Jangsan Beom: The Mystery Behind South Korea's Sinister Mountain Tiger TAP TO GET PODCAST
Located in Busan, South Korea, Jangsan Mountain is home to beautiful landscapes overlooking the sea, with a wide range of hiking mountains. But travelers, be warned. The Jangsan Mountain may also be home to a frightening cryptid waiting to devour lost travelers in the forest. If you hear running water, it may be best to look the other way.
I’m Elaine, and you’re touring Cryptids Across the Atlas.
It was just a few days into the official summer season. While temperatures typically seem to be a bit warm and muggy during this time of year, this particular early morning Sunday, right before the sun began creeping out amongst the hilltops, was the perfect time to hike through the Jangsan mountains. Just an hour outside Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city, the Jangsan mountains are the perfect place to get away from all the hustle and bustle of city life and simply enjoy the great outdoors. And for one young teenage boy, trekking through the mountains was one of his favorite pastimes, even more so when his father opted to go with him. While his mother and older sister didn’t mind the scenic drive-through, they weren’t entirely keen on spending their entire afternoons in the mountains. After all, there were plenty of things to do in the city to keep them busy.
So when his father woke him up one early morning to go on a hiking adventure and officially kick off summer break, the teenage boy immediately got dressed and headed out the door. He loved nothing more than spending quality time with his father, especially if it meant they’d have the entire day ahead of them. Pulling into the Jangsan mountains about an hour later, they knew they were making perfect time, just as the sun peaked over the mountaintops.
After the sun officially made its grand entrance, the views were breathtaking. Only being out in the mountains for a couple of hours, they were making great time. His father was in excellent health and shape for his age and quite possibly had more stamina than his children some days. Because of this, his son slowly started falling back, trying to catch his breath and doubling the number of water breaks. Chuckling at the idea of making better headway than his son, he joked that if his son moved any slower, he could race him all the way to the top of the mountain, and by the time he came back down, his son would only be a few feet from where he was currently standing.
Giving his dad a soft punch to the shoulder, he jokingly agreed. But despite wanting to get to the top of the mountain, his hunger slowly grew with every couple of steps. Agreeing that they’d only go a little bit further before heading back for a late afternoon lunch, they continued on.
But it wouldn’t be long before the son realized this would probably be the last time he’d ever trek these mountains again. With his dad still several feet ahead, a white, blurry figure quickly darted past him. Taken aback at the abrupt gust of wind, he was temporarily stunned. Yelling for his dad several feet away, he asked if he had seen what he had just witnessed. However, his dad was already far enough ahead that he didn’t hear his son’s call.
But he couldn’t quite shake the feeling that someone or something was watching him. Just as he took his next step, he glanced up and saw a large, white figure standing upright behind a rock half a mile away. From the looks of it, it looked like someone was wearing a long, white furry robe as it started walking slowly back toward him. Half-frightened at what this thing was, half-thinking it was a cruel prank by his father, he just stood there, seemingly frozen in time. And that’s when it dropped to all fours and started to run towards him.
Crying out in fear, he fell backward and covered his face, afraid it would attack him. But just as his dad quickly returned after hearing his plea, the boy looked up, and the figure was gone. As his dad was worriedly standing over his son, he helped him get back on his feet and dusted off his shoulders. As the boy described what he saw, he was noticeably shaken up. That’s when his father agreed that they should go ahead and turn back. Although the boy never saw the mysterious white beast again, he swore off ever going back into the Jangsan Mountains. But this wouldn’t be the only story circulating about a furry, white beast living amongst the mountaintops.
Later, this furry white beast would be known as the Jangsan Beom. But this wouldn’t be just any ordinary white tiger. Throughout the 2010s, stories upon stories were shared across forums of similar sightings in the Jangson Mountains. Being described as having long, white fur covering its humanlike face, immensely sharp claws, and long, pointy teeth, the Jangsan Beom stature has been likened to a lion, a dog, or even a sloth in some instances. But perhaps its scariest attributes may not be its swift movements or its frightening glare but its hair-raising shrieks.
Some say its howl sounds like metal grinding against metal, with a very “grotesque” noise that you might hear in a horror film, leaving those who hear it stricken with discomfort. However, others have described its cry as even more sinister than scraping metal. According to South Korean folklore, the Jangsan Beom lures its prey into the forest by mimicking a woman’s cry. As unsuspecting hikers hear the woman from afar, many have tried to locate the distress call. But upon arrival, the Jangson Beom lurches from its hiding place, tears them limb from limb with its large claws, and ultimately devours them.
Other lore suggests an entirely different cry all together, one that’s less of a distress call and more of a false signal of hope. As individuals reach the top of the mountains during the hottest time of the year, many often become dehydrated from forgetting to pack enough water. Knowing that these lost travelers are desperate for even the smallest stream, the Jangsan Beom is said to mimic the noise of running water. And like before, the Jangsan Beom is said to leap across the forest opening, clawing its way through skin and bone and ultimately discarding what’s left of the bodies.
Of course, we don’t really know if these tales are actually true or just a piece of folklore passed down all in the good, spooky fun. There’s not much proof of these carnivorous monsters other than the assumption that whatever it is people see on the trail is nothing more than just a massive white tiger.
But no matter if the Jangsan Beom is real or just another typical mountainous feline, this piece of folklore inspired the 2017 Korean Horror film Jangsan Beom, or in the English translation, The Mimic. According to Amazon Prime Video, this film follows a “mother of a missing child who takes in a lost girl she finds in the woods and soon begins to wonder if she is even human.” If you’re into horror movies, this may be one to add to your weeknight movie checklist.
But what if this isn’t a typical white tiger at all? What if there really is a more sinister cryptid lurking in the Jangsan Mountains? For the city of Busan, they may have just spotted evidence of this elusive beast after all. As our initial story took place during Summertime, so does our most recent “sighting.”
We can all agree that 2020 was an interesting year, to say the least. Not only was there a global pandemic, but factor in the crazy scandals, deadly Australian and West Coast wildfires, the stock market crashing, and, lest we forget, the murder hornets, 2020 was definitely one of those years that will go down in history books as the year the world turned upside down. But amongst all the craziness, there’s still one more unexplainable event during that same summer.
It was like any other warm June summer day in Busan. Well, as close to normal as any other summer day in 2020, yet another wild story was being told. Perhaps the elusive Jangsan Beom was no longer a mysterious myth, as local college students may have spotted it climbing up the side of the mountains.
After recording footage of it on their phones, they immediately took to the local news. Soon after, researchers decided to do their own experiment to test the validity of the cryptid claims. By putting on white coats and climbing the mountains themselves, they later analyzed the footage based on their own recordings. However, the result may have been more inconclusive than ever. Although researchers pointed out their stark white coats and the differences in stature, they chalked it up as either a person or animal trekking through the mountains, just a little misconstrued by the tree line and the fuzzy film quality from the zoomed-in camera.
Suppose this footage was a bust. Maybe the college students were pulling a prank or just thought whatever was climbing up the mountainside looked odd from the angle they were watching and wanted a second opinion. We may never know the truth behind this South Korean cryptid. But perhaps there is one thing we can all agree on. No matter what really is lurking out in the Jangsan Mountains, we don’t want to get in its crosshairs by falling victim to its deathly cries.
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Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.