Superstition in Korea

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Superstition in Korea, rooted in Korean shamanism, exists in many parts of Korean life. In Korean shamanic faith, folk beliefs have been passed down through generations.[1] During the Joseon Dynasty, Confucianism and shamanism flourished.[2] Although Confucianism has no god figure, there are supernatural phenomena within the belief system of Korean shamanism.[3]

A representative picture of superstition in Korea


Some Korean superstitions are similar to Chinese or Japanese superstitions. Many Korean superstitions are related to being afraid of uncertain situations or avoiding certain actions.[4]

Examples of Korean superstitions[edit]

These are some common superstitions in Korea:

  1. Writing names in red is thought to bring bad omens, including failure and death. This shamanistic belief originated in China as red calligraphy was reserved for execution decrees. This shamanistic belief may have spread to Korea while it was a vassal state of China.[5]
  2. If someone dreams of pigs, it is a good omen. In Korea, the pig is a symbol of fertility. Moreover, the Chinese pronunciation of "pig" is similar to the pronunciation for jade, so the pig is synonymous with riches.[6] In early Korea, pigs were associated with wealth. Until the 1970s, pigs were so expensive that students could pay their university entrance fees by selling one.[7]
  3. The number 4 is a symbol of bad luck. In elevators, the letter F indicates the fourth floor instead of the number 4. The pronunciation of the number 4 sounds similar to the word '死' which means death in Chinese characters. In China and Japan, the number 4 is also associated with misfortune or death.[8]
  4. The swallow is thought to bring good luck and is viewed as a positive figure.[9]
  5. When crows cry, it is believed that bad luck will follow. Since crows are attracted to dead bodies, Koreans associate crows with misfortune.[10]
  6. Sleeping with the fan turned on is incorrectly believed to bring possible death. Some Koreans believe that it can cause lack of oxygen and hypothermia during sleep.[11]
  7. If someone is presented with shoes for a gift, some Koreans believe this is a sign that one's significant other will desert them.[12]
  8. If people shake their legs, they can lose their good luck, i.e. they may have lost future opportunities.[13]
  9. Setting foot on a threshold can bring misfortune. This superstition originates from the time of the Mongol invasions of Korea. In Korean culture, it is preferable for one to die at home and for the body to remain in the home for some time. Leaving the house in a coffin was a means to dispose of the lingering attachment to the world, with the threshold of the front door thought to be a boundary between this world and the afterlife. Therefore, for a living person to step on the threshold of a door is considered a sign of bad luck.[14]
  10. It is bad luck to cut one's nails or toenails at night. The Japanese pronunciation of night and death are similar.[15]
  11. It is thought that if one eats sea mustard soup on the day of an exam, one will fail the test. Sea mustard is slippery, so it is thought that one will "fall down" and fail. On the other hand, if a person eats sticky rice cake or Korean hard taffy, he or she will pass the exam. Rice cakes and Korean hard taffy are sticky, so it is thought to help the person "stick" instead of slip, and thus pass the test.[16]

Related Korean films[edit]

The following movies deal with Korean superstitions:

  1. Whispering Corridors[17]
  2. The Wailing (film)[18]
  3. The Face Reader[19]
  4. The Piper[20]
  5. The Priests[21]


In modern society, relying on superstitions has declined as there is more of an emphasis on rationality.[22] As a result, many people are critical of acting on superstitious beliefs.[23] Blindly turning to superstition, however, can still comfort the mind.[24]

There is an ongoing debate on whether ancestral rites (Jesa) or jwibulnori, which are famous Korean traditional plays, are viewed as mere superstitions or as an important aspect of the country's culture.[25]


