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The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan

The Full Gospel Church and Korean
Shamanism in Japan-Resident Korean Society
Shamanism as a Universal Foundational Religion
Iida Takafumi
Religion in Japan-resident Korean society is a complex fusion of
interrelated facets. It involves, in addition to traditional Confucian rites and
Korean shamanism (Jp. fuzoku 巫俗),1 Korean Buddhism, Christianity, and
belief in various Japanese religions including Buddhism, Shinto, folk religions, and new religions. Furthermore, among the Japan-resident Koreans
(zainichi korian 在日コリアン) there is a considerable difference between the
religious faith and practice of the “oldcomers” (the Koreans who came to
Japan before World War II and their succeeding generations) and that of the
“newcomers” (those who came to Japan from the 1970s and after).
If we categorize these groupings into ethnic-culturally oriented (that is,
“assimilation” oriented, zainichi oriented, homeland oriented) and organizational/network (voluntary networking, formal organization network) types,
* Iida Takafumi is a professor in the Faculty of Letters, Department of Sociology, at
Otani University. The English translation is by Jon Morris, Tohoku University.
1. Note on the translation: fuzoku has been translated as “Korean shamanism” throughout. Both the English and Japanese terms are used to imply a broad range of traditions, such
as Kuh, and typically Korean modes of shamanic behavior in a broad sense. Personal names
are given in the Japanese order, with the addition in some cases of alternative (anglicized or
Japanese) names which appear in English-language materials.
iida takafumi | 123
we may lay out the various categories as per the table below (from Iida
2002, 58). Within these various groupings, religions that might be described
as shamanic or charismatic include the rituals of Korean shamanism and the
Full Gospel type churches, among others. Korean shamanistic rituals have
been performed among female “oldcomers” of advanced years, particularly
among those hailing from Osaka’s former Cheju-do (Jp. Sashūtō 済州島)
islander circles. In contrast to this, the Full Gospel Churches mainly attract
female “newcomer” believers. Social relationships and connections between
members of the two groups are not apparent.
The assertion has been made by Korean theologians that the rapid development of Korean Christianity has been due to the foundations provided
by traditional shamanism. Certainly, the promulgation of Christianity in
Asia has been carried out mainly since the modern period, and pre-existing
folk-culture traditions of shamanism have survived in abundance. In Japan,
Table 1. Combinatory Forms and Cultural Orientations of Various
Korean Religions among Japan-resident Koreans (Iida 2002, 58).
Ethnic cultural
New Religions
The Korean Christian
Church in Japan,
(Zainichi Daikan
Full Gospel type
Kirisuto kyōkai)
Family Council
(Shinzokukai reien)
Japanese Buddhism, Shinto,
Japanese Folk
Cultural oriented
Erecting tombstones
Korean Buddhism,
zainichi Folk Religions Korean shamanic
Confucian rituals
homeland oriented
124 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
shamanism has been relegated to remote or outlying areas (northeastern area, southern islands, and mountainous regions). In Korea, however,
the religious traditions of Korean shamanism have been richly preserved
throughout the various regions; albeit consigned as female culture to a subordinate position to the male culture of Confucianism. According to Yu Donshik 柳東植, Korean Christianity developed due to, and through, its affinity
with the Korean Shamanic concept of hananim (“one god” or “heaven”).
Though it thus inherited and took on the characteristics of a dependence
on salvation faith (salvation by divine grace as opposed to one’s own works)
with a strong emphasis on apotropaic aspects, it was engaged with the
issue of moving beyond this set of qualities (see Yu 1975). Summing up
the insights of a number of Korean research works, Kim Eungi (2012) has
discussed the close relationship between Korean Christianity and Korean
shamanism.2 Furthermore, there are research papers that discuss the fasting and prayer institutions of Full Gospel churches as a conspicuous point
of contact with Korean shamanism (Fuchigami 1994, 2010). In Japan-resident Korean society, however, we cannot find human connections which
might represent a direct point of convergence and contact between the two
religious groups. There are several fasting and prayer institutions attached
to Full Gospel churches, and one hears that there is glossolalia and fervent
prayer of a different nature to the worship in the churches; but a direct link
to the traditions of a Korean shamanic nature has not been confirmed.
