The year in which a person was born determines his or her animal zodiac sign, and sometimes, depending on one's sex, certain signs are considered more auspicious or inauspicious. Traditionally, Koreans believed that the characteristics ascribed to one's sign predetermined one's personality and destiny. Even today, the zodiac signs are considered important factors not only in foretelling one's fortune or fate in life, but also in assessing the compatibility of prospective marriage partners.
In oriental region, especially in Korea, there is a lot of ways to predict one's fate or future. Among them, the fundamental and most general method is the way by so-called "Tee.” It also consists of twelve symbols-all symbols are animals reflect some ancient thoughts in Shamanism (called Kut in Korean), and twelve animal totems (Ship e gung or Hwang-do-dae): the Rat, the Bull, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Lamb, the Monkey, the Cock, the Pig, and the Dog.
The legend of how and why these animals became the totems varies, but the story goes generally something like this:
One day, Buddha decided to choose twelve animals and make them signs of man's character and destiny. He informed all animals over the world of his decision.Buddha told all animals, "The first twelve of you to arrive at the finish line by tomorrow noon may be one of symbols"; so all the animals went to sleep early for a race the next day. About 3:00 a.m., the Ox awoke and thought, "I am very slow, so if I want to be chosen to be one of the symbols, I have to start sooner." Therefore, he started first when other animals were still sleeping. However, the Rat awoke when the Ox passed and the Rat thought, “I am very small and cannot run as fast as the larger animals, so, if I start with other animals, I will not be fast enough to be one of the twelve symbols." Therefore, he decided to start with the Ox, and rode secretly on the Ox's back. Not knowing this, the Ox slowly walked toward the finish line. In the morning, the rest of the animals awoke and found that the Ox and Rat were already gone, so they did their best to catch up. As the Ox neared the finish line, he thought, "Wow, I am first." Soon after Ox finished his thoughts, the Rat jumped from the Ox's head and shouted, "Sorry friend, but I am first, and you are second." Although the Ox was disappointed, he walked faster because he saw the other animals followed him. At last, he passed the finish line and he took the second position. The remaining ten positions distributed to animals were Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Pig, and Dog.