Stepping on cracks, walking under ladders, black cats crossing your path, a rabbit’s foot, and crossing your fingers—all superstitions that are said to affect your levels of luck. Whether or not you believe in luck, you’re bound to come across superstitions in your life to some degree.
And as a savvy and socially aware person, it’s always good to be conscious of them so you don’t commit any social faux pas and send someone on a bad luck tailspin!
With all the superstitions going around, Korea didn’t want to lose out on the fun. They have their own set of bad and good luck actions, so we’ve collected the top 12 Korean superstitions for your reading enjoyment.
We know many of you want to learn Korean fast, so we’ll give you the key phrases for many of the superstitions. For example, the Korean word for “superstition” is “미신”.
Want a quick association to learn Korean fast? Try thinking of “me” + “shin”. Nobody likes to get kicked in “미” + “신” (“me shin” sounds like “my shin”), so best to avoid offending anyone with 미신!
Without further ado, let’s meet our team of superstitions!
1. Evil Spirit Moving Days
It’s moving day, so make sure you have everything packed. Favorite athletic shoes? Check. Giant coffee mug from a trip to India? Check. Evil spirits? Best to leave those behind!
Koreans believe that if you move on certain days of the month, that evil spirits will follow you to your new place. According to folklore, the ghosts will be prevented from heading into the heavens if you block them with your moving activities on certain days.
Luckily, there is a calendar that will help you choose the right dates to keep your new pad spirit-free. Follow this calendar and add “손없는날” (evil spirit-free day) to your flashcards,손 means evil spirit. Stay away from days with“손없는날” written on it!
2. Fan Death
Since the electric fan has contributed to a number of deaths in Korea, Koreans have adopted the “Fan Death” superstition.
Not all fan situations are bad though. If you have some windows or doors open, you’re good to go. However, if you close the windows and doors in a room with a fan on, you’re asking for trouble.
A popular belief for the cause of death is that the fan creates moving air around your face. That moving air makes it hard to breathe, so people suffocate.
It’s such a widespread belief in Korea that many consider the fan timer to be lifesaving function. Nobody wants “선풍기사망설” (fan death) written on their tombstone, so you may want to look at your fan settings.
Learn Korean fast so you know where the shutoff timer is.
3. Whistling at Night
Whistle while you work? Sure, that shows you’re a happy person. Whistling at night? It’s probably not a great idea.
Even if you ARE happy, it’s probably best to avoid doing this 미신 (superstition). Ghosts and snakes love a good whistle tune at night, so Koreans believe it’s best not to summon that twosome.
To stay free of 귀신 (ghosts) and 뱀 (snakes), schedule the whistling sessions after sunrise!
4. Number Four
There is a saying that goes “Two is a company, three is a crowd”. If that’s the case, what can we say about four?
How about death! Koreans believe that the number four is bad luck, since it also means “death”. As a result, the fourth floor of a building is often replaced with an “F”.
Apartments with multiple “4s” in them have a lower value since they are seen as bad luck. To look on the bright side, the number four can help you learn Korean fast.
Since it has two meanings, you can have two different associations. 사 means “four”, and it also means “death”.
5. Beautiful Food, Beautiful Kids
Some superstitious Koreans believe that the appearance of your food contributes to the appearance of your kids.
Let’s take a gimbab for example. If you look at a sliced gimbab, the middle pieces are more organized look more appealing than ends.
Therefore, if a mother eats the middle pieces while she is pregnant, she has fortune on her side to bring her some good-looking offspring.
If Mom loves to chow down on the gimbab ends, then she’s less likely to have to worry about her children becoming celebrities. Keep this and other Korean table manners in mind next time you have your meal.
6. Shoes as Gifts
Aside from the fact that it’s hard to find someone’s correct size, giving shoes as gifts in South Korea is a no-no. It is believed by the superstitious that giving shoes will cause the receiver to run away.
This is especially bad to do with your significant other, unless you’re trying to find a subtle way to give a hint!
선물is the word for gift, 신발for shoes, which will get you up and running on your quest to learn Korean fast. There’s plenty of great gifts you can shop for in Korea, so best to stay away from shoes.
7. Shaking Legs
Not only does it distract Grandma at the dinner table when you shake your legs, but it also brings bad luck your way!
In Korean culture, your legs symbolize wealth and prosperity. If you shake your legs, you’re shaking the wealth right out of you (다리 떨면 복 나간다).
8. Red Ink Name
It’s bad luck to write names in red ink. The main reason is that the names of the deceased used to be written in red. Therefore, if you write someone’s name in red, you’re giving that person a death wish!
You’re safe with other words in red, but make sure the names stay in standard blue or black ink.
Better to keep those bright colors for special occasions.
If you’re currently on the path to learn Korean fast, add in “빨간잉크” (red ink) to the vocab list and make sure you don’t use it to make your next party guest list! There’s a lot of things you can do to impress your Korean friends, but this isn’t one of them.
9. Pigs Dreams
If you wake up from a dream and feel like you just got back from a trip through an animal farm, you may be in for some good luck!
This is because the pig symbolizes good luck, wealth, and fortune in Korean culture. If you believe in 미신(superstitions) and you wake up with pigs on your mind, you may have wealth, a promotion, or other good luck coming up in your future.
To learn Korean fast, toss in 꿈 (dream) and 돼지 (pig) into your flash card stack.
10. Eating Yeot
엿 (yeot) is Korean hard taffy that is made from glutinous rice. Because of its stickiness, the superstitious believe that it will cause good luck to stick to you.
This is true for the correct answers for exams as well, so students often eat it for exams to help them recall the correct answers.
11. Jumping Over Your Baby
Koreans think that if you jump over your baby, he or she won’t grow tall.
Since it’s dangerous to jump over your baby anyway, it’s not a bad idea!
12. Touching Your Eyes After Touching a Butterfly
There’s a Korean superstition that says that if you touch a 나비 (butterfly) and then touch your eyes, you’ll go blind.
If you find yourself around butterflies, keep some wet napkins nearby or stop at the closest sink.
What Korean superstitions have you heard of? We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below!