Koreans seek knowledge of what the year will holdSo, will the coming year be special for you? To answer that question, many Koreans turned to their computers. From simple horoscopes to more complicated readings by Chinese astrologers that give personal forecasts based on a birth date and name, online services were busy telling Internet users what they should look out for and what nice surprises were on the way.
According to NHN, the mother company of the Naver portal site, an average of 38,000 people visited its fortune-telling service each day at the end of last year.
“Every year, we see the number climbing of those signing in to our fortune-telling service,” said Lee Gyeong-ryul of NHN’s promotion team. “When the New Year started in January, the number doubled.”
But what’s up with the fortune telling craze in the digital era?
For Lee Jin-hui, a 32-year-old doctor in Seoul, it gives her some relief she cannot expect from her close friends. “I don’t depend on fortunes entirely,” she said. “But I consider [fortune telling] like a third person’s perspective. It helps before I make an important decision.”
Park Ji-yeong, 22, a college student, was more traditional when it came to checking her luck. She went to a conventional fortune-teller after she broke up with her boyfriend. “The fortune-teller was describing my personality and I realized why we were never meant to be,” she said. “I even saw a guideline in the description of how I can meet a better person who suits me later.”
Lee Na-gyeong, 38, an office worker, recently got her fortune told and went through a mental status examination as well. “Both gave me similar results. They seemed to tell me what kind of a person I am. I learned what was causing me to be involved in frequent office disputes,” she said.
Hwang Sang-min, a psychology professor at Yonsei University said the three were getting the reassurance they wanted by having their fortunes told. “People seek fortune-tellers because they think they can get their futures told, but it’s actually only an interpretation of state of your current mind that you get from fortune-telling,” he said.
A Tarot card reader, who only gave his surname, “Ha,” agreed partly with Mr. Hwang. “With help from a set of Tarot cards and by studying my clients’ appearances and their style of speech, I get an understanding of their past and present,” he said. “When you come to understand that much, you can easily guess how they will react to their problems in the future.”
Lee Jeong-il, the author of a self-help book, “Athena Goddess, The Great Art of Strategy,” says it is one’s personality that decides one’s future and not fate. “So going to a fortune-teller is like reminding yourself of who you are and being told to wait until the good times come,” Mr. Lee said.
But is there the smallest possibility that your fate might have already been decided, as many fortune-tellers say?
“There are seven out of 10 chances that you live according to your destiny, but the remaining three can always change your fate according to your will,” said Song In-chang, a professor of philosophy at Daejeon University and president of the Asian Folk Philosophy Association. “Your fate can change depending on who you meet and what kind of mental attitude you have.”
Lee Seon-hwa, president of the Korea Tarot card association and a guru at Shanti Gurukul, an ancient Hindu school in Korea, says she believes “all answers lie in your heart.”
“Tarot cards only reflect the energy a person pumps up unconsciously from one’s inner-self,” Ms. Lee says.
This reporter grew up hearing that I was much like a mischievous boy and indeed, I was. Only that I was a girl. As an adult, people say that I am a very outgoing person.
To my surprise, both Eastern and Western fortune-tellers had similar results waiting for me. An Eastern fortune-telling method called Saju Palja compared me to a “stick of gold,” while Western Tarot cards saw me as “the chariot,” and my horoscope defined me as a person who “stands between the wind and Mars.” All three meant I was a stubborn girl with masculine characteristics.
Saju Palja, literally meaning the Four Pillars and Eight Characters, is a popular fortune-telling method in Asian countries, and the oldest. When Koreans talk about having their fortunes told, it is likely that they are talking about going to a saju fortune-teller. The four pillars are made up of the year, month, day and time you were born and the eight characters are from the Chinese characters derived from the “four pillars” defining your fate.
“Parents and the environment you grow up in can affect your palja,” said Mr. Song, the philosophy professor from Daejeon University. “Even if two people have the same saju, palja can always differ.” According to the Saju Palja method, I had the characteristics of gold and the seventh of the 10 signs of the heavens in the traditional lunar calendar. This meant I needed to be cautious of being too stubborn. The fortune-teller added that I would be particularly busy this year.
Mr. Song stressed luck was important too. Everyone’s luck changes every decade, he explained. “If saju were a car, luck would be a road,” he said.
“It would be best to ride in a safe car on good asphalt road, but the car can feel smaller and the road bumpier depending on the person,” he said. “This means you have to wait for your time, which is the provision of nature and the lesson saju is trying to give to people.”
Reading my Tarot cards, using a deck made up of 22 major cards and 56 minor cards, Ms. Lee at Shanti Gurukul said the cards are normally used to look at the next three months. She recommended that one always ask concrete questions of the Tarot cards. For instance, one should ask whether you should buy the apartment you saw last week now, not whether you have any chance of ever buying it.
She said my characteristics showed on the number seven card, “the chariot.”
“Chariots have the characteristic of forward movement. A person who has this card is often busy in both heart and body,” she said.
Sure, I nodded. Particularly due to my job as a reporter, I was busy at most times, becoming easily impatient when things do not turn out fast.
The last way to look into my “destiny” was using the zodiac. Several triangular diagrams showed up on the black screen of a computer monitor after Mr. Lee, the author of “Athena Goddess, The Great Art of Strategy,” punched my date and the time of birth into the program. By doing so, Mr. Lee said, a person can be expressed by the shape and directions of seven planets and five dispositions. According to him, I was a “Mars type with a disposition of the wind.” A Mars character is an outspoken type.
As I had expected, he added, “You are a woman outside but very masculine inside.”
by Hong Joo-yun