Korean Shamanic Rituals in Japan-resident Korean Society
Here, let us interpret “Japan-resident Korean” to mean, for the time
being, registered inhabitants of North and South Korea resident in Japan.
Among the Japan-resident Korean population, which numbers around
500,000, around half live in the Kansai region, centering on Osaka. The
Ikuno 生野 ward of Osaka city is an area with a particularly dense Japanresident Korean population, the greater part of which is made up of former
residents of Cheju-do island. It may be presumed that traditional rituals
of Korean shamanism were carried out within the Cheju-do islander net2. See the essay by Andrew Kim in this current volume.
iida takafumi | 125
work before the war. After the war, however, such activities took the form
of the chōsen-dera 朝鮮寺 (Japan-resident Korean temples) established
in the Ikoma 生駒 mountain range (see Iida 1988). These number around
sixty institutions, and while to the outside world they appear to be nothing
other than Buddhist temples, they have functioned as places for the rituals of Korean shamanism. In these rituals, for the purposes of propitiatory
memorial services for the spirits of the dead (shisharei 死者霊), divine spirits
(kamigami 神々) are summoned by a specialist shamanistic medium with
spiritual abilities, and the spirits of the dead speak through the medium
(kuchiyose 口寄せ). Korean shamanistic rituals, which take place over two or
three days to a week and sometimes ten days, are carried out in the temples
of Mt. Ikoma. Korean shamanistic rituals of shorter duration were also carried out widely in a number of temples in Osaka City’s Ikuno Ward, with
its high concentration of Japan-resident Koreans, and the areas around it
Figure 1: Ikoma Shintokuin 神徳院. Standing on the right hand side is the great rod
(Ōzao 大竿) which calls down (manekiorosu 招き降ろす) the spirits (kamigami).
Figure 2: Husband and wife fusha calling down the spirits.
Figure 3: A Fusha tearfully gives voice to the words of a spirit of a deceased person.
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(Iida 2002). From the 1990s onward, however, due to generational changes,
the activities of the Japan-resident Korean temples on Mt. Ikoma have
declined. Korean shamanistic rituals from the Cheju-do island lineage (both
the mediums, fusha 巫者, and those who call on their services) are falling,
and have ceased to be held with the same regularity as in previous years
(Shūkyō shakaigaku no kai 2012).
Furthermore, even amongst those of Cheju-do island descent, female
masters of prayer-rites from mainland areas such as Pusan and Seoul called
posaru (meaning “bodhisattva”, Jp. bosatsu 菩薩) have been widely accepted
and integrated. Though the posaru’s prayer rites involve the chanting of
Buddhist sutras, they also include shamanic aspects such as the channeling
of messages from the spirits of the dead (kuchiyose) and spiritual inspiration
under the influence of spirits (reikan 霊感). Direct human links between the
world of the posaru and that of Christianity cannot be confirmed.
The Development of Christian Churches
The Korean Christian Church in Japan
The Korean Christian Church in Japan (Zainichi Daikan Kirisuto Kyōkai 在
日大韓基督教会) is a Protestant church that has been active in Japan-resi-
dent Korean communities since before World War ii. It was established in
1908 by students from the Korean peninsula studying in Japan, and having passed through some difficult periods (such as the colonialization of
Korea), it now has a hundred churches and mission centers (fukyōjo 布教
所) throughout Japan, and has around five thousand followers. It takes on and
hosts missionaries from the Presbyterian, Methodist, and other mainstream
Korean churches. As an ethnic church (minzoku kyōkai 民族教会), one of the
mainstays of its missionary direction is the issue of human rights by Japanresident Koreans, and the abolition of discrimination toward them.
Within The Korean Christian Church in Japan there are two distinct
groups, each with their own leanings. One is a group that gives specific
weight to taking on the aforementioned social issues, which we might call
the “Society-oriented Group,” and the other group, which we might call the
“Gospel-oriented Group,” puts emphasis on salvation from within (Iida
2002, 297). Though in the Gospel-oriented Group there are those who
128 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
emphasize the workings of the Holy Spirit in prayer, this is not to suggest
that this group displays the hallmark features of a Pentecostal church, such
as the practice of glossolalia.
