People in every culture have their own superstitions. Some people have their own personal superstitions, whereas others follow the superstitions of their parents. These superstitions are prevalent throughout cultures across the globe, and to those who don’t believe in them they all seem silly. For those that do believe, however, they can be as serious as laws are. Without further ado, here are the top nine Korean superstitions that prevail today:
- The Number Four
In the west, the unlucky number is 13. It’s so prevalent that many hotels, and other sky rises, remove the number 13 entirely, often skipping from floor 12 to floor 14 (though, in reality, it does very little). Just as there is the unlucky number 13, there is also the number 4. This is because in Korean (and Chinese), the number 4 sounds similar to the word for death. In their elevators, you might find the letter F or might find that the 4 is skipped altogether.
- Shaking Your Leg is Bad Luck
Imagine sitting down. It might seem natural to bounce your leg a little bit as you wait, especially if you have some pent-up aggression or nervousness. In Korean culture, shaking your leg means shaking away all your luck! So, the next time you find yourself testing your luck by playing a k-pop themed game, keep your legs still! You never know, you might just have a bit more luck to play with. When it comes to playing with money, every and any bit of luck is important.
- Don’t Leave Your Fan On
Though it is more likely that a crazed K-Pop fan (or a stampede of them) can kill you, it is believed that leaving your fan on for extended periods of time (particularly when you go to sleep) will suck all the oxygen out of the room. Though this superstition is not true in the slightest, many won’t go to sleep with their fan on, just in case they suffocate when they sleep.
- Dreaming of Pigs
In superstitions, dreams hold more meaning than you think. Some dreams pose bad omens, others pose good ones. Dreaming of pigs is actually a very good omen, and is a sign that good fortune is coming your way. This is because pigs are a symbol of fertility and wealth. That is because, before the 20th century, pigs were incredibly expensive! As such, they were also seen as a status of wealth and prestige, so dreaming of a pig might mean some good things are coming your way.
- Whistling and Singing at Night Will Bring Spirits
If you whistle or sing at night, the superstition goes, you will evoke spirits and call their attention to yourself. So, this year when you are watching the 2018 Seoul Music Awards, try not to sing along! You might bring a spirit your way that you can’t shake. In other areas of the country, whistling will cause snakes to arrive instead, which is another common fear that many people have. Generally, however, whistling is known to be a hated sound, similar to nails on a chalkboard. So, if you ever head over to visit the beautiful country of South Korea, try not to whistle!
- Red is for the Deceased
In Korea, it is bad luck to write someone’s name in red while they are still alive. This is because it is common for tombstones to have the names of the deceased written in red. Red should be reserved only for after the person has passed on.
- Butterfly Blindness
Butterflies might be beautiful and delicate, but be careful if you touch one. As this superstition goes, if you touch your eyes after touching a butterfly you could go blind.
- How to Pass Any Test
As the saying goes, you are what you eat. Therefore, if you want the information to stick, you need to eat sticky foods. That is why it’s common for students and adults alike to eat sticky foods like taffy or yeot before a big test. Similarly, eating slippery items causes the opposite effect, and will cause the information you’ve studied to slip from your brain.
- Stepping on Thresholds
Just as you shouldn’t step on a crack (or else break your mother’s back) you should also not step on the threshold. This superstition is due to the belief that, when a person dies in the home, their body will remain there for a period of time. Once the body leaves the home in a coffin, and crosses the threshold, the spirit too passes the threshold from the living world to the afterlife. So, step on a threshold, and you step on the same threshold used by spirits, and misfortune could come your way as a result.
Superstitions are entrenched in our histories, which is why in today’s contemporary setting many seem silly. In fact, they likely have a much more reasonable history than you might think. What makes superstitions so fascinating is that they are a piece of the past that is still common day knowledge. It’s a connection with our past!