  1. Surgery to treat malnutrition (Jara ddagi). This form of alternative medicine based on superstition involves a surgical procedure where hands are intentionally scarred to "pull" negative energy out of a body. In the past, South Korean children suffered from malnutrition. Many thought malnutrition was a result of the body's negative energy residue rather than a lack of food. As a result, this surgery became popular and was believed to treat malnutrition. From a scientific perspective, this form of surgery cannot be considered to be successful in treating malnutrition.[26]
  2. Being blessed by a shaman. In this ancestral rite, the shaman can pray or sing or dance for the future.[27]
  3. Theory of divination based on topography. Feng shui is used to orient a house site or a grave site and is often regarded as a superstitious belief. Feng shui derives from ideas about geomancy originating from China. Practitioners present feng shui as traditional knowledge that has been proven from experience, insisting it can be helpful when evaluating the energy of sites; however, there is no scientific evidence to suggest feng shui achieves what it claims to do. Practitioners admit that feng shui is not superior to modern knowledge, but point out that it presents an alternative to problems that they believe cannot be resolved by modern science.[28]


  1. ^ Naver, Encyclopedia. "Definition of Saju". Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  2. ^ Online-News Team. "무녀…조선 왕들은 믿었을까". 2016-06-01. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
  3. ^ 김, 우재. "[야! 한국사회] 샤머니즘 국가 / 김우재". 2016-06-21. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  4. ^ 심, 은혜. [articleView.html?idxno "일제 오리엔탈리즘에 의해 한국 복식문화는 비하되었습니다" 기사승인"] Check |url= value (help). 2016-06-23. Retrieved 2015-10-19.
  5. ^ HC Korea Editor. "10-superstitions-that-koreans-believe-in". Retrieved 2016-05-21.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ HC Korea Editor. "10-superstitions-that-koreans-believe-in". Retrieved 2016-05-21.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Article, Jo - Sun. "Symbol of Pig". Retrieved 2016-05-22.
  8. ^ HC Korea Editor. "[10-superstitions-that-koreans-believe-in". Retrieved 2016-05-21.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ 최, 새롬. "까치도 설 쇠나요?…'까치 까치 설날' 유래 알아보니". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-02-07.
  10. ^ MBN. "설날 세시풍속, 행운와 불운 의미하는 풍속은 무엇이 있나?". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2015-02-16.
  11. ^ Park, Joo-Yeon. "선풍기를 틀고 자면 죽는다?". 2016-06-01. Retrieved 2015-08-13.
  12. ^ Naver 국어사전. "고무신(을) 거꾸로 신다 (속되게) 여자가 사귀던 남자와 일방적으로 헤어지다". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-06-16.
  13. ^ 박, 준일. "다리 떨면 복 달아난다?". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
  14. ^ WIKITREE. "'믿거나 말거나' 생활 속 미신 15개". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2015-07-06.
  15. ^ mysterymuseum. "밤에 손톱을 깎으면 안 되는 이유". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  16. ^ 김, 성원. "한중일 3국 합격기원은 '찹쌀떡'". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2015-11-09.
  17. ^ 조, 연경. "'공포의 계절' 올여름 개봉 공포영화 7편 집중조명". 2016-06-21. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  18. ^ 심, 재민. "영화 '곡성' 속 토속신앙! 무명과 일광은 어떤 신앙인가?". 2016-06-21. Retrieved 2016-06-11.
  19. ^ 최, 두선. "'관상', 얼굴로 그리는 대서사시 [리뷰]". 2016-06-21. Retrieved 2013-09-09.
  20. ^ 최, 규정. "'손님'판타지 호러에 숨겨진 스토리 풍자." 2016-06-23. Retrieved 2015-07-16.
  21. ^ "장재현 감독, 디테일로 완성한 '검은 사제들' (인터뷰)". 2016-06-21. Retrieved 2013-06-27.
  22. ^ Homepage, of Superstition. "effect of superstition in korea". Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  23. ^ 김, 민정. "어설픈 민간요법에 머리카락 우수수...무모(無毛)한 도전 말고 병원부터 가세요". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  24. ^ 김, 혜영. "미래 막막해"… 占 권하는 사회 기사승인". 2016-06-23. Retrieved 2016-01-22.
  25. ^ 창원, 연합뉴스. "철새 무사귀향 비는 쥐불놀이". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-02-21.
  26. ^ ian3714. "한국의 미신? 손바닥 째는 수술 '자라 따기'". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2015-03-10.
  27. ^ 100bul. "빙의치료(무속인,무당 빙의)". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  28. ^ 김, 호년. "풍수지리, 방위와 오행의 절묘한 결합". 2016-06-16. Retrieved 2016-06-15.

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