Perhaps some several thousand Japan-resident Korean Christians belong
to the Catholic Church, but the actual figure is unclear. Ethnic aspects of
this community are not particularly emphasized, and most members use
Japanese names (tsūmei 通名). There may be some in the Japan-resident
Korean Catholic community who emphasize, on a personal level, the workings of the Holy Spirit; but there are no reports of any organized charismatic
The Missionary Activities of Japan Full Gospel Church
A Korean Protestant group which shows clear Pentecostalist tendencies is the highly influential Japan Full Gospel Church, founded in 1958
by Cho Yonggi 趙鏞基 (David [formerly Paul] Yonggi Cho). This group
expanded and developed quickly, with the Yoido Full Gospel Church, said
to have 700,000 believers, at its center. It carries out missionary activities
throughout South Korea and abroad. Pastor Cho Yonggi, who was ill in his
teens, was brought into the Pentecostal faith by a missionary from America.
After studying at the Full Gospel School of Theology (Junfukuin shingakkō
純福音神学校) he began his own missionary activities in cooperation with
Choi Jashil 崔子実, his contemporary at the college who was to become his
The impassioned preaching and prayers of Pastor Cho Yonggi, the activities of the fasting and prayer institutions under the instruction of Pastor
Choi Jashil, and the fervent displays of glossolalia of believers during worship, all show the key qualities of a charismatic faith. Regarding the mission
in Japan, Pastor Choi Jashil visited Japan for the first time in 1964 and has
continued her yearly missionary visits since then. Pastor Cho Yonggi was
cautious at first with regard to missionary work in Japan. He nonetheless
made a firm decision to wholeheartedly pursue missionary work in Japan
as part of his evangelical activities worldwide. In 1979 he began a movement
aiming at “the salvation of ten million souls in Japan” (Nihon issen-mannin kyūrei 日本一千万人救霊), and with his preaching events and broadcast
evangelism, he has rapidly increased the number of believers.
iida takafumi | 129
The Full Gospel Tokyo Church (Junfukuin Tōkyō kyōkai 純福音東京教会)
was established in Azabu in 1978, and from that point on churches were set
up in various regions in Japan. The group has eighty churches in Japan at
present, with a total number of over 3,500 followers. A great many of those
believers are “newcomer” females, and a few among them are “oldcomer”
Koreans. Around twenty to thirty percent of adherents are Japanese, many
of whom are young women, and male members would appear to be the
spouses of the female faithful. It is difficult to argue that the mission in Japan
among Japanese people and “oldcomer” Japan-resident Koreans has made
great progress. Nevertheless, having gained a large number of adherents in a
short time, and produced many new churches, the activities of the Full Gospel Church group flourish in comparison to the general stagnation in the
activities of the Christian church in Japan as a whole. That said, the goal of
evangelizing ten million people remains a distant one, and the “charismatic”
character of the group would seem to have become somewhat subdued over
recent years. In the following section I will attempt to give a summary of my
survey notes on the Full Gospel Church group.
Full Gospel Tokyo Church
When I first visited the Full Gospel Tokyo Church (Shinjuku-ku, Ōkubo
1-2-6, Sansēru Shinjuku Building) in October 1988, the Full Gospel Church
had seven churches in Japan. The Tokyo church, under Pastor Li Kanfun
李康憲 (better known by the name Mitsui Yasunori 三井康憲) had around
3,500 members on its books. At that time, several dozen female believers
in their twenties and thirties would take part in an evening worship session
held on Wednesdays.
During Japan’s “bubble” economy years, many young Korean women
working in lively areas such as Shinjuku could be seen at the Church.
Though there was no pastor present, in the intervals between hymns the
worship room was filled with sobbing and glossolalia, each person praying
freely in their own way, weeping and fervently speaking in tongues. Boxes
of tissues were placed on the edges of the pews, for participants to dry their
overflowing tears. On the Japanese-language recording of Pastor Li Kanfun’s
preaching, which I bought at the time of that visit, the question of whether
or not selling alcohol was a sin was addressed (with women working in
lively entertainment districts being the target of that preaching). According
130 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
to the recorded sermon, this was indeed a sin, and those who performed
such work did so while suffering in sin. God, however, would take pity on
such folk, and save them.
