What if I told you that something which occurred 600 years ago has sent its ripples through time and space? Lifetimes have passed, eras have come and gone–but the score still hasn’t been settled and the karma of what occurred lingers on. That is the premise upon which Bulgasal begins.

This is not the first time I’ve seen a plot line such as this one in a Korean drama. From Yoon Sang-ho’s Saimdang to Oh Choong-hwan’s Hotel Del Luna to Kim Hong-sun’s Black, Korean dramas have told the tales of reincarnation through an origin story that ripples through from ancient history and resurrects itself in the present day.

The Plot

A baby emerges from the womb of a woman who has hung herself. The villagers, who are fleeing from the Japanese as well as mythical creatures known as ‘Monsters’, believe that the newborn has been cursed by a particularly bloodthirsty and dangerous monster named Bulgasal. The villagers say that the baby should never have been born and should have died with his mother. Shortly after the baby’s birth, the father abandons the child and flees the village.

Ten years later, the boy, who still doesn’t have a name, lives on the fringes of the village, after being outcasted by the villagers. One fine day, the villagers begin dying mysteriously. An old fear they once felt begins to rise and they start panicking. The shaman attributes the unexplainable deaths to the boy, leading the villagers to try and kill the boy. But by some stroke of luck, destiny or fate, the boy is saved not once, but twice. The general who rescues him takes him in as a son and with time, he grows up to become a brave and fearless warrior.

Although he has escaped the village, he cannot escape his fate and he eventually does meet the monster Bulgasal who is actually a beautiful woman when she is in human form. She plunges her sword through him, effectively taking his soul and turning him into the Monster that everyone fears and hates.

And with that momentous turn of events, he embarks on his quest to break the curse–a quest that will take him many centuries.

Lee Jin-wook in ‘Bulgasal: Immortal Souls’. Credit: Netflix

The Vendetta

Are we born as pure and innocent souls or are we born with vendettas and grudges that we have carried within us from previous lifetimes? How are vendettas born? Are they destined? Why do they seek to be avenged? And why do they carry themselves over through that many lifetimes?

Unlike other forms of vengeance and retribution, a vendetta is a blood feud. It is a long and violent argument between people or families, in which one group tries to harm the other in order to punish them for things that happened in the past.

The idea of a vendetta is not unthinkable, but the thought that it can carry itself in the human soul lifetime after lifetime is a mind-boggling conundrum.

How will it all pan out for the protagonist and antagonist of Bulgasal? Or can we even call them ‘protagonist’ and ‘antagonist’ given that we’re not sure what transpired between them and what score they’re trying to settle?

At the time of writing, only two episodes have been released on Netflix… It goes without saying that I look forward to watching the rest of the series.

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