The Supernatural Is Back?

Unicorn rider
My Little Unicorn

We thought that when Kim Jong-Il and his supernatural powers had left the planet, North Korea had lost its special quality but now there is talk of a resurgence since “Archaeologists of the History Institute of the DPRK Academy of Social Sciences in North Korea claim they have found the “lair of the unicorn rode by King Tongmyong” 220 yards from a temple in Pyongyang.  A rectangular rock with the the words “unicorn lair” stands in front of the reputed lair. The rock reportedly dates back to the Koryo Period.  Much thanks to Gizmodo.

  • Jakgani

    The Sogyong (Pyongyang) chapter of the old book ‘Koryo History’ states:
    Ulmil Pavilion is on the top of Mt. Kumsu, with Yongmyong Temple, one of Pyongyang’s eight scenic spots, beneath it. The temple served as a relief palace for King Tongmyong, in which there is the lair of his unicorn.”

    In other words, the newest, craziest finding out of North Korea this morning is not only that King Tongmyong had the dopiest vacation palace in the temple, but it’s also where he kept his collection of unicorns.

    It’s important to know that, in spite of the same word being used for both in the translations, the Korean concept of this mythical creature diverges nigh completely from our concept of the horse-with-a-horn. In Korean, the word for “unicorn” is Qilin, and they actually look more like this –
    or this –

    More importantly, “Why does Pyongyang want its citizens to believe in unicorns?”

    Everything Pyongyang since its founding as the capital of North Korea serves its nation’s most bizarre of propaganda machines, and the lair of King Tongmyong’s legendary pets found outside the nation’s capital is no exception.

    So there you have it, everyone: the unicorn lair found just outside of Pyongyang confirms that North Korea is the real and righteous Korea all along. Turns out that the Western World has been backing the wrong horse– hornless or otherwise.

  • hamel

    Either Jakassgani is Athony Smith, or he is trying to pass off Smith’s writing as his own, or he forgot to attribute the source for the above text:

  • hamel

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, Qirin might be the romanization of the Chinese word for this mythical chimera, but the Korean word is 기린, which romanizes as girin or kirin, depending on your choice of system. The Chinese characters are 麒麟, and the same word (with the same hanja) is used for the giraffe, in both Korean and Chinese.

    Wikipedia says “It is unlikely that giraffes and Qilin were regarded as the same creature in pre-modern times however. For example, typical depictions of the Qilin have much shorter necks than giraffes.”

  • Arghaeri

    Kirin Beer!

  • kuiwon

    I think I found the relevant part of the 高麗史(Goryeosa) that talks about King Dongmyeong’s nurturing of a 麒麟 and riding it from 地中 to 天 :

    在九梯宮內浮碧樓下 東明王養麒麟馬于此後人立石誌之 世傳王乘麒麟馬入此窟從地中出朝天石 升天其馬跡至今在石上

  • CactusMcHarris

    Move along, folks, it’s just a mangy Chollima with a horny growth.

  • sojufan_5944

    funniest stuff i’ve read this week..

  • R. Elgin

    It is funny and maybe shows that there is more similar between Tongmyeong and the Kim dynasty in that they both use fiction to promote their legitimacy. I should read up on Tongmyeong.
    I think that, sooner or later, more North Koreans will express their sense of humour with bullets and most likely upon each other. There are limits to purges even.

    (As a sidenote, I will delete any off-topic and defamatory posts – as always)

  • kuiwon

    I got my sources wrong. What I quote was from the 新增東國輿地勝覽(신증동국여지승람). I wrote a blog post on this finding here:

  • R. Elgin

    That is a useful distinction that you make “Kuiwon” on your blog about the (麒麟, 기린) being something other than the Western version (Unicorn) but, as with many mythological creatures such as the Phoenix (鳳凰) that exists in many different cultures, there are different versions that are unique to each culture and is not really a form of “condescension”.
    The misapplication of myth towards enhancing propaganda is more what this exercise is about, IMHO, and that is very CCP/Kim Dynasty style.

  • Jashin Densetsu

    there’s an update to this story

    “Yesterday, we wrote about a story that’s been making the rounds across the blogosphere: that North Korea discovered the lair of a Kirin (or Qilin), a mythical creature often associated with the Western unicorn. However, while North Korea’s claim is about a place called Kiringul, which translates to “Kirin’s Grotto,” the government wasn’t claiming to have found proof of the existence of the mythical beast. But what they are claiming still raises a few archaeological eyebrows.

