Because I was born on July 25, 1982, in the wee hours of the morning my wealth in life (although still unrealized) will come from my mouth. That's according to a fortune teller in Seoul's Myeongdong neighborhood to whom my friend Maria and I paid a visit Sunday evening. Fortune telling is called 사주 (saju) in Korean and practitioners are generally well-respected and curiously trusted. After asking for your four pillars -- year, month, day, and hour of your birth -- fortune tellers consult something of a trade bible of Chinese characters that apparently tells them when you'll marry, what kind of career you'll have, and possibly that your body will have a difficult time breaking down alcohol in your later years (at least that's what my fortune teller told me--bummer).
Fortune telling is quite popular in South Korea with "professionals" commanding about 50 bucks for some quick projections about career, love, and health. Venues ranging from ramshackle street kiosks equipped with kerosene heaters through Seoul's brutal winter to stylish coffee shops draw intrigued customers around the clock. Some fortune tellers sell their wares over the phone or through the Internet. The fortune telling business booms around the beginning of the year but it seems to attract customers year round.
Maria served as an eager interpreter through my reading, expressing what the fortune teller was saying through at times extremely comical direct translation . As Maria delivered each prediction in English, the fortune teller would pause, lock eyes with me, and nod repeatedly with a solemn stare, coaxing me into belief. I took hurried but comprehensive notes. Here are a few of the things my fortune teller predicted:
-There will be many students in my future; I will likely teach at a university (woo hoo!)
-I make money with my mouth (direct translation)
-My words are like a never-ending waterfall and public speaking is my strong point
-This year or next would be a good year for me to get married
-The end of this year will be very busy for me and will likely include a major move or travel and a new job
-My character won't change as I grow old
-My parents really like my boyfriend
-I'll work professionally into old age
-My health is good, but my body will have problems breaking down alcohol later in life
-November 2009 will be a lucky month for me
The cafe walls are plastered in customers' post-reading reactions