|A fortune-teller analyzes a client’s “saju” ― a person’s fortune based on the year, month, date and hour of birth. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)|
Kim Ye-ji, a 26-year-old job-seeker worriedly looks at eight Chinese characters and carefully listens to what the fortune-teller tells her. The predictor stares at the characters with a serious face and contemplates for awhile.
“Around March and April next year, you’re going to find a job. Until then, no good news,” the fortune-teller says.
“And you’re likely to meet a guy around autumn. He will probably be younger than you.”
Kim finally feels relieved.
Their discussion, which lasted for an hour, only revolved around the eight Chinese characters.
“I regularly visit the fortune-teller at the end of each year. It soothes my mind as she foretells the possible risks that I may face in the future and advises me how to avoid them in this life of uncertainty,” Kim said.
For fortune-tellers, the year-end is peak season.
“The number of customers jumped threefold this month,” said Kiki, a fortune-teller at Dongchimi Saju in Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
Learning about saju, the “four pillars” of life ― the year, month, day and time of birth ― is a part of traditional culture that has passed on for thousands years through generations. Each number contains two Chinese characters according to the perpetual calendar. Through these eight characters, your life can be foretold from the moment you are born.
“The large framework of your life is pretty much determined when you are born,” said Kim Dong-wan, an eastern philosophy professor at Dongguk University Institute of Continuing Education.
The eight characters contain lots of information including the proportion of yin and yang ― the two opposing but complimentary forces ― and the combination of the Five Elements ― metal, wood, water, fire and earth ― that a person has from birth. Such data tells his or her nature, personality and the most likely path of life.
“It’s basically statistics. People have accumulated the information from thousands years ago and they have predicted their fate based on the materials,” he added.
Event though the origin and accuracy of saju-telling is uncertain, many people in Korea look for “renowned” saju-tellers through word of mouth, especially at the end of the year.
“The year-end is when people have the most interest in the following year as they plan ahead with lots of hope. They want to know in advance how their next year will be,” professor Kim said.
Working in the field for more than a half decade, fortune-teller Kiki sees the demand at the end of every year rise higher than any other time.
“I think they come because they are anxious. They want to have self-conviction in their decisions by listening to someone who can ‘know’ their saju,” the 41-year-old saju-teller said.
The particular popularity for fortune-tellers at the year-end is not limited to saju. Tarot reading is also a much-used source for young people to look ahead to in their future.
Around Sinchon and Gangnam stations, it is not difficult to spot long lines on the street, waiting for tarot readers.
“I sometimes go see a tarot reader whenever I have concerns or problems. I think it’s sort of credible,” said 24-year-old student Song Hong-bum.
“I usually see more people coming in December and January. College students mostly ask about their love life or job-hunting issues,” said Yang Eui-jin, a tarot reader in Sinchon, Seoul.
Experts observe that such phenomenon mostly comes from their resolution for the new year along with a lack of self-conviction.
“People have the desire to start a new year with a fresh and planned mind. Of those, however, people who are not certain of what they will do in their life are more likely to go see the fortune-tellers or tarot readers, said Kwak Keum-joo, the psychology professor at Seoul National University.
“People who stand firmly with their decisions rarely visit them.”
Saju-experts express caution of their role.
“It’s not something you can blindly trust. We cannot predict perfectly. It’s just a way of knowing an easier route to your certain destination of life,” Kiki advised.
“The fortune-tellers should remain as advisers not decision-makers. Even though your large framework of life may be determined, it can greatly change depending on your efforts and environment,” professor Kim said.
“You should think as though you’re meeting a life consultant not a life decision-maker.”
By Lee Hyun-jeong (email@example.com