“Teacher, what’s your blood type?”

One of the many rather personal questions you may be asked when you arrive in Korea is ‘what is your blood type?‘. I remember being asked by my 9 year olds on my first day at school and being a little confused. I hadn’t got a clue what my blood type was, but more importantly, why on earth were they asking??

In much the same way that many Westerners view star signs, some Asian cultures consider someone’s blood type to be a prediction of their personality, temperament and compatibility with others.

Whilst today the concept is trivial and something of a joke to people, it’s origins are rather more sinister. The idea of blood types being an indication of someone’s character can be traced back to the early 20th century. It was used by Nazi Germany, before being adopted by Imperial Japan, to promote their supremacist ideology over other races. As the distribution of blood groups can be somewhat disproportionate across the world, the Nazis realised that blood types A and O were much more common in German people, while Asians and Jews had a higher percentage of type B, and so having the ‘right’ blood type became part of their Aryan ideal.

By the 1920s the theory was gaining ground in Japan, and the government had ordered a study aimed at breeding the perfect soldier through different combinations of blood types. After a Taiwanese revolt against the Japanese occupying forces in the 1930s, research found that over 40% of Taiwanese people had blood type O, which is deemed to be the least submissive type, and therefore their dissidence was thought to be genetically predetermined. The same study found that only 20% of Japanese people had type O, and so the solution was to ‘dilute’ the rebellious blood by increasing intermarriages with the Japanese.

Having lost it’s dark roots, the theory was renewed in a much more light-hearted nature during the 1970s by Masahiko Nomi, a Japanese journalist, in his best selling book. It then spread to nearby countries like South Korea and Taiwan and remains a part of pop culture today. There are films, songs and books that focus on blood types, and dating agencies take them into consideration when matching people up. You can even enter your blood type information into your Korean Facebook profile.

USB sticks with Park Dong Sun’s blood type characters

But what does your blood type actually say about you?

TYPE A is often seen as the best type to have, and so people can sometimes be quite smug about it. They are the ‘goodie-goodies’ of blood types as they tend to follow the rules, and they dislike disruption or confrontation. Often introverts and perfectionists, they are said to be reliable and punctual, but they also have a tendency to over-analyse things and worry too much. They are very considerate and loyal, and they take everyone’s opinions into account as they don’t like to upset anyone. Although they take care of other people’s emotions, their own can get hurt very easily and they are not ones to forgive and forget. They can be rather indecisive, fastidious and stubborn, and they will weigh up all the risks in doing something before they actually do it. It is also said that they can’t hold their drink…

The total opposite of type A, people with blood TYPE B are egomaniacs and extroverts. Type B has possibly the worst reputation of all the blood types, as type B men are seen as unreliable ‘players’ or commitment-phobes and they are not considered to be suitable marriage material. A popular Korean film called ‘My Boyfriend is Type B‘ centres around a (type A) young woman who is advised by her family and friends not to date a boy she likes, who happens to be Type B. They can be selfish, irresponsible and they tend not to care what other people think. They are often very opinionated and usually get their own way as they have charisma by the bucket-load. They hate being bored and want to be amused at all times, so they are creative and often do things on a whim. They are rather lazy and lack the perseverance to see things through. They have short fuses, and they’re not afraid to speak their minds, and this leads them to be quite argumentative. However, they forgive and forget easily.

My Boyfriend Is Type B‘ poster

TYPE O is the joker of the group. They have a strong physical presence, they thrive on being the centre of attention and they rarely take anything seriously. They are seen as friendly, happy-go-lucky and extremely ambitious. They like to be the best at everything  and they have a fierce competitive streak. Their sometimes obsessive drive for success can make them difficult people to live with. They’re the most likely to go over the top with things and throw extravagant parties to show off to their friends. Once they put their mind to something they usually see it through to the end, as they are very practical and diligent. They are blessed with good memories and small details rarely escape their notice. Although they are normally so cheerful, when they get angry they get seriously angry, and they can be ruthless and insensitive. Type Os make natural leaders as they are not afraid to take a gamble. They hate to be lonely so they tend to trust people completely, and they take it pretty badly if that trust is broken.

TYPE AB is something of a mystery, as their characteristics are not quite as clear cut as the other blood types. They are cool, calm and collected, however they can sometimes come across as aloof or detached. They are very rational people, and they are ruled by their heads, not their hearts. Observant and analytical, they can also be very critical and unforgiving, and they keep themselves to themselves. They tend not to care what other people think of them and are often seen as being anti-social. They are not strong team players although they wouldn’t do anything to deliberately hurt other people. They usually have a wide range of interests which makes them knowledgeable and creative. Type ABs adapt easily to most situations but they can be extremely unpredictable. Other types often view them as loners who are two-faced and not to be trusted.

This picture by the popular cartoonist Park Dong Sun, shows how the situation might be if the four bloodtypes were placed in a room together. Type A would be sitting at the edge of the room so as not to attract any attention, Type B would naturally be in the centre of the room, Type O would be mingling and socialising with everyone and Type AB would most likely be daydreaming in a corner somewhere.

Park Dong Sun’s cartoon of different blood types