Superstitions and Legends of South Korea

Courtney Swanson is a student at Indiana State University and a current ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Seoul, South Korea.

I’m sure you know some superstitions and legends popular in your country, but Korea has a whole new set that you should know about. Here are some of the more popular ones I found out about from my Korean friends.

Superstition #1: Do not write your name or anyone’s name for that matter using red ink. Red ink is used to write the names of the dead and is very, very, very bad luck.

Superstition #2: If you have a fan in your room, you’re not supposed to keep it on while you’re sleeping with all the windows and doors closed or else in the morning you will be dead. (Supposedly it has something to do with air circulation, and though this one isn’t commonly believed, it is still well known.)

Superstition #3: Don’t stick your chopsticks straight into your rice. Again, this is something you do when offering food to the dead, so here it is considered a big no-no.

Superstition #F: The number 4 is bad luck. It is the same as the Chinese character for death, so you shouldn’t be too surprised to go into an elevator around Korea and find the number 4 replaced with the letter F.

Now some Korean legends that aren’t necessarily helpful but are fun to know and allow you to impress Koreans with your knowledge.

Legend #1: Samsin Halmoni is, for lack of a better word, not only the mother of the first humans on Earth, but also considered to be everyone’s grandmother (hence Halmoni) who would watch over all children until they turn 7. There are many rituals in her honor to ask her for help.

Legend #2: One of the ancient legends dealt with a bear and a tiger who wanted to become human. The bear was able to fulfill the requirements and was turned into a woman. This woman then married Hwanung (son of the creator) and gave birth to Dangun who ascended the throne.

This is a turtle boat used to defend off attacking ships, and in the front bottom you can see a mask possibly depicting a goblin, most likely placed there to act as a guardian and to strike fear into the hearts of enemies.

Legend #3: This one centered around the various leaders attempting to choose a king. Light poured down onto an egg, which hatched a boy who emanated light and was raised and revered by the others, eventually becoming King Hyeokgeose of Silla.

Legend #4: King Dongmyeong’s mother was the daughter of a river god who later became King Geumwa’s concubine. King Geumwa had 7 sons, and they all envied how great King Dongmyeong was. King Dongmyeong and some of his followers escaped from persecution and severe death threats by crossing a bridge of turtles and other sea animals who came to help him. After crossing the river safely, he set up a capital and named his country as Goguryeo.

Legend #5: Goblins aren’t ghosts but are the dead possessing inanimate objects with the person’s blood on it. They are considered to be fearsome and awe inspiring throughout history and are typically known for being mischievous. They’re also known for their cartoon version welcoming visitors to Korea!

The world awaits…discover it.

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