◆ The role of fortune-tellers

Q: With such a strong crackdown, why is fortune-telling so popular?

A: Recently, I have not been able to conduct business due to the coronavirus, making life very difficult. I don’t know what will happen in the future. So I think people are depending on fortune-telling more than ever before. Even I consult with a fortune-teller over the phone before I go out to do business. And, actually, the predictions are often correct. There are lots of new fortune-tellers these days. There is even a 7 year-old fortune-teller who they say has been sent down by God.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: Over the phone, it costs about 2-5 RMB and, in-person, it costs about 5-10 yuan. Recently, with the strict crackdown, it is more common to call over the phone.

※ 1 RMB is equivalent to about 171 won. Because the North Korean won has no credibility, the RMB and the US dollar are widely used.

Q: What do people ask the fortune-tellers?

A: Everything, I guess. If someone has their mobile phone taken away by authorities, they consult a fortune-teller to see how much it will cost to get back. They ask fortune-tellers how to recover their health. As medicine is so expensive these days, they ask fortune-tellers how to treat themselves. They ask the fortune-teller first before lending money and if they have an important meeting coming up, they ask the fortune-teller first when would be a good time to set the meeting. Officials also ask when they will be transferred, promoted, etc.

Q: Do officials also go to get their fortunes told?

A: The officials have a lot of money so they often pay to have their fortunes told. An official’s wife will go to ask about their husband’s career or to ask about an illness. Because the crackdown is severe, some fortune-tellers don’t leave their homes for 10-20 days at a time and just write horoscopes from there. The best fortune-tellers are even able to secure introductions to meet officials secretly.

Q: Are there any fortune-tellers who have been caught and taken to ‘public denouncement rallies’?

A: Those are usually the fortune-tellers who make a lot of wrong predictions and therefore do not receive the protection of officials. The good fortune-tellers are paid by officials and therefore do not get caught. (Kang Ji-won)

※ ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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