We the humans are smart… most of the time. Most of the time, we believe in science, we think with logic, and we behave like intellectuals. But sometimes — sometimes, we are gullible creatures indeed. Say, like when bad luck hits, we can’t help but become superstitious — and boy, once we start believing, we cannot be convinced otherwise. That is, perhaps, why every culture has its own set of old and undying superstitions. We keep believing and passing them down the generations. Here are 10 of the most popular (for the lack of a better term) — and possibly the weirdest — Korean superstitions that every Korean has heard and/or believed at some point in life!
1. The Forbidden Number
In some of the older buildings around Korea, you won’t see a 4th floor. Or, some buildings will have the 4th floor but in the elevator, it will be marked as the “Fth Floor“. That is because an old Korean superstition suggested that the number 4 has its negative ties to death — and so a 4th floor is unlucky to have in a building.
2. The Red Ink
If you hand a red pen to a Korean person and ask to get a signature, chances are you’ll be turned down. Another centuries-old Korean superstition deemed it bad luck to write or sign a living person’s name in red ink — because the color red also has its negative ties to death. Unless you’re trying to unleash some dark magic, use black or blue ink!
3. The Shot of Soju
A more modern superstition bans Koreans from pouring themselves drinks, like soju, when there are other people sitting at the table. This superstition is widely believed amongst single Koreans as it suggests one of two things: If you pour your own shot of soju, either you or the person sitting across from you will never get a date.
4. The Gift of Shoes
You wouldn’t guess a cute pair of shoes to carry any bad intentions — but in superstitious Korea, it is one of the least preferred items to give as a gift between couples. The myth goes like this: If you give your partner a pair of shoes, he/she will wear them to walk out of the relationship!
5. The Chicken Wings
If you’re in a relationship and you ordered fried chicken for dinner, you must eat the chicken wings — as per this old-but-gold superstition. The thing is, if your partner eats the wings… It makes them fly away from you. Accordingly, chicken wings will plant a passionate desire in your partner’s heart and you’ll lose him/her to a love affair.
6. The Elixir of Mushrooms
Ever gone to a KBBQ and had portobello mushrooms served for grilling on the side? Oh yes, nom nom. You’ve seen it done. When these bad boys are heated, they exude water (literally that, water) that pools in the middle. For the longest time ever, Koreans believed this mushroom-liquid to be an ultimate health potion. This superstition had Koreans chug that burning elixir straight from the grill — for stamina and whatnot.
7. The House Fan Death
Oh, the most mysterious legend of the fan death is a classic among Korean households. Superstitious Koreans believed that sleeping with the fan on is deadly. Some say the fan will deprive the room of oxygen and you would suffocate to death. Others say the fan will catch on fire and you would burn to death. Whichever version, you are bound to die if you leave the fan on overnight. Has anyone actually died? That’s a story for another time.
8. The Fish
Here’s another mysterious food-related superstition. You might find yourself in superstitious hell if you flip a fish. As the myth suggests, every fish is a fishing vessel out at sea. When you flip one, some ship out on the open sea will also flip and lose its crew. So unless you want to drown a crew and have their spirits haunt you… Don’t flip the fish!
9. The Fingernail
In Korea, the land of superstitions, you’re advised against clipping your finger and toenails at night. Such a behavior is bad luck, no explanations attached. What might be even worse though is if you don’t properly dispose of your clipped nails. Say a nail gets on the loose: Koreans believed a small creature (like a rat) would eat the nail, become your doppelgänger, and steal your identity for the rest of your life. Imagine that!
10. The Seaweed Soup
There are days you are allowed to eat miyeok-guk, or the seaweed soup, like your birthday for example. Then there are days you are absolutely forbidden from eating the soup — and those are exam days. According to the old superstition, seaweed’s slippery texture will cast bad luck on you and make you slip to utter failure.