Superstitions are a really unique part of a culture. They can be tied to history, folklore, mythology, or just wordplay! If you’re going to/living in Korea or just meeting Korean friends learning about Korean superstitions can help you avoid making awkward mistakes or offending people. Also, it helps you connect with people more and integrate yourself into the community. So here are some popular Korean superstitions from the lucky, unlucky and strange/funny!


Korean Superstitions - 4 means death

1. Lucky and Unlucky Numbers

To start off let’s get into the numbers really quick! Korea’s favorite and least favorite numbers follow along with other Asian countries so you might recognize seeing 4 and 8 on this list.

  • 3 (삼) is supposed to symbolize a person/mankind. Number 1 relates to the sky, and 2 means Earth, so together they equal a balance of heaven, earth, and humanity. It’s considered lucky and can attract good fortune.
  • 4 (사) uses the exact same spelling as the word for death (사) so many Koreans like to avoid it any way they can. In elevators instead of the fourth floor many label the button as “F” or some buildings may skip it entirely.
  • 8 (팔) is the most popular lucky number and is heavily tied to fortune. It’s thought to bring wealth and luck so much that people try to book important events such as business meetings, weddings, dates, etc. on it.


2. Don’t Leave Your Fan Overnight!

Fan death is one of the most infamous Korean superstitions! It goes that if you leave a fan on overnight with doors and windows closed it can suck the air out of the room and result in death by suffocation. The idea seems to have started in the early 1920s and while it has been disproven many people still believe it. Actually, a lot of fans in Korea have been and are still made with timers to turn them off after a set amount of time!


3. Red Ink is a Death Sentence Too

Another big superstition is that writing someone’s name in red ink is akin to a death wish on the person. This is because traditionally in Korea the names of the deceased are written in red ink. Be careful because in the West red pen is popularly used to correct or mark papers/projects/tests in school. So if you become a teacher in Korea avoid writing students’ or teachers’ names in red! Writing in red ink actually has a similar negative meaning in countries like Portugal and Japan as well, just not to the same extent as in South Korea. In Portugal it is just seen as rude or insulting, and in Japan the meaning is similar to Korea but the taboo isn’t as strong.


Superstition - shoe theory

4. Shoes = End of Your Relationship

This one is a bit funny and on the nose. Give your partner or significant other a pair of shoes? That means you are inviting them to run away from you! This ‘shoe theory’ has taken off a bit on TikTok and in America too.


5. Don’t Feed Your Partner Wings

A similar one to the shoes Korean superstition. Simply if you feed your partner chicken wings they will fly away!

I guess be careful if you give your partner anything that can move or help them move because they might just move off on you. Koreans like chicken feet too, but maybe they’re not strong enough to let your partner escape haha


6. Whistling at Night Brings Ghosts and Demons

Simple enough theory, if you whistle at night you can bring out the ghosts, ghouls, and the like and bring their attention on to you! A lesser version of this superstition is that whistling can attract snakes. So keep quiet at night and maybe just hum along to your headphones and not whistle.


7. Pig Dreams Brings Big Wealth

Pigs are a common symbol of wealth and fertility in Asia and that extends out to your dreams! The Korean word for money (돈) has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for pig (豚). So if you dream of a pig you might have a promotion or something nice coming up for you.


15 Korean Superstitions - eat beautiful food

8. You’ll Have Beautiful Kids if You Eat Beautiful Food

The classic example is kimbap, the ends of kimbap are more of a mess with cucumber and such sticking out but the cut middle pieces are all nicely organized and put together. This superstition suggests pregnant mothers should have the beautiful inside pieces to have beautiful children as opposed to messy end pieces. If a mom likes the ends then maybe her children won’t grow up to be so good-looking.

So moms-to-be maybe use this as leverage to get the nice cuts and pieces when sharing food haha


9. Don’t Stick Your Chopsticks in the Rice!

This is a big one and many people will feel off-put if they see you do this. Koreans only stick chopsticks directly in rice for funeral rites and ceremonies to pay tribute to those who have past. So doing this is seen as bringing misfortune to you.


10. Don’t Shake Your Legs

Shaking your legs shakes away your luck! This one seems to be all over Asia, shaking your leg can be commonly seen as rude or improper but also shaking away all your luck. I always shake my legs so hopefully, that hasn’t affected me too much haha


11. Hearing a Crow is Bad Luck

Similar to the West, black crows aren’t peoples favorite when it comes to superstitions. In Korean culture, hearing a black crow outside early in the morning is seen as a bad omen and that death is near, or bad luck will come to you today.


Eating 엿 or taffy on exam days is good luck

12. Taffy Helps You Learn!

Korean study culture is huge so it makes sense there are superstitions specifically about it. Eating 엿 or taffy on exam or test days is seen as good luck. That’s simply because taffy is sticky and you want the information for the test to stick in your head! Similarly, you can use other sticky foods but taffy is the most popular.


13. Seaweed Soup Makes You Fail

For more testing Korean superstitions, eating seaweed soup on your birthday is seen as a tradition but avoid it on an exam day! Seaweed soup along with anything slippery will make you slip or fall (aka fail), of course.


13. Don’t Wash Your Hair

Some Koreans believe washing their hair washes away good luck so on important days people will skip it! On New Year’s Day people will avoid it as well as students on exam days to not ‘wash away all of the knowledge’ they’ve gained.


14. Only Move on a Lucky Day

This is one of the most common Korean superstitions, so much so that moving companies have calendars for luck and unlucky days listed called “손없는날 달력” to avoid moving on a bad day and bringing bad spirits with you. These days typically follow the lunar calendar.


15 Korean Superstitions - butterfly danger!

15. Be Careful After Touching a Butterfly

If you touch a butterfly be sure not to touch or rub your eyes! This superstition says that if you touch your eye after touching a butterfly you will go blind. This is kind of practical if you think of it like advice to avoid eye infection after touching a foreign animal/object.





Dax · May 23, 2024 at 6:25 pm

Very cool, I love the cultural posts but you’re making me sad about seaweed soup 😩
keep it up!

    Pam · May 23, 2024 at 7:22 pm

    thank you, I found some new ones I hadn’t heard of before while researching so it was fun for me too. Koreans love seaweed soup! It’s even a tradition to have on your birthday so don’t let it get you down. just avoid it on days you have a test and save it for after when you can let all the information slide off haha

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