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The Black Rain: Supernatural Weather Phenomena in Korean Folk Beliefs


Imagine a sky turning a deep, ominous black, releasing a downpour of rain as dark as night. Not just any rain, but a rain imbued with a mystical power, carrying whispers of ancient spirits and ancestral warnings. This is the Black Rain, a phenomenon woven into the fabric of Korean folklore, a chilling testament to the enduring power of supernatural beliefs.

Korean culture is deeply rooted in its rich tapestry of folklore, with stories and beliefs passed down through generations, influencing daily life, shaping perspectives on nature, and offering explanations for the unknown. The Black Rain stands as a prime example of this, embodying both fear and fascination, and reflecting a deep-seated understanding of the interconnectedness between the natural world and the spiritual realm.

This blog post delves into the captivating world of Korean folklore, exploring the Black Rain as a supernatural weather phenomenon and unraveling its symbolic meaning, historical origins, and enduring influence on Korean culture. Join us on this journey as we uncover the mysteries behind this enigmatic rain, its role in traditional narratives, and its relevance in contemporary Korean society.

Table of Contents

  • Understanding the Black Rain
  • The Black Rain in Folk Tales and Literature
  • The Black Rain and Modern Interpretations
  • FAQ
  • Conclusion

Understanding the Black Rain

The Black Rain, known as “Heukbi” in Korean, is not a mere meteorological event in Korean folklore. It is a supernatural phenomenon, a harbinger of misfortune, a manifestation of divine wrath, or a sign of the presence of spirits and ancestral ghosts. It is described as a rain that appears dark, almost black, and often associated with strong winds, thunder, and lightning. This terrifying spectacle is not simply a storm; it is a potent symbol, embodying the unpredictable nature of the natural world and the capriciousness of the spirits that govern it.

The origins of the Black Rain in Korean folklore can be traced back to ancient times, with references appearing in historical records and folktales. One of the earliest recorded mentions comes from the “Samguk Sagi,” a historical chronicle of the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC – 668 AD), which describes a black rain falling over the Silla kingdom. This historical context reveals that the Black Rain was not just a mere myth, but a phenomenon observed and recorded by people in the past, signifying its deep-rooted presence in Korean history and consciousness.

Mythologically, the Black Rain carries profound symbolism. It is often interpreted as a manifestation of divine retribution for sins and wrongdoings. It can be linked to the anger of the mountain spirits, known as “San신,” who are believed to guard the land and punish those who disrespect nature. The Black Rain also carries connotations of misfortune, death, and illness, often representing the wrath of the ancestors or the vengeful spirits of the deceased.

The Black Rain in Folk Tales and Literature

The Black Rain plays a prominent role in Korean folktales and literature, acting as a catalyst for conflict, a source of suspense, and a symbol of both fear and fascination. These narratives often portray the Black Rain as a harbinger of misfortune, foreshadowing impending disaster or the arrival of spirits and monsters.

One popular folktale, “The Tale of the Black Rain,” recounts the story of a village plagued by a relentless Black Rain. As the villagers suffer from illness and misfortune, they seek the help of a wise shaman who reveals that the Black Rain is caused by the anger of a powerful spirit. The shaman advises the villagers to perform a purification ritual to appease the spirit, ultimately ending the Black Rain and restoring peace to the village.

In traditional Korean literature, the Black Rain serves as a motif, appearing in various poems, plays, and novels. For instance, the Joseon-era poet, Jeong Cheol, wrote a poem titled “Black Rain” that vividly depicts the terrifying spectacle of the storm, capturing the despair and anxiety felt by people witnessing the phenomenon.

The Black Rain and Modern Interpretations

While rooted in ancient beliefs, the Black Rain’s symbolism continues to resonate in modern Korean society. As Korea confronts issues like climate change, environmental degradation, and societal anxieties, the Black Rain’s imagery, representing the unpredictable power of nature and the consequences of human actions, takes on a new significance.

For example, the Black Rain can be seen as a metaphorical representation of the unpredictable nature of climate change. The dark, ominous rain serves as a visual allegory for the uncertainty and fear surrounding extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, and storms, which are becoming increasingly frequent and severe due to global warming. In this context, the Black Rain serves as a powerful reminder of the need to address climate change and protect the environment.

