News / Asia

S. Koreans Hope Fortune Tellers Point Way to Top of Class

South Korean fortune teller Kim Yong-son poses with his crystal ball in his Seoul office. (File photo)
South Korean fortune teller Kim Yong-son poses with his crystal ball in his Seoul office. (File photo)
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Byun Mi-kyong sat quietly with her hands in her lap as she listened closely to every word the fortune teller said about her daughter's chances of getting into the right university.
 
Dealing with intensely competitive college entrance exams has driven South Korean students to despair, and sometimes to suicide, as they fight for the few places in the best programs that are seen as the key to a successful career.
 
Anxious parents have long sought hints from fortune tellers about how well their children will do in school. But now Byun and others are turning to divination for specific guidance on picking the most promising activities, courses and colleges.
 
In the heat of summer, Byun went to the shaman's house in Seongnam, a city on the outskirts of Seoul, giving her daughter's name and date of birth to the softly spoken man dressed in a traditional, white Korean costume.
 
Alongside a large shrine with golden statues and colorful paintings of deities, she sat across a small table from the shaman as he leafed through the books of his trade.
 
To Byun's great relief, he said her daughter would get into her dream university, especially one with a name starting with J, D or K. The 19-year-old wants to go to Joongang, known officially as Chung-Ang University, to study nursing.
 
“I could not have a heart-to-heart talk with anybody about this but I can speak frankly about what's in my mind to him,” Byun said after the 10-minute consultation.
 
“It was a big help to me.”
 
The shamans, men and women who perform traditional religious rites, say parents asking about their children's academic and career prospects - at 50,000 to 100,000 won ($45 to $90) an hour - usually take the advice they get very seriously.
 
“If I give guidance to parents, they just follow it blindly for their kids,” said professor-turned-shaman Choi Kuing-hun.
 
Rain or shine?

 
Shamans base their recommendations on “saju”, or fate, determined by the four “pillars” of a person's life: the year, month, day and time of their birth.
 
Every bit helps, it would seem, when aiming for a spot at university.
 
Up to 600,000 students take the college entrance exams each year and their preparations are grueling. Teenagers put in long hours as they pack into cram schools after a day of classes.
 
But the pressure takes its toll. Nearly 40 percent of teenagers said they felt suicidal, according to government data.
 
Hoping to ease some of the stress, Song Byung-chang has advised nearly 16,000 people over the last 19 years. Parents turn to shamans, he said, because luck plays a big part in a complicated admissions process and his guidance can help families minimize the risks.
 
“If I have to go to an outdoor event next week, I would probably check the weather forecast,” Song said, adding that fortune telling “is exactly like that.”
 
Kim Do-kyung started college preparations early for her 13-year-old son, consulting Song about the boy's best subjects. Word of success spreads fast among parents keen for any hint of help, she said.
 
“Many parents come here by word of mouth because some moms said their child did better than expected,” she said.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid