ASIA/SOUTH KOREA - Shamanism on social media has many young followers

Monday, 10 June 2024 youth   religion  

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Seoul (Agenzia Fides) - In a country known worldwide for its technological progress, shamanism is experiencing a rebirth among younger generations, promoted by social media.
Although more than half of the country's 51 million inhabitants identify as "non-religious", shamanism remains a fairly popular religious-spiritual practice in Korea. According to a report by the Korean agency "Yonhap", 29-year-old shaman Lee, known as "Aegi Seonnyue" ("Baby Angel"), has hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and from her sanctuary decorated with various statues, deities and candles, she reaches her "clients" through social media. Since she opened her YouTube channel in 2019 and found success with it and gained numerous followers, many other Korean shamans have posted spiritual videos online.
A film called "Exhuma" about young shamans recently hit Korean cinemas and quickly became a success. The film's director, Jang Jae-hyun, tracked down a significant number of young shamans during filming. Kim Dong-gyu, a researcher at the Institute of Korean Religious Studies at Sogang University, commented: "Nowadays, shamans use social media to promote their activities, just as they used to do with newspapers."
We find that in today's Korean culture and society, there is no longer the cultural "stigma" that caused shamans to hide their activities, and thus today's shamans are eager to express themselves and can promote themselves. According to Korean news agency Yonhap, shamans charge about 100,000 Korean won for a 30-60 minute consultation, which typically includes rituals such as ringing bells, burning incense, or throwing grains of rice to predict the future or interpret the current situation.
To explain the reasons for the growing popularity of shamanism among young Koreans, experts point primarily to economic difficulties and fears about the future: faced with difficulties in finding work and housing, young people turn to mysterious forces for comfort and relief. Young Koreans are known to struggle with problems such as high housing prices, the cost of raising children and the cost of living, and this process, on a sociological level, sees the problem of the drastic decline in the birth rate as another of the consequences. An agency of the Korean Ministry of Culture estimated the presence of more than 300,000 shamans in South Korea in 2022 and said that shamanism is an "important part of the Korean character." The roots of shamanism on the Korean peninsula go back at least 2,000 years and the practice has been portrayed as a religious cult that preserves family well-being by exorcising evil spirits, healing the sick and caring for the spirits of ancestors and the deceased. The introduction of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism in Korea diminished their popularity, but shamanism continued to influence the attitudes and religious practice of many Koreans. The Japanese colonial administration at the beginning of the 20th century and later the military dictatorship of the 1970s tried to suppress shamanism in Korea, which was considered "superstition" and an obstacle to modernization. However, the phenomenon of the revival of shamanism also indicates a widespread need for spirituality and transcendence in Korean society.
The phenomenon is making headlines while the Catholic Church in Korea is busy organizing the 2027 World Youth Day in Seoul. Bishop Kyung-sang Lee, General Coordinator of the Organizing Committee, recently expressed the hope that "the faith of young people will be revived and all believers among the people of God will be able to feel the love of God a little more in their own lives." (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 10/6/2024)