"What is learned in the cradle is carried to the grave," says a popular old adage.
While it means that habits acquired in youth tend to be hard to break, Korean people have long embraced a more literal interpretation of the saying.
Since over 600 years ago, expectant mothers in Korea have been practicing taegyo, a series of prenatal routines aimed at nurturing a healthy, virtuous and skilled child. They try to see and hear only the most pleasant things starting from three months of pregnancy.
One programme called "Royal Taegyo" allows mothers to experience centuries-old taegyo methods followed by historical Korean queens.
"Participants will bind a taegyo diary in silk and sew traditional 'jeogori' costumes for their babies," said an official of the National Palace Museum of Korea, the organizer of the programme. "Sewing enhances dexterity, which is said to boost the foetus' brain development."
According to ancient Korean medicine, all stimuli during pregnancy shape the personality of the baby after birth ― which is why mothers, especially those of future princes and kings in the Joseon court, adhered to a rigorous taegyo process so as to bear a fine heir.
A royal mother should not "sleep on her side, sit slanting, stand on one foot, or consume odd-tasting food.
She should not see vicious colors or hear obscene sounds; she should recite poetry ... and speak truthfully," says "Seonghakjipyo," a Joseon textbook on royal education.
Queens also took poetry and art lessons and meditated every morning on proverbs engraved on boards of jade, which was considered a comforting hue.
Court musicians would strum the traditional string instrument "geomungo" in the background for a soothing atmosphere, according to "Annals of the Joseon Dynasty."
Famous stories of royal taegyo are told to this day.
Lady Hyegyeong, for example, ate only the freshest seasonal food, maintained graceful posture and dwelled on peaceful thoughts during pregnancy, writes Pukyong National University professor Shin Myeong-ho in "The Education of the Joseon Royal Household."