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The Korean zodiac has more in common with the Chinese zodiac than the Western one. Instead of monthly star signs, the Korean zodiac works in annual cycles named after animals.
If a Korean asks you, “What’s your ddi?” they are asking about your zodiac to learn more about your personality and figure out if you’d be compatible.
Koreans use their zodiac calendar to help make decisions about relationships, jobs, and what the year holds.
Not only does each year represent a zodiac animal, but each year also has a specific type of element. There are five elements in the Chinese zodiac:
- Metal: Straight shooters
- Water: Creative artists
- Wood: Vision casters
- Fire: Adventurers
- Earth: Peacekeepers
I am a tiger – a fire tiger to be exact. My son is a tiger (water) and my husband is a rat (wood).
In this article, we will not go into the elements as this is beyond the scope of this topic. Instead, we will learn about the history and various types of Korean zodiac.
Let’s find out what your ddi is and whether you and your bias will end up together.
What Is The Korean Zodiac?
While the Western zodiac system is based on astrological months, the Korean zodiac system is based on the annual lunar calendar in cycles of 12 years.
Each of the 12 years is associated with an animal, which gives the year its name. For instance, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit.
People who are born in the Year of the Rabbit – with a rabbit ddi – are said to share personality traits.
The year itself will have symbolic meaning: rabbit years are said to be prosperous.
History of the Korean Zodiac
The Korean zodiac is based on the Chinese zodiac system, which developed over 2000 years ago during the Han Dynasty.
This ancient zodiacal calendar combines 12-year and 60-year lunar cycles, roughly coinciding with Western calendar years.
However, because the lunar new year is not always in January, two people born in 2010 could have different zodiac signs:
- Those born BEFORE the lunar new year (which could be in February) will belong to the previous calendar year’s zodiac sign.
- And those born AFTER the lunar new year will take on that year’s zodiac.
The 12 animals associated with the Korean zodiac are based on an ancient method of marking time, using the so-called Twelve Earthly Branches.
The animals were chosen from folklore, being guardians called 십이지신 (Sibijisin), which protected people from evil spirits.
The 12-year cycle was reflected in the 12-hour daily and nightly cycles, so times of the day were also named after animals; for example, 5:00am to 7:00am is rabbit time.
The animals always appear in a specific order, created – again according to ancient legend – by the results of a race between the animals.
The first year is the Year of the Rat, who won the race by hitching a ride on the Ox’s back.
A parallel system is called the Ten Heavenly Stems or phases, denoted by elements like metal, water, and wood.
According to this system, 2023 is the Year of the Water Rabbit.
To work through all combinations of animals and elements takes an entire cycle of 60 years. For this reason, Koreans celebrate their 60th birthday as a special event.
The Different Korean Zodiac Animals
The 12 animals in the Korean zodiac each represents a lunar year. They always appear in the following order:
- Rat (mouse)
- Ox (cow)
- Sheep (Ram or Goat)
Western years roughly coincide with these lunar years.
Year of the Rat (Mouse)
You are considered clever if born this year: just as the rat outwitted the other animals in the race, you’ll outwit everyone in your life.
Other characteristics are ambition, charm, logic, adaptability, and a willingness to work hard.
Unlike in Western culture, where rats are often seen as dirty pests, Koreans regard them more positively.
If your ddi is the rat, you are assumed to be interesting, imaginative, and cheerful.
Therefore, Koreans may refer to this as the Year of the Mouse to avoid Western connotations.
The Year of the Rat is one of renewal and transformation, so it is an excellent year to get married or start a new job.
Rat (mouse) years: 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Year of the Ox
Anyone who is born in the Year of the Ox is are believed to be strong, honest, patient, fearless, and tolerant.
Like the farm animal, ox people work hard without complaining, are loyal and trustworthy, and often think long-term rather than short-term.
The Year of the Ox is ideal for working hard towards your goals, as you will be rewarded.
Ox (cow) years: 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Famous oxen: Bang Chan from Stray Kids, Song Joong-ki of Vincenzo
Year of the Tiger
Tiger people are sensitive, empathetic, thoughtful, and courageous.
However, like tigers, they can be assertive, even fierce, with a short temper and little patience for authority. They can also be indecisive and suspicious.
These extremes are part of any Year of the Tiger: it may be a year of enormous good fortune or one of disaster.
Either way, tiger years are filled with vitality
Tiger years: 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Famous tigers: Kevin from THE BOYZ, Kim Seonho of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha
Year of the Rabbit
People born in rabbit years are friendly, gentle, and introverted.
Once you get to know them, rabbit people are friendly, funny, and great company, but they need their space.
These are creative and artistic people, often becoming teachers.
The Year of the Rabbit is filled with hope and good fortune.
