Fourteen months ago a shamanistic shrine in Juksung Village, Jeju Island, South Korea was deliberately desecrated. Lunar January, the ceremonial period when the elderly make offerings is about 2 weeks away. So far, there have been no efforts to repair the shrine and little media coverage. Today that changes. Today we act. If you haven’t had a chance to read about Juksung Shrine’s destruction, I interviewed locals over the period of a year. You can read about it here: https://pagansweare.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/isnt-it-time-to-talk-about-the-desecrated-shrine-at-juksung/
Yesterday, I started working with a group of local activists (The Senjari Rangers) to first clear the way to the shrine so that next week when the local elderly arrive to make offerings on the traditional ritual day, which falls on the second week of lunar January, they will at least be able to approach the shrine safely. For over a year the way has been precarious due to the felled trees. As of yet, no one has been apprehended for the desecration, though a local news station will be investigating the matter again today. I made the point in my first post about the issue that what was important was to show the local community and the outsiders likely responsible for the act that Jeju Islanders won’t stand for such attacks on their native religion.
I accompanied local news media to the site of Sulsaemit Shrine
Clearing a path to Sulsaemit shrine with the Senjari Rangers group
Sulsaemit Shrine is the seat of the goddess, Grandmother Go, and the grandfather god, Kimssi Yonggam, Juksung village’s tutelary gods. The original village of Juksung was destroyed during the bloody conflict of April, 1948 which took the lives of some 30,000 innocent villagers across Jeju Island. Juksung Village was burnt and while most of its inhabitants, accused of being communist sympathizers, were murdered in cold blood, some of the women escaped and live in nearby Odeung village. Read about their story here: https://pagansweare.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/isnt-it-time-to-talk-about-the-desecrated-shrine-at-juksung/ The only part of their village which remained was Sulsaemit shrine. It is in part to honor these survivors’ legacy that we are rebuilding Juksung shrine, seeing as the larger community has failed to do so over these last fourteen months. Every year former residents make the trip up the mountain to make offerings and pray, despite bitter memories. Clearing a path to Sulsaemit shrine
To participate in rebuilding the shrine from near or far you can follow the story of our action at this Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/338329096357574/ We have successfully began clearing a safe route to the shrine for the former Juksung villagers who will make offerings next week. The second initiative will be to raise the little money it will take to repair the shrine. We have taken a few pieces of the holy trees from Sulsaemit and will be fashioning them into bracelets with the help of local artists.
Each bracelet will cost 2,000 won and will be something contributors can carry with them as a symbol of Jeju islanders’ stand against such egregious acts, the frequency of which will surely increase in the face of so much development presently happening on the island, that is turning pristine areas such as the forest where Sulsaemit is located into tourist hotels and casinos. With the money we raise, we plan to rebuild the shrine exactly as it was, conforming to Jeju Island’s shamanic customs. We estimate this to be something that happens over a number of months. Clearing the shrine of debris will go quickly but rebuilding will take considerable coordination. One of the activists involved in the project put it: “We are giving away our land, now must we also give our spirit?”
I will be updating here and the Facebook group will be updated in Korean and English on a daily basis. Please join us in our effort to protect not just Sulsaemit Shrine but all of Jeju Island’s 400 shrines which are certainly a world treasure worth protecting. Follow Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/338329096357574/