Shamanism Returning to South Korea

Via Reuters:

Photo credit Vassil

While Buddhism and various forms of Christianity remain the most widely practiced forms of religion in Korea, Reuters reports that the ancient practice of shamanism is on the rise:

In leaping from poverty to rapid modernization, the county’s dictatorship in the 1970s tried to eliminate shamanism, claiming that shamans deluded the world, while some Christian missionaries demonized them and their followers.

But today, visiting a mudang – shaman priest or priestess – is so common that politicians consult them seeking answers to questions such as whether they should relocate their ancestors’ remains to ensure good luck in the next election. Shaman characters have also featured in popular television shows.

“Public perception towards shamanism has improved a lot, with popular TV dramas contributing to shifting these views,” said Park Heung-ju, an authority on mudang at the Kut Research Institute in Seoul.”You can find repose by meeting with mudang.”

Continue reading at Reuters.

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  • Jin The Ninja

     great topic. although like in many other ‘asian’ countries, visiting a shaman/bomoh/mudang/medium/lersi ect ect. has always been commonplace- as is stated, its marginalisation went hand in hand with modernisation, but that simply forced the practice underground- and played into a rigid social hierarchy where women of low economic status were further marginalised by their traditional practices. ask any thai, malaysian, singaporean or indonesian and they’ll deny it. but of course they go. they just don’t discuss it socially. i suspect the korean context is very similar (although intersected by both gender roles and socio-economic hierarchy).

    • Liam_McGonagle

      I get the sense that there is a kind of ethos underlying shamanic practice that is characterised by disruptively intense and strange spiritual experience that is fundamentally at odds with the demands of uniformity and predictability in modern consumer and urban culture.

      • Jin The Ninja

        yes! i totally agree. i find it ironic/hilarious/sad that so many wealthy biz guys i know (chinese, indo, korean, and thai) visit the fortune teller for business advice, but would decry it in public.

        • Liam_McGonagle

          I suppose nobody can escape the necessity to make some pretty important value judgments without benefit of a big pool of verifiable facts.  That burden might be even heavier for corporate types or bureaucrats who don’t have as much time to cultivate a strong relationship with their own subjectivity.

          • Jin The Ninja

            very post-modern of you liam;) but again i agree.

    • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

      the Thais are pretty open about it
      but the other 3 would definitely be evasive

      but it’s likely that most of modern shamanism is a sham
      used to bilk to underclasses of the few pennies they have

      • Jin The Ninja

        thais are pretty open about it aren’t they? i remember the pm’s wife back in the 90s who was a devotee of the dark moon god, and had the entrance to the pm’s palace moved to suit a more auspicious positioning.

        i agree that anything esoteric attracts charlatans that capitalise off of the public ignorance.

        • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

          a few months ago
          my 90 year old Mom was being visited by friendly ghosts
          my sister-in-law was freaking out
          I explained to her that if this was happening in Thailand
          everyone would believe my Mom
          and they would think the sis-in-law was crazy

          in China I know a few people who dabble with fortune tellers
          I have asked several
          if the fortune tellers knows all
          why is he/she working for money
          why not use that gift for themselves

          the Chinese strike me as particularly gullible
          incredibly susceptible to the obviously self-serving pitch
          and cheating each other out of money
          seems to be a national sport

          • Jin The Ninja

            lol yes! the chinese mindset is- if they’re dumb enough to believe it- they deserve it.

            but i have personally had good experiences with both a chinese and a thai fortune teller at least once. although in both instances, neither was a medium, and used a tangible divination method that could be re-assessed later on.

  • http://twitter.com/DanielReasor Daniel Reasor

    Word must have reached South Korea that Shamans are getting buffed when Mists of Pandaria launches.

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