Raise your hand if you know about the Korean Zodiac already! Sadly, not many of us likely do – not until we’ve read through this article, anyway. In comparison to the Western horoscopes and Chinese Zodiac Signs, the Korean Zodiac isn’t as well-known.
Perhaps many simply think that Koreans, too, follow the Chinese Zodiac only. But while it is true that Korean Zodiac derives from the times of Ancient China, it has since become its own thing. Learning about the different Korean Zodiac signs could be quite fun, so hopefully, you’ll keep reading to learn more about Korean Zodiac!
- 1 Korean Zodiac
- 2 History of the Korean Zodiac
- 3 The Twelve Korean Zodiac Animal Signs
- 3.1 Year of The Rat (쥐 | jwi)
- 3.2 Year of the Ox (소 | so)
- 3.3 Year of the Tiger (호랑이 | horangi)
- 3.4 Year of the Rabbit (토끼 | tokki)
- 3.5 Year of the Dragon (용 | yong)
- 3.6 Year of the Snake (뱀 | baem)
- 3.7 Year of the Horse (말 | mal)
- 3.8 Year of the Sheep (양 | yang)
- 3.9 Year of the Monkey (원숭이 | wonsungi)
- 3.10 Year of the Rooster (닭 | dak)
- 3.11 Year of the Dog (개 | gae)
- 3.12 Year of the Pig (돼지 | dwaeji)
- 4 The 12-year and the 60-year cycle
Just like the Chinese Zodiac, this zodiac system also follows the lunar calendar and is based on Chinese astrology rather than the Western kind. In fact, its origins have been traced back to the times of ancient China and have since become their own separate things.
“Zodiac” in Korean
The Korean word for “zodiac” is 띠 (ddi). If someone asks you, “What is your Ddi?,” then they are pertaining to your zodiac sign.
How many animals are in the Korean zodiac?
Just like the Chinese Zodiac, you can also find 12 animals in the Korean one, with each person being assigned a zodiac animal based on their birth year, and each year is designated to one particular zodiac.
Each animal in the zodiac has specific characteristics and personality traits which can also be believed to describe the people of each zodiac animal.
How do you determine your zodiac sign?
Although each year is appointed to one zodiac animal, the cut-off point for any zodiac animal isn’t at the change of the year. This is because the zodiacs follow the lunar calendar. This means that not everyone born in the same year has the same zodiac sign.
For example, not everyone born in the year 2021 will belong to the year of the ox. Instead, those born prior to the Lunar new year will be considered the same zodiac sign as their peers born in the previous year.
Why do people ask for someone’s Korean zodiac sign?
Although it may not be as popular as asking someone what their blood type is, it’s not uncommon to be asked what your zodiac sign is. People may be curious about it, mostly for fun but also to figure out your age.
They might also ask for some possible insights into your personality traits. Many Koreans still consider their Korean zodiac sign to be a big deal, for example, when it comes to compatibility between two people.
In addition, the zodiac animal in representation each year may also serve as a guideline for when making big decisions, such as marriage or job opportunities. Some zodiacs may bring about a bigger promise of fortune for taking risks, while others may encourage people to stay more conservative that year.
History of the Korean Zodiac
As has been mentioned above, the Korean zodiac has its origins in ancient China. Specifically, it can be regarded as having originated during the times of the Han Dynasty, more than 2000 years ago. In modern days, many Asian cultures, like in Korea, still use the zodiac.
The Twelve Korean Zodiac Animal Signs
Finally, let’s introduce you to each of the animals in the Korean zodiac!
We’ve listed the 12 signs of the zodiac in order. This follows the order that they appear on the zodiac. The order of the animals in the zodiac is as follows: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
How the animal sign cycle was decided
The old tale says the gods assigned this particular order by having the animals do a swimming competition. In other words, the rat was the first to reach the opposite bank of the swimming competition, while the pig came in last.
The story varies in particular with how the rat came in first. Some say the rat jumped off after it hitched a ride on the ox’s back, and others say that the ox offered to give the rat the ride to the other side.
Whichever story you choose to believe, the ending is always the same: the rat came in first and thus is also the first of the twelve animals in this zodiac.
Year of The Rat (쥐 | jwi)
Birth years: 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020As you may already guess, based on the story, the rat is considered to be one of the most clever animal signs of the zodiac. People born in the year of the rat are also believed to be ambitious, charming, inventive, cheerful, and logical. They are highly adaptable and quick to react to change. They also hold a wide range of interests.
If you are from a Western country, you may be quite surprised by how positively rat is seen in the East. However, for Koreans, the year of the rat is thought to be an excellent year for big life changes, such as getting married, starting a new job, or simply starting fresh! This year is also seen as one that’s dedicated to renewal and hard work.
Rats are most compatible with dragons and monkeys. Rats are the least compatible with horses.
Year of the Ox (소 | so)
Birth years: 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021Typical ox people are believed to have a strong character, with lots of fearlessness and tolerance. As a tolerant person, someone born in the year of the ox exhibits traits of someone that works hard, both at their job and at home, but you’ll never hear them complain about it.
They also tend to work towards long-term goals rather than short-term ones. In the year of the ox, great fortune can be discovered through working hard.
Oxen are most compatible with snakes and roosters. Ox are least compatible with sheep.
Year of the Tiger (호랑이 | horangi)
Birth years: 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022Tiger people are described as sensitive, great empathizers, and deep thinkers. However, they are also seen to be extremely short-tempered and slow in decision-making. And while people have great respect for this zodiac, they also tend to get in conflict with those older or of higher authority.
They can also be too indecisive and may easily get suspicious. However, a tiger also holds a lot of courage and power. Every 60 years, the year of the White Tiger takes place. It’s quite a polarizing year as for others, it signals it is likely to be an unlucky year, while others believe the exact opposite.
