Choi Soon-sil, the “Rasputin” who Controlled the South Korean President, is no Shaman.

People have been suggesting over the last week that I write a post on the current presidential political scandal in South Korea and the media’s mischaracterization of shamanism.

The truth is, I’m up to my armpits in TEDx preparation and don’t have much time to put together a proper post. I need to return to my room-pacing, pretending there is an audience out my window. How do I hold my hands when I speak? That sort of thing. I think I will opt for a podium in the end.

I will be giving a TEDx talk the 26th of November here in Korea and plan to drop some major truths about the shamanism of Jeju Island.

I’ll be building a shamanic shrine on stage, accenting my talk with a bit of the theatrical.

So, sorry for the abbreviated post. I’ll do the best I can off the cuff.

The situation, briefly stated: The president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, as it turns out, has been under the influence of an interloper in Korean politics, Choi Soon-sil, that many are referring to as the Korean Rasputin. Choi, a long time friend of Park’s family, had access to official state papers and even tailored the president’s speeches, although she held no official government position in the state apparatus. What is clear is that the Choi family has long held an influence over the Parks.

Choi Soon-sil’s deceased father, Choi Tae-min was the head of the Church of Eternal Life, one of South Korea’s many cults. Her father, the cult leader, was a known mentor to Park’s father. Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, was the authoritarian leader from 1961-79 who recast South Korea in his own industrial vision. Park is a hero to much of the older generation, praised for pushing the country into modernity, but is also hated by many on the left for his use of cruel and suppressive tactics. His daughter, the current Park, is anything but popular. Her ratings have fallen to 5% in the last couple weeks, 1-2% amongst surveyed youth. 

What does all this have to do with shamanism? 

I’m not schooled on Choi Tae-min’s cult. Nor am I familiar with the Church of Eternal Life’s dogma, but from what I can gather it falls under a category of pseudo-faiths that use a melange of various traditions’ dogmas to influence its members. In the end, these operations always end up being all about the money. They aren’t built on long surviving traditions and often have a charismatic leader at the helm. Sometimes, the leaders aren’t even charismatic, but nevertheless seem to get their job of manipulation and thievery done.

Cults like the Church of Eternal Life often mix elements of several prevalent religions. This is a common feature I have personally witnessed in Protestant sects who employ shamanic ideas and ancestor worship to lure in the desperate. Ancestor worship is important to the Korean world-view.

A woman I know personally, on Jeju Island where I live, was once going through hard times. She was in the business of looking for a church to join. One aggressive proselytizer, after several Bible study meetings, realized that she wasn’t having any success with my friend. So, she readily switched gears to talk of ancestor worship. She claimed that if my friend didn’t join their church (and tithe regularly, of course) that her ancestors would have revenge on her. This was supposedly a Christian church. This type of thing is very prevalent in South Korea. In fact, many people join churches, not for salvation, but for monetary benefit. My neighbor was considering joining a church in order to give his business a boost.

Choi Soon-sil’s operation seems to have been a mix of Buddhism and Catholicism along with shamanic elements. Her father used his connections with Park’s father to wrangle bribes from businessmen and officials around Korea. The daughter ran many of the same scams with the present President Park. Choi, according to Korean media, used the president as a puppet. 

You can read all about it here. It’s a wild ride. A good read for sure. The story is a dark wonder in this world.

Yes, shamanism. Shamanism is in South Korea. Shamanic religions are spread across Eurasia. (Your ancestors were shamanists, too. Thus the name of this blog.

Shamans, true shamans, are not spooky witch-doctors. Choi Soon-sil and her cult-leader father are NOT shamans, despite what some of the Korean media would want you to believe. Choi Soon-sil, working from the articles I’ve read and the chaos of outrage I’m seeing around me, is an opportunist, a typical South Korean cult-leader who prays on the weak by employing whatever dogma is convenient to manipulate her victims.

Now, this is the part where I get pissed off.

It was the present president Park’s father who was greatly responsible for an assault on Jeju Island’s shrines and shamanic practitioners during the Anti-superstition Movement he ran during his reign. We can say that it is in part due to his policies that non-traditional shamanic cults and fake shamans moved in to capitalize on people’s fears.  During Park’s time some 120 shamanic shrines were destroyed (the majority of which Jeju Island’s residents rebuilt) and many traditional shamans were forced to give up their instruments and ritual tools. Many had to denounce their position as village shaman. This period caused a massive amount of pain locally on Jeju Island where wholesome shamanism is still widely practiced.

Hear testimony about this period from some of Jeju Island’s shamans and shamanism experts HERE in a prior post. (VIDEO)

Choi Soon-sil is no shaman.

This is a REAL shaman:


She is a village priest. She is a guardian of sacred lore. She is the officiator of rituals. A spiritual leader. In South Korea, and especially on Jeju Island, she is the center of the village. She is the rock that members of her flock turn to in hard times. When a loved one passes, she is there to perform the funerary services. When a new business is opened, she is there to consecrate the new venture. When a new house is erected, she is there to usher in the harmony.

This is a REAL shaman:


She is a counselor. She is a healer. If the suffering is due to emotional or psychological pain, she is there to lead her patient down the path to healing. She has deep ties to her community. Her position was inherited from a long line of shamans before her. She knows every name in the village. She is held to excellency by the village residents. She knows their private affairs and is sworn to secrecy.

This is a REAL shaman:


He is a master reciter of myth. A master performer. An artist. A master of conveying emotion. A dancer. A drummer. He spent decades mastering his craft. But his hardest challenge is mastering the human heart. This he must do, if he is to be healer. He knowingly sacrificed everything to choose this path.

This is a REAL shaman:


She is a teacher. The knowledge she carries is the true root of culture. She is the guardian of identity, the cultural identity that comes from myth. She is even a comedian. She knows well, that levity is an important key used to unlock the human heart. She has the residents of her village cracking up over some joke that she’s made and in tears moments later.

This is a REAL shaman:


She is at the center. The shrine gods are at the center of the village. And she is at the center of their shrine. She is the medium. To sit close to her, is to sit close to the gods. To brush up against the divine. In many places in the world, where life is hard everyday, people still understand this.




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