Haunting Korean Superstitions
South Korea’s culture is teeming with a variety of superstitions and urban legends like “If you laugh and cry at the same time, you’ll grow hair on your butt,” and stories of black market thieves coming by in vans and stealing people’s organs to put for sale. But of course, the Halloween season calls for a set of stories with a spooky twist that will leave readers feeling chills for reasons other than the cool autumn breeze.
1. Haunting Music
Imagine this: BTS is getting ready to record their upcoming album for their comeback. Everything is going smoothly until Jungkook goes into the studio to sing his part, and as he sings the first few lines, he stops and looks to the others, having heard a voice through the headphones. But the members and producers only look at him in confusion, because none of them had said a thing. They tell him to continue but he hears it again, and he realizes that it’s a girl’s voice that he heard, which would have been completely normal ... if there was a girl in the studio, that is. Commence loud screaming from all the boys as they all run out of there as fast as they can.
This is no bad omen, though! In fact, if a ghost is heard at a recording studio, it is considered to be good luck for the song’s success. So fans can stream and vote all they want, but in the end, the ghost is the one to determine who gets number 1! And in all honesty, BTS has already given so many fangirls heart attacks, it would not be too surprising if there was an ARMY in the afterlife.
2. Fan Attack
Though there have been plenty of horror stories over the years about the crazy stalker fans that follow idols around to their homes and write letters in their own blood, this superstition isn’t about a crazy EXO-L or a VIP gone wild; it’s about an electric fan (which is probably scarier to most people, because while not everyone has stalker fans, many probably own an electric fan or two)! One of the more commonly known superstitions in Korea is that those who keep the fan on while they sleep in a room with the doors and windows closed will surely be dead by the morning.
Some say that fans will cause the sleeper to die from lack of oxygen. Others theorize that one may die from hypothermia. Nevertheless, the superstition is merely that—a superstition, a myth possibly spread to lessen energy consumption. But make sure to put the fan on the lowest setting tonight, just to be safe!
3. Red Pen
Any fan can relate to the euphoria and adrenaline that rushes through them when they even think about meeting their favorite idol. And when a fan actually comes across his or her idol by chance, everything goes by so fast and the only coherent thought going through his or her mind is to get the idol’s autograph for proof. Without thinking, they grab the first pen that they see—a red pen—and hand it to the celebrity along with a piece of paper. They quickly tell them their name, barely able to contain their squeal of joy when they are given the autographed paper. A couple of days later, the fan is found dead in their room, clutching the paper close to their chest, hands stained with the red ink. Yikes.
Of course, this is a dramatized scenario, but writing names in red ink is serious business in Korea! When someone’s name is written in red ink, it is said that it will bring bad luck or even death to that person. This myth originated in China, where emperors and people of high status wrote their names in red, because the color represents luck and prosperity. When someone of lower status wrote their name in red, it was considered identity fraud, and they were punished and even executed for such a simple act. While it is kind of odd, a red pen is definitely one of the more unique weapons to threaten someone’s life with.
1.The Virgin Ghost
A shiver goes through the air, though the entire day has gone by without a single breeze. All of a sudden it feels like the temperature has dropped several degrees. There is no one else there, at least not within the light of the solitary street lamp, but its light was admittedly dim and only illuminated very little of the street below before it was swallowed by the shadows. A moment passes by and suddenly, she’s there. She stands still, her long, black hair covering her face, her white hanbok almost glowing in contrast to the darkness around her. Maybe it’s time to find another way home.
The virgin ghost, or 처녀 귀신 is a very, if not the most, popular description of a ghost in South Korea, as well as Japan, to the point that it has become a cliche in stories and movies. In various horror films like The Grudge or The Haunted House Project, the main characters are haunted by young girls in white with long black hair that covers their faces.
2.The Red Mask
There are several versions of this story, and one goes like this: A man gets on a train late at night, and he is joined in the car by a woman wearing a red surgical mask. He can’t help but look, the bright red fabric of the mask catching his eye. The woman notices and turns to him and asks “Am I pretty?” The man answers yes without thinking. Suddenly, she rips off her mask to reveal a gruesome sight: her mouth split wide open, slit at the cheeks all the way up to her ears. She asks again, “Am I pretty now?” Terrified, the man can’t say anything as the woman brings out a scalpel to give the man the same face.
Perhaps it is a commentary on the plastic surgery trend going on in Korea, a warning of the risk that comes with going under the knife. There is also a Japanese version of this story (a similar woman approaching a child at night), which is told to have kids go home before dark. Either way, the Red Mask Woman is someone who is sure to make everyone’s skin crawl.
3. Sesame Bath
There was a girl who was obsessed with increasing her beauty, willing to try out any remedy to improve her skin and body. One day, she reads that sesame seeds will soften her skin and close her pores, so she decides to prepare a bath filled with the tiny black seeds. After several hours, her mother finds it odd that she has not exited the bath yet, so she knocks on the door. “Just a moment!” The girl’s voice is shrill and panicked. Feeling as though the girl had hogged up the bathroom for long enough, the mother barges in anyway and finds her daughter desperately picking out sesame seeds from the pores in her skin.
This is another one of many horror stories about the dangers of obsessing over appearance. Another variation of this story is about a man who went to sleep with a cockroach on his pillow so that his acne would be cleared. He wakes in the morning, cured, but only because he has a bunch of cockroach eggs laid in his pores. The moral of the story here is that looks shouldn’t be everything! Also, maybe don’t sleep with bugs in the bed.
These are only several stories that are told in Korea, but they can be enough to leave some people sleeping with their eyes wide open in case their dreams are visited by the Red Mask Woman, or if they find that the electric fan in their room is making them feel a little bit breathless. They know it might be a couple hours before sleep comes and saves them from their own imagination.