Birds intimate with humans by Jwa

What kind of a bird produces that birdsong? What kind of birds are in Wolmyeongdong? Aren't you curious? Let's come to know through the class, 'the bird that is intimate with people.'

칼럼_완결칼럼_Birds intimate with humans

The scops owl, the bird that cries all night long

Your sad cry resounds so deeply.

The scops owl, the bird that cries all night long

This bird, which is mentioned occasionally in Pastor Jung Myeong Seok’s poems and sermons, is the smallest owl native to Korea.


The scops owl, the bird that cries all night long

Throughout the night in Wolmyeongdong, you can hear the mournful cries of scops owls from the roads of Sunghwangdang or Mt. Doonggurae. This bird, often mentioned in the Teacher’s poems and messages, is the smallest species of owls that live in Korea. It is registered as National Monument Number 324-6.

A scops owl’s body size ranges from 18.5 cm to 21.5 cm, and its body color is grayish brown or reddish brown.

Just like other species of owls, scops owls have a flat face, eyes developed in the center of their face, good ears, and a sharp beak and claws with which they can hunt for various types of food, such as small amphibians, reptiles, and insects.

Scops owls are dispersed throughout South Central Eurasia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asian [nations] such as Korea and Japan. They are uncommon and are summer migratory birds that live and reproduce mainly in hills, parks, and forests around residential areas. 

The bird with much grief


In Korean, the scops owl cries ‘sojjeok, sojjeok,’ and its cry sounds like ‘sojjeokda, sojjeokda.’ It means ‘the pot for cooking rice is small,’ in other words, ‘give me some rice, give me some rice.’ So it is a bird that carries the joy and sorrow of the working class in the past who lived by farming.

Also, the scops owl appears in many regional fables. They are [usually] about either a daughter or a mother of a family, who have lost their life while trying to protect their family and who continue to long for their family even after death. Within many poems and literary works, the scops owl appears as a medium representing the Korean sentiment of grief. Here is another sad folk tale that related to a scops owl:

There was a girl named Sohwa, who was bright and kind even though she was born into a poor family. When Sohwa turned sixteen, her parents started to worry because there weren’t any families willing to take her for marriage because they were so poor. Then one day, a rich family offered to take Sohwa as their daughter-in-law. Sohwa’s parents called her before marrying her off and told her, “Sohwa, even if the senior in-laws mistreat you, you must bear with them. At least you won’t miss meals there, so it should be a better place to live than here.”

On the first day after the wedding, Sohwa’s mother-in-law told her, “If you cook too much rice, the leftover rice will become cold. So make sure to cook only one pot of rice [each time].” So, Sohwa cooked the rice with devotion so that it would not be too watery or burnt. Then she put the rice into bowls for her mother-in-law, husband, and [three] sister-in-laws, but she didn’t have one for herself. She could only make five bowls of rice at a time because the pot was small, and she couldn’t disobey her mother-in-law and cook rice twice.

So Sohwa, who couldn’t eat properly, starved to death while resenting her parents who married her off to the rich family. Carrying so much grief, Sowha couldn’t even go to the afterworld upon her death, but instead, became a bird and went about crying, ‘small pot, small pot.’ It was a cry of resentment expressing how she starved to death because of a small pot. That is why scops owls received the name ‘Sojjeok (small pot)bird.’

Scops owl, a bird with many sad stories

Nowadays, scops owls cry mournfully near sunset. Let that sound echo in your heart--how sorrowful and pitiful it is! The inside of a scops owl’s mouth is red like blood, so people of the past believed that scops owls cried to the point they would vomit blood and die.

The cries of the scops owls that are heard from afar in the night sky of Wolmyeongdong sound as though [the owls] are crying woefully with a bloody throat on behalf of us, who long to see the Holy Trinity and the Lord.

Scops Owl 1

You, bird, crying all night long, How deep are your stories? Among those who cry mournfully, Who does not have a story? But your mournful cry That echoes in the mountains in the night And even in my deepest shimjeong Is so strong. It makes everyone’s life sorrowful.

Yes, that is right. That’s how it is. Perhaps that bird knows My heart and Heaven’s heart.

- From Pastor Jung Myeong Seok’s Poems of Inspiration, Volume 2