Later, in 1990, Pastor Li Kanfun and many members of his church broke
away from the Yoido Full Gospel Church group and established the Tokyo
Chūō Kyōkai 東京中央教会. It has made rapid progress, with a new church
hall (Shinjuku-ku, Ōkubo 2-18-8) in 1996, and a further four churches established in the Kanto region. As a result of this breakaway, the Full Gospel
Tokyo Church was to lose members, buildings, property and its legal status (in Japan) as a religious corporation, all at a single stroke. It nonetheless
began anew with around two hundred members attending open air services
in parks, and set to work rebuilding itself. After using several church buildings, they purchased the current church hall, a seven-story building (Shinjuku-ku, Kabukichō 2-2-4) in 2002.
At the time of my visit in July 2011, there were eight pastors and around
2500 registered faithful under supervising pastor (tannin bokushi 担任牧
師) Daewon Chung (チョン・デウォン, 鄭大垣). The ratio of Korean to Japanese
believers was around 7:3. The church has a facility for fasting and prayer
in Akigawa 秋川 (Tokyo). The supervising pastor had recently transferred
that year from the Full Gospel Osaka Church. Supervising pastors on dispatch from Korea change posts every three years or so. Sunday services are
performed seven times during the course of the day, from morning to evening. The 11 a.m. service (with simultaneous translation and sign language)
was attended by around 250 people. The 1 p.m. service was a simultaneous
broadcast sermon by Emeritus Pastor (genrō bokushi 元老牧師) Cho Yonggi
from the Yoido Full Gospel Church (with simultaneous translation in Japanese and English).
The first time I heard pastor Cho Yonggi’s sermons was at the beginning
of the 1980s at a preaching event held at Sankei Hall in Osaka. Beginning
quietly, and calmly repeating in perfect Japanese, the message of God’s love
in easily-understood terms, he gradually became more and more impassioned. Those in the audience were carried with him to a climactic high
point. Finally, in prayer, stating specific symptoms of diseases and states
of ill health one by one, he told the audience that those illnesses would be
healed. “Those with shoulder pain shall be healed.… Those with knee pain
shall be healed.… Those with headaches shall be healed….” As I listened to
iida takafumi | 131
this prayer and preaching, I had the impression that perhaps a few people
among those who had some physical ailment would have some sense of an
improvement in that condition, and that it might be an extremely limited
number indeed who experienced any notable restoration of health.
When I heard the sermon broadcast simultaneously in Tokyo in 2011, the
manner of the now aged pastor Cho was very much more quiet and moderate, and the “climax” at the closing part of the sermon was not greatly
emphasized. It seemed that a feeling of respect for Pastor Cho, the founder,
filled the giant hall of the Yoido church. During the time of prayer which
followed the sermon, however, only a very small number of people in both
the Yoido church and the Tokyo church showed signs of fervent excitement
or spoke in tongues. It seems that the “charismatic” character of the Full
Gospel Church is becoming somewhat diluted in comparison with the time
of its establishment.
Pastor Cho Yonggi retired as the head of the Yoido Full Gospel Church in
2010 and became Emeritus Pastor. Young Hoon Lee (Yi Yonfun イ・ヨンフン), a
Figure 4. The Full Gospel Tokyo Church
132 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
former supervising pastor of the Tokyo church, has taken over as the head of
the Yoido Full Gospel Church.
Full Gospel Osaka Church
The Full Gospel Osaka Church (Naniwa-ku, Settsu Nishi 2-16-11; visited
July 2011) was established in 1988. It has 450 registered faithful under Pastor Che Chuil (チェ・チュイル, 崔洙日), 300 of whom have been baptized. The
composition of the flock is said to be sixty percent Korean and forty percent
Japanese. Seven services are held on Sundays. The main service, the second,
was attended by around a hundred or more people. There were many in their
50s and 60s, and a lesser number in their 40s and 30s. The pastor preached
in Korean with an interpreter standing beside him translating into Japanese.