Moreover, the Black Rain’s association with misfortune and ancestral spirits resonates with contemporary anxieties about the future. In an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world, many Koreans may feel a sense of uncertainty and fear, seeking solace in traditional beliefs and finding echoes of these anxieties in the Black Rain’s symbolism.

The Black Rain has also seeped into contemporary Korean art, music, and cinema, finding new interpretations and expressions. For example, the film “The Handmaiden,” directed by Park Chan-wook, features a scene where the Black Rain plays a pivotal role in creating a sense of suspense and unease. The scene unfolds in a grand mansion, where the protagonist, a young woman named Sook-Hee, is caught in a sudden downpour of black rain. This dark, mysterious rain amplifies the film’s themes of betrayal, deceit, and the dark secrets hidden within the walls of the mansion.

In contemporary Korean music, the Black Rain’s imagery has been utilized to evoke a sense of melancholia, loneliness, and the struggle for survival in a harsh world. The song “Black Rain,” by the popular K-pop group EXO, uses the Black Rain as a metaphor for the challenges and hardships faced by individuals in a rapidly changing society. The lyrics speak of a sense of isolation and the weight of expectations, echoing the traditional associations of the Black Rain with misfortune and hardship.

However, it is crucial to understand that the Black Rain is more than just a metaphor for modern challenges. It is a reminder of the importance of respecting nature, acknowledging the power of the spiritual realm, and maintaining a sense of balance between the human world and the forces that govern it.


What is the scientific explanation for the Black Rain?

The Black Rain, as described in Korean folklore, is not a scientifically recognized phenomenon. While real-world events like dust storms and ash fall from volcanic eruptions can cause rain to appear dark, these events are not the same as the Black Rain described in folklore. The Black Rain is a supernatural phenomenon embedded in Korean cultural beliefs.

Is the Black Rain a real phenomenon?

The Black Rain as described in Korean folklore is not a real phenomenon in the sense that it is not a scientifically recognized weather event. However, the term “Black Rain” has been used to refer to real events like the Black Rain that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs were dropped. In these cases, the rain was contaminated with radioactive fallout, giving it a dark appearance.

How is the Black Rain different from other weather events?

The Black Rain is distinct from other weather events in that it is infused with a supernatural significance in Korean folklore. It’s not simply a storm but a symbol of spiritual forces, divine wrath, or the presence of spirits and ancestors. While other weather events may be associated with natural phenomena, the Black Rain carries a unique symbolism rooted in Korean cultural beliefs.

What role does the Black Rain play in Korean Shamanism?

In Korean Shamanism, the Black Rain is often seen as a manifestation of spiritual energy or the anger of the spirits. Shamans may conduct rituals to appease the spirits or to protect people from the Black Rain’s negative influence. The Black Rain can also be a symbol of spiritual cleansing or transformation in some Shamanic traditions.

Are there any modern-day festivals or rituals related to the Black Rain?

While there are no specific festivals or rituals dedicated to the Black Rain in contemporary Korean society, some traditional festivals or rituals might incorporate elements related to the Black Rain. For example, the “Dongmaeng” (東盟) festival, which is celebrated in the spring to ward off evil spirits, may include elements of purification and protection, reflecting the Black Rain’s association with misfortune and spiritual forces.


The Black Rain, a chilling entity in Korean folklore, stands as a testament to the enduring power of supernatural beliefs and the interplay between the natural world and the spiritual realm. From its origins in ancient times to its modern reinterpretations, the Black Rain continues to captivate the imagination, reminding us of the complex relationship between humans and nature, and the enduring power of stories to shape our understanding of the world. As we explore the depths of Korean folklore, we encounter not just fantastical tales, but a profound understanding of the human condition, our place in the universe, and the mysteries that lie beyond the boundaries of our understanding.

The Black Rain, with its dark rain and potent symbolism, serves as a reminder of the importance of respecting nature, acknowledging the power of the spiritual realm, and maintaining a sense of balance between the human world and the forces that govern it.