In cafes, in temples, in tents or on the street, between cheap clothing stalls and cosmetics shops: you can find tables of fortune tellers everywhere in South Korea.
Some offer the Korean arts of morphopsychology (reading facial features), others palmistry (those of the hands) or tarot. But most practice sajuan ancient form of divination related to Chinese astrology, based on the “four pillars of destiny“.
The Broken Hearts Tarot Club is one such place where Seoulites of all persuasions come to try their luck. Located in Hongdae, the student district of Hongik University, behind its facade of pink neon lights, it houses one of the most flourishing businesses.
A business of three billion euros
In the club, questioning the cards costs 3,000 won per question, or €2.27. In South Korea, the market organized around the “other world” should soon reach three billion euros, reports The Economist.
With over 300,000 fortune tellers and 150,000 shamans in the country, business is booming. Above all, they affect the entire population:
“Unusually in a country of evangelical Christians and devout Buddhists, [la divination] continues to thrive like anything else, intended as both an amusing curiosity and a reliable guide to everyday decision-making.»
A psychic from Broken Hearts tells The Economist that she began to study the saju twenty years earlier, but that she has recently taken to drawing tarot cards, to keep up with her time: “Young people like it. The cards are pretty, it’s cheap and it’s fast“.
In the 1970s, the South Korean government had launched campaigns against esoteric practices, encouraging citizens to take charge of their own destiny and promoting its own “magic”, that of “miracle [économique] on the Han River“.
The opposition did not bear fruit. Phone-based divination apps are proliferating, appealing to a wider and younger audience: Handasofta software company, has launched thirteen different applications over the past five years.
Duo, an online marriage agency, found that 82% of women and 57% of unmarried men it surveyed in 2017 had met masters of marriage. saju about their love life.
The shelves of bookstores are lined with initiatory works. We find in television series characters of diviners, and some plastic surgery specialists go so far as to give recommendations to their clients with regard to morphopsychology.
An additional perspective
The practice is daily: it is transmitted in the family, as “a possible way to make sense of the world“, valued Andrew Eungi Kimprofessor of sociology at Korea University.
“The clairvoyance business has also been able to thrive because fate is not fixed in Korean cosmology. Bad news can be mitigated with charms, often dispensed in the form of action: embracing a religion, getting health insurance, quitting eating red meat, not considering getting a tattoo. Regular customers are thus insured. Some even go so far as to do a weekly check-up“, describes The Economist.
The phenomenon does not lead to blind trust and adherence on the part of its followers, but often appears as an additional perspective to apprehend the events that occur in their lives.
Furthermore, the saju has gained credibility by being recognized as an academic activity in its own right. The lessons are long and careers are built on experience: doctors, professors and religious are trained there, sometimes counting the number of faces studied to their credit.
Kwon Hee-gwan, who teaches divination, has seen nearly 10,000: barely half of what would be needed to detect a client’s troubles as soon as he entered the tent, he said.
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South Koreans are addicted to divination
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