Bears have a prominent place in the Korean creation myth: Ungnyeo was the name of a bear that turned into a woman, who gave birth to Dangun, the legendary first Korean king. So really, Ungnyeo the bear-woman was the mother of the Korean people.

However, the creation myth states that a tiger also wanted to be turned into a human, and it prayed together with Ungnyeo to be turned human, but gave up due to hunger. By this story alone, tigers should be less revered in Korean culture than bears, but the reverse is so: tigers are much more revered, some sources saying that South Korea's national animal is the tiger (as the bald eagle is for USA), and the mascot for the 1988 Seoul olympics was a tiger.

Whilst I'll admit tigers are much cooler than bears, it doesn't explain the conspicuous absence of bears in Korean culture, when compared to the tiger. Did bears lose their status at some point in history? Or sexism? Or is there more to Korean mythology that would cause people to lose respect for bears?

  • 1
    This seems to me to be out-of-scope for mythology and more a cultural question than a mythological one. Could you edit the question so it asks for a more mythological answer?
    – Sera H
    Apr 29 '15 at 7:30
  • 1
    @StuartH perhaps, but I don't know because the question may have a mythological answer. Besides, I think this is a mythological and cultural question, and I disagree with having it off-topic here just because it is on-topic at some other SE, whether or not that other SE exists. Apr 29 '15 at 8:34
  • That's why I didn't flag it and opted to comment instead. :)
    – Sera H
    Apr 29 '15 at 9:14
  • 3
    This question is not really about the mythology though just that it has an intersection with it. A question of how is the mythology reflected in modern culture is probably both more answerable and more on topic. Why something did not happen is rarely answerable within the scope and rules of a SE site.
    – Chad
    Apr 29 '15 at 13:50
  • I have to agree with @Chad while an interesting question this feels out of scope. I think it is worth discussing on meta as we are still formulating what is and is not on topic.
    – James
    Apr 29 '15 at 14:37

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.