The words to the hymns appeared on television screens in Hangul script and
On asking about the fact that no glossolalia was to be observed during the
service, the pastor replied in the following manner: “Someone here for the
Figure 5. Full Gospel Osaka Church.
iida takafumi | 133
first time might well be surprised to see the excitement of glossalalia. There
is speaking in tongues at the Wednesday evening and early morning services. Prayer with fasting is something the believers do of their own accord.”
Pastor Che had arrived only two months earlier from the Tokyo church. The
previous incumbent Daewon Chung had transferred to become supervising
pastor at the Tokyo church after spending seven years at the Osaka church.
The mission worker (伝道師 dendōshi) responsible for first time visitors, a
Japanese person we shall call M (68 years old), told me the following: “My
household (ie 家) were (members of) the True Pure Land Sect (Jōdo Shinshū
浄土真宗). The reason I joined the church was illness. I had liver trouble and
even cancer. Christianity and Buddhism are basically the same—they have
the same essence. The main thing to start from is you have to respect your
parents. Christianity has spread in Korea because of the respect for parents.”
Full Gospel Kyoto Church
The Full Gospel Kyoto Church (Kamigyō-ku, Yakunin-chō 234-4, visited
July 2011) was established in 1990. The church has around a hundred members including Pastor Che Yohane (better known in English as John Choi).
Seventy percent of these members are relatively recent Korean migrants to
Japan. Thirty percent are Japanese people and Korean residents of Japan
(zainichi). Pastor Che Yohane was born in Korea in 1934 to a family who
were members of a Methodist-affiliated church. He first came to Japan having been invited for the purposes of music instruction. Having heard the
preaching of pastor Cho Yonggi his eyes were opened to the struggle against
the devil, and he thus joined the Full Gospel Church.
While serving the Tokyo Church he studied at a theological school and,
after becoming a missionary, he went on to become a pastor. In his work
pioneering new missions, he opened the Osaka church, the Kyoto church,
the Kobe church, and the Ibaraki church. The goal was not the construction
of buildings as such but to secure places for the faithful to gather in those
regions. Pastor Che is not a missionary on dispatch from Korea; he has been,
from the outset of evangelization work to the present day, a pastor in the
Full Gospel Church in Japan. He will retire next year and become an Emeritus Pastor, at which time a newly appointed pastor will come to take over
the Kyoto church. There are three services on Sundays. The 11 a.m. service
is attended by a little over forty people. The structure of the congregation in
134 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
terms of age would seem to be comprised, in descending order of their numbers, of those in their 40s, 50s, 30s and 20s. According to Pastor Che,
Today the Full Gospel Group in Japan has 80 churches, 100 missionaries, and
over 3,500 faithful. Probably around sixty percent of these are newcomers,
twenty percent are Japanese, and twenty percent are old-comers and their
descendants. Eighty percent of them are women. There are also some foreign
students who are studying in Japan.
…Connections between Korean shamanism and the Pentecostal sects?
Korean shamanism and the Church are entirely different. This is some kind of
rumor, isn’t it!? That [Korean shamanism] is going against God. It is accursed.
By the coming of Jesus there shall be no place for Korean shamanism!
…Though many churches were formed in a comparatively short space of
time, the mission to Japanese people and to Japan-resident Koreans (zainichi)
is stagnant. If you want to observe speaking in tongues, please come to the
prayer meeting (kitōkai 祈祷会), not the Sunday service.
I visited the early morning prayer meeting (6 a.m.) the next day. There
Figure 6. Full Gospel Kyoto Church
iida takafumi | 135
were five attendees at first, and a further five joined later. Associate pastor
(fukubokushi 副牧師) An 安 (female) officiated. There were seven female
and three male attendees, of whom six were Japanese. Pastor An’s prayers
included speaking in tongues: “orabarabarabaraba….” Among the congregation there were those who were swaying and shaking their bodies, those
who were wiping away their tears, and others who were constantly murmuring words at high speed in a low-voiced whisper. After the worship, a quiet
and friendly group breakfast of bread, coffee, and tomatoes was provided.
Other Church Groups
Calvary Church Group
The Calvary Church Group (Junfukuin kirisuto kyōdan 純福音キリスト教団)
was established by Pastor Matsudaira Temote 松平題摩太. Matsudaira (b.
