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What Is the Significance Of the "Dog Mask" in "The Killing Vote"? Myths Debunked!

If you're a K-drama fan like us, you've probably heard of the new ongoing drama The Killing Vote! But if you're a real die-hard K-drama fan, you're probably wondering, "What's with the cute dog mask and why did the killer decide to choose it?" Well, you're in luck because we're here to debunk any myths you might have and give you the facts about the cultural significance of the "dog mask" and other Korean masks you might have!


Gaetal (dog mask) in "The Killing Vote" (Prime Video)
Gaetal (dog mask) in "The Killing Vote" (SBS TV)

SBS TV's new ongoing crime thriller The Killing Vote has caused quite a stir in the K-drama community with its mysterious "weird but creepy-looking" dog mask (depending on how you look at it, it could be considered "cute") killer on the loose while the main leads The Glory's Lim Ji Yeon and My Love from the Star's Park Hae Jin run around searching for clues trying to catch him. Gaetal is the mysterious "dog mask" person's name and we break down why his mask is so significant in Korean culture! Read on!


Why masks?


Gaetal literally means "dog mask" in Korean — "개" (gae) meaning "dog" and "탈" (tal) meaning "mask". Before we dive into why this mask is significant, we need to give you a little background historical clue!


Korean masks have long been a tradition used in a variety of contexts. They normally come with cloth attached to the sides to simulate long black hair. Masks were used for war, burial rites, and shaman ceremonies to drive away evil spirits and to remember historical figures in live theater.


Traditional Hahoetal performance mask (Antique Alive)
Traditional Hahoetal performance mask (Antique Alive)

The most famous Korean masks that made it to the screen were Hahoetal masks used for traditional ceremonies dating back to the 12th century. These performance masks are considered to be "national treasures" by the Korean government. One of the most famous K-dramas featuring this mask was Gaksital or Bridal Mask (2012) starring Joo Won. Money Heist: Korea also featured this famous style mask that really catapulted its popularity in mainstream media.


"Bridal Mask" poster starring Joo Won (KBS)
"Bridal Mask" poster starring Joo Won (KBS)

Although there are many Korean mythical creatures, we want to focus on the Bulgae "불개" which means "fire dog". These strong, fierce, and hairy, fire dogs came from darkness and always chased the sun and the moon causing eclipses when they bit both celestial bodies. Bulgae can be compared to Korean indigenous dogs sasari which means "ghost chasing dogs".


Korean Bulgae fiery dog (Superpower Wiki)
Korean Bulgae fiery dog (Superpower Wiki)

So back to The Killing Vote, we can deduce that the killer's dog mask can represent a number of things including being a mythical being who has the power to "chase away" evil spirits, meaning "cleansing" of the evildoers or sinners in the show. The design of the mask can give the character a more "friendly" aesthetically pleasing look to viewers. The emotionless expression also gives Gaetal's character a more "neutral" position during the live votes.


So what do you think? Do you have a theory that you would like to debunk? Let us know in the comments below!



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