Lean Times Send More Young People to Fortunetellers

      August 22, 2015 07:56

      An increasing number of young people are turning their back on modern rationality and consulting fortunetellers again.

      Kim Sang-oh, a fortuneteller for 20 years in Miari, northeast Seoul, said, "About 30 percent of my customers are in their 20s or 30s. In the past, if you got any young customers they came with their parents to get a reading of their impending marriage. But these days university students come in groups of three or four to divine their future."

      Some go for fun, but many are seeking serious advice from fortunetellers, shamans, or diviners prior to important decisions like choosing a major, job, or spouse.

      A 27-year-old salaried worker recently asked a fortuneteller in Seoul, if it would be okay to marry her boyfriend of three years. She said the fortuneteller told her that all the signs pointed to marital harmony and a better life.

      "When I got my current job, the same fortuneteller told me that it was a decent choice, so I decided to go for it," she recalls.

      Famous fortunetellers, shamans, or diviners are widely discussed and recommended online. One shaman who has only recently become possessed already earns around W150,000 per consultation, but there are many places offering university students special rates from W30,000 to W50,000 (US$1=W1,170).

      Inevitably the industry is expanding. A staffer with an association of diviners estimates the number of practitioners at around 300,000, and registered membership has been growing steadily in the last five years.

      Experts explain that uncertain economic times always increase demand for something that seems to offer assurance to the troubled and bewildered. Lee Myung-jin at Korea University, said, "The unstable labor market makes young people feel insecure and more prone to fortunetelling."

      According to Statistics Korea data in June, unemployment among people between 15 and 29 was 10.2 percent, and 34.8 percent in this age group only managed to land a temporary position.

      Some fortunetellers are also selling lucky charms tailored to their customers, from finding a job to coaxing back an old flame. They cost W300,000 to W500,000, but people snap them up.

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