I sat alone on the park bench facing the Bukhan river (북한강). It’s not my common things to go to such romantic place. This place is really crowded thanks to that drama of two star-crossed lovers who suspect each other to be siblings. It’s raining today. It’s far away from Chilseok (칠석) but the tears of two lovers already filled my heart and made my self drained wet. Yes, thanks to this rain, I felt a consolation from the nature and I can drain all the sadness of my breaking heart.
Then, I saw kkamagwi nearby. So strong yet vigilant. I threw some of my hobbang (호빵, steamed bun) that I bought to make my self warm enough in this chilly weather. Kkamagwi came nearby, in careful and awkward way. Cautiously, it jumped slowly and reach the piece of hobbang that I threw. Slowly but sure, it took it and flew away to a quite and lone place.
Suddenly, an ahjussi (아저씨, old man) came and sat down beside me. He talked in broken English that I shouldn’t fed the kkamagwi, bad luck should never be bred.
“Why should I never fed the kkamagwi?” I said to him. “Kkamagwi is indeed ugly and so black that he might absorb all the luck around. It is a living entity like us, We might get friendly with the bad as well as the good won’t we?”
“Even without being fed, the kkamagwi will breed a lot and reappear in some houses. Kkamagwi represent death, bad luck. If you see one in the morning than you’ll be in bad luck for the rest of the day. Better to keep it as it is and not feed them. If you feed them means you also brings the bad luck around.”
As a foreigner here, I don’t want to argue with the elderly so I just nodded and listened to what he told me.
“There, there. You see that blue pretty bird? You can feed it. It’s called kkachi. It brings you good luck for the rest of the day.”
I proceeded to throw some pieces of my hobbang to that bird. Differ from the kkamagwi, this bird, without hesitating, come near my and eat the hobbang in the exact spot that I threw it. It’s so chubby it even fly very slow and not afraid of human.
“When I was a child. I live in a traditional house that has a hole in the roof so that kkachi can live there and build a nest. Sometimes kkamagwi will come in and intrude our house which always make us rattle since it means death to one of our family. My mother will always shoo the kkamagwi out and let the kkachi in. But my grandmother always tell her that Kkachi and kkamagwi are sisters. They both work as a team to build the same bridge of love during Chilseok. Life will consists of the good and the bad. Same as you, she likes both kkachi and kkamagwi even though it means inviting the bad in the house. She said when we treat everything equally then we might bring not only luck but also bonghwang (봉황, phoenix) to this house,” said ahjussi with bright eyes filled with memories.
“Do you know why I fed the kkamagwi? It’s not because I don’t know the superstition. I did know about that long time ago since the first time I arrived in Korea five years ago,” answered me with English and some broken Korean. “Maybe your grandmother was right that in life there are the good and the bad sides. To make life perfect and balance to the highest state like bonghwang, you need to embrace both kkachi and kkamagwi side by side. I felt like a kkamagwi during this five years. Thrown away and not accepted by anyone, even my own family. I was raised as a kkamagwi, living a hard life because no one dear me like a kkachi. I need to go to the trash bin to find something to eat while the kkachi being fed freely by people because they find it dearly and bring good luck. But then, I saw them now. The kkamagwi is so vigilant and careful while the kkachi was so easy-going and have low agility. If let say the environment is changing, who will be survived? The vigilant kkamagwi or the easy-going kkachi? I guess the answer lies in front of us so boldly. Kkamagwi, even though being hated, it can survived the harsh environment with or without human. Kkachi is only depends on human pity, so they become lazy and chubby. Maybe that’s why bonghwang never comes, because we only embraces the good and mock the bad.”
The ahjussi looked so irritated after I lectured him about all this things and start to grumbling in Korean that I can barely understand. He then left me alone with quite grumpy face. I smiled even though he couldn’t see it. Just let it be. I am the kkamagwi anyway, thrown away and bring the bad luck. That time, the kkachi that I fed jumping by my feet and a kkamagwi landed beside my seat. I smiled again and saw a glimpse of five-coloured peacock tails peeking behind a metasequoia tree. Maybe bonghwang has given me a visit. A visit to a person that has embrace the kkachi and kkamagwi together.
Kkachi and Kkamagwi
A Korean traditional festival which falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Korean lunisolar calendar, originating from the Chinese Qixi Festival. According to the well-known story, the heavenly king had a daughter called Jiknyeo (Hangul: 직녀, Hanja: 織女), who was very good at weaving beautiful clothes. One day, when she looked out of the window while weaving, she saw a handsome boy, a herder called Gyeonwu (Hangul: 견우, Hanja: 牽牛), just across the Milky Way. She fell in love with him. Finally the heavenly father allowed the two to get married. Afterward, Jiknyeo did not want to weave clothes, and Gyeonwu did not take good care of the cows and sheep. The heavenly king grew angry, and ordered the couple to live apart from each other, allowing them to meet only once a year. On the seventh day of the seventh month of each year, they were excited to meet each other, but they could not cross the Milky Way. However, crows and magpies worked together to form a bridge across the Milky Way for the couple. After a while, their sadness returned because they were forced to wait another year before meeting again. It is said that crows and magpies have no feathers on their heads because of the couple stepping on their heads. If it rains on that night, it is said to be the couple’s tears.
A mythological birds of East Asia that reign over all other birds. It is often described as a composite of many birds including the head of a golden pheasant, the body of a mandarin duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane, the mouth of a parrot, and the wings of a swallow. Its feathers contain the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, blue and yellow. It is believed that the bird only appears in areas or places that are blessed with utmost peace and prosperity or happiness.