Hello. What’s your blood type?One day while I was an elementary school student in the mid-1980s, my name was called in class. I shook with fear, but went to the front of the classroom as directed. A woman in a white lab coat smiled at me and said, “This won’t hurt at all.”
In her hand she held a sharp, pointed instrument. I closed my eyes and gave her my hand. The pain in my fingertip lasted less than a second. I then saw a drop of my blood on a glass slide. The woman put a drop of liquid on the blood and said, “Your blood type is A.”
That experience has never been forgotten. All the children in the classroom were told their blood type, but no one asked why they needed to know that. Perhaps they were too young and too scared to think that far ahead.
At the time, I thought everyone in the world had the same experience in elementary school.
My classmates and I used to ask each other’s blood types before we took a bite of each other’s ice cream or a sip of juice. We believed people with the same blood type would not get sick from each other’s saliva.
There are many ways to categorize blood types, but in Korea people typically focus on the ABO categorization, which divides blood types into four groups ― A, B, AB and O.
Since schools began checking people’s blood types decades ago, almost all Koreans who went through the testing believe that blood type is one of the basic bits of information one must know about oneself. That may be one reason why “blood talk” has persisted until now.
More broadly, Koreans view blood type as an integral part of one’s identity and therefore a predictor of personality traits. Blood type is discussed as commonly as horoscopes and Zodiac signs are in the West.
About a year ago, one of my friends said, “Your blood type must be A, because you are very passive and wishy-washy.” She went on, “My blood type is B, and I’m not really popular with men because of my blunt personality.”
She told me that one time when she was sitting alone in a coffee shop, she overheard a conversation among several college students who were sitting next to her.
“I hate girls with blood type B. They often cheat on their boyfriends,” said one of the students. “Not only that, they are bad-tempered, selfish and arrogant. It’s not a myth or superstition. I had many B-type girlfriends and they all had those qualities.”
When she heard that, she said, she had the urge to yell at them to stop talking such nonsense. But she was afraid to confirm their belief that B-type people are bad-tempered.
I later had a huge fight with her and never heard from her again. I recall that at the moment she “flipped out” on me, I thought what people believed might be true. After that, I came to accept the maxim that “stereotypes exist for a reason.”
The focus on blood type and its relationship to personality has grown in recent years, with discussions expanding on the Internet, and this year the issue has produced a media blitz.
A movie called “B-Type Boyfriend” is now in production, a Korean pop song called “B Hyeong Namja (Blood Type B Men)” has just come out, and a handful of books that tell you how to date based on your blood type have been selling at bookstores. As a result, the blood type myth has more followers than ever.
The lyrics of pop singer Kim Hyeon-jeong’s song “Blood Type B Men” lament that a guy is hard to deal with because he is a typical B-type man ― fickle and untrustworthy. Ms. Kim said in a newspaper article that the song was based on her friends’ dating experiences.
The movie “B Hyeong Namjachingu (B-Type Boyfriend),” a romantic comedy, has a similar theme. In the film, a girl whose blood type is A dates a type B guy and has a lot of trouble getting along with him.
The book “B Hyeong Namjawa Yeonaehagi (How to date blood type B men),” says such men tend to be overly confident, inconsiderate, insensitive, fickle and spontaneous. It claims these personality traits have been attested to by the author’s friends.
There is even a Web site for B-type men.
Why the focus on B-type people? It seems people tend to become more interested when a person, or certain group of people, is attacked or gains a negative image in the media. In contrast to the “difficult” B-type personality, O-type people are viewed as sociable, easygoing and well-mannered. Not much to carp about there. But the origin of the myth about the B-type personality is still shrouded in mystery.
The blood type issue has become a moneymaker, however, and there are ongoing arguments and debates among blood type groups.
The blood typing craze exists only in Korea and Japan. Some Westerners may have experienced puzzling questions about their blood type and wondered why Koreans know and care about the matter, because not that many people in western countries know their blood type.
Although it might seem that the issue is an old one, in fact it is a relatively recent phenomenon.
The focus on a connection between personality and blood type dates back to 1961, when a Japanese doctor, Kimata Hara, published a research paper on the subject.
Subsequently, a number of scientific studies were published internationally, and the topic began to draw the public’s attention in the 1970s, when Japanese scientist Masahiko Nomi’s version of a blood type theory was highlighted by the media.
However, there has not been any conclusive evidence to support the theory so far.
Then why are so many people interested in the blood type theory?
According to Kiyoshi Ando, a psychology professor in Japan, the topic has been spreading widely as a “lubricant” for conversation. Also, the blood type theory appeals to people who want simple and easy ways to analyze others and themselves.
But the psychologist points out that if people begin to take the theory more seriously, it could be problematic. Stereotyping people according to their blood type can be another form of discrimination, he says. In other words, it can be harmful to use blood typing when it comes to choosing dating partners or a spouse, or hiring people.
Aside from the scientific views, perhaps a simpler explanation is that people become bored, and need to gossip about something or someone.
After all, we all know that people’s personalities are affected by many factors, such as their childhood environment, parents, education and relationships with others, don’t we?
by Choi Sun-young