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Superstitions from Korea

Jae-Seok Park, Joy, Hye Young, and Hollie from Korea

Jae-Seok Park describes some things that people don't do today because of superstitions from long ago.

Jae-Seok Park
Jae-Seok Park

There are two superstitions about good and bad luck that involve two kinds of birds in Korea. It's up to you to believe them or not.

First, if you see crows or ravens when you are leaving your house in order to go to school or to your company early in the morning, it means that you will be in trouble and have bad luck all day--just for a day.

Second, if you see magpies or listen to their calls when you go somewhere, especially early in the morning, you will have good luck for a day. Magpies mean really good luck in Korea.

Joy describes superstitions about washing your hair on the day you take a test, giving shoes as a present, and seeing a bird called a magpie.


In my country, most people believe in superstitions that have been handed down from a long time ago. Here are some examples of common ones. One superstition about tests says: On the day when you have a big test, don't wash your hair. People believe when they wash their hair, their memories are cleaned by the water. Consequently, people think they won't be able to remember what they studied.

A superstition about couples says: Don't present a boyfriend or a girlfriend with a pair of shoes. If you do, your boyfriend or girlfriend will leave you. So some people believe they will break up with their girl friend if they give them a pair of shoes.

There is also a superstition about the Korean magpie (bird). People say: If you see a magpie in the morning, you'll get good news. In Korean folk songs, there are some stories about this bird. There is a song about this.

Many people believe these kinds of superstitions. Actually, superstitions have many meanings. I don't believe in them, but I can't ignore them.

Hye Young writes about superstitions from long ago that say what people aren't supposed to do at night.

Cutting nails
Don't cut your nails at night.

In Korea, there are a few things we are not supposed to do at night. So when I was young, my mom asked me not to cut my nails at night. She said, "If you cut your nails, some animals like mice will eat your nails, and then they'll become you or they'll take your spirit." Basically, this belief is from the past when we didn't have electricity. If we cut out nails then night then, the room would be dirty because we couldn't see to clean it. So, we still don't do that even today.

Similarly, we don't sing at night. Old people say, "If you sing a song at night, snakes will appear in front of you." I think the reason they say that is to stop you from annoying your neighbors. In the past, we didn't have soundproof walls or windows. It was a kind of wisdom.

Hollie tells about a superstition about the the difference in ages between a bride and bridegroom.

Choose your spouse carefully.

In Korea, when you choose your spouse, you have to be careful. If you marry someone five years difference in age, "won jin sal" will bother you. You'll fight with yur spouse every day, but you won't get divorced. And, if you marry someone six years older or younger than you are, "sang chun sal" will make you strange. You and your spouse will live happily, but you will always be beggars. As a result, many Koreans consider four years difference or seven years difference in age between the bride and the bridegroom is the best age.

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