Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Want to be Wealthy? It’s a Feng Shui-In.

A compass for the road to riches

This New York Times editorial by novelist Kim Young-ha presents a rare and intriguing look into an ancient practice (I won't call it a superstition) that Mr. Kim claims is alive and well in corporate Korea today – the country’s version of feng shui, called pung-su. Many of the underlying principles of pung-su are similar to the Chinese system of geomancy that holds that mankind needs to be in harmonious relationship with his surrounding space and with nature in general. However, Korea’s active practice extends into something called physiognomy — the notion that a person’s personality and fate can be “read” in the shape of the eyes, nose, ears and forehead.This type of fortune telling has variations around the world, most notably in astrology and gypsy-esque divinations. However, Korea has a shamanistic strand to its cultural history that raises pung-su to the status of a minor religion.
Still, how much weight big-shot Korean CEOs truly place on the directives given to them by their shamans (versus through more conventional forms of number-crunched market analysis) in making business and investment decisions is up for debate.  It would defy credibility that chaebol chiefs rest the fate of their fortunes on the mysterious workings of the Taoist nether world. Nevertheless, as with Western religions, a measured dose of humility towards powers that are outside the human scope of understanding and control is certainly not a bad thing for anyone facing uncertainties, big or small. If nothing else, hedging bets is a good business practice.

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