The History of the Korean Conception Dreams or Taemong

The History of the Korean Conception Dreams or Taemong 



One day, while we were watching tv, my mom pointed to the screen and said, “That’s what I dreamt of when I was pregnant with you!” She was pointing at a killer whale. She proceeded to explain how she had been so confident that I would be a boy, because killer whales are very fierce and strong. But later on, she found out that if you dreamed of an animal from the sea during pregnancy, it indicates that you will have a daughter. This is known in Korea as, “conception dreams” or taemong, where dreams are omens, and interpreted to predict the future. Although this may seem strange, in many cultures, dreams hold great importance. Because dreams are considered so powerful, one bad dream can motivate a person to alter their entire day.

Dreams have always played an important role in Korean history and culture. During the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910, scholars hoped to dream of a dragon before state examinations because culturally, dragons symbolize wisdom and justice. Dragon in Korean is “yong,” which is what kings would call themselves to convey their commitment to fair and just laws. Townspeople would hope for dreams of water flowing or waterfalls, which represent good fortune and prosperity.

Because dreams were so pivotal, people also began buying dreams they sensed were good omens, in hopes of receiving good luck. In a popular Korean fable that tells the tale of two sisters, the older sister has a very vivid, but difficult to interpret dream. Because the dream represents neither a good nor bad omen, the younger sister decides to buy the dream from her older sister in hopes of gaining good luck. The older sister agrees. In the years to come, the younger sister would grow up with great fortune and become the empress, as a result of purchasing this dream, whereas the older sister would only become a royal concubine.

Dreams can also be interpreted as warnings. Another Korean fable tells the story of a woman who is plagued by the same dream. Worried it represented a bad omen, she called her husband each time she had this dream, which continued for a month. Because they sensed the dreams' negative and foreboding energy, they put a protection talisman near the bed, and the dreams finally ceased. In Western culture, symbols of bad omens include moving dolls, ghosts, and broken mirrors. However in Korea, some bad omens are seemingly innocuous, and dreams of murky water and locked doors are taken very seriously. Some good omens also may be disconcerting, for example, when one dreams of blood or urine, it symbolizes the draining of toxins or regaining health.

Conception dreams have provided Korean people with a lot of comfort throughout history. They allow insight into the future, and allow people the means to change certain trajectories of their lives. Instead of constantly worrying about what might come, people tend to worry only when receiving a bad omen in dreams. This mindset has brought comfort to many Koreans, including my mom.

Because I grew up in America, I have always struggled to connect with Korean culture, which has created a barrier between me and my mom. I stopped attending Korean School in 5th grade and fully immersed myself in American culture. I found my mom’s superstitions about dreams strange and insignificant. I wondered why she pestered me so much about things that didn’t have any meaning in American culture. For example, before an important test, my mom would urge me to have good dreams. If I had a bad dream, I would tell her about it after noon in order to remove its effects. Another time, my mom dreamed that I was splashed with hot oil, so at the Asian market, she refused to let me near any food stands. When I learned about conception dreams, I realized that my mom's superstitions were one of the many ways she was trying to protect me, and ensure I had a happy and prosperous life. Now that I understand taemong, I feel closer to my mom, and regularly share my dreams with her to ask about what they mean. I am able to more deeply understand my Korean roots, and how they have influenced the ways my mother loves and cares for me.


Lyndsey Kim


Lyndsey Kim is a student at the Academy of the Allied Sciences in New Jersey. Her research paper, "An Analysis into Global Suicide Trends and Their Relation to Current Events Through a Socio-Cuktural Lens" has been published in 3rd International Conference on Communication and Networking, Information Technology, Engineering, Basic and Applied Sciences (ICCNIT-OCT-2022). She hopes to pursue a career in writing or research. 


  1. thanks. i really learned something new. this journal is great.

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