South Koreans hope fortune-tellers point way to top of the class

Tue Sep 3, 2013 2:27pm EDT
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By Jane Chung

SEOUL (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."   Continued...

Fortune teller Song Byung-chang looks at a child's fate, or Saju in Korean, at his office in Seoul August 6, 2013. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji