It is in human nature to develop beliefs and superstitions as part of their culture. Superstitions exist in all countries, and South Korea is no exception. There are many unusual Korean superstitions that you should be aware of whether you are visiting as a tourist or planning to stay in Korea.
These superstitions have persisted through generations, even in the educated society of one of today’s most developed countries.
It’s always good to be aware of such superstitions, as they will help you in your voyage through South Korea. Understanding them could even help you avoid some potentially awkward situations.
There are several spooky superstitions that people still believe in. You may find some of them to be common with your own country and cultures.
We’ve compiled ten of the most fascinating and uncommon Korean superstitions – whether you choose to believe them is entirely up to you!
Whistling at Night
Another ghostly Korean superstition is about whistling. Whistling at night is believed to invite snakes and ghosts. According to Korean culture, it should be prohibited so as to keep the spirits and snakes out of the home.
Even though it involves a supernatural element, if you are in Korea, then its best to avoid whistling at night!
Using Red color for Writing Name
Writing the name of a living person in red is considered a bad omen, akin to a curse or the kiss of death. Because of this old practice, this particular Korean superstition has come up.
Writing the name of a living person with red color is a bad omen and a curse or kiss of death for the person.
Gifting Shoes – A Big No!
If you gift a pair of shoes to someone, it is believed that it will cause them to run away from you forever. It is believed that by gifting a pair of shoes, you are giving a signal to the person that you desire a breakup and you want the person to run away from your life. So, gifting a pair of shoes to your loved ones is a big NO!
We all do this from time to time – shaking our legs, one or both. It is common, and we all do this either when we are nervous or just by habit. We also know that in a gathering, shaking legs looks awkward.
In the Korean cultural belief, success and prosperity lie in the legs of human beings. Thus, according to superstition, if you shake your legs, you will shake off your good luck, prosperity, and wealth. This Korean superstition is, therefore, good as it discourages one from shaking legs privately or in public.
Fan Can Cause Death?
The weather in the summertime in Korea is sweltering and humid. An economical way to keep the body cool on a hot, humid summer day is to use an electric fan. Electric fans are harmless and common these days. But there is a belief that if you sleep with an electric fan ON, the fan will cause your death, the fan death.
The “Fan Death” superstition is so ingrained that manufacturers equip electric fans with timers to automatically turn off once the user falls asleep.
Read more about South Korea Travel Guide – Best Time of Year to Visit South Korea.
The Number Four
Another odd Korean superstition is about number “Four.”
In many countries and cultures, the number 13 is treated to be unlucky or inauspicious. In South Korea, number 4 has a similar connotation. The Korean word for the number “four” has the same sound as the word for death and is considered unlucky by people. Because of this superstition, the number four is often omitted in multistory buildings, apartments, room numbers in hotels, and even hospitals. A floor/apartment with the number “four” is skipped. After three (3), it goes straight to “five (5),” or is labeled as “F” in place of the number “4”.
Trimming Fingernails at Night
One should not trim or cut fingernails at night. It is believed that if you trim your nails at night, mice will eat the clippings and will transform into a human and take your form or steal your soul.
When there was no electricity, cutting fingernails at night involved the risk of hurting fingers. In those times, the superstition of mice eating the clippings might have been added to discourage people from trimming fingernails.
Another one of the weird Korean superstitions is that a wife should not feed her husband chicken wings or the wings of any other bird because it is believed that with a belly full of chicken wings, the husband will fly away.
Foods and Examination
The beliefs about foods are related to examinations. It is said that eating gummy food, like glutinous rice and toffee, helps the knowledge gained by studying ‘stick’ in the student’s mind. In contrast, if oily foods like noodles and seaweed soup are eaten before examinations, the knowledge acquired “slips” out of the student’s brain. According to this Korean superstition, students are fearful of eating specific foods while appearing in any kind of test or exam.
Jumping over or across a baby has serious safety concerns, and one should never do it. Apparently, according to the associated Korean superstition, it is believed that if someone jumps over a kid, this will prevent the growth of the baby or the baby will not grow tall.
What are some of the most bizarre superstitions you’ve heard of in your country? Do they live up to the hype of Korean superstitions? Leave a comment below and let us know!