Subject: When I was little my grandma would always tell me and my cousins that if we had any leftover food in our plate that we’d be forced to eat those when we died in Hell. And it’s not even like you eat these leftover items one by one… No that’s hell. Folks would mix everything and you have to eat it all. The thing is in buddhist belief (which my family is) and especially the Korean and East Asian branch, they say that everyone goes through multiple layers of Hell when you die. No exceptions. Everyone goes through different Hells where you’re judged for different punishments, and that’s why the concept of Hell isn’t that scary to elderly Koreans because like everyone be going. And on top of that my grandma lived through the Korean war she was very little but you ask anyone who lived through that era when food was so scarce, having leftover really is a crime. There is also a very common phrase that’s like “밥그릇 싹싹비우다” which translates to airing out your rice bowl clean, and it’s used to describe like a delicious meal so in result you would eat all of that food with no leftovers. Older Koreans can be really strict about finishing everything given to you and it’s part of like the general culture to try to finish everything in you plate. In schools and military and people are taught to empty their plates clean, or you’re being wasteful and rude to the cook.
Context: The subject is a 20-year-old Freshman screenwriting major at USC who was born in South Korea, and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. They are a close friend of mine, and we are currently quarantined on opposite coasts of the country. They are in LA, and I am in Charleston, South Carolina. I called them up one afternoon and asked if they had any folklore they would willing to share with me, and this is what they told me.
Interpretation: This folk belief sounded pretty personal to the subject and their family. There are apparently 18 layers of Hell according to Buddhist beliefs. They all seem quite torturous and uncomfortable. I found it interesting that everyone must go through these layers of Hell once they die. As the subject mentioned, there is a sort of comfort to that, and it does take some of the fear away to know that it is a collective experience. One of the major beliefs of Buddhism is that suffering is caused by greed, so it makes sense that it would be encouraged not waste any food, or get more food than is absolutely needed.