A Complete Guide to Korean Fortune Telling

A complete guide to Korean divination. Given the connection between forms of fortune telling throughout Asia, we decided it was best to take a parallel look at another culture, this time Korean. everyday life in South Korea, where people turn to the spirit world when in doubt.

Although South Korea is made up primarily of evangelical Christians and devout Buddhists, fortune telling continues to thrive as a form of entertainment and a reliable guide to finding solutions to life’s problems. Read on to learn about the various Korean fortune telling methods and how you can tell your fortune in Seoul.

A Complete Guide to Korean Fortune Telling
A Complete Guide to Korean Fortune Telling

divination by numbers

Unlike in the West, where fortune tellers are often seen as fake characters to swindle those desperate to learn what the stars have in store for them, clairvoyants have everyday relevance in South Korea.

In fact, there are around 300,000 fortune tellers in the country, in addition to 150,000 mudang (or shamans), who provide clairvoyance by communicating with spirits in addition to performing traditional ceremonies such as exorcisms.

In a country where mental health problems are often unspeakable, and visiting a psychiatrist remains taboo, many feel that divination readings help them come to terms with whatever unpleasant circumstances they find themselves in. Instead of accepting these readings as fact, they more often than not consider them an additional, unbiased perspective on their situation.

According to a report by Trend Monitor, a Korean market research firm, more than two-thirds of those surveyed said they see a fortune teller at least once a year. Many of these Koreans visit between December and February to see what awaits them in the new solar and lunar years.

Major crossroads in life are also a common time for a divine bull. College students consult tarot readers at career fairs to determine potential employers. Businessmen may choose to have a reading to select an auspicious date to launch a new business. Couples check their compatibility before marriage, and even politicians have controversially turned to clairvoyants for guidance.

Korean divination types

There are several different types of Korean divination services. Some are very similar to those found in the West, while others are unique to the East Asian region.

  • Saju: An ancient form of divination, saju analyzes cosmic energy at the hour, day, month, and year of a person’s birth, and is based on Chinese astrological records and texts. This practice upholds the belief that one’s destiny cannot be changed, and is determined solely by the conditions surrounding one’s birth. In addition to offering information about one’s destiny, saju data is also used by couples to verify their gunghap, or marital harmony, which was in the past a precondition for any discussion of marriage. If a saju reader determines that a couple is not compatible, one or both individuals may be advised to change their names to improve their marriage lot. In the last decade alone, approximately 1.5 million Koreans have taken a new legal name as a result of this.
  • Palm reading: Palmistry is said to have originated in India and then spread throughout China, then Korea, as well as almost every other corner of the world. Rather than being considered a mere superstition, palm reading was for many years considered a science that, in addition to astrology, was studied by the ancients and used to this day. Followers of palmistry subscribe to the notion that the lines and features of the hands represent their life, as well as their destiny.
  • Face Reading: Gwansang, also known as physiognomy or “face reading,” is the ancient art of determining a person’s personality or character through their facial features. In pre-industrial Korea, the face was commonly believed to be a record of one’s life from the earliest moments in the womb, and later a guide to one’s destiny. Face readers consider cues such as posture, body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions when assessing an individual, much in the same way that we commonly assess physical appearance to gauge someone’s emotional state. For example, many vertical lip lines, a birthmark under the eyes, and a narrow nose with large nostrils are characteristics of someone who has difficulty maintaining deep relationships. Many face readers today report that their jobs are becoming more difficult as an increasing number of Koreans turn to plastic surgery to alter their facial features, some at the suggestion of cosmetic surgeons who say altered features can change destiny.
  • Tarot – Although tarot cards have been used in divination since the 15th century in many parts of the world, they have only been used in Korea for a few decades. During a tarot card reading, a person may ask a specific question or request a more general reading. A card reader will formulate an answer based on a given number of cards drawn from a deck, each of which has a specific meaning. The cards reflect a number of aspects of current and future circumstances.

How to get your fortune read in Seoul

Even in today’s hyper-modern culture, a walk around Seoul will demonstrate just how booming the fortune-telling industry remains.

Marronnier Park in Hyehwa, Shopping Street in Hongdae, and Tapgol Park near Insadong are filled with cafes and saju and tarot booths, and are often visited by young people and couples seeking directions to their destination. Keep in mind that many of the readers don’t speak English, so if you can’t communicate in Korean, it’s a good idea to bring a friend who can, or find a cafe with a sign on the door confirming that they speak English.

If you are looking for a safe bet, you can book a visit at Fun Saju Café in Hongdae. Here, interpretation services are offered along with fortune readings from fortune teachers who specialize in saju, face reading, and palm reading. Similarly, the Eros Café near Ewha Womans University also offers readings in English.

In operation for over 20 years, Eros offers saju reading, palm reading, tarot and face reading services. To ensure that an English-speaking interpreter is available on the day of your choice, it is best to call ahead to make a reservation.

Conclusion: A Complete Guide to Korean Fortune Telling

Whether you are a true believer in fortune telling or a complete skeptic, visiting a traditional fortune teller is certainly a great way to experience Korea’s rich culture. May the stars be in your favor!

2020-22 Editions

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