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Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, the legend behind A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

When it comes to Korean horror films, one of our favourites is none other than A Tale of Two Sisters (2003).

This psychological drama movie was written and directed by Kim Jee-won.

He is credited for writing and directing other remarkable movies such as A Bittersweet Life (2005) and The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008).

Jee-won also directed I Saw the Devil (2010), a thriller film about a National Intelligence Service agent who seeks revenge when his fiancee is brutally murdered by a psychopathic serial killer.

Regardless of the genre, this prolific director is known for twists and thrills in his movies.

A Tale of Two Sisters for instance is famous for the twist in its ending. The movie was inspired by a folktale from the Joseon era (1392-1897) called Janghwa Hongryeon jeon (The Story of Janghwa and Hongryeon).

Moon Geun-young (left) as Bae Su-yeon and Im Soo-jung (right) as Bae Su-mi in the movie A Tale Of Two Sisters.
Here is the Legend of Janghwa Hongryeon jeon which inspired A Tale of Two Sisters:

Once upon a time, there was a couple who had two daughters – Janghwa (Red Flower) and Hongryeon (Red Lotus).

Unfortunately, the mother died and the father then remarried. In a classic Cinderella story, the stepmother turns out to be an evil woman who was abusive towards her stepdaughters.

However, the two sisters never told their father about it. The stepmother and the father had three sons of their own.

Years passed and when Janghwa got engaged, the father asked his second wife to help with the wedding ceremony. Unwilling to spend a penny on Janghwa, she came up with an evil plan.

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One night when Janghwa was sleeping, the stepmother had her eldest son put a dead skinned rat in Janghwa’s bed.

She brought the father to Janghwa’s room the next morning, telling him she had a bad dream about her elder stepdaughter.

When she pulled back the covers on Janghwa’s bed, the father saw the skinned rat, but was convinced by the evil stepmother that it was a bloody fetus. Immediately, the father believed his wife and that Janghwa had a child out-of-wedlock.

Feeling wronged, Janghwa ran out of her house to a pond in the nearby forest. The stepmother ordered her eldest son to follow Janghwa, who later pushed her into the pond.

She died by drowning, but the villagers believed she committed suicide out of shame.

Unable to bear the abuse by her stepmother, Hongryeon soon committed suicide in the same pond where Janghwa had drowned.

The Curse of Janghwa Hongryeon jeon

After the death of the two sisters, whenever a new mayor came to the village, he was found dead a day after his arrival.

Finally, a young man came to the village as the new mayor. When night came, he saw the ghosts of the two young women.

The young mayor gathered up his courage and asked them if they were the reason the previous mayors were found dead.

The ghosts explained that all they wanted for the villagers to know the truth; that Janghwa had been framed by her stepmother and murdered by her eldest half-brother.

When the young mayor asked them for evidence, Janghwa then told him to examine the so-called miscarried fetus that the stepmother had shown to the villagers.

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Morning came, and the mayor revealed the truth to everyone after examining the ‘fetus’.

He then sentenced the stepmother and her eldest son to death for their crime. A couple years later, the father married again.

In a dream you don’t expect on your wedding night, the two daughters visited their father in a dream, telling him that they wanted to come back to him.

Nine months later, the father’s third wife delivered a pair of twin girls whom he named Janghwa and Hongryeon.

The Movie: A Tale of Two Sisters (2009)

As for the plot of A Tale of Two Sisters, it focuses on a teenage girl Sumi (played by Im Soo-jung) who is just released from a mental institution.

She settles in with her father (Kim Kap-soo), younger sister Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young) and stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah).

Strange things start to happen surrounding Sumi, but are they real or just part of her imagination?

This psychological horror drama film became the first Korean film to be screened in American theatres.

However, the American remake of this film titled The Uninvited (2009) did not receive positive reviews as the original movie did.

Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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