From Rural Outcasts to Urban Cosmopolitans: Spiritual Healers in Seoul

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Given the prominence and continued presence of spiritual healers in Korean society, it is imperative to examine their social status and cultural significance. This article explores the question: Are Korean shamans sophisticated cosmopolitan individuals or persons steeped in archaic superstition, holding beliefs that are irrelevant to the 21st century? First, it delves into the vernacular nature of musok and how this characteristic has facilitated the urbanization and globalization of the practice well into hypermodern contemporary society. Second, it reflects on the impact of these structural shifts on the marginalization of manshin. Next, it discusses the features of cosmopolitanism and its relevance to manshin, considering factors such as foreign language abilities, international travel and liminality, often seen as integral components of cosmopolitanism. Although cosmopolitanism of the masculine sort may not align with the experiences of most female practitioners of Korea’s vernacular religion, I argue that its characteristics can help elucidate why manshin have successfully adapted to accelerated globalization. I conclude that the cosmopolitan nature of contemporary manshin is deeply rooted in the traditional belief system and practice of musok.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-101
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2024


  • cosmopolitans
  • globalization
  • Korea
  • shamanism
  • vernacular religion

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Urban Studies

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