Is Netflix’s The Bequeathed Inspired by a True Story?

The Netflix Korean crime horror show, ‘The Bequeathed,’ charts an intriguing mystery circling around a family and their generational burial site. The sudden death of a distant and unknown uncle brings immense change into Yoon Seo-ha’s life as it leaves her in possession of her family’s burial ground as her inheritance. However, the same also leads to the discovery of an unpredictable half-brother, Kim Young-Ho. Worse yet, after a string of murders and other crimes plague the town, Detective Choi Sung-Joon brings Seo-ha’s family graveyard under his persistent suspicion. As a result, secrets of the past and present unravel, sending the woman’s life down an unforeseeable path.

Although the series remains ripe with occultist themes of horror, the story also remains aptly steeped in a crime-driven narrative. For the same reason, paired with the show’s authentic exploration of family, curiosity is bound to arise regarding the show’s basis in real life.

Uniquely Korean Origin With Universal Themes

No, ‘The Bequeathed’ is not based on a true story. The show is a work of fiction conceived under filmmaker Yeon Sang-ho’s screenwriting, which has received previous global recognition and praise after his work on the 2016 film ‘Train to Busan’ and the 2021 show ‘Hellbound.’ With Yeon’s compelling writing brought to life under the debut direction of Min Hong-nam, the show presents its riveting storyline with a Korean family grave site at its center.

In fact, the show’s original title, ‘Seon-san,’ is actually the Korean word for a family grave site. Since the practice of such a traditional place, passed down from generation to generation, isn’t commonplace in other cultures, the word lacks a direct English translation. Hence, the title turns into ‘The Bequethed’ to express the weight behind the tradition as a bequeathment.

In many ways, the show begins as an exploration of family and religion, two concepts filmmaker Yeon feels share significant commonality. For the same reason, he decided to equip occult themes to bridge the gap between the two concepts, introducing a horror perspective to the story. The same further helps in the story’s exploration of familial relationships.

The innate rituals associated with family traditions matched with the idea of individuals inheriting their family’s sins helped Yeon build the show’s framework. From there, the concept of a family grave site, arguably a uniquely Korean concept due to its cultural consistency, came easily to the writer.

Nevertheless, despite the unfamiliarity of the concept, a central narrative tool within the show, viewers will still find points of relatability and real-life reflections in the show due to its focus on the theme of family. “[However,] While family grave sites may not exist [in many other places], there’s no country in the world without families,” said Yeon in conversation with The Korea Herald. “If the global viewers can empathize with the concept of family, I think [‘The Bequethed’] could be understood globally.”

As for the show’s connections with criminality, another crucial aspect of the narrative, Yeon harvested inspiration for it from his regular true crime and docuseries hobby. “The neighborhood where I live is very quiet, and nothing much happens. So I spend my leisure time doing a lot of internet surfing and watching these kinds of videos, and it ends up giving me a lot of my ideas, I think,” said Yeon in the same interview.

Connections To The Webtoon By Kang Tae-kyung

While interviews suggest ‘The Bequeathed’ is an original idea crafted by Yeon and his imagination, the show’s basis on the popular webtoon, sharing the show’s title, by Kang Tae-kyung may lead people to wonder if one is based on the other. The webtoon, first released in November 2023 to a receptive and appreciating audience, is intricately related to Yeon’s Netflix show.

Although a part of the webtoon was released earlier than the show, its story continues, with the second part coming out alongside the show’s introduction to the global audience. As such, both pieces of media can be seen as companion pieces, exploring the same narrative and characters, simply in different formats.

Nevertheless, ‘The Bequeathed,’ in either format, remains a fictional story penned by Yeon Sang-ho, who used various sources for inspiration. Yet, his work retains enough distinction that it doesn’t have tangible connections to a real-life instance. Moreover, its supernatural elements further cement the show into a work of fiction.

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