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∙ Ph.D. dissertation Neighborhood Shopkeepers in Contemporary South Korea: Household, Work, and Locality available online (E-Thesis publications a the University of Helsinki). For printed copies, please contact me by e-mail.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Some pictures of a "kut"

Scanned today a few older pictures for another purpose, but thought I'd might as well put them on display here as well.
These are taken at the 1999 conference of the Anthropological Society of Korea (한국문화인류학회), where the main topic was "Anthropology of Korean War." This is a kut (shamanistic ritual) held in during the conference for those who died in the war. To be more precise this is chinhonkut (鎭魂굿), a ritual for the deceased, to alleviate the souls of the dead, who in this case are kind of thought to have suffered a wrongful death.

But as always, there's not a little part of performance and a good party in a kut, and as you see below, the poor pig who had to die for this ritual at least ended up to be eaten, as most of the foodstuff on the ritual table, if I can remember correctly. Shamanism is a consciousness-altering experience, but in this case some other substances than the purely spiritual may have played a more significant role in the lack of memory.

1999 Korean Anthropological Society conference - 'chinhonkut'
1999 Korean Anthropological Society conference - 'chinhonkut'
1999 Korean Anthropological Society conference - 'chinhonkut'
According to the program, the male shaman (on the red robe) was supposed to have been Kim Yu-gam, "important intangible cultural asset no 104" and the "Carrier of Seoul Saenam-kut", but the guy in the picture looks very much younger than the actual Kim Yu-gam., born 1924. The woman (most of the Korean shamans are woman) is Yi In-suk, "chairman of the Society for the Preservation of Traditional Shamanism" (전통무속보존회), of which I can't find anything on the net. And everything is supposed to be on the net in Korea, right?
1999 Korean Anthropological Society conference - 'chinhonkut'
1999 Korean Anthropological Society conference - 'chinhonkut'
Above, the players accompanying the shamans, and three professors prepare to stuff their 10 000 won bills into the head orifices of the pig and bow in front of the ritual table.
Below, some of the viewers have joined the dance, and the pig has become pork. People had a great time, but cannot tell about the souls for which the ritual was held. This was much more in the line of those sort of semi-official shamanistic rituals, in which the "Korean culture" part is more prominent than an individual's belief that the otherworldly (chôsûng) things matter and that the shaman can help to mediate. I'm not saying that this one here isn't a real ritual; the scale and the degree of publicity are different. I've been to one private ritual - couln't make that much sense of what was going on - and the difference was indeed in the degree of intimacy, participants talking to their ancestors through the words of the shaman. And then we ate the cakes and other stuff on the ritual table.
1999 Korean Anthropological Society conference - 'chinhonkut'
1999 Korean Anthropological Society conference - 'chinhonkut'

Portal of Korean shamans; there's also a competing site.
A good introduction to Korean shamanism by Heinz Insu Fenkl.

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