HomeStoriesHow A Hilarious "Queen Of Tears" Scene Connects To The Origin Of...

How A Hilarious “Queen Of Tears” Scene Connects To The Origin Of Korea

A punchline summed it up all too well.

On April 28, KST, tvN’s K-Drama Queen of Tears aired its final episode, becoming the highest-rated drama in the network’s history.

queen of tears poster
“Queen of Tears” poster

While the show’s ending has drawn mixed reactions, with speculations of a second possible finale, overall, it received popular praise from global viewers. Apart from the stellar cast, the show’s scriptwriting has also garnered significant appreciation.

One of the more appreciated elements of the script was the comic scenes, executed with impeccable performances by all actors. In one such scene, however, there is an exciting mixture of folktale and physical comedy that many international viewers might have missed out on.

In episode 14, there is a slight development of the subplot involving the protagonist Baek Hyun Woo’s (Kim Soo Hyun) older brother Baek Hyun Tae (Kim Do Hyun) and his wife Hyeon Suk (Kim Shin Rok). In the comic scene, the otherwise absent Hyeon Suk visits her mother-in-law (plated by Hwang Young Hee) to ask for a “refund” on her husband, pointing out that he lost their life savings in lousy investment choices.

In response, the mother-in-law kicks her son ninja-style, immediately accepting Hyeon Suk’s request for a “refund.”

But the most intriguing sequence is when she gets up and hits her son with a bunch of garlic. The English subtitle of the scene quotes her, saying, “You need to come to your senses!” The Korean dialogue, however, literally translates to “Eat garlic and become human!”


The Korean version actually alludes to a famous folktale about the origin of Korea. The story involves a bear and a tiger, both desperate to become humans. The two animals prayed to Hwanung, the son of the ruler of the Heavens, to grant their wishes. Hwanung responded to their prayers and handed them 20 cloves of garlic and some mugwort, instructing them to consume only those while staying out of sunlight for the next 100 days.

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“Dangun” by Jacques Beaulieu |

In the beginning, both the bear and the tiger did well. But after 21 days, the tiger couldn’t endure the conditions anymore and left the cave. The bear, however, fulfilled Hwanung’s instructions, and Hwanung finally granted the wish. The bear transformed into a woman and took the name of Ungnyeo.

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Ungnyeo painted by Park Hyeondo |

Despite becoming part of humanity, Ungnyeo was sad that she had nobody to marry and prayed to Hwanung again for a son. Moved by her prayers, Hwanung took the form of a human and married Ungnyeo. The two had a son named Dangun. Dangun went on to establish his kingdom, which was called Joseon (Ancient Joseon) and became the founding figure of the nation of Korea.

This popular folklore can be found in the ancient Korean texts Samguk Yusa or Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms. But thanks to Queen of Tears, it has also secured a place in modern pop culture!

Source: Embassy of the Republic of Korea (1) and (2)



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