***Warning: Spoilers***

***Trigger Warnings: Sexual assault, abuse, mental health, gore***

 

Let me first start off by saying that, despite what you may have seen or heard, Killing Stalking is not a romance. It is about two mentally unstable people in a codependent relationship. Killing Stalking is a psychological thriller Korean manwha (comic) created, written and drawn by Koogi and is distributed by Lezhin Comics. Before you read any further, know that I will be talking about many unfortunate circumstances that the characters go through throughout the series including abuse, homicide and sexual assault.

Yoon Bum is a scrawny man in his twenties with Borderline Personality Disorder and a stalking problem. We are introduced to him while he is literally stalking his current prey on the train, sweating and staring with an unsettling smile while he thinks about this man and a girl he saw the man with. Flash forward to Bum attempting to break into someone’s house, questioning his own actions. Why does he do the things he does? Why does he steal others’ processions, watch people from afar, break into houses? He claims it’s all for love.We learn the name of the stalkee is Oh Sangwoo and a bit of Bum’s past is presented. We learn that Bum and Sangwoo were classmates and that he had admired Sangwoo from afar. The two men were drafted in the army during the same time and Bum was less than optimal at being a soldier. His fellow officers decided to take advantage of his small frame by forcing him to do extra exercises, wearing him out, only to then attempt at a gang rape. We learn that Sangwoo intervened and, in a way, saved Bum from his abusers.  This act only caused Bum’s infatuation to grow stronger.  Although he attempted to oppose his feelings of attachment toward Sangwoo, he was unable to repress them, explaining those feelings “wouldn’t be able to forget as easily as before”. With no closure, Bum was left to his memories of his savior, portraying Sangwoo as this all mighty deity of pure wonder who became the object of his obsession and even serves as masturbation material.

In all honesty, despite feeling repulsed by his behavior, I really do feel bad for this man. We can clearly see that Bum is incredibly poor, lives in a shabby, unkempt apartment, and wears the same clothes everyday. He seems to have unstable life due to having been through a myriad of unfortunate circumstances that effect him everyday. These events have left him scarred mentally and physically. Tack all of that onto his Borderline Personality Disorder, which is defined as “serious mental disorder marked by a pattern of ongoing instability in moods, behavior, self-image, and functioning. These experiences often result in impulsive actions and unstable relationships. A person with BPD may experience intense episodes of anger, depression, and anxiety that may last from only a few hours to days”. With all of this going on, it’s no wonder Sangwoo is his one shining light. Readers can identify with some aspect or trait Bum has and Koogi relays that to her readers. She is really good at nailing the “feel bad for the main character” because either we have too much sympathy or we are that person with mental disability and can relate. She also knows that, generally, an audience wants nothing more than our main characters to be happy and healthy and constantly makes us question our own thoughts, feelings and morals.

Eventually, Bum successfully breaks into Sangwoo’s home and we see him roam through the house, touching and smelling things as he goes all the while catching glimpses of a naked and bruised woman tied up. Bum eventually makes it to Sangwoo’s room where he performs some inappropriate acts. It is then we learn of Sangwoo’s God-awful secret when Bum encounters the woman beaten and tied up the basement. She is traumatized and utterly begs him to save her. As Bum prepares to untie her he is suddenly encountered by non other than the main attraction himself, Oh Sangwoo, carrying a large, metal bat. With a massive swing, Bum is knocked in the arm then shoved down the stairs, falling unconscious, only to wake up chained to a pole and laying next to the now dead woman he tried to save. This is just the two chapters, my friends.

In public, Sangwoo’s adopted the “perfect college student” persona. He is always accompanied by friends and attracts many female admirers; the local police even see him as a good kid. He is “beloved by all”, as Bum describes him, and has an “empathetic, considerate gentle aura [that draws] everyone to him”. However, this outward appearance masks the deranged, homicidal serial killer he truly is. His psychopathic characteristics come into play with every murder he commits. He will torture and toy with his victims in sadistic fashion, alternating between sympathy and berating them with explicit slurs and hate speech. He tortures them slowly, savoring every minute, manipulating them into thinking they MAY have a chance to escape before being mercilessly killed. Over the course of the chapters, Sangwoo’s past is slowly surfaced and we get a feel for why he is the way he is.

From happy-go-lucky student

to psychotic serial killer.

Throughout the series, we see Bum and Sangwoo’s “relationship” develop into a ghastly codependency with the latter even developing an emotional attachment to the former. Despite this, Sangwoo keeps Bum as his captive. He tortures, manipulates and abuses Bum to the point of breaking. There is nothing for these two. Sangwoo will not help Bum become less of a creep and Bum is even less of a cure for Sangwoo’s pure cruelty and psychotic nature.

At times, there are certain scenarios Koogi writes that makes us genuinely like these two as a couple. Such as the two shopping for clothes or cooking together and even participating in consenting sexual activities, despite Sangwoo exhibiting homophobia at first. However, each situation is truly a ploy for Sangwoo to manipulate Bum into obeying his every command and making sure he doesn’t escape. And Bum, unfortunately, feels like Sangwoo really does want him. Though, there are a few moments where he really does realize this is not someone he wants anymore but has to go along with everything in order to survive. So there may be some hope?

What Koogi is trying to convey in her series is not to be taken lightly at all and she is constantly topping herself with each scenario. And honestly? I’m totally fine with that. Bring on the shock factor. There are enough creators who are too hesitant to push the envelope. These characters are sick and in desperate need of help; the first two chapters clearly say this. Their relationship is not one to romanticize and they cannot heal each other.  I worry for the fans who are determined to prove to others that there will be a way for them to help each other and live happily ever after because, that’s just not going to happen. Koogi has even said that she “did not want Killing Stalking to look like a romantic story”. Yet, there are fans who do and that’s, unsettling.

So, if you are still with me after all of this, do you choose to read it?

The art is indeed great and has only gotten better over time; Koogi really pushes herself and puts her heart into it. Sangwoo is hot. Yoon Bum is cute. It doesn’t help (or does it?) that Koogi gives her fans random beautiful art of the characters on her twitter. Many panels give off a dark atmosphere (literally, they’re black when something horrible is happening) and fans have noticed that Koogi uses different gradients for certain situations. It’s all clever, really.

That being said, Killing Stalking is not for everyone. If you are looking for a Yaoi or Boys Love story that starts off angsty but will eventually end happy, this is not for you. If you have a history of abuse and perhaps are triggered by certain words or actions, this is definitely not for you. The comic is full of gore, depicts mental, emotional, sexual and physical abuse, trauma and generally distasteful things. Yet, if you are open-minded, looking for something that strays from the norm and can tell the difference between fiction and reality, I say give it a shot. There is nothing wrong with liking gruesome stories. Should these things I described be celebrated? Absolutely not. Everything I just told you is unbelievably scary. I myself do not “ship” Sangwoo and Yoon Bum but that doesn’t mean I do not find their relationship interesting. There were a few moments I smiled, others where I truly felt stunned and many times even disgusted. But overall, I am enjoying this comic. If I could have all of these emotions as I read, then I believe Koogi is doing her job.

Killing Stalking is currently on a break while Koogi preps for Season 3, out next year. So there’s plenty of time to catch up on Lezhin’s number 1 BL series. Go read the series for yourself over on Lezhin’s Website or install their app on your phone. You can read the first two chapters for free to see if it is something you’ll want to keep reading.

All images are from the Killing Stalking webtoon on Lezhin.com.

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