1940) is a second generation Japan-resident Korean. He came to the faith
due to his contact with Kim Seikō 金聖光, the son of the Korean Full Gospel
Church Pastor Choi Jashil, and founded the Calvary Church Kobe in 1976.
He later founded the Junfukuin kyokutō seisho gakuin 純福音極東聖書学院
(Full Gospel Bible College of the Far East) and churches in Osaka, Kyoto,
Maebashi, Wakayama, Gifu, and elsewhere. He went on to found the Junfukuin kirisuto kyōdan in 1984. Though this religious group was established
with the strong influence of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, this does not
imply that there is any organizational affiliation between the two. At the
time of the group’s foundation, the Osaka church had around 200 baptized
members, the Kobe church had 120–130 baptized members, and the Kyoto
church, which had been founded in the previous year, had 20–30 members,
making a total of close to 400 members for the group.
After I visited the Osaka Calvary Church in the summer of 1987, I took
part in a three-day summer mental improvement session (shūyōkai 修養
会) held at a big hotel in Kyoto. The theme of the meeting was “A gathering
of discerning Christians” (haisensu na kurisuchan no tsudoi ハイセンスなクリ
スチャンの集い). Around 140 people took part, mainly Korean and Japanese
women in their twenties and thirties. The speaker was Pastor Kim Myonnam 金明南, of the Chicago Assembly of God Church. The lecture was a
detailed exposition of the tabernacle (Jp. makuya 幕屋, Hb. ‫ןכשמ‬, mishkan)
136 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
that Moses was ordered by God to build, the accounts thereof recorded in
the Old Testament, and its religious meanings. The key theme of Pastor Matsudaira’s preaching was “a life of discernment” (haisensu na seikatsu ハイセン
スな生活). Living this “life of discernment” was not a matter of withdrawing
from the world and living a pure and simple life of poverty, but rather to aim
to be a Christian who would be appreciated and envied (urayamareru 羨まれ
る, a term with positive connotations in this context) wherever they went in
the world.
At that time, the movement for the abolition of the fingerprinting regulations (shimon ōnatsu kitei 指紋押捺規定) prescribed in the Alien Registration Law (gaikokujin tōrokuhō 外国人登録法) was gathering pace and energy
in both zainichi and Japanese society. The General Assembly of the Korean
Christian Church in Japan (Zainichi Daikan Kirisuto Kyōkai Sōkai 在日大韓
基督教会総会) was energetically engaged in the movement. On asking Pastor Matsudaira about the campaigns, his opinion was that such things were
Figure 7. Calvary Church Self-improvement Session.
Prayer time with glossolalia and tears.
iida takafumi | 137
not the essential activities of the church, and would do it more harm than
It seems that the Calvary Church group (Junfukuin kirisuto kyōdan) had
ceased such activities some years earlier.
Kyoto Immanuel Mission Church
This church was introduced to me as a Pentecostalist church in Kyoto
(Kamigyō-ku, Shōkokuji Monzen-chō 647-8) by T, a Chinese student who
attended a symposium held at Nanzan University on “Pentecostalism and
Shamanism in Asia.” T had graduated from the University of Tokyo in September of the previous year, and was living in the church until he formally
joined the Japanese company at which he had been offered a job. This church
Figure 8. Kyoto Immanuel Mission Church
138 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
is affiliated with the Miami Immanuel Mission Church (Maiami Inmanueru
senkyō kyōkai マイアミ
・インマヌエル宣教教会), which is under the Presbyterian
Church in Korea (Daikan Iesukyō Chōrōkai 大韓イエス教長老会). It began
with foundational service that took place in the premises of Kyoto University in the year 2000. It is also active in preaching to foreign students and
(subsequently) sending them as missionaries to their countries of origin.
Though the church is overseen by Supervising Pastor Paiku Moses パク・モー
セ, the weekly services are attended by the missionary Lee Aelia (Specially
Appointed Professor at the University of Tokyo’s Center for Contemporary
Korean Studies (Gendai Kankoku Kenkyū Sentā 現代韓国研究センター), who
travels there from Tokyo.
