Saturday, September 11, 2010

Not just another myth!

So, we have established that South Korea has a series of strange and unique myths like fan death and the unlucky fear of the number 4 but as you would expect (like in any country) there are an array of myths that are surprising! And today, I think I have one that might tickle your fancy!

This may be particularly useful to you if are teaching or are planning to teach in South Korea.

Writing names in red is a big NO NO!!!

Yip, it is believed that if you write a person's name in red, they will die!


Well, Buddhist monks used to use red ink to document persons who were fatally ill or had already died. This practice/theory trickled down and soon it just became common practice in society. Now red ink is used to record a dead family member's name in the family register and on funeral banners. The red is believed to banish evil spirits.

So, red is closely related to death. I had heard of this myth before and have had to make a conscious effort not to write "Good work, Kelly" or "Excellent, Steve". I have slipped up once or twice but luckily realised my mistake before giving the marked work back. I then scratch the name out and put a sticker on-top (stickers you life-savers you!).

I only realised how entrenched this belief was/is when students were busy writing their names on the cover of new books. I gave them some special markers and let them have some fun with putting their names on. One little girl, obviously oblivious to the myth, picked up red and started writing her name. The almost instant and shocked response from the rest of the students caught the girl (and myself) off guard.

The class was exasperated by her actions and went on to explain to her that SHE WILL DIE if she writes her name in red. She quickly picked up brown and did her best to fix the problem. I'm sure she felt a little apprehensive in the week that followed. However, months later she is still doing just fine.

So, I think writing in red is not a death sentence (myth) as much as it is a behaviour that is meant to be respectful for those who have passed away!

Also, if you write a person's name in red it is the same as wishing bad luck on the person, so just to be safe keep blue and black pens instead!


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