    Sixiang Wang, a PhD student at Columbia University whose focus is Korea-China relations from the 13th to the 16th centuries, wrote in to provide some context for the announcement. North Korea actually announced this discovery in 2011, but only recently released the announcement in English. The English release poorly translated the name of a historical location, Kiringul, as “Unicorn Lair,” a very evocative name for Westerners. But in Korean history, the name Kiringul has a rather different significance. Kiringul is one of the sites associated with King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Koguryŏ, an ancient Korean kingdom. The thrust of the North Korean government’s announcement is that it claims to have discovered Kiringul, and thus to have proven that Pyongyang is the modern site of the ancient capital of Koguryŏ.

    Now there are links between King Tongmyŏng and the myth of Kirin; folkloric stories include tales of the ruler riding a Kirin. But Wang notes that it’s important to distinguish historical associations with Kiringul from mythological ones. He likens the association of Kiringul with Kirin to the association of Troy with the mythological aspects of the Trojan war, pointing out that archaeological discoveries surrounding the historical city of Troy don’t result in claims that the warrior Achilles was half-immortal. Today, the name Kiringul is simply regarded as a colorful name, much like “Devil’s Peak” or “Phoenix, Arizona.””

  • tinyflowers

    The misapplication of myth towards enhancing propaganda is more what this exercise is about

    Isn’t that exactly what the Western press is doing?

  • R. Elgin

    No, various sites pick up on this and make fun of it because the idea of a supposed archeological body declaring that it had found a stone that marks the lair of a mythological beast that a king of legend rode lends itself to the Kim dynasty’s employment of myth and fantastical lies.
    The actual English news release for this on the KCNA news site does not help either.

  • tinyflowers

    The story is that they allegedly found a historical site that just happens to have a mythological place name. I’m not sure why that’s funny, or silly, or supernatural.

    It’s just piss poor journalism bordering on propaganda to report it as North Korea claiming discovery of mythological beasts, or the belief thereof. The Gizmodo piece by Jesus Diaz is especially atrocious, but sadly not much worse than reports in more mainstream outlets.

    I agree with your second point about the Kim dynasty’s employment of myth and fantastical lies. There’s plenty there to ridicule without having to manufacture silly stories about unicorns.

  • R. Elgin

    Go read the KCNA release and you will note that the translation of the original and implications only lends itself to the fantastic.
    Besides, the contention that modern Pyongyang is the historical center of Goguryo is supposition and wishful thinking on the part of the DPRK – much like the PRC extending the Great Wall of China© much further into the northwest so as to buttress their claims upon the territory. The DPRK will never talk about the Goguryo tombs it allowed the PRC to flood up north, in land now controlled by the PRC.

  • tinyflowers

    Yes we all know the KCNA is crap and their translaters suck (they should transliterate proper names instead of translating its components, for starters). I’m not defending KCNA here. I’m criticising tabloid journalism by mainstream Western media outlets.

    Here are some actual headlines:
    “North Korean Scientists Confirm That Unicorns Are Real”
    “North Korea Claims Proof of Unicorns”

    The Time article states: “The unicorn’s grave was rediscovered near a temple in the capital Pyongyang.” The unicorn’s grave? They’re just making stuff up now, which is far worse than a poorly translated passage. Yes, TIME has managed to outdo the KCNA in crap journalism. Never thought I’d see the day.

  • kuiwon

    The sentiments stated by tinyflowers is the same one I’m echoing in my blog post. Even if the DPRK is using this as a propaganda move, I’m criticizing Western media for not being as critical. By calling Girin “unicorn” is equivalent in the real world to calling Ban Kimoon “Chinese.”

  • slim

    For most readers, the heading “Bizarre” and the tongue-in-cheek tone should be enough info to allow a correct interpretation of the Time article.

    No argument from me to those who say that the authors of the world’s gravest human rights abuses and arguably the cruelest regime in human history should never be handled with levity.

  • jefferyhodges

    “The Gizmodo piece by Jesus Diaz is especially atrocious . . .”

    The world’s truly gone to perdition when you can’t even trust Jesus anymore!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • Q

    As for pseudoarchaeology farce, ahem, you would not miss this man:

  • gbnhj

    Jeffery, you may be describing the end of Diaz.

  • jefferyhodges

    I’m afraid so, gbnhj. The signs are everywhere. Like Kinky Friedman says, the words “Jesus loves you” can be very comforting, unless you hear them while locked up in a Mexican prison. We gotta break out now!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • 깊은 구멍 속에
  • Flyingsword K

    Why did it take so long to find if it had a sign saying “unicorn lair?” They must not have been looking very hard.

  • TheKorean2

    Basically, Kim Jong un wants to associate himself with the same legend and folk tales to King Tongmyŏng, the founder of Goguryeo. To. R. Elgin, the modern-day Pyongyang was one of the main capital of Goguryeo.