2018 Winter Olympics: the internet is obsessed with Inmyeonjo, a human-faced sacred bird


NBC isn’t even streaming the Winter Olympics opening ceremony until 8pm ET tonight, but in the time since the event happened live yesterday in Pyeongchang, Korean netizens have made enough fan art and memes out of the ceremony’s man-faced bird that it’s trending nationally on Twitter, and hitting #1 on Yahoo! Japan trending search results.

“인면조,” or Inmyeonjo, literally translates to “human-faced bird.” The trending tag “인면조 너무” translates to “Inmyeonjo is so,” which is a partial sentence people have completed in different ways, including “Inmyeonjo is so scary,” and “Inmyeonjo is so handsome.” People feel very strongly about this animal one way or another, but are divided on whether it’s terrifying:

Or actually kind of dreamy:

Translation: “The more I look at it, the better-looking it seems.”

Translation: “I love the Inmyeonjo”

So just what is this thing? The Inmyeonjo is a legendary animal that appears in East Asian mythology and Buddhist scripture as a fantastical creature with a human head and a bird’s torso. It dates back to the Goguryeo period of Korean history, even appearing in cave drawings:

Translation: This bird from Pyeongchang Opening ceremony is called Goguryeo Inmyeonjo. They can be found in ancient tombs and several cultural properties from the Goguryeo era, including the famous old tomb in Deokheung-ri. From the left, it’s called Ha-jo, Cheon-ju, and Man-se. The right one is the human-faced bird from a particular ancient tomb, but there is no name for it.

The Inmyeonjo is supposed to appear when there’s peace on earth, connecting the heavens and the earth for a thousand years — which explains why the Olympics would consider it a potent symbol of international union. True to its duty as a supposed symbol of unity, it’s certainly unifying the internet in terror and confusion.

Translation: “I searched Inmyeonjo in Chinese and the related searches are ‘Inmyeonjo scary’ lolol”

Here’s an extreme close-up to haunt/bless your dreams tonight, depending on how you feel about it.

Translation: Anyone want to see the Inmyeonjo look hideous? Lololol

It’s been less than 24 hours since the world has been introduced to Inmyeonjo, and already there’s enough gorgeous and haunting fan art for a parody twitter account posing as the bird to keep track of it all. It promises to protect you and reminds you to love yourself, so I’m guessing its persona is firmly on Team “Handsome Guardian.”

Additional translation provided by James Park.

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