HONG GIL DONG – THE JOHN DOE OF KOREA
Hong Gil-dong 홍길동 was the head of bandits in the Chungcheong-do area during the Joseon Dynasty, but he’s more well known as the fictional character in the novel Honggildongjeon ‘홍길동전’ (The Story of Hong Gil-dong) written by Heo Gyun 허균, which portrays him as a “righteous outlaw” who punishes corrupt officials and helps the poor, like Robin Hood.
But the above story has little to do with the fact that his name is used as THE default generic name for official documents and forms. Then why Mr. Hong? There’s no cut-and-dry rule as to designating it as the official placeholder name, but according to the person familiar with the subject, it might be because it meets the following criteria.
Such name must:
- Be well-known to everyone.
- Be the name of a fictional character so people mistake it for a real name (although he was a real person, most people think of the fictional character).
- Avoid historical characters to avoid possible claims from their descendants.
- Have a good public image and do not cause repulsion.
In addition, in the Korean alphabet system, which consists of consonants, vowels, and batchim 받침 (final consonant that goes at the bottom of the syllable configuration), each syllable of his name Hong Gil-dong has all three components, thus suitable for an example. And who’s the Korean Jane Doe? Hong Gil-sun 홍길순.
SYMBOL OF LOYALTY – JINDO DOG
Jindo 진도 dogs, a symbol of Jindo Island in South Jeolla Province, are known for their bravery, cleverness, and loyalty. Even when they meet wild animals in the mountains, they will never back down. And because they have the tendency of serving only one owner, it’s very difficult for them to be adopted by another owner. There was a story that a Jindo dog returned to the original owner’s house over a distance of more than 300 kilometers (186 miles) over seven months. The Jindo breed was designated as the 53rd ‘Natural Treasure’ of South Korea in 1962.