10 Unique Korean superstitions you never knew existed
Every country has its unique superstitions, including Korea. Here are 10 interesting superstitions that you might find in Korea. And no, this list won't include "fan death."
안녕하세요! (An-nyong ha-se-yo!) Hello! I'm Billy from GO! Billy Korean on YouTube. Korea has some crazy superstitions, and I've put together the top 10 most interesting, funniest, and strangest superstitions.
Check out the video here, and read along the article below~!
The Korean word for "superstition" is 미신 ("mi-shin"), and every country has its own unique ones — not only Korea. Most people have already heard about Korea's "fan death" superstition before; if you haven't, it's a superstition that says sleeping in a closed room with a fan on can cause you to die. This "fan death" superstition became well known on the internet a few years ago (due to Korea's rising popularity), but that's only one superstition among many more interesting ones.
Here are 10 interesting superstitions in Korea.
1. Wish Upon a Full Moon
In the US (and other countries), we can make a wish when we see a shooting star. Seeing a shooting star can be pretty rare unless you're camping.
But in Korea, all you need is a full moon to make a wish.
2. Play With Fire and Wet the Bed
Of course, it's not a good idea to play with fire. In the old days before there were fire stations or 911 ("119" in Korea), a single fire could destroy an entire town.
To discourage kids from playing with fire, parents would tell their children that if they played with fire at night they'd wet the bed while sleeping.
3. Avoid the Number 4
This superstition is also shared with China and Japan.
The number "four" is associated with the word for death. This is because the number "four" written in Chinese (四) is pronounced 사 ("sa").
Also, the character for "death" (死) is also pronounced 사 ("sa"). The pronunciation of this character, and the pronunciation of the number "four" is also similar in Chinese ("si") and in Japanese ("shi").
Because of this, knocking on a door four times is bad luck. Many elevators in Korea will also have an "F" button (meaning "four") instead of a "4" button.
4. Whistling Calls Snakes
Whistling at night can cause snakes to arrive.
Actually, Koreans have traditionally hated whistling (as much as the sound of nails on a chalkboard). This is especially true of older Koreans.
While whistling is associated with being carefree and happy in America (and other countries), you should avoid it in Korea.
This superstition also varies depending on where you are in Korea. Some people in other areas might believe that whistling will cause ghosts to appear.
5. Careful Tossing Nail Clippings
When you clip your nails, be careful to throw them away properly. Don't leave them in a pile.
If you leave your nail clippings in a pile, mice will come and eat them.
And then the mice will transform into a doppelganger of you. This is bad... I guess.
6. No Red Names
It's bad luck to write someone's name using the color red. This superstition is also shared in other Asian countries.
The color red signifies blood and death.
Traditionally, a person's name is written in red on a tombstone after that person has died. A name is not written in red while the person is still alive.
If you use red to write a person's name, it means that you hope they'll die soon.
Many Koreans who come to the United States to study are shocked to see their teachers using red pens to write everything — including names.
7. Shake Away Your Luck
Shaking your leg while sitting down can bring bad luck.
Koreans believe that shaking your leg is shaking away your luck.
This is an older superstition, but many Koreans still dislike when someone shakes their leg sitting down. It's best to avoid it.
8. Eat, Sleep, Cow
If you eat, and then immediately lie down to rest, you will turn into a cow.
I don't mean "fat like a cow." I mean an actual cow.
This superstition was probably created to encourage children not to sleep after eating.
9. Butterflies Cause Blindness
If you touch a butterfly or a moth, and then touch your eye, it could damage your vision.
In the worst case scenario, you could even go blind. Many Koreans still believe this.
Of course, touching your eyes can spread bacteria and viruses, so I can completely understand this superstition.
Before hospitals, antibiotics, and modern medicine, getting an eye disease could lead to more serious problems.
10. Two Hands for Utensils
While eating, it's bad luck to hold chopsticks and a spoon together in the same hand.
Normally, you'll use chopsticks or a spoon one at a time. But some lazy people might try to use them together at the same time.
This superstition was probably made by parents who wanted to correct the bad table manners of their children.
And there are plenty more superstitions in Korea, but I feel that these are the 10 most interesting ones.
If you have any questions for me, you can also comment below this article. I love teaching Korean, and I'd love to help you.
If you're learning Korean for the first time, check out my book here. --> Korean Made Simple: A beginner's guide to learning the Korean language
Also visit my YouTube channel, where I upload videos about Korea and Korean every week. --> GO! Billy Korean on YouTube