How Korea was founded on garlic and quarantine: mythology

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on

“Garlic is the reason Koreans have in-body defenses against bacteria and viruses.”

Just to get facts straight from the start (in this age of ludicrous fake news), here’s professionals’ take

“Professionals are skeptical. ‘There is no evidence that Koreans, or other populations, have specifically strong adaptive immune systems’ to the virus, said Gurel.

Asia Times (quote by Ogan Gurel, a non-practicing doctor currently working as a professor in South Korea)

In response to the assertions (for which there is no evidence) on garlic and Koreans’ immune system, some Koreans joke, “Our country was founded on self-quarantine.”

So this is how Korea’s mythology goes:

Once upon a time,

approximately BC 2333, Hwa-In (a god) sent his son Hwan-oong (also kind of a god) to the human world. Hwa-oong, accompanied by spirits of wind, rain and clouds, came down to Mount Taebaek.

In the human world, Hwan-oong looked over matters like agriculture, life span, illness, punishment and good & bad to improve the lives of humans.

One day, a bear and a tiger came to Hwan-oong and said, “We want to become humans.”

Hwan-oong told them, “If you eat only the mugwort and garlic I gave you and stay in a cave for 100 days, you will become humans. If you see the sunlight before the 100 days are up, you will never become a human.”

Painting of the mythology. Photo Credits
Photo by Marco on The dark journey of becoming a human

Before the 100 days were up, the tiger could no longer tolerate the taste of mugwort and garlic & being in the dark. He went out of the cave and returned to the jungle he was from. The bear, however, patiently waited, and on the 100th day, became a woman.

The bear who had become a woman was lonely and prayed for a child. In response to her prayer, Hwan-oong came to her in the form of a man. He named her Ungnyeo, which means “bear woman”.

Ungnyeo and Hwan-oong became husband and wife, and she gave birth to a baby boy. After many years, the child grew up to become Dangun (or Dangun Wanggeom), the founder and king of Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom. That is, at least according to mythology, how the Korean peninsula was founded.

A painting of Dangun of the mythology . Photo Credits

Koreans consume an average of 6.73kg of garlic a year. Our garlic consumption is number 1 in the world- which is not a surprise, considering garlic goes into pretty much every food we consume on a daily basis.

Photo by Vicky Tran on Commonly consumed Korean dishes
Photo by SenuScape on

A correlation between in-body defenses and garlic may not be proven, but no doubt garlic is good for your health in some ways- how about giving it a try next time?

~ * ~

That’s it for the Korean mythology of quarantine & garlic!

Hope you’ve found this post a good read. If you did, please give it a like/comment! It’ll be even better if you follow my blog “Han Style” 🙂

Cheers, Han Seol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: