A Complete Guide to Korean Fortune Telling

Fortune telling is a $3.7 billion business in South Korea.
Fortune telling is a $3.7 billion business in South Korea. | © Derek Gavey / Flickr
Mimsie Ladner

Despite the fact that South Korea is primarily made up of evangelical Christians and devout Buddhists, fortune telling continues to thrive as both a form of entertainment as well as a dependable guide for seeking solutions to life’s problems. Read on to learn about the various methods of Korean soothsaying, and how you can get your fortune read in Seoul.

Loved by over 40s

Fortune telling by the numbers

Unlike in the West, where fortune tellers are often seen as phony characters out to scam those desperate to learn what the stars have in store for them, clairvoyants hold an everyday relevance in South Korea.

In fact, there are some 300,000 fortune tellers in the country, in addition to 150,000 mudang (or shamans), who provide clairvoyance by communicating with spirits in addition to performing traditional ceremonies such as exorcisms.

A saju café in Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood

In a country where mental health issues are often unmentionable, and visiting a psychiatrist is still taboo, many feel that fortune telling readings help them to accept whatever unpleasant circumstances in which they find themselves. Rather than accepting these readings as fact, most often consider them an additional – and impartial – perspective on their situation.

According to a report by Trend Monitor, a Korean market research firm, more than two-thirds of those surveyed stated that they see a fortune teller at least once a year. Many of these Koreans visit between December and February, to see what awaits them in the new solar and lunar years.

Major crossroads in life are also a common time for a divinely steer. University students consult tarot readers at career fairs to determine potential employers. Businessmen might opt to have a reading to select an auspicious date to launch a new venture. Couples check their compatibility before marriage, and even politicians have controversially turned to clairvoyants for guidance.

In Korea, shamans have long been thought to be able to predict the future by communicating with spirits.

Types of Korean fortune telling

There are a number of different types of Korean fortune telling services. Some are very similar to those which can be found in the West, whereas others are unique to the East Asia region.

Saju: An ancient form of divination, saju analyzes the cosmic energy at the hour, day, month, and year of a person’s birth, and is based on Chinese astrological records and texts. This practice holds the belief that one’s destiny cannot be changed, and is determined solely by the conditions surrounding one’s birth.

In addition to offering insights into one’s destiny, saju data is also used by couples to check their gunghap, or marital harmony, which was in the past a precondition of any talk of marriage. If a saju reader determines that a couple is not compatible, one or both of the individuals may be advised to change their first names to improve their matrimonial lot. In the past decade alone, approximately 1.5 million Koreans have taken a new legal name as a result of this.

Palm Reading: Palmistry is said to have originated in India and then spread throughout China, then on to Korea as well as just about every other corner of the world. Rather than be regarded as mere superstition, palm reading was for many years considered a science that, in addition to astrology, was studied by the ancients and has been used up until today. Followers of palmistry subscribe to the notion that the lines and features of the hands depict your life as well as your destiny.

A chart of the hand, and the meanings of its features

Face Reading: Gwansang, also known as physiognomy or “face reading,” is the ancient art of determining a person’s personality or character through their facial features. In pre-industrial Korea, it was commonly believed that the face was a record of one’s life starting from the earliest moments in the womb, and subsequently a guide to their fate.

Face readers consider cues like posture, body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions in assessing an individual, much in the same way we commonly assess physical appearance to gauge someone’s emotional state. For example, many vertical lip lines, a birthmark under the eyes, and a narrow nose with large nostrils are all characteristics of someone who has difficulty maintaining deep relationships.

Many face readers today report that their jobs are getting more difficult as an increasing number of Koreans are turning to plastic surgery to alter their facial features, some at the suggestion of cosmetic surgeons who say that altered features can change one’s destiny.

Tarot: Although tarot cards have been used in divination since the 15th century in many parts of the world, they have only been utilized in Korea for a few decades.

During a tarot card reading, an individual can either ask a specific question, or request a more general reading. A card reader will then formulate an answer based on a set number of cards drawn from a deck, which each have a specific meaning. The cards reflect a number of aspects of one’s current and future circumstances.

A tarot card reader gives insight into the meaning of the drawn cards.

How to get your fortune read in Seoul

Even in today’s hyper-modern culture, a walk around Seoul will demonstrate just how booming the fortune telling industry still is.

Marronnier Park in Hyehwa, Shopping Street in Hongdae, and Tapgol Park near Insadong are chock full of saju and tarot cafés and booths, and are often visited by young people and couples looking to have their fates outlined. Do note that many of the readers do not speak English, so if you are not able to communicate in Korean, it’s advisable to bring along a friend that can, or find a café with a sign on the door confirming that they speak English.

If you’re looking for a sure bet, you can pre-book a visit at Fun Saju Café in Hongdae. Here, interpretation services are offered alongside the fortune readings from fortune masters specializing in saju, face reading, and palm reading. Likewise, Eros Café near Ewha Womans University also offers readings in English. In operation for more than 20 years, Eros offers saju, palm reading, tarot, and face reading services. To ensure that an English-speaking interpreter is available on your day of choice, it’s better to call ahead to make a reservation.

Whether you’re a true believer in fortune telling or a complete skeptic, visiting a traditional soothsayer is certainly a great way to experience Korea’s rich culture. May the stars be in your favor!

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.