Cultural appreciation: 7 unique korean folk beliefs you may not know about


With the Hallyu wave taking over the world, many have developed a cultural appreciation of South Korea’s fascinating culture. It was so capt...
With the Hallyu wave taking over the world, many have developed a cultural appreciation of South Korea’s fascinating culture. It was so captivating that some seek to have a deeper understanding of their customs and traditions, while the others dream of living in the land of the morning calm.

Korean Folk Culture is as interesting as their popular culture that everyone is so engrossed in. Some of their folk beliefs may have already been mentioned in a drama that you have finished in one sitting like Goblin (Dokkaebi), in Korean folk belief, it is a spirit with exceptional powers and skills used to enchant, tease, taunt, and occasionally help humans. Do you also know that it is believed that these spirits are born from old, discarded household items and objects smeared with human blood, particularly menstrual blood?

Well, there are a lot of intriguing Korean household folk beliefs that you may not know about, and here are some of them:

Jeonghwasu (Fresh Water from Well)

Jeonghwasu (정화수) which means a fresh water drawn from a well early in the morning has a symbolic significance as a pure sacred offering that is prepared with devotion during the first hours of the day. The women in the household were usually the ones who go out at the early hours of morning to fetch a bowl of clean water as a sacrifice to pray for their wishes.

They also believe that water has purifying powers to cleanse, therefore, jeonghwasu is also used to clear away impurities by sprinkling it three times with your fingertips.

Bison (Hand rubbing ritual)

The first syllable “bi” is derived from the verb bilda, which means “to pray”, and son means “hand”.

Bison (비손 ) is a ritual in which people rub their palms together to pray for a wish to come true or to heal an illness. They believe that hand-rubbing is a gesture to make an appeal to divine entities of human fragility in the midst of strong forces of nature.

Cheuksin (Outhouse Deity)

Cheuksin is a goddess believed to be fierce and hostile who lives in the outhouse.

They believe that the Outhouse Deity Maiden (Cheuksingaksi) has long hair which she uses to choke the person who enters the outhouse resulting in a severe disease that cannot be healed, because of this, it is necessary to cough before you enter an outhouse.

Gochu (Red pepper)

Gochu (고추 ) is used to cleanse impurities and to ward off evil spirits when someone is sick or during the birth of a son.

It is believed that the pepper’s color represents the sun, and its spiciness is effective in warding off evil spirits, while its shape was associated with the birth of a male infant.

They also attach red peppers to the taboo rope (geumjul) draped over the gate to announce the birth of a son, while they hung three red peppers over their gate along with the fastening ribbons from a patient’s clothing upon the onset of a contagious disease.

Bujeok (Talisman)

Bujeok (부적 ) is letters or patterns that were believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits and avoid disasters.

In Korean folk beliefs, amulet sheets are commonly created by painting red letters or images on a yellow paper, and it is divided into good fortune talismans (gilsangbujeok) and ghost-repelling talismans (byeoksabujeok).

Ki (Winnow Basket)

Ki (키) is a basket used for winnowing grains that is used as a sorcery tool for fortunetelling or rites.

Winnow baskets are commonly used as a sorcery tool for harvest divination and rainmaking, and in their folk belief, its role of separating grains from chaff is interpreted as filtering away impurities and uncertainties and thereby applied for problem-solving and decision-making.

Sut (Wood Charcoal)

Sut (숯 ) is considered to have the power to keep out bad elements in Korean folk religion.

When there was a newborn in the family, a charcoal was attached to the child’s left-hand lay straw rope and hung as a taboo rope (geumjul) to keep impure persons and bad luck out. In household rituals, charcoal was occasionally offered as a sacrifice to the kitchen deity Jowang.

If you wish to satisfy more of your cultural curiosity, there is an Encyclopedia of Korean Folk Culture by the National Folk Museum of Korea where you can read and download different books about Korean Folk Culture for free.

Written by: Johannes Daño
Johannes is a soon-to-be world traveler who used to see the world in black and white but is now finding ways to paint it yellow. She expresses her innermost thoughts through metaphors and fictional stories, but it takes her a while to do so as she is not a great first-drafter but a great rewriter. 



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item Cultural appreciation: 7 unique korean folk beliefs you may not know about
Cultural appreciation: 7 unique korean folk beliefs you may not know about
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