Why do Koreans use shamanic ritual even though prejudice against shamanism is universal? Why do so many Koreans employ a practice that is widely stigmatized and despised as superstition? Shamanism has a contradictory position within the Korean cultural system. This has led to the periodical suppression of shamanism and has also, paradoxically, ensured its survival throughout Korean history. This book examines the place of shamans within contemporary society, exploring shamanism as a cultural practice in which people make use of shamanic ritual, and disputing the prevalent view that shamanism is "popular culture", "women's religion" or "performing arts". Chongho Kim also disputes the common view among medical anthropologists that places shamanism firmly within the realm of traditional medicine. Drawing on case studies within Korea, Kim presents a study of indigenous anthropology with ethnographic material drawn from an insider's perspective and offers an understanding of the appeal of this indigenous folk practice in a highly industrial society.
Directly confronting the prejudice against shamans and their paradoxical situation in a modern society such as Korea, this book reveals the cultural discrepancy between two worlds in Korean culture, the ordinary world and the shamanic world, and shows that these two worlds cannot be reconciled with each other. Kim explains that it is the difference between them which explains why shamans are necessary but also despised. Focusing on ordinary people who make use of shamans, rather than focusing merely on "the way of the shaman", this study of shamanism offers a significant contribution to the growing field of studies in indigenous anthropology and indigenous religions.