Lures and horrors of alterity: adapting Korean tales of fox spirits

Sung-Ae Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


Core incidents and motifs in retellings and adaptations of Korean folktales about supernatural foxes, known as Gumihos, have coalesced into a common, readily recognised fox-woman script. Since the end of the 1980s, the fox-woman script has become a focus for cultural conflict. The traditional stories are acknowledged to be part of Korea's intangible cultural heritage, and as such have been retold conservatively to preserve that heritage (especially in picture books) or have undergone major reinterpretation in attempts to reshape that heritage and imbue it with contemporary significance. According to the fox-woman script, the Gumiho is humankind's monstrous other, but a variety of works in film or television drama have challenged the assumptions about alterity and monstrosity. This challenge first emerged when moral awareness was attributed to the Gumiho character, especially in conjunction with the narrative strategy of aligning perspective with her, of transforming her from object to subject, and demonstrating that humanity is evidenced by behaviour and not by race or social privilege. Subsequently, general audience television drama and children's film have explored homologies between a reworked fox-woman script and ethnic otherness, and have tran formed the script into a narrative about cultural otherness that advocates an open and other-embracing society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-150
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Research in Children's Literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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