Superstitions are found in every culture. Many superstitions are born from the psychological need to manage one’s luck and, of course, to avoid death. That being said it’s easy to look around your daily life and see all the superstitious rituals people partake in where no one bats an eye at (See: any sports fan). No surprise that those not accustomed to Korean culture find the superstitions here laughable and ridiculous. While it’s true that they don’t really make issues any better with concepts like “fan death”, it’s important to realize that like most traditions, superstitions are usually very old and likely have a reason behind their inception. Here are a few popular Korean superstitions as well as explanations of their origin to give you better perspective on Korean superstitions.


DeokSuGung Pathway

Couples that walk along the outer walls of the Deoksugung palace in Seoul are fated to break up. This superstition has a historical reference as the old Seoul Family Court was located at the end of this pathway. Thus, in order to get a divorce these married couples would need to walk this ominous pathway towards separation. The family court has since relocated but the superstition persists.

Writing Names In Red Ink

Red ink is generally used in family registers to record the death of a family member. To ward off spirits red ink is also used on the banners of funerals. This eventually became that writing someones name in red ink meant you wanted them dead. If only it were that easy.


Fear of 4

The number 4(사) in the sino-korean numbering system is pronounced “sah”. This Korean superstition is derived from the fact that this pronunciation sounds similar to the Chinese word for “Death”. Much like the number 13 in the west, Korean elevators will skip the 4th floor. This superstition is also prevalent in many other countries in SE Asia such as China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Imagine the nightmare of a room full of red 4’s.


Dreaming Of A Pig

Dreaming of a pig is a sign of wealth and good fortune that will soon find it’s way to you (the dreamer). The reason being that pigs are historically associated with good luck and fortune in Korea. These dreams gain a bit more significance when there is some sort of interaction between dreamer and pig, however vague that statement may be.  I wonder if dreaming of eating bacon counts?


Cutting Your Nails At Night

The story goes that if you cut your nails at night mice will come into your home and eat clippings, become human and take your form. The severity of the transformation differs with story version of course. This one dates back to a time before electricity thus making cleanup a difficult task with no lights. The mice part might have just be an extra deterrent to make sure people weren’t cutting their nails at night.


Cover Photo: WOOhaeCho

Photo Cred: catikaoe, mikeyphillips, pinkiestinkie, mathampson


Would you like to enlighten us on any other superstitions? Let us know!

About The Author

A California native with a passion for travel, JT has been living in Korea for the past two years. A health fanatic and a seeker of knowledge, JT co-founded SeoulSync because of a desire to create something larger than he could ever become alone.