Unlike the popular mythologies around the world, Korean mythology is well-known for its amalgamation of several cultural elements and religious beliefs in East Asia.
Korean mythology is greatly influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, Shamanism, and various teachings of the famous Chinese philosopher, Confucius.
The local narratives and myths also play a significant role in Korean mythological stories. This is because there are different tales and legends depending on the location of origin of such stories.
13 Most Powerful Korean Mythology Gods and Goddesses
Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful gods and goddesses in Korean mythology.
He is the highest deity or the king of all the Korean gods and is believed to be the supreme ruler of heaven or called Haneul. He is also known as the father of all the other Korean gods. It is also said that Sang-Je was the only medium that many humans had to pass through to become immortal gods in the Korean pantheon. He is also called Hwanin, which is known to be his birth name.
According to the religion of Cheondoism, he is known as the god representing the sky. Cheondoism is a Korean religion that started in the 20th century. The traditions of Cheondoism are very similar to Korean Shamanism.
He is the supreme ruler and king of the underworld in the Korean pantheon of gods and goddesses. He was the fifth among the ten kings of the underworld. Yeomna is the only Korean god who has the highest authority over the judgments passed on to the dead in the underworld. The dead spirits in Korean mythology are known to live in the underworld and are led by the god Yeomna.
Yeomna, therefore, has the primary responsibility of deciding the fate of the dead souls in the afterlife after evaluating their sins.
Yeomna has an equivalent deity in the Hindu pantheon of gods, called Yama, the god of death and justice, also popularly known as the Dharmaraja. It is therefore believed that Yeomna was the first person to have experienced death in the Hindu myth of the Yama.
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He is the cunning trickster god in the Korean pantheon and is also called the first ruler of mother earth. Seokga is known to have created the world along with Mireuk. In Korean mythology, surprisingly, Seokga is also called Siddhartha Gautama. Seokga and Mireuk competed against each other in three competitions in order to decide the final ruler of the world.
Legend has it that, Seokga sowed a Magnolia flower and declared that the direction of the growth of the flower would decide the ultimate ruler. Whoever the flower drifts toward gets to rule the world – was the criterion set for winning.
Mireuk manages to win this, but the trickster Seokga cheats in the game. He chops off the plant and keeps it in his lap, angering Mireuk. The furious Mireuk, in a fit of rage, causes the first death in the world and creates a permanent state of confusion and chaos.
As mentioned before, she is the goddess symbolizing the moon and the sibling of the Korean sun god, Haemosu. Legend has it that she ascended to the heavens, and she went up so high that she reached the moon. Thus she became the popular moon goddess in the Korean pantheon.
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Jacheongbi is the goddess of agriculture and abundance in Korean mythology. She symbolizes plenty and is known to have gifted the process of farming which is responsible for creating abundance for humankind.
She is also the goddess symbolizing love as well as the earth. It is believed that Jacheongbi is a brave goddess who makes stronger, realistic decisions without falling into the trap of emotions. Jacheongbi develops a liking for Mun-doryeong. However, she refuses to show her emotions and turns herself into a boy to accompany him to school for three years.
Eventually, Mun-doryeong finds out the truth and confesses his love for Jacheongbi. The relationship is short-lived as Mun-doryeong is summoned back to heaven. His family, too, doesn’t approve of his relationship with Jacheongbi.
But Jacheongbi doesn’t give up on him and courageously crosses the red hot bridge filled with spikes to be with Mun-doryeong forever.
Impressed with her bravery to overcome the hurdles to reach heaven, she is eventually proclaimed the goddess of agriculture, farming, and earth.
Mireuk is the ultimate Korean god of creation as well as destruction. He was primarily responsible for the creation of the world. But it is also believed that he had unsurpassable powers that could even destroy all his creations. Legend states that Mireuk is the primary reason why perfection was snatched away from the world. Mireuk’s rage caused the first death in the world and threw the world into endless chaos.
