Michael Pettid - Professor of Asian and Asian American Studies, Binghamton University
Given the significance of death to humans, an understanding of how societies conceive of death, the afterlife, and what might occur to the dead can reveal a great deal of how a given society understands its place within the cosmos. Particularly interesting are those beliefs concerning the condition of the dead after death; specifically, the nature and function of ghosts. There are numerous accounts in the literature of the Koryŏ and early Chosŏn periods in Korea that feature encounters with ghosts or beings from beyond the human world. While these accounts can be sometimes humorous or frightening, a more important value is the insight they offer into the way that the peoples of these times understood death and the afterlife.