Tigers are most compatible with horses and dogs. Tigers are least compatible with monkeys.
Year of the Rabbit (토끼 | tokki)
Birth years: 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023People born in the year of the rabbit are seen as friendly, empathetic, and enjoyable company, with a tendency to be great communicators and good teachers. However, they are also quite introverted and private, often needing their own space. The year of the rabbit is regarded as a lucky year among Koreans.
Rabbits are most compatible with sheep and pigs. Rabbits are least compatible with roosters.
Year of the Dragon (용 | yong)
Birth years: 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024People that belong to the dragon years are perceived as ambitious and dominant, also having a great sense of humor. Dragons prefer to set their own rules to live by, and when they are allowed to do so, they often emerge victorious and successful. They’re brave and not afraid to take on challenges. They’re driven by a high level of passion.
They’ll easily lend a helping hand, but don’t expect them to ever ask for help themselves. Dragons frequently love their alone time more than anything else, while others are easily attracted to them due to their liveliness and especially their colorful personalities.
They are most compatible with monkeys and rats. They are least compatible with dogs.
Year of the Snake (뱀 | baem)
Birth years: 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025Again, whilst in the Western culture, we may have a slightly negative impression of snakes, it is not the case in the East. People born in the year of the snake are seen as the ones who are the most collected of all the animals in the zodiac.
In addition, they are also the most introspective, intuitive, and refined. They’re also largely intelligent and enigmatic. However, snake people can also be seen as cunning. Such character traits are put together to make them particularly excellent at conducting business.
Snakes are most compatible with roosters and oxen. Snakes are the least compatible with pigs.
Year of the Horse (말 | mal)
Birth years: 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026Many people born in the year of the horse are seen as popular and highly adaptable. This is thanks to their cheerfulness and perceptiveness, although they might succumb to talking excessively. They’re regarded as wise and talented but also impatient, as well as terribly stubborn, and rarely listen to advice.
Additionally, they are also highly independent, which sadly has made women born in the year of the horse considered not desirable brides for marriage. Especially the women born in the year of the white horse, the last of which was in 2002, are seen as too independent for that.
Horses are most compatible with dogs and tigers. Horses are least compatible with rats.
Year of the Sheep (양 | yang)
Birth years: 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027The people born in the year of the sheep are seen as intelligent, calm, dependable, compassionate, and creative. However, they can also be rather shy and pessimistic and enjoy spending much of their time alone.
They do also enjoy being a part of a group, although they’d rather always stay out of being the center of attention.
Sheep are most compatible with pigs and rabbits. Sheep are least compatible with oxen.
Year of the Monkey (원숭이 | wonsungi)
Birth years: 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028Monkey people are considered to be the most clever of all the signs, even more so than the rat. In fact, you could even describe people born in the year of the monkey as geniuses.
They are not only great at assessing risks and problems but also at solving them. In general, they are quick to make decisions. They are admirably inventive, flexible, and skillful and will not likely find themselves in trouble for long.
Monkeys are most compatible with rats and dragons. Monkeys are least compatible with tigers.
Year of the Rooster (닭 | dak)
Birth years: 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029Roosters are excellent at making decisions and are also rather outspoken. However, they can also be surprisingly extravagant and may get caught ambitiously daydreaming.
During the year of the rooster, you’ll have to put in a lot of hard and earnest work to maintain new partnerships and friendships. It is also important to slow down and carefully consider all of the pros and cons before making any major decisions.
Roosters are most compatible with oxen and snakes. Roosters are the least compatible with rabbits.
Year of the Dog (개 | gae)
Birth years: 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030It is said that people born in the year of the dog possess all the best traits in human nature. They are honest, responsible, and extremely loyal, and it is hard for people not to trust them. They also do not give any thought to money, although interestingly enough, they don’t seem to run short of it.
However, even dogs have some unfavorable characteristics. They can be stubborn and a little selfish, for example. You can trust that person born in the year of the dog is an exceptional leader.
Dogs are most compatible with tigers and horses. Dogs are least compatible with dragons.
Year of the Pig (돼지 | dwaeji)
Birth years: 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031Finally, we have the pig. You can assume people born in the year of the pig to be chivalrous, thoughtful, and as loyal as one can be. They will only have a few good friends, but those friendships will likely last a lifetime.
They love to discover new information but do not talk a lot. The year of the pig is thought to be one filled with luck and fertility.
Pigs are most compatible with rabbits and sheep. Pigs are the least compatible with snakes.
The 12-year and the 60-year cycle
These were systems to designate the passage of time in days, months, and years. It was also used in other Asian countries, most notably in ancient China. The 12-year cycle, of course, relates directly to the animals of the zodiac.
In this case, they are referred to together as the Twelve Earthly Branches. It was used together with another system, Ten Heavenly Stems.
Together, one of the Twelve Earthly Branches and one of the Ten Heavenly Stems would name each year. The Twelve Earthly Branches represent each animal, while the Ten Heavenly Stems represent an element, such as metal or water.
For example, the Lunar year of 2022 is regarded as the year of the Water Tiger. With twelve branches and ten stems, it takes 60 years to go through each possible combination, thus reaching the 60-year cycle. This is one big reason why a person’s 60th birthday is seen as a highly significant one to celebrate in Korea.
What is your sign in the Korean zodiac? Do you think the description fits you well or poorly? Let us know below in the comments!
If you’re interested in learning the Korean terms for other animals, we have an article on Animals in Korean to help you. Also, if you would like to learn more about how the Lunar calendar has shaped Korean society, you may want to read our articles on Korean Lunar New Year and Korean Thanksgiving, for example.