Goddess Paritegi is popularly known as the major guiding light of the underworld. She leads the dead spirits to their abode in the underworld. She is believed to illuminate their paths to their final place after death. She is also known to be avidly worshipped and celebrated in Korean shamanic traditions.
She is the only goddess who has traveled to the underworld and can see through both the worlds by being at the boundaries existing between the two worlds. So, the rejected or the seventh princess acts as a messenger to convey spiritual messages from the other side of the underworld. She also guides dead souls stuck in hell back to their original resting place in the underworld.
Hwanung is one of the Korean gods born to Sang-je. He lived in heaven but always wished he could help the mortals living on the earth. Sang-je agreed to send his son to the earth to rule over the mortals and restore peace.
When Hwanung was sent to the earth, he was accompanied by three thousand servants as well as three Korean gods representing the rain, the clouds, and the winds. With his three thousand followers, Hwanung reached the Baekdu mountain on earth and also established the “City of God” called Sinsi.
Hwanung was greatly revered by a tiger and bear who religiously prayed to him. He promised to turn them into humans if they accepted the challenge of eating only garlic bulbs and mugworts for hundred days hidden away in a cave without venturing out.
The tiger gave up in under twenty-one days. But the bear relentlessly kept at it. Impressed by the bear’s discipline and dedication to fulfilling the challenge, Hwanung, as promised, grants the wish. He instantly turns the bear into a pretty woman called Ungnyeo.
Happy with her transformation, the woman constantly prays and expresses her gratitude to Hwanung with several offerings every day. However, she becomes lonely over time and requests Hwanung to bless her with a child. Hwanung instead marries her, and they both give birth to a child, also a highly respected god in the Korean pantheon – Dangun
Haemosu is called the Korean god of the sun, and he is also the son of Sang-Je. He is also the brother of the goddess Dalnim. Dalnim, in Korean mythology, is known as the goddess representing the moon. Haemosu also founded the kingdom of Buyeo. He was the father of Chumo, the Holy or Go-Jumong, who established the kingdom of Goguryeo.
With respect to his appearance, he is believed to wear a unique-looking headgear made of crow feathers. According to the Korean myth, he is also known to wield a sword and ride a chariot pulled by five dragons.
Dangun is known as the son of Hwanung and his follower/wife, Ungnyeo. He is one of the most esteemed gods in the Korean pantheon. Dangun also founded the first Korean kingdom of Gojoseon. It is believed that he commenced his rule over the Northern part of Korea in 2333 BC.
Legend states that he also built the renowned city of Asadal, which was the capital city of Gojoseon. Some Korean myths also point to a theory that Dangun was responsible for the origin of the entire Korean race. After ruling from 2333 BC to 108 BC, it is said that Dangun chose the path of meditation near a lake on Mount Paektu. He thus became a spirit after ruling Gojoseon for around 1000 years.
12. Samshin Halmang
Samshin Halmang is the supreme protector of mothers and the goddess symbolizing childbirth. She was, however, born originally as a human. A Korean myth states that once there was a flower blooming contest organized between Samshin Halmang and the daughter of the dragon lord, Samshin Halmang managed to win.
She is then granted the authority to provide care and protection to mothers as well as babies during the process of childbirth. She is also assigned the primary responsibility of making sure the delivery of babies is well taken care of.
It is therefore believed that midwives who help mothers with pregnancy during childbirth and labor pains to ensure smooth delivery become spirits and join to assist Samshin Halmang.
13. Gameunjang Aegi
Gameunjang Aegi represents fate. She is the goddess of fortune. She was born in a poor family to a beggar couple. But fortune smiled on them as Gameunjang Aegi was born, blessing the family with good luck, wishes, and a lot of wealth.
Gameunjang Aegi died to become the goddess of luck and destiny. She had a unique ability to plan and shape the final destiny of people.
And there you have it! The ultimate list of the most powerful gods and goddesses in Korean mythology. Hope you enjoyed the article.