When I visited this church for a Sunday morning in January 2012, there
were around twenty participants at the service. Many were foreign students
from Korea and China, and others such as Korean or Japanese university
professors were also in attendance. There was no speaking in tongues during the service, at which there was a calm and quiet atmosphere. T understands Pentecostalism and shamanism to be entirely different things. In
T’s view, Pentecostal activities are the original and fundamental activities
of Christians as written in the Bible, whereas shamanism is a superstition
(meishin 迷信) associated with evil spirits (akuryō 悪霊), and T would rather
the two were not confused. This is very much in accord with what was said
by the Full Gospel Kyoto church’s Pastor Che. It would be fair to say that
though researchers point to connections between Pentecostal groups, the
Korean Full Gospel Church, and Korean shamanism, those involved with
the churches themselves generally deny this association.
Furthermore, in addition to the Full Gospel Church and two churches
mentioned above, it would seem that there are a number of churches of
Korean origin which bear the characteristic features of Pentecostal denominations.
Shamanism as a Universal Foundational Religion
A basis in Korean traditional shamanism has been indicated as
a reason for the development and spread of Korean Christianity, particularly the Full Gospel Church, in the later part of the twentieth century (Yu
1975; Kim 2012; Fuchigami 1994, 2010). Even in the case of the Full Gos-
iida takafumi | 139
pel Church in Japan, most believers are “newcomer” females, and thus one
would not move toward a flat denial of the theory of connections between
aspects of these two religions (Christianity and Korean shamanism) relating
to their basis in modern Korean society.
Despite this fact, no connection whatsoever could be found between
Cheju-do Korean shamanism and the Full Gospel Church in Japan-resident
Korean society. I wish to offer here a different hypothesis, one that addresses
understanding of the role and significance of shamanism rather than the
question of direct links between the two religious traditions. That is, that we
might see shamanism not as a superstitious (meishinteki 迷信的) religious
custom of some particular region, but as an essential element of the basic
and foundational religion that is universal to mankind.
In general, worship is an activity of human subjects performed in response
to sacred objects. These acts of worship and prayer are conducted as part of
the relationship between human subjects and sacred objects, regardless of
the manner in which the object of worship might be expressed (be it as a
single god, many gods, a spirit, a totem, or otherwise). Yet, when the human
ego undergoes changes when exposed to great strain or crisis situations, the
states known as ecstasy or trance may occur. In such states the ordinary ego
may have direct contact with the sacred object. That is to say, in such states
the distinction between subject and object disappears and the two become
one. Eliade, in his categorization of shamanistic phenomena into types
such as the ecstasy, possession, inspiration, and control types, classified the
ecstatic type of shamanism observed in the Siberian regions a “genuine”
shamanism and the other types as parashamanic (Eliade 1974, 316). However, if we define shamanism as religious behavior in which direct contact
with a sacred object is established through transformation of the ego—even
were it meaningful to attribute patterns and categories to the various types
of shamanism—distinguishing one as the “genuine type” should not be of
great significance.
The ego (the self) is a psycho-social entity, based on its own name and
body, which makes excluding distinctions between itself and other beings. It
is a mechanism that is formed, maintained, and developed via social interactions (Mead 2005). The ego is a social construction which once formed
comes to be maintained through the mutual interactions between oneself
and others in daily life. However, in a situation which is extreme or critical
140 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
in relational, psychological, or physical terms, the ego‘s structure becomes
difficult to maintain, and the integrity of the ego is shaken. At such a time,
the phenomenon of direct contact and of becoming one with various religious symbols and beings becomes more likely to occur (Berger 1979).
Should that phenomenon be given a name and attributed with meaning
within traditional religion, it (he or she) will be called such things as shaman, shamanic medium (fusha), spirit medium (reibai 霊媒), prayer healer/
exorcist (kitōshi 祈祷師), witch (majo 魔女), or sorcerer (yōjutsushi 妖術師).
Thinking in this way, we may understand shamanism as not so much a religious tradition peculiar to a particular region but rather as one of the universal
religious phenomena which may occur throughout mankind in its entirety.
This is not to say, however, that shamanistic changes of the ego may occur
to all people unqualifiedly and unconditionally. Once the social ego is established it is not, for many people, something which may easily be broken
down. Those with qualities that allow for shamanistic changes of the ego
may perhaps generally number one among dozens of people. Yet many of
the participants in Pentecostal worship speak in tongues and display ecstatic
behavior. We may suppose that this does not occur due to some rare quality
shared by the participants, but is something which in certain situations and
conditions may occur among large numbers of people.
