Korean Superstitions to Watch Out!

by Isabel Bang

Numbers ending with “nine”


Numbers that end with nine are considered “unwhole” or “incomplete” in Korea. They say when standing on number nine, they’re standing at the final gate where one tenses up facing the day of becoming “whole.” Hence, in Korea, they consider ages 19, 29, 39, etc. an unlucky age where things can often go wrong - calling it an “ah-hop soo”(“number nine”). There had been many Korean media that talks about these unlucky ages like the K-Drama Plus Nine Boys and Thirty-Nine, and even webtoons such as The Day We Turned 29. Many even postpone important dates like weddings or moving days if they were planned to be held in their “ah-hop soo.” 

Shaking legs shakes off fortune 

Tistory | nunnanunna

Anxiously shaking or bouncing one’s leg is an annoying and unpleasant habit. Koreans think the same way, so they have a superstition to make those people stop! They say that when you shake your leg all your luck and fortune get shaken off as well. There’s an old story of a physiognomist reading the face of a poor man, and finding out he actually held the destiny of living as a rich man. Because he ad a habit of shaking his leg, he was living opposite of his destiny. When the poor man broke his leg and couldn't shake it anymore, he soon became rich as the physiognomist predicted! The moral of the legend is that shaking one’s leg is such a bad habit that even changes one’s destiny 😂 You see how much Koreans hate it when you shake your leg?

Shoe gifts will make your lover leave you

KBS | Don't Look Back: The Legend of Orpheus

There's a saying in Korea, “if you gift a good pair of shoes to your lover, they will wear the shoe and run/fly away.” Apparently, this superstition first arose in the 60s, when it was a luxury to buy new shoes. Wearing new good shoes was a symbol of wealth, so they said if your lover wears a good pair of shoes they’ll end up meeting someone better. Well, this is just an old saying. Now, people say “good shoes will take you to a good place.” Thus, many couples give each other good shoes as presents in hopes the shoes will take them wherever they want and do whatever they wish to accomplish!

Touch wood and spit three times


The Korean saying “a word becomes a seed,” means whatever you speak aloud may become true. It’s mostly said when someone says something unfavourable about the future, for example, “what should I do if I fail this test?” When one says something bad like this, Koreans tell the person to 'touching wood and spit three times' to take the negative words back. Very similar to the Western culture “knocking on wood” for good luck or to take back a negative prediction! By touching wood, you gain good spirits and by spitting three times, the words you’ve said leave the body and become null. 

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