Recently BTS‘s Jin released the first two episodes of his new show “Jin’s Traditional Alcohol Journey” on YouTube, where he went to veteran artisan Park Ro Dam to learn the art of Korean alcohol making. Jin was joined by celebrity chef Baek Jong Won, and the duo showcased quite a lot of genuine chemistry as a chaotic pair.
While Jin was toiling away, turning the rice with his hands during the alcohol-making process, chef Baek got busy with the rice ladle, scraping off sticky rice and snacking on it happily. When Jin finally noticed him, he remarked, “Is it that delicious? You should’ve left some for Heungbu.” To this, chef Baek jokingly charged him with the ladle, both breaking into audible laughter.
The reference that Jin used in that remark was actually a very witty one. But those who are not well-versed in Korean folklore might not have caught it. So, here’s the tea.
Heungbu is the name of the protagonist from the popular children’s story of Heungbu and Nolbu. The tale is said to be from the Joseon era and has a few different versions. But the common plot progression goes like this- Heungbu and Nolbu are brothers. After their father died, Nolbu took over all of his property and left Heungbu and his family to starve. While Heungbu struggled to keep his family safe, Nolbu enjoyed the riches and indulged in many evil acts.
One day, Heungbu found an injured swallow on his way home. He and his wife tenderly cared for the bird and nursed it back to health. The swallow recovered and flew away but came back to them with a seed to grow gourds.
Heungbu and his wife were overjoyed that they could use the gourd pulp for kimchi and the gourds as dippers. But to their surprise, the gourds they grew turned out to be full of gold, silver, and other precious stones. Heungbu’s family got rich, and word reached Nolbu. Shocked at the dramatic change of fate of his brother, Nolbu visited Heungbu and asked how he got so wealthy. The brother told him the true story of the swallow.
Nolbu got back home and decided to do the same to gain riches. But instead of tending to an injured bird, he caught a swallow, intentionally broke its leg, and nursed it crudely. Once the bird recovered, he ordered it to bring him a gourd seed.
The bird did come back with the seed, but when the gourds grew, instead of riches, the gourds contained a shaman and a goblin. Nolbu lost all his wealth, and the goblin attacked his family. But Heungbu, being the good brother he is, took in his brother’s family, caring for them as if they had never mistreated him, and eventually, the two reconciled.
The analogy that Jin used in his remark to chef Baek basically referred to the chef as Nolbu, who didn’t even leave a grain of rice for his brother Heungbu. Besides being a horrible brother, Nolbu was also the typical evil character. According to some texts, Nolbu had many twisted enjoyments, such as slapping a person who has a toothache, taking debitors’ wives as payment, stomping on the back of a hunchback, and fanning the flames of a burning house.
Given that the man just got compared to Nolbu, it is understandable why chef Baek’s reflexes picked up the ladle so fast in response.