.) I do wish to see what happens if Kim tries to hurt So Wol’s boyfriend. Ghost fireworks will clearly come.
So Wol’s lover chases Kim into the nearby gisaeng living quarters. Um? 1) All the gisaeng are mysteriously gone. 2) Suddenly So Wol’s lover can’t fight against a man who’s injured in the leg and shoulder? Wow.
Anyway, Kim gloats at having the upper hand against the unarmed man. Just as Kim’s about to kill the other man, So Wol’s ghost appears. And she looks especially annoyed too. Kim is shut away on one side of the doors, while her boyfriend is futilely trying to open another set of doors.
Humph. Kim tries to get So Wol to let him go on the grounds of how nice he was to her. (UM? MEMBERS OF PLANET ENTITLEMENT PLS TO BE GOING HOME.) Riiight. So, when that doesn’t work, he just plain begs.
So Wol is not happy, and she doesn’t give a fig for his life either. She mentions that she cannot allow her beloved’s hands to be touched by the taint of blood (esp blood that is so not worthy like Kim’s). In a nice piece of telekinetic powers, she levitates Kim’s sword and rams it in his gut.
If no one believes in ghosts, well, we can always say Kim committed suicide.
Hyo Rang, on the other side of the door, is doing his despairing Romeo thing.
Hyo Rang: Are you angry at me for not being able to protect you? Do you hate me now, is this why you refuse to see me? That’s alright. I’ll find you in the underworld and kneel for your forgiveness there.
Of course she’s not going to let him stick a very sharp piece of metal in his stomach. The doors open, and she turns around of face him. In the process, she also goes from looking like a vengeance ghost to looking more like herself. Hyo Rang can’t get up fast enough.
In a symbolically significant shot, we see that they are in two different rooms, separated by a door, and they talk through the screen door.
So Wol: I am no longer the girl you know.
Hyo Rang: I have only one beloved in this world. It doesn’t matter if you are ghost or human. I have missed you so much. Please open this door and let me see you.
The doors open, So Wol is glowing gently.
Hyo Rang: I really have missed you.
So Wol: So have I. Not a moment goes by that I don’t think of you.
Hyo Rang: Dear wife…
So Wol: No! You cannot come. I am already a ghost of hell.
Hyo Rang: No, it’s not true. You will always be the one whom I love. I’m sorry I was too late. I couldn’t protect you after all.
So Wol: No. I am able to see you on my last journey home. I am already fortunate. Now I will not be afraid, nor will I grieve. I will think of you on road. Thank you for not forgetting me and coming to seek me.
Hyo Rang: In the future, I will not forget you either. Go well, dear wife.
(Waaaah. *melts in a puddle of angst*)
So Wol’s spirit floats backward and the door closes on her smiling face. Then the room is empty.
The next morning, Hyo Rang leaves with the gratitude of the head gisaeng, and tells them to take care. He looks around once more, and leaves.
(The narrator tells us that this story is based on one chapter of the Tale of Chun Hyang – of one young man who fell in love with a gisaeng. He succeeded in the imperial tests and became a yangban, but the gisaeng who was waiting for him had already passed away.)
- From the words they’re using (well, the subs are using), it sounds like So Wol and Hyo Rang are married. They use the honorific for ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ in any case.
- I’m sorry if I don’t name them by name right away – I write the recaps as I watch the episode, and if the names aren’t mentioned I can’t give them to you. Hopefully assigning epithets like ‘knife girl’ will help things.
- Hometown of Legends: Episode 5
- Hometown of Legends: Episode 4
- Hometown of Legends: Episode 3
- Hometown of Legends: Episode 2
- Hometown of Legends: Episode 1
- Hometown of Legends / Legendary Hometown