Rabbit years: 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Famous rabbits: Yeri from Red Velvet, Kim So Hyun of River Where The Moon Rises
Year of the Dragon
If you’re born under this sign, chances are you’re dominant, ambitious, independent, and adventurous.
Dragon people are great risk-takers, unafraid of challenges, and end up being successful.
While they attract people with their passion, good humor, and love of life, dragon people can be lonely in their search for self-sufficiency.
The Year of the Dragon is a lucky year for new beginnings, especially for having a baby, starting a business, or launching a creative project.
Dragon years: 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Famous dragons: G-dragon from Big Bang, Kim Jong-kook of Turbo
Year of the Snake
Like the rat, the snake has a positive association in Korean culture.
In contrast, Westerners tend to see snakes as dangerous and evil.
To Koreans, snakes are like baby dragons, and so are spiritual creatures.
If you’re born as a snake person, you’re seen as wise, intelligent, and intuitive.
Snake people are refined, reflective, and calm, with an appealing charisma that makes them good business people and romantic partners.
However, there is the implication that snake people can be cunning and jealous.
Snake years: 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Year of the Horse
People born in a horse year are cheerful, sociable, and adaptable. They’re very discerning and wise and are popular as a result.
However, they can also be overly talkative, impatient, and stubborn.
Women who are born in the Year of the Horse are considered independent, assertive, and, unfortunately, seen as poor wives.
I can’t see many turning down Girls Generation’s Yoona, though!
Horse years: 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Famous horses: Park Shin Hye of The Heirs, Hwang Chansung from 2PM
Year of the Sheep (Goat or Ram)
Those born under the sheep sign are gentle, calm, compassionate, and sensitive.
While intelligent and creative, their timidity and shyness can come across as pessimism and weakness.
Like animals, sheep people like being part of a group, never the center of attention.
Sheep years: 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Famous sheep: Jinyoung from B1A4, Suho from EXO
Year of the Monkey
The Year of the Monkey produces the cleverest people, even more so than the Year of the Rat.
The monkey sign includes inventors, geniuses, problem-solvers, and imaginative thinkers.
These people will happily take risks, creating flexible and inventive solutions to problems.
The flip side of the monkey’s personality means that confidence can be seen as arrogance and the ability to make decisions as opportunistic.
Monkey years: 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Year of the Rooster
Those born under the rooster sign are intelligent, brave, faithful, honest, and kind. T
hey are not afraid to speak up but can get carried away with daydreams and imaginative plans.
They may be seen as boastful but would genuinely be hurt as they love sharing their ideas.
Unfortunately, roosters can be impatient, both with themselves and others.
The Year of the Rooster requires hard work and patience; where you need to slow down before making decisions.
Rooster years: 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Year of the Dog
People luck to be born in the Year of the Dog have all the traits that make dogs such beloved pets.
They’re loyal, honest, responsible, understanding, and trustworthy.
Dog people will defend and give generously to those they love. They make excellent leaders but can be stubborn and belligerent.
Dog years: 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Famous dogs: Ha Sung Woon from Wanna One, Suzy of While You Were Sleeping
Year of the Pig
The last year in the cycle is the Year of the Pig. People born under this sign as loyal, thoughtful, kind, attentive, and brave.
They make wonderful friends, always being polite and warm.
Pig people like learning and reading and are generally quiet.
The Year of the Pig is considered lucky and associated with wealth. It’s a good year for having a baby.
Pig years: 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031
Compatibility And Relationships
One of the ways Koreans use their zodiac system is to determine whether two people will be compatible, especially in romantic relationships.
Certain zodiac signs are said to be compatible and harmonious, while others are always conflicting. Let’s see who you should look out for.
If you were born, for instance, in the Year of the Rat, you will notice that you are compatible with people born in the dragon and monkey years and least compatible with horse people.
The Significance of Korean Zodiac Signs Today
As much as Koreans use blood types to help navigate various personality types, you’ll also notice that the Korean zodiac sign is just as fun of a way to discover age and personality.
However, the typical use of the Korean zodiac is determining whether two people will be romantically compatible.
Another traditional use of the zodiac is to guide decision-making: specific years are considered lucky and lend themselves to making important decisions.
In contrast, other years invite more cautious behavior.
Summarizing Korean Zodiac
In conclusion, as someone who has been influenced culturally by the Korean Zodiac, I’ve discovered that just like individuals who rely on their astrological or Myers Briggs (MBTI) for insights into behavior and relationships, Koreans too, embrace their 12-year zodiac cycle.
By understanding my own Korean Zodiac sign, I’ve been able to have fun discussing these attributes with friendships, romantic connections, and even business choices.
Much like how Korean blood type personality are not to define or be the “end all” solution, it’s important to note that Zodiacs are not scientifically proven.
Rather, it is cultural and deeply rooted in Korean history.
So, dive into the world of Korean Zodiac signs and unlock a new perspective on life’s many traits.