Tarot-mania in SK
Tarot is big in South Korea – there is really no comparison to the side rooms of metaphysical shops and cozy living rooms of internet Tarot readers. We’re talking dedicated Tarot salons, Tarot-themed cafés, and countless booths that line the streets at night such as those found all throughout Seoul and other major cities in Korea. And as I found in Jeju Island, Tarot bars.
Along with its counterpart Saju 사주 (Korean numerology), it is rumored that divination such as Tarot is gaining such popularity because psychological counseling is still seen as quite taboo in South Korea. Whether or not this is true, the Tarot and Saju reader ends up as an adviser to life’s most important turning points.
A visit to “Bar Tarot”
Here in Jeju Island, South Korea’s honeymoon resort destination, an oddity has popped up in the downtown City Hall area that I had never seen before: “Bar Tarot.” Being the Tarot nerd I am, I knew I had to check it out. And get this, a Tarot parlor (a space only dedicated to Tarot, no beverages included) has opened downstairs! You really can’t have enough Tarot in Korea.
As for Bar Tarot, owners Hye Ryun (헤련) and her brother Min Sung (민성) opened the bar in early 2015 and have done a great job renovating since then. The only chairs in the place center around the bar, where the barkeeps do their Tarot readings.
While I am unsure about her brother’s experience with Tarot, Hye Ryun shyly admits to only having learned the art a few months before opening the bar. Over the last few months, I have visited the bar quite a few times, exchanging readings and even starting a local meetup to practice the cards. Though the meetup only ended up being Hye Ryun, myself, and sometimes her more experienced Tarot-reading friend, it was interesting to see the Western tradition preserved and unmodified in South Korea, with these ladies at least.
A night out
A group of 6 went out on the town to Bar Tarot, each getting a reading as Hye Ryun and her brother made their rounds. With a glass of Guinness in hand and a move back to Canada in the coming weeks, I asked about the prospects of a new career.
Hye Ryun, with her pro shuffling and black velvet mat (5 stars for presentation), fanned the cards before me. After choosing 6 cards, she gave me the run-down about my future career, or possible lack thereof.
According to Hye Ryun, in the past, I made a lot of money but was never satisfied with my life. Presently, because of my “giving” nature, my friends are willing to support me in a new career. And in the future? I’ll get a great job (or a marriage proposal…same thing, right?). Best of all, I’ll finally be taking my destiny in my own hands. Now that last part I can agree with.
Don’t drink and Tarot?
I found my reading quite satisfying – I left feeling relieved, despite the struggling economy of Canada. I can say that Hye Ryun has greatly improved since the bar opened and speaks some English for any foreigners looking to get a reading. I think all of us related at least a little bit, and we had a good laugh when Hye Ryun, in answer to my friend about her love life, confidently stated that, “No, there is NOT love.” Ouch.
While you won’t get an in-depth, transformational-type reading here, you will get a giggle and leave with a smile on your face with this light (and cute) Tarot-themed bar. And if you don’t get the answer you were hoping for, there’s consolation beer in close proximity.
*Bar Tarot is located in Jeju City, on Jeju Island, South Korea. It is located in City Hall area, right next to Tom n’ Tom’s Coffee. Visit their Facebook page for more information.