February 26, 2011

The Blood Type Hype in South Korea

In the West, zodiac signs are a pretty popular part of culture. Pick up any big newspaper and you'll be sure to find the daily, weekly, or monthly horoscope for each sign. I think it's safe to say that despite whether we believe in them or not, we are anxious to know what the stars have to say for our futures, however short or long term the predictions may be.

In Eastern Asia, blood types are the equivalent of Western horoscopes. While I think that it's more of a recent trend brought over from Japan, it seems that Koreans have strong beliefs in what blood types have to say about a person. There are some general traits believed to be shared by each blood type that outline one's personality and even one's health status.

Type As are thought to be considerate beings and are often caring of others. They are sensible, patient. Yet, despite positive traits, they have many faults, too. These include being stubborn, fastidious, and unable to relax. Even in the West, we might categorize these faults as a type A personality, often at higher risk for diseases like coronary heart disease. I wonder if anyone has ever studied what percentage of type A personalities have type A blood.

Type O personalities are independent, ambitious, confident, and natural born leaders. They are, on the downside, vain and jealous. I didn't even know what my blood type was until I came to Korea. I had so many people ask me last year what it was so I made sure to pay close attention to my annual medical check this year, which typed me as O-. I guess I could say that these traits are close to my personality. Other famous Os include Elvis and John Lennon. I guess I'm in good company.

Type AB is said to be cool, controlled, and rational, often sociable and popular, but aloof and indecisive. Both Marilyn Monroe and JFK are famous ABs, or so says the internet.

 What does your blood type say about you?

Finally, the most famous of the blood types in Korea is type B, the passionate, unpredictable individualist. These types are charismatic but are careless and overly selfish; there's no surprise that the type B guy is feared by women, as he's often labeled a playboy (would you believe Paul McCartney and Jack Nicholson are both Bs?). There was actually a movie made based on this theory, "B형 남자친구" ("My Boyfriend is Type B") about a type A introverted girl interested in a type B bad boy.

"My Boyfriend is Type-B" was a hit amongst movie-goers in Korea. (Photo: modcult.org)

Blood types have become more ingrained in Asian pop culture, as evidenced by t-shirts, key chains, mugs, and other nick-knacks sold in various stationary shops and novelty stores. From blood type diets to workplace order in Japan, the fascination with blood type can be seen in just about every realm of daily life; therefore, inquiring about one's blood type is not rude, but rather just the equivalent of the Western "What's your sign?"

This mug is one of the four starring Rilakkuma and the blood types. (Image: www.flutterscape.com)

The type hype, however, is not limited to stationary shops and diets in Korea.  K-pop, too, has been infiltrated by the culture. Boyband B1A4, for example, was named by tabulating each member's respective type and celebrities' biographies are not complete until his or her blood type has been made known to the public.

Fangirls went crazy when idol group Boyfriend's blood types were released to the public by their entertainment company. (Photo: http://boyfriendindonesia.wordpress.com)

I can't be certain, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was also mentioned in personal ads, too, as there are even guidelines stating which blood types are most compatible. Good news for type AB: you are compatible with everyone! For the rest of us, well, I guess we'll have to find out via trial and error, all the while keeping a keen eye out for those unpredictable Bs.


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