Korea

Korea – Shamanism in Korea is almost entirely a women’s phenomenon: both shamans and their clients are normally women. Shamanic rituals, kut, involving trance and the entertainment of ancestral and other spirits, are commonly requested out of a sense of need, for example, when other means of healing or problem resolution fail, and are often kept secret even within a family. Chongho Kim cites the results of a Korean Gallup poll that indicated 38 percent of the Korean population (or around 10 million people) had resorted to a shaman. Nonetheless, except in folkloric or cultural performances, shamanic music is far from popular, and the entire practice remains marginal. Kim argues that Laurel Kendall’s research is limited by its focus on shamans’ views and practices and that it mistakes the phenomenon for a feminist spirituality. In contrast, he is interested in the paradox of a widespread practice that continues to be deemed shameful. Korean shamanism is also interesting in presenting a significant contrast with the common presentation of shamanism as a religion of huntergatherers: in Korea it has long been practiced in a rural agrarian context and has made the transition into urban industrialization, albeit without losing its marginal status. Shamanism in Korea is summed up by Kim as existing within “the field of misfortune” rather than “the ordinary world.” It is not an honored tradition but rather a necessity that seeks the cause and solution of seemingly intractable problems of relationships, illness, and employment.

SEE ALSO:

  • Gender

SOURCE:

Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007

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