Religion is Complex in Korea
Due to the split between the northern and southern areas of the country, religion in Korea can be somewhat complex. That said, the basis of most Korean superstitions and beliefs is the indigenous religion of the area. This religion was a form of shamanism that focused on using the elements of the Earth to interact with the spirit realm.
Outsider religions that have heavily influenced the area include Buddhism and Confucianism. The Korean branches of these religions are different than other Asian beliefs and integrate common superstitions held by the shamans of the area. Modern South Korea is heavily dominated by Christianity and Buddhism, while the shamanistic religion is a factor in North Korea.
Many Superstitions are Focused on Fertility
As Korea was primarily an agricultural nation for centuries, many of its superstitions are focused on fertility. For example, there is a multitude of Korean superstitious beliefs surrounding pigs. Koreans consider the pig a symbol of fertility and wealth. In fact, they were once so expensive that it was possible to pay back severe debts by selling one.
Another animal that is thought to bring good luck is the swallow. Koreans contrast their faith in this bird with the belief that the crow is an omen of ill fortune. Wherever one of these birds cries or appears, they believe that death will follow. This negative omen can include deaths of crops, herds, and even members of the family who may be sick.
Other Superstitions are Relatively New
There are a wide variety of superstitions in Korea that are relatively new or which were brought into the country. For example, the belief that red calligraphy brings bad luck comes from China. Also, like the Chinese, Koreans have a fear of the number four. This fear is based on the fact that their word for four is similar to their word for death.
As a result, it is not uncommon to see elevators with an “F” floor instead of a fourth floor. Think of this belief as being similar to the negative connotation the western world brings to the number 13. More modern ideas that have popped up in recent years is that electric fans can cause death while a person sleeps and that shaking legs can cause a person to lose their luck.
Korean Superstitions are Fascinating
If you are interested in exploring the world of superstitions in Korean culture, please look through the rest of our detailed list. You’ll be surprised at some of the interesting and insightful information you’ll find.