Visiting a Korean fortune teller in Seoul is an interesting experience that enables you to delve a little deeper into the culture of South Korea.
Not everyone believes in this kind of thing and that’s okay. In South Korea though, it’s common to consult fortune tellers several times throughout the year. Locals often use them as a source of gaining other perspectives and standpoints when approaching big milestones or life decisions.
As a western ex-pat in Seoul, I was simply interested to see what visiting a Korean fortune teller was like. I am not somebody that particularly believes in mystics, nor did I go into the reading with any level of expectations or hope.
I was purely intrigued to discover what lay behind one of the many mysterious storefronts in Hongdae and to provide information for those interested in visiting a Korean fortune teller during their Seoul itinerary.
- 1 Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller In Seoul…
- 2 Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller:My Reading
- 3 Fortune Telling In Korea
- 4 Types of Korean Fortune Telling
- 5 Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller:Two Years on
- 6 Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller:How To Find A Teller in Seoul
Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller In Seoul…
Walking through Seoul’s quirky Hongdae neighborhood on a cold and dreary Monday afternoon I trotted down a familiar side street. This area is well known for its many mystics – fortune tellers, tarot readers, palmists, and others all offering you the opportunity to gaze into your future.
Amongst the trendy clothing boutiques and eccentric eateries are ramshackle stores oozing the scent of incense and promoting their services with vibrant colors, depictions of alchemy, and windows blocked out by collages of tarot cards. I’ve passed these stalls many times before, the only difference this time is that I decided to let intrigue get the better of me and venture inside one of them.
Spoiled for choice by the seemingly infinite options, I settled for a store with multiple wooden boards set out front depicting photographs and signatures of Korean celebrities and television channels praising the psychic inside. Satisfied with my choice, I stepped inside.
Meeting My Korean Fortune Teller
Expecting some hippy-looking eccentric like Professor Trelawney in Harry Potter, I was surprised to be met with a startling normal-looking ajusshi (older Korean man) dressed in startling normal clothes. “Oh hello!” He exclaimed, seemingly excited to have a waygookin (foreigner) in his store.
The style of fortune telling that he offered was Saju. Saju is a method dating back to ancient China that is based on the “four pillars” or the four factors in your birth (date, year, time, and place).
What Happened During the Reading
I provided Ajosshi with the details of my birth and he promptly began scrawling down some notes in Mandarin on the paper before him. Then he, reached over to the shelf behind him, took out a dusty old Chinese book, and set it down on the table that sat between us.
I sat and watched him in fascination for what must have been between five and ten minutes whilst he thumbed through the old tome. He would occasionally stop to exclaim “aaah!” or “oooh!”.
He would regularly refer back to the paper in front of him, circling Chinese symbols and drawing lines to connect the letters.
Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller:
Ajosshi broke down the results of my reading into four key components which I have summarised below.
Ajosshi exclaimed with glee that I had a very good fortune and that this was rare for him to see. He told me I had been diligent with money lately, and that 2017 would be a good year financially. Over the course of the year, I’d start earning more money and likely follow a different career path.
The fortune teller told me that I would start a relationship in either May or July and that I would go on to marry this man in the next two years. Of this, he told me that he was 100% certain.
Up until 2024, I’d spend most of my life living overseas he told me. After I leave Korea, he told me I’d return here to live once again in the future.
My health will be good until I reach the age of 42 at which age I’ll get a disease (great!) He said I would be okay, as long as I knew that I had to keep an eye on my health during this time.
As with any form of fortune telling, I guess that I’ll have to wait and see how the future pans out before I can tell you if this reading had any level of accuracy to it!
Fortune Telling In Korea
Fortune telling in Korea doesn’t have the same ‘hippy oddball’ stigma attached to it as it does in the West. Though Koreans do not necessarily accept the readings that they receive as fact, they often like to obtain them to gain an additional perspective on both their future and current situations.
Korea is unfortunately still a country where mental illnesses go largely unrecognized and a dismissive approach is taken towards concerns of mental health. Visiting a psychiatrist is a big taboo here, so many Koreans like to visit fortune tellers, particularly saju readers in order to talk through their current situation with an impartial person.
