I became interested in Studio Horang’s work after reading a post by Karmakona on its popular comic “Bongcheon-Dong Ghost.” The work has a (to my knowledge) lesser-known sister comic called “Ok-Su Ghost.” The comic shares many elements with “Boncheon-Dong Ghost,” most noticeably the choice of subject matter (ghosts of course!) and the use of a shocking jump-scare near the end, wherein the mostly-static comic becomes suddenly animated for a single panel. However, “Ok-Su Ghost” differs from the other comic by telling not only a satisfyingly-creepy ghost story, but also attempting (and I believe succeeding) to make a statement about the negative influence which social media can have on people.
“Ok-Su Ghost” starts in a similar manner to “Bongcheon-Dong Ghost” in that the story begins with a lone protagonist trying to get home after nightfall. However, while the narrator/protagonist of “BDG” is truly alone, the narrator/protagonist of “OSG” has a chat app on his phone. While waiting for the last train home, he sees a pale girl with dark hair covering her eyes stumbling about, and immediately decides that instead of perhaps helping her, or asking if she is okay, he needs to talk to a few chat buddies about it. Much of the story is spent with the main character looking at the chat log. I believe that it is very important to notice that at the top of the log, the words “profane and defamatory comments could hurt others’ feelings” are printed,” calling attention to the reprehensible behavior of the protagonist and his chat friends. Instead of assisting the girl, he takes a picture of her and posts it at the behest of his cyber-cronies. He only pauses for a moment when the girl falls down and hits her head on a wall, making her bleed. But again, he is soon drawn back into the world of his phone, where a fellow chatter warns him that the girl is stumbling because a malicious spirit is attempting to drag her onto the tracks, and that he should leave the platform immediately. He disregards this advice, but looking up from his phone, he sees that the girl is gone. He looks over the edge of the platform, and a ghostly arm shoots out from the tracks, dragging him to his death.
Now, it could be argued that the chat app could have saved this man, if he had merely listened to the medium’s advice, but I like believe that ghost stories are usually cautionary tales. A character does something morally wrong or just plain dumb, and they are punished for it. The protagonist in “BDG” lies to a ghost, and is scared so badly that she loses consciousness. Someone builds a house on the graveyard of a marginalized ethnic minority population, and said population’s spirits wreak bloody vengeance. And we all know what happens when children wander off into the dark woods. So logically, the protagonist of this story is being punished too. But is it for the crime of remaining passive while a fellow human suffers, or for disobeying someone who had his best interest at heart? And if death is supposed to be seen as punishment, then what was the girl’s crime? I like to think that, had he acted soon enough, had he been active enough to even ask this girl what was wrong, instead of solely communicating with people on his phone, the man could have saved them both. Or maybe she really was doomed from the start. I can never know for sure, but I’d like to hear what people think!