Korea's Love Story

Authored by:
Taylor W.

Taylor W.

Both semester that I have been in CIEE Seoul, I was able to participate on a cultural excursion. During these cultural excursions, we are taken to other parts of South Korea that have a valuable pieces of history surrounding them as well as many traditional sightseeing opportunities. This semester, our group traveled to Namwon first to eat a traditional Korean meal and learn one of Korea's most famous love stories.

The story of Yi Mon-ryong and Sung Chun-hyang is one of the most popular pansori (traditional story-telling song) and proclaims the love between these two characters regardless of the many obstacles they faced. This love story begins as Yi Mon-ryong, a scholar figure, caught sight of Chun-hyang, a gisaeng (Korean word for entertainer), swinging on a swing tied to a tree branch so that she could see over the wall into the outside world. As Mon-ryong spots her, it is love at first sight. However, Mon-ryong cannot just walk up to her and greet her, so he prepares a meeting between his younger male servant. The male servant meets with Chun-hyang's female servant to arrange a secret meeting. This begins the secret meetings between Mon-ryong and Chun-hyang, as well as their servants also forming feelings for each other as well. The problem that these two lovers face is that their love is illegal due to the separate classes they reside in, as Mon-ryong's class is higher than Chun-hyang's. Later in this story, Mon-ryong follows his father to Seoul, who before was the governor of the Namwon region. In Seoul, Mon-ryong studies for the government exam to become an official. The new governor, Governor Pyeong is a bad man who loves corruption and drinking. He hears rumors about Chun-hyang and her beauty and orders her to a banquet. When he first sees her, he demands that she remain his special gisaeng but she refuses. After her refusal, she is thrown in jail and tortured. In Seoul, Mon-ryong passes his exam and is appointed as a secret royal inspector. This means he travels from city to city pretending to be ordinary searching for corrupt politicians and after finding them, a royal army follows his to arrest the corrupt ones. In Namwon, he tests the new governor to see if he is corrupt. The new governor, not knowing who Mon-ryong truly is, throws him in the same jail that Chun-hyang is in. Mon-ryong finds her there and asks why she is there, but she does not recognize him diguesed. He tests her further by asking why she did not give up and become a special gisaeng for the governor, but she says that she cannot because of her undying loyalty towards her love. The following day is a big banquet the governor set up. He tells Chun-hyang that if she does not agree, she will be killed. Chun-hyang refuses and writes the word for "one heart" meaning loyalty. The governor then drags her out to be killed but Mon-ryong's royal army shows up to arrest the governor and save her. As word spreads to the king of Korea about her loyalty and their love, the king decided to award Chun-hyang by raising her to noble class so the two lovers can marry. 

 

This story identifies a lot of values that traditional Korea held to closely but is also a great love story. After we were told this story, we were able to see it come to life. We walked around the Chun-hyang Garden where we could see the locations of where all major events would told to have taken place. It was nice to learn about the traditional values and famous stories told for centuries in Korea; however, being able to walk through each part of the story helped bring it to life.  

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