Warning! This post may contain sensitive material such as graphic images of Korean Hell as well as spoilers.
The Korean movie Along with the Gods (2017) was well-received by international audiences.
Today, we will give an overview of the movie, and dive deeper into the Hells depicted in the original Korean mythology.
OVERVIEW OF THE FILM
According to the Law of the Underworld, everyone who dies must be tried seven times in 49 days.
Each trial tackles one of the seven Hells, betrayal, violence, filial impiety, murder, indolence, deceit, and injustice. Only those who pass all seven trials will be reincarnated.
When the main character Kim Ja-Hong dies in his line of duty, he is escorted by three guardians into the after life.
Kim Ja-Hong is unable to accept that he died. One of the guardians said he died a noble death.
The lead guardian Gang-Rim serves as Kim Ja-Hong's lawyer in the seven trials.
Guardians are eligible for reincarnation if they reincarnate 49 soul in one thousand years.
Ha Ja-Hong is Gang-Rim's 48th case. The guardians ensure that Ha Ja-Hong can be reincarnated, but as they go along Ja-Hong's past bring some unexpected challenges.
This movie is a glimpse into a new world!
The Korean film Along with the Gods was originally a Korean webtoon!
This webtoon is divided into three stories, the first is about the underworld, the second is about the living world, and the third is about the gods.
We read the webtoon before seeing the movie, and found that many details from the webtoon were omitted from the movie.
The webtoon goes much more in depth about the Korean mythology than the movies.
Along with the Gods is also available in print (Korean only). You can find copies at Kyobo Bookstore Gwanghwamun branch or Yongpoong Bookstore Jongno branch!
Matching characters and roles between the web comic and film
Do you think the characters in the films resemble the characters in the webtoon?
Many Korean fans of the webtoon criticized the movie for deviating too much from the webtoon.
But since the first movie was a huge success, a sequel titled Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days was released in 2018.
A third installment is set to release in 2021 starring EXO's D.O.
SEVEN HELLS ACCORDING TO KOREAN MYTHOLOGY
Source: Korean Film
There were a total of seven gates of Hell in Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds.
Because Kim Ja-hong was deemed a noble soul, he passed the Hells of Injustice and Betrayal without a trial.
In the movie, the Hell of Murder was portrayed with fire, the Hell of Indolence was portrayed with Water, and the Hell of Deceit was portrayed with iron.
The Hell of Injustice was ice, the Hell of Betrayal was mirrors, the Hell of Violence was gravity, and the Hell of Filial Impiety was sand.
However, these Hells in the movie are slightly different from the original Korean mythology.
This Korean mythology concept of seven Hells is derived from Buddhism.
Let's dive deeper into the seven Hells!
THE HELL OF MURDER
(HILL OF KNIVES)
The first Hell is the the Hill of Knives.
This is where one was judged if they committed murder during their lifetime.
Many are sentenced guilty in this Hell. The trials are simple since there is not much ambiguity to murder.
If you are convicted that this stage, your punishment is to lie naked on a bed of knives, while being stabbed by the jailer. It hurts too much to even think about it. 😖
Korean mythology says, that murder is not limited to people, but to all living things including insects or flowers. Makes us think about all the mosquitos we've killed over the summer...
THE HELL OF BOILING POT
The second stage of Hell is to punish those who committed sins of indolence.
Those who ever returned borrowed items, or stole are convicted in this stage.
The punishment of this Hell is that the sinners are pushed into a giant pot filled with feces, lava and sulfuric acid. A Korean expletive,"It's not enough to be killed in shit" refers alludes to this type of Hell.
THE HELL OF ICY GLACIER
The third stage of Hell of Icy Glacier.
At Hell of Icy Glacier, you are judged on whether you've disrespected your parents or betrayed your friends. If are sentenced at this stage, you will immediately be locked in a large glacier called the Ice Canyon.
We think we have treated our parents with respect so far. But, there may be times we weren't perfect and inadvertently disrespected our parents... Luckily, a parent's love is said to be unconditional right?
THE HELL OF BLADE TREE
The fourth place of judgment is called the Hell of Blade Tree.
During this stage, those who have committed or ignored injustices are convicted. If you are sentenced at this stage, the punishment is having every part of your body stabbed by a tree made of sharp blades.
In Korea it seems like less and less people are willing to help one another. It is unfortunate to see this type of indifference grow.
THE HELL OF TONGUE
The fifth stage is the Hell of Tongue.
Those who have hurt people with their words are punished at this Hell. Sinners are punished by having their tongue stretched out like a field, then grim reapers plant and cultivate trees with cattle on the sinner's tongue.
There are a couple Korean proverbs about the importance of thinking before you speak. "There's an axe under one's tongue" and "One word can pay off the thousand years old debt."
It is important to truly understand how your words will impact an person before you say them. Words are capable of leaving long-lasting impressions on a person (both positive and negative).
So, let's all be mindful of the thing we say to each other!
THE HELL OF SERPENTS
The sixth Hell is the Hell of Serpents.
This is the where those who have committed a felony are punished.
Thousands of serpents will tear apart the sinner's body and they will experience excruciating pain as the venom, from the serpent, spreads.
THE HELL OF GREAT SOLUTIONS
Last but not least, the seventh Hell is called the Hell of Great Solutions.
Anyone who committed crimes of economic fraud will be punished at this stage.
The God of Hell punishes sinners by using a giant saw to slice the sinner's body into pieces. We think that this is a punishment that is fitting to the crime.
Source: Korean Film
In the movie Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds, there were seven Hells. But in the Korean mythology, there are more.
For those who have committed so many crimes that the seven Hells are not enough, there are three additional Hells.
Source: 신과 함께: 불교의 10대 지옥
First is the Hell of Iron Bed.
Source: 신과 함께: 불교의 10대 지옥
Then one year post death date, those who committed crimes of adultery will be thrown into the Hell of Piercing Winds.
Source: 신과 함께: 불교의 10대 지옥
Sinners face the Hell of Darkness three years after their death. It's for those who did not reproduce in their life.
So in total, there are 10 stages of Hell in Korean mythology!
There are many stages of Hells in Korean mythology to warn people that there are many types of punishments and there can be severe consequences to actions during a lifetime.
ALONG WITH THE GODS FINAL THOUGHTS
Some questions that arose were about the afterlife such as, if there is a Heaven or Hell, if reincarnation a good thing, and if Hell really exists, why is there suffering?
This movie also made us reflect more about our lives like how many crimes we've committed, or if we had done many good deeds.
But the main thing after watching this movie is we felt the need to grow as people and take responsibility for our actions.
Yeonhap News (연합뉴스)
In addition, this movie was a touching and heart-felt story about family.
South Korea has many influences from Confucianism, which considers filial piety as an important social value.
Therefore, watching this story about family resonated with us and made us re-focus to put more value into family. We realized the time we spent with our families is precious.
@Yeonhap News (연합뉴스)
It made us also consider that not all people who do bad things are fundamentally bad people.
Another takeaway from this movie is to not judge people without understanding the situations they have been in.
We cannot make decisions based on our own individual perspectives, but try to understand where the other person is coming from.
This movie really made us ponder about our lives.
We highly recommend this movie if you are looking for something thought-provoking and emotional.
Why don't you check out it out?