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Lee, Hyunseon (2021) 'Shamanism in Korean Cinema and Popular Culture: The Korean shaman narrative, shaman films, and women.' 중앙사론 = Central History, 54. pp. 191-221.

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Shamanism has long played an important religious role in Korean popular culture. It continues to do so, despite Buddhism and Christianity being the major religions in modern Korea. Shamans and Shamanism continue to appear in a variety of ways in Korean literature, films, dramas, and in digitalised media. This essay explores how shamans and Shamanism are represented in Korean literature, cinema and popular culture. In the 1970s many shaman films (mudang films) were produced. Focusing on two filmic adaptations of Kim Dong-ri’s short story Munyeodo (A Story of Shaman, 1936) – Munyeodo (1972, directed by Choi Ha-won) and Eulhwa (1979, directed by Byun Jang-ho) – and selected shaman films of the 1980s this paper keeps the following questions in mind. Firstly, what drew film-makers and stars to produce shaman films during the 1970s and thereafter? Secondly, how were shamans portrayed in film? Thirdly, as filmic shamans are more often female: What lies behind this gender imbalance and what aspects of femininity are drawn out in the depictions? Finally, there is a demonstrative aspect to shamanism involving ritual and performance of Kut. What is the function of Kut, and might we consider shamanism to be a trans- or multi-media activity? How does the Kut of female shamans and their bodily display reflect their cultural position and role? This essay concludes that gender, and particularly the portrayal of women, matters in the shaman films. Typically there is a gaining of agency as the shaman evolves from subaltern to healer through the practice of their Kut performance. The eroticism within these films can be seen inter alia to have a subversive role, demonstrating both the liberation of the female shaman and also contrasting the frank and open sensuality of Shamanism with the repression of the erotic within Christianity.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Regional Centres and Institutes > Centre of Korean Studies
Departments and Subunits > Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures
ISSN: 12293652
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2022 11:51

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