Field Notes #2: Saewa Village’s Shamanic Shrines Were Burnt to the Ground


During the Anti-Superstition Movement of the 1970s, over one hundred of Jeju Island’s shamanic shrines were burnt, along with many holy relics. President Park Chung Hee’s government had implemented the misin-tapa as part of the movement for the modernization of South Korea. The aim of the misin-tapa was to eradicate traditional religion from rural communities, replacing it when possible with Christianity. As a result, much of Korea’s native culture was lost, but the people of Jeju Island rebuilt their shamanic shrines and continued to worship native gods, in secret when necessary. Shamanism has always been widely practiced on Jeju and the island’s remoteness may have played a role in the fact that shamanism is still present today.

The great shaman (keun shimbang) of Saewa Village, Jeju Island’s most senior shaman, talks about the era of ‘superstition’ prohibition in this ‘field notes’. Formal interviews with the shimbang will be included as extras in the documentary Spirits: The Story of Jeju Island’s Shamanic Shrines.


Great shaman, Seo Sun Shil, on her childhood memories during the ‘superstition’ prohibition years. Shamans on Jeju Island were forced to practice in secret.


Jeju Island cultural researcher, Mun Bong Sun, on the Anti-superstition movement.


The threat to Jeju Island’s shamanic shrines continues

For other posts on the ongoing present threat to the cultural treasures which are Jeju Island’s shamanic shrines, here:

Tear’s in Seongsan. How one UNESCO designated village allowed its most valuable cultural asset to be destroyed, leaving many locals heartbroken. BELOW.

Shrines under attack. A development corporation in tandem with hoteliers destroyed a historic shamanic shrine in Yaerae Village. BELOW.

Isn’t it time we talk about Sulsaemit? The case of the desecration of Sulsaemit Shrine. BELOW.



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