The Dangun legend is a mythical story that portrays the origin of the Korean people as descendants of bear,
and the founding of Korea through
Dangun. As legend has it, a tiger and bear prayed to Hwanung, the son of the Lord of heaven, to become human. Upon hearing their prayers, Hwanung gave them 20 cloves of garlic and a bundle of mugwort
each, ordering them to eat only this sacred food and remain out of the sunlight for 100 days.
The tiger gave up after about twenty days and left the cave. However, the bear remained and was transformed into a woman. The bear-woman married Hwanung, and soon gave birth to a son, who was named Dangun Wanggeom. Dangun built the state of Gojoseon. Korea honors the day of establishing the first state
through the national holiday of
Gaecheonjeol (National Foundation Day) on October 3rd. On
the first day of the lunar year, a group gathers for a memorial service for Dangun at a
Chamseongdan Alter (stone structure known to be built by Dangun) located on holy mountains, including Manisan
Mountain on Ganghwa Island and Taebaeksan
Mountain in Gangwon-do.
Koreans accept and interpret the Dangun legend to be more than a mythical story. Just as the story
of the Fall of Troy had been accepted by the world as a vague mythical story until remains were discovered, Koreans believe that the Dangun legend could be a trace of the
foundation story of the first ancient kingdom on the Korean peninsula. Based on the Dangun legend, Korean historians date the origin of Korea’s legitimate history back to some 50,000 years ago.