This is a story of Kong-Ji and Pat-Ji. It is a Korean version of Cinderella.
Kong-Ji was a younger living with her dad in a small village. When she was young, her mother died and his dad brought in a new mother. The stepmother had a daughter called Pat-Ji. Whenever Kong-Ji’s dad wasn’t present, her stepmother and Pat-Ji treated her horribly and forced her to chores.
One day, there was a feast held in the village to celebrate the governor’s son’s birthday and everyone was invited. Kong-Ji wanted to go but her stepmother and Pat-Ji told her that she had to finish all her chores if she wanted to go. The job was to fill a broken jar full of water, pull the grass in the fields with insufficient tools. After she finished these chores, if she could weave her own clothing, then she could go to the feast.
Kong-Ji started filling the jar but noticed that it was impossible because it kept spilling out. Then, a toad appeared and filled the crack in the jar with his body to help her fill the jar.
Next, she had to plow the field and pull grass, but her hoe was made from wood instead of metal. Whenever she tried to use it, it would break, and Kong-Ji’s hands were full of cuts. A bull appeared and helped her plow the field. With the bull’s help, she was able to plow through the whole field.
Her next task was to weave clothing. A fairy appeared and helped her weave the clothing and Kong-Ji was able to get the work done a lot faster. The fairy made a beautiful garment and Kong-Ji was able to wear it to the feast and meet the governor’s son.
The governor’s son fell in love with Kong-Ji but she had to instantly leave when she spotted her stepmother and Pat-Ji who wanted to know the mysterious woman the governor’s son was taken by. While fleeing, she shed a pair of her shoes and the governor’s son wandered all around the village looking for the owner of the shoe until she found Kong-Ji.
Kong-Ji and the governor’s son got married and punished the stepmother and Pat-Ji.
This story is a popular children’s story in Korea. I had heard about it when I was younger, but this particular collection was translation of a version my friend told me about. She said she knew about this piece from hearing it from her own parents when she was younger. She doesn’t know if there are any meaning behind the story or if she learned anything from it. She says it’s just a story that she heard when she was younger.
This was collected from a casual conversation with a friend form Korea, who I asked about Korean children’s stories she heard about when she was younger.
Just like there’s Cinderella in Western cultures, Korea has their own variation of the story of an evil stepmother and her daughter who treats the adopted daughter horribly. I think this just shows that different cultures and countries have their own folk stories they tell children. Just as there are differences in the German and French version of Cinderella, Korea has their own version of Cinderella in the form of Kong-Ji and Pat-Ji. While the name isn’t the same, the premise is the same and it is a testament to the common folklore tropes in many cultures.
Annotation: For another version of this tale, refer to
Kang, Sungsook. “Kongjwi and Patjwi.” Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture, National Folk Museum of Korea, folkency.nfm.go.kr/en/topic/detail/5996.