Jinseok Seo (University of Latvia, Riga) “The Vernacularity of Korean Shamanism in the Perspective of Korean Christianity”


The study of vernacular religion appreciates religion as an historic as well as contemporary process and marks religion in everyday life as a construction of mental, verbal and material expressions. Vernacular religious theory understands religion as the continuous art of individual interpretation and negotiation of any number of influential sources.

Korean shamanism affected a significant role continuously in the individualization and interpretation of understanding ‘official or institutional religion’ according to local necessities in Korea, as proven by the cases of syncretism with Buddhism and Christianity. Shamanism is largely a ‘residual’ category in the writings on Korean religion. The residual element of shamanism also intervened with other major religions and finally coerced the Korean people to interpret and individualize the doctrine and canon in the vernacular way of Korea. Vernacular beliefs are not grounded in institutionalized truths but in individual creativity, expressed in a variety of local and social contexts and shaped by the power of tradition, and generate a very special viewpoint on gods, which further effects influences on the rhetoric and creed of the established religion. There is currently no research on Korean shamanism as a vernacular religion, however, there has been a series of attempts to reveal the co-relationship between shamanism and other institutionalized beliefs. In this conference I would like to present the vernacular matters of Korean shamanism observed especially in the Korean Christianity and to bring a new knowledge and prospect to conceive from a new perspective the role and function of Korean shamanism in localizing and individualizing foreign religion on Korean soil.