INFP, ENTJ, ESTP, ISFJ and any other 16-letter combination that can be made has taken off in Korea these days. These four-letter terms are just a few of the 16 personality types constructed by the MBTI.

MBTI stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and is a self-reported personality questionnaire. The commonly done test is offered by 16personalities and is a simple free version of the official paid version. The test aims to categorize individuals into 16 distinct personality types, detailing each type’s strengths, weaknesses and relationships, and even recommends career paths depending on the individual’s MBTI.

Each MBTI is made up of four letters. The first letter is E (extravert) or I (introvert), the second letter is S (feeling) or N (intuition), the third letter is F (feeling) or T (thinking), and the final letter is P (perceiving). or J (judge).

While it is a good indicator, it is by no means a conclusive way of analyzing personalities or a surefire means of understanding an individual’s complex nature.

In 2020, MBTI’s popularity experienced a sharp increase in Korea, with keyword search volumes for the personality test rising sharply. It has continued the upward trend ever since, proving to have sparked a sense of curiosity in understanding personality variations.

From Blood Types to MBTIs: Korea's Fascination with Understanding Personalities

Arirang News screenshot “NEWs Generation”

The factors contributing to the sharp peak are varied. Given that it took place in 2020, it seems like one of the most obvious reasons was the COVID-19 pandemic. People are spending more time at home, and appointments that would normally require their attention have been cut back. As such, their focus has turned to themselves. In addition, the simple and accessible nature of the questionnaire, the detailed analysis provided and the compact four-letter result make it a fun and easy way for people to learn more about themselves, their loved ones and those far away, like celebrities.

The MBTI trend has great significance in Korean society. Almost everyone knows what their MBTI is. Those who don’t know at least know what the MBTI is. It’s also common for people to ask each other what their MBTIs are as a way to break the ice and get to know each other better.

In society at large, employers are also asking job seekers for their MBTIs during the recruitment process. There are companies that look for employees of specific MBTI types and reject those who do not fit these types. This is done to ensure that the company finds the perfect candidates best suited to the specific nature of the role. However, many Koreans disagree with this move, expressing that the MBTI test does not provide a fully accurate understanding of an individual.

The content creation scene in Korea has also been shaped by the MBTI trend. Instagram accounts dedicated to webtoon-style illustrations of MBTI types are gaining huge followings. Its followers anticipate story-based explorations of the behavior of each type of MBTI. There are also highly popular YouTube channels that do similar things but with longer content. The comments these posts and videos receive share similar sentiments. Viewers feel understood by seeing themselves accurately represented and are able to share their own views on their personalities and those of others.

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A Korean company called ‘좋은일컴퍼니’ (‘Good Job Company’) has also created a chart that shows which MBTI types are compatible with each other and which are not.

From Blood Types to MBTIs: Korea's Fascination with Understanding Personalities

good morning company

It is the feeling of being understood, as well as the ability to understand others better, that makes the MBTI so attractive.

With MBTIs so popular in Korea, there’s clearly no way it’s not going to be significant in K-Pop as well. MBTIs are almost information given in presentations or idol profiles. Idols, old and new, discuss their MBTIs a lot, and a lot of MBTI-related content has come out of that.

In 2022, ENHYPEN took the MBTI test to see if they had switched from their original MBTI. They also debated some interesting but divisive topics that revealed how they perceived different situations.

SEVENTEEN filmed MBTI content for their variety show “Going Seventeen” twice. The first time was in 2019, when they discussed their results and shared comments in agreement or disagreement.

The second time was in 2022 when they added a fun twist to the test. Instead of answering the questions for themselves, they took turns answering each other.

While MBTI has maintained its popularity over the years, it is not the first trend that focuses on personality. During the 2000s and 2010s, blood types experienced similar popularity for similar reasons.

Like the MBTI, blood types were seen as an indicator of someone’s personality. Blood type A was seen as meticulous, reserved and caring, blood type B was seen as individualistic yet sociable, blood type O was seen as optimistic, fun and passionate, and blood type AB was seen as creative and unique.

While it didn’t affect how employers recruited employees, certain careers are recommended for certain blood types in theory. For example, given the cooperative and meticulous nature of blood type A, they are recommended for work in accounting and finance.

It also impacted other areas of Korean society in the same way as the MBTI. People asked and discussed their blood types in private interactions. Even Korean content has been influenced by talk about blood types, often being discussed on variety shows.

In 2010, boy group U-KISS had their own variety show called “U-KISS Vampire” in which their behavior and mannerisms were analyzed and categorized by their blood types as they tried out different things like going on dates in group, handling animals in a zoo or living together as a group.

While the blood type trend has mostly disappeared and been replaced by the MBTI, it seems that the underlying interest in understanding yourself and those around you still remains strong. It may be a different decade, but the same curiosity and interest in introspective knowledge persists.

When it comes to the K-Pop world, it has strengthened the bond between idols and fans. The idol-fan relationship is undoubtedly one that involves passion and dedication and fans are always curious to know more about their favorite idols, not just as artists but as people. As a fun and analytical way to understand personalities, MBTI is perfect for fans to learn more about their beloved idols.

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