This form and tradition of shamanism, which has spread from Siberia
through Northeast China, the Korean Peninsula, the Japanese archipelago and the islands of Okinawa, to the Indochinese peninsula and even to
Southern India has sometimes been called “Southern Shamanism” (nanpō
shāmanizumu 南方シャーマニズム) in reference to those places (Sakurai
1983). I. M. Lewis (2003) reports that possession-type shamanic phenomena are observed in a variety of contexts, including in the Christian cultural
sphere. The occurrence of glossolalia and possession by the Holy Spirit in
the early Christian Church is written in the Bible (The Acts of the Apostles),
and this is the basis for the doctrines of the Pentecostalist denominations. In
the Catholic Church, however, these phenomena came to be seen as historical events which occurred only within the early church, and as something
which ought not to occur unwarranted in church history after that point.
This stance was taken because, should those people upon whom the Holy
Spirit descended speak freely on all manner of topics, it would not be out of
the question for the rule of the church to be put into disorder. A further rea-
iida takafumi | 141
son was the notion that, should shamanic religions with no standing in the
clerical hierarchy come to wield influence over the people, then there may
even be the risk of the clergy losing their authority.
Christian missionaries have over time rejected shamanism as a longestablished custom of undeveloped societies (mikai shakai 未開社会) antithetical to Christianity, and aimed at its eradication. Even in regions in
which Christianity has been propagated such as wide parts of Asia and Central and South America, however, “indigenous religions” (dochaku shūkyō
土着宗教) have held onto their staying power and in those regions the Christian faith still bears the mark of the indigenous faith. Giving many supporting examples, Heine (1980 [1853]) has argued that within the Christian faith
of various German regions there remain key elements of the pre-Christian
religion of the Germanic peoples. I suppose that among those who in the
medieval period were subjected to religious trials as “witches” there were
perhaps some who displayed shamanistic behavior. This should not be seen
as the survival of a particular religious tradition. It is my hypothesis that we
may, rather, think of the ubiquity of shamanism on the level of an element of
religion universal to mankind present at a foundational stratum.
Here, let us consider that point with the aid of a famous painting:
Raphael’s illustration of “The Transfiguration” of Jesus, held at the Vatican
Museum.This work is based on the Gospel episode of Jesus with three disciples climbing a high mountain, meeting with the past prophets Moses and
Elijah and being transfigured into a shining form, and the following episode
in which Jesus, having descended the mountain with his companions, heals
a boy with epilepsy (Matthew 17: 1–9, Mark 9: 2–8, Luke 9: 28–36). The usual
explanation of this picture is that it depicts the two consecutive scenes one
above the other. The overwhelming impression given by this picture is, nevertheless, that of the unity of the two scenes. Perhaps we should conclude
that Raphael has worked or reworked the scenes so as to express them as a
unified whole.
My own understanding is as follows. The picture of the transfiguration
of Jesus in the upper section is the image of a vision experienced by the
epileptic boy in the lower section, wherein the boy is indicating toward the
upper part with the direction of his arm and gaze. Among the people in the
lower section, none are looking directly at the upper section. The gaze of
the people on the left of the lower section is directed toward the boy. Those
Figure 9. “The Transfiguration” of Jesus, held at the Vatican Museum.
iida takafumi | 143
on the right may be the boy’s family. Already aware of the boy’s epileptic fit,
their gaze is not directly toward the boy, but toward those facing the boy.
The people on the left are stricken with shock and confusion at the boy’s
affliction, and one of the men among them is pointing to the upper section
while addressing the boy with a question: “You want to tell us there is something wondrous happening in the world above, don’t you?”
We may consider this boy to be performing the task of the shaman, and as
the scene depicted one in which through the boy’s vision the transfiguration
of Jesus may be communicated to the people. What is depicted in the lower
section of this painting is not Jesus healing the epileptic boy as related in the
Bible. My understanding is that within the scene of the boy’s fit which takes
place at the foot of the mountain while