Shamanism has a long tradition on the Korean peninsula and describes a set of ethnic religions and practices. It remains in practice to this day, yet shamanism and the role it plays in Korea have changed significantly over time. In particular, the pre-colonial and colonial era saw a drastic shift in the position it enjoyed within the Korean society.
To learn more about Shamanism during this period, we had the pleasure of interviewing Professor Merose Hwang. She told us about the origins of the word “shaman” in Korea, the Neo-Confucian critique of Shamanism, the approach the Japanese colonial government adopted regarding shamans and how these performed colonial drag.
Professor Merose Hwang is Associate Professor of History at Hiram College. She wrote her dissertation on the Coloniality of Shamanism and has since then published various articles on the topic. Professor Hwang received her PhD from the department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.
So you see this struggle with some of the new icons of Korean culture, like Korean shamans. These people posed a certain amount of danger to the Korean nationalist project because they were seen as too conspicuous, as too traditional or too indigenous. The opposite of the modern Korean project. And so they were really conflicted about that.
The interview was recorded on February 14th, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.