The Korean drama TV series GOBLIN had recently became a hit and trend among fans and even non-fans of K-pop. It was starred by giants of Korean Cinema Gong Yoo, Lee Dong-wook, Kim Go-eun, and Yoo In-na. The great acting, kilig factor, awesome editing, and chilling cinematography of the series gained praise from different critics. No wonder why a lot of people are crazy about it. But what fans did not notice is its underlying philosophical elements.
What makes GOBLIN unique among other K-dramas is its presentation of Yin and Yang and a lot of Daoist elements traditional to East Asian cultures like Korea. I’m not really a fan of K-dramas but this series fascinated me.
In the series, you can see Grim Reaper trying to balance the living and the dead by putting them in their respective places. The living shall remain in the world while the dead must be placed in heaven or hell of the afterlife. This concept of harmony with nature called ziran is fundamental to Daoist practice.
However, Goblin, the main protagonist in the story, always breaks this harmony by intervening in human affairs. Grim Reaper hates him for it. And I know Daoists would hate him too. One of the central teachings in Taoism is not to participate in societal and human affairs. That is why most Daoist sages are hermits living in the mountains. The Daoist philosopher Chuangtse even caricatured the moralist Confucius for his political activities.
Goblin finally realizes the consequences of his interventions when he started to face a life and death situation. Goblin is a deity and, like most deities, he is immortal. But Goblin is tired of living and wants to die. (Pagod na c siya.) He won’t die unless he meets his bride and the bride pulls out the sword pierced through him. The bride is actually the daughter of the pregnant woman he saved after a car accident. This is the part when Goblin finds the struggle for harmony problematic and almost paradoxical—an illustration of how intervening with the affairs of man and nature would break the balance of things.
Another interesting part in the series is when Grim Reaper met Sunny. Their romantic journey is an illustration of Yin-Yang trying to harmonize with each other. The mysterious Grim Reaper seems to have the aspect of yin or darkness, while Sunny is the yang or light (thus, “Sunny”).
These traditional Daoist elements on GOBLIN make the series uniquely Asian in contrast with Western-style Korean dramas we usually see. This cultural affinity puts GOBLIN in a special place in Asian culture.
[written by: Jubert Cabrezos]