Superstitions are present across all countries and cultures in the world. Some might contain a little bit of logic, whilst others are so far-fetched that you’d be left wondering why they haven’t dissipated yet in this day and age.
South Korea is a country that is steeped in history and culture, and thus many interesting superstitions have been carried on from generations before to this day.
Fortune-telling, shamans, Pungsu-jiri (Feng Shui) masters – all these spiritual diviners play a huge part in South Korea’s society to ensure that people avoid evil at all costs!
Superstitions are a fun way to learn about a cultural norm and the unique superstitions still believed in Korea today will open your eyes to the nuances of the culture.
Below are some of the most surprising yet common Korean superstitions that are still believed today!
1. Fans Are Dangerous (At Night)
This is the most bizarre and common Korean superstition that also extends to many other Asian countries.
They believe that having the fan on at night, in a room that has its doors and windows closed (as many of us do during those hot balmy summer nights) will circulate ‘old air’ and therefore suffocate us.
This superstition is so deep-rooted that many new fan manufacturers have begun adding a timer to stop the fan from running during the night.
2. Feed Your Partner Any Part Of A Chicken Except For The Wing
When you’re eating Korean Fried Chicken with your partner, feed them the leg, the breast, the thigh…anything but the wing!
It is believed to be a bad luck sign for your relationship because your partner will then become unfaithful and ‘fly’ away.
3. Korean Superstitions – Don’t Whistle At Night
Whistling at night has become synonymous with many horror movies, and this plays right into Korean superstition.
It is believed that whistling at night will summon demons and evil spirits around you. It is prohibited in many families to ensure you keep your home as safe as possible.
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4. Don’t Clean Your House Before You Move
Moving houses sometime soon? Don’t even think about giving it a good clean beforehand!
According to Koreans, if you start cleaning your house before you move, the evil spirits nearby will get an inkling that you’re leaving and become attracted to the home.
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5. Don’t Wash Your Hair On New Year’s Day
Many people will have big celebrations and parties on New Year’s Day to celebrate a fresh start.
Upon returning home, they’ll likely want to have a nice, long hot shower before jumping into bed for the next 12 hours.
However, Koreans believe that no one should wash their hair on New Year’s Day as this might wash away all their good luck and fortune for the next year!
6. Avoid Jumping Over Babies
As bizarre as the idea of jumping over a baby is, Koreans also have a superstition about this!
According to them, if you do jump over a baby, you will prevent its growth and thus they will be a short baby for the rest of their life.
7. Gifting Shoes Will Cause Them To Run Away
Even the beautiful notion of gifting has superstitions surrounding it!
According to Korean superstitions, you should not gift your partner a pair of shoes. If you do, you’re encouraging them to run away from you forever. It does kind of make sense!
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8. Beautiful Food Means Beautiful Kids
Korean food is not only some of the most delicious in the world, it’s also some of the most aesthetically-pleasing foods.
This is because Koreans believe that if you present your food beautifully, you will end up having beautiful children.
It is also believed that if a mother likes to eat the ends of a roll of gimbap, her children will be ugly. If she prefers eating the middle part of a gimbap roll, her children will be pretty.
Even food can’t escape Korea’s harrowing focus on looks!
9. Avoid Shaking Your Leg
Leg shaking is a common thing, whether it’s out of habit on the train or at home, or because of a nervous upcoming event,
However, when your leg is shaking in Korea, people view it as you shaking the good luck, prosperity, and wealth out of your entire body. It is also considered bad manners.
10. Deoksugung Path Is Bad Luck For Couples
Deoksugung Path is now a popular and stunning street for many people to take photos of, particularly during the autumn season.
Back in the day, Deoksugung Path was a common path that couples would walk through once they divorced at the court in Seoul. Back further in history, Deoksugung Path was actually the area in which many people got executed. Not a good sign, I’d say!
It is believed that couples who walk along that path will eventually break up one day.
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11. Trim Your Nails During The Day (Only)
This is one that is hard to believe but many Koreans still stand by it.
If you have to trim your nails, do it during the day.
If you trim your nails at night, mice will find the clippings and eat them, thus transforming into you and then eventually they’ll steal your soul!
12. Poo Dreams = Good Luck
When hitting their pillow at night, dreaming of faeces is not something many people wish for.
This is a different story in Korea.
If you dream about poo, it is most definitely a sign of good luck. This stems from when farmers used faeces to fertilize their crops to produce a much more abundant harvest.
13. Eat Sticky Foods On Exam Day
This is one of the funniest Korean superstitions!
During major examinations in Korea, you will see many students walking around eating sticky foods such as toffee and glutinous rice.
Koreans believe that by consuming these types of foods, the stickiness of it will help the knowledge ‘stick’ to their brains during the exam.
On the contrary, if students eat foods such as noodles and seaweed soup before an exam, their knowledge will ‘slip’ out of their brain.
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14. Avoid Mirrors In Front Of A Door
Mirrors are deep-rooted in many superstitions around the world, and South Korea is no different.
It is believed that mirrors should not be placed in front of a door so that it is the first thing you see when you open the door. This is because it will deflect all the good luck from entering the house.
15. Pig Dreams = Wealth
In the highly unlikely instance that you’ve dreamt of a pig, rejoice, because this means that you’re on the way to becoming rich!
In Korea, pigs are representative of fertility and wealth. This is because the word ‘pig’ is pronounced similar to the word ‘jade’, a coveted mineral.
Thus, they believe that if you ever dream of a pig, you’ll be running into some riches sometime soon.
As bizarre as some of these Korean superstitions are, many are still believed and adhered to today.
Many of these superstitions are not exclusive to South Korea, but have variations spread across many countries in Asia, and so they’re not as uncommon as you may believe.
Which ones of these superstitions have you heard of before, and which one surprised you the most?
For more info about Korean traditional culture, you can also read our articles about Korean funeral customs, why do Koreans bow and Korean fan dance (Buchaechum).