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Phrenological Interpretation

Posted December. 27, 2007 03:01,   


Koreans pay much attention to personal appearance, speaking, writing and judgment. It is especially meaningful that appearance among the four elements comes first. The focus of appearance is the face since a person`s character and disposition is usually judged by the energy or favorable impression appearing on one’s face. The ancient Korean language of “Eol Gol” refers to an “alleyway” where “spirits” dwell. In other words, a person’s physiognomy is considered as the same as the person’s mental image.

In the past, people believed in passive fatalism that their fate is predestined by their looks. However, today, most people prefer “active phrenological interpretation” and think that they can change their fate by how they lead their lives. Cartoonist Heo Yeong-man, who will run a series comic strips concerning physiognomy in the Dong-A Ilbo daily starting next year, says that, “I learned from the great master of Phrenological Interpretation Shin Gi-won that a person’s physiognomy as well as his fate changes.” It is interpreted that phrenological interpretation can be changed according to the life one leads.

Ju Seon-hee, the nation’s first Ph.D. in physiognomy openly advocates so-called “facial management.” She says that genes account for just 20 to 30 percent out of the elements that determine one’s facial looks, and that the rest depends on environmental factors in the person’s life. The first thing that determines a person’s physiognomy is the color of the face, followed by the glitter of the eyes. It is often believed that one’s spirits are reflected in one’s eyes.

Clear eyes in which the pupils are obviously contrasted to the white of the eyes are good for physiognomy. A voice coming from one’s abdomen symbolizes the dignity of the person; the nose represents good fortune in property; lips represent a sexual inclination; and ears represent a person’s childhood. Today, it is said that the glitter of the eyes and voice which cannot be modified by plastic surgery count the most.

In particular, phrenological interpretation became popular this year because this year was the year of the presidential election. Some TV programs had physiognomy experts appear and tell the presidential candidates’ fortunes during their programs. It is reported that a growing number of domestic firms examine applicants’ physiognomies during recruitment interviews. These companies place weight on recruiters’ looks to sort out who will render devoted service to their firm and who will not. Some are said to visit experts with photos of co-workers or senior officers to know who will betray them. The four letter Chinese words this year selected by “The Newspaper of Professors” refer to “conceiting oneself as well as others,” which appears to reflect the change in attitude toward phrenological interpretation as time goes by.

Heo Mun-myeong, Editorial Writer, angelhuh@donga.com