Digital Bystanders: The Horror of “Ok-Su Ghost”

OKSU

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!

 

  4 comments for “Digital Bystanders: The Horror of “Ok-Su Ghost”

  1. asanixay
    April 21, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I think the Ok-Su Ghost game is, in a way, a life lesson that shouldn’t be taken for granted. A lot of people would find it rude and insensitive to just record the suffering of others instead of offering help. It somewhat reminds me of a movie called Untraceable, where the theme is about how the public is interested in the suffering of others. To me, the protagonist somewhat got what he asked for. He ignores warnings, which lead to his downfall. A form of poetic justice, like 1000 Ways to Die. Overall, I think the game can give its players a life lesson.

  2. scolliga
    April 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    Horror is definitely meant to be cautionary, however I can’t help but feel like the ending of this story was not as easy to avoid as simply not being a jerk on your phone. If East Asian horror has taught us anything, it’s that if there’s a pale girl with dark hair covering her face, she is scary and she will eat your face because you watched a videotape or visited a website or, I guess in this case, used Instagram or something else relating to commonplace personal electronics. While it was undoubtedly insensitive for this protagonist to take a picture of this ghost and post it around to friends, taking the friendly approach would probably have done nothing but expedited the haunting/death process. How many times has some well-meaning sap gone up to some injured person with that concerned, “Hey, are you ok? Do you want me to call an ambulance?” just to have their ears ripped off by zombie teeth? It seems to me like the only thing that would have saved this person is if he’d left that train station.

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