During Seollal (Lunar New Year), many Koreans will visit a fortune teller to receive their prediction for the year ahead. Other popular times to go are during turning points in a person’s life.
For instance, when they have just graduated and want to question whether they should go on to study more or go straight to work. People will also often visit a Korean fortune teller when they are considering marriage and they want to be sure that the partner that they have chosen is the best one for them.
It is not uncommon for a Korean’s parents to insist that they visit a fortune teller with their partners to determine their compatibility before entering a big commitment. This can be an issue if the person’s parents already has some reservations and concerns about their child’s love interest!
Types of Korean Fortune Telling
There are numerous types of Korean fortune telling services available. Some are very similar to those which you can find in the west, whereas others are unique to this region. Some of the most popular varieties are shortlisted below for your reference.
Based on the four main components of your birth (date, year, time, and place), this practice stems from ancient China. Saju fortune telling holds the belief that your destiny is not changeable, and is determined by the conditions surrounding your birth.
This practice is slightly less common and more difficult to find. However, there are a number of face readers in Hongdae, Insadong, and the upscale Apgujeong district. Face readers will analyze a person’s face, much like a palmist reading a hand, and reveal the person’s fortune.
The interesting thing about face reading is that Koreans believe that cosmetic surgery can change your fortune. For instance, perhaps you hate your nose but it actually means that you are approachable, whereas a new nose could make people intimidated by you!
Palm readers believe that the lines and detailing on your hands depict your life and will predict your future from the markings. This practice is carried out in a similar way to palm reading in western countries.
The practice of reading tarot cards in South Korea is the same as in the west. If you are not familiar, during a tarot card reading you can either ask a specific question, or request for your general fortune to be told before drawing cards from an ancient deck.
The cards reflect a number of aspects of your current and future situation. For instance, there will be a card that represents how you feel, a card that represents the current problem, a card that represents the future, etc.
5-6 cards are drawn in most readings. The Korean fortune teller will then give guidance on the best approach to the situation at hand.
Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller:
Two Years on
I’m adding this update to my Korean fortune teller experience in October 2019 – almost three years after I visited the teller. Oh, how time flies!
A few people read this article and contacted me about the predictions so let’s see what unfolded. Perhaps I’ll keep coming back to update this section.
The Korean fortune teller told me that I would experience good financial success. At the time of writing this article I was teaching English in South Korea, and also doing a little freelance writing on the side for Forbes Travel Guide in Seoul.
Since then, I left Seoul, moved to Greece, and became a full-time Freelance Travel Writer/Blogger. I make much more than I did as a Teacher in Seoul.
Relationships and Love Life
Ajosshi predicted that I would meet the love of my life in May or July. While I didn’t meet anyone during those months, I did go on to have a long-term relationship with someone I met shortly thereafter.
Travel and Health
I am still living overseas but we have a little ways to go before seeing if that remains the case until 2024. I moved to Italy first after Korea, then moved to Athens, Greece.
Healthwise I’m currently fine (*knocks on wood*) but not excited about this disease I’m apparently set to encounter at the age of 42!
Visiting a Korean Fortune Teller:
How To Find A Teller in Seoul
There are many fortune tellers surrounding Seoul’s Hongdae region. Just take the subway to Hongik University station and leave at exit 8. You should keep in mind that many of the readers do not speak English.
Unless you are somewhat fluent in Korean, take a Korean friend with you to help translate. Alternatively, try and find a reader that displays a sign on their door confirming that they speak English.
You can also reserve Korean fortune-telling online via a local tour company such as Trazy. Their readings are available in both English and Japanese so you don’t have to worry about not being able to communicate!
You should reserve your spot in advance as they do often sell out. Click here for more details.
Apgujeong and Cheongdam-dong are also popular Seoul neighborhoods for fortune tellers. However, you can pretty much find them all over the city.
Are you interested in visiting a Korean fortune teller? Have you ever had your fortune told? Share your story below!
Alternatively, if you have any questions about planning a Korea trip or the best things to do in Seoul, you are welcome to reach out to me. I spent two years living in South Korea and know the city pretty well.
Safe travels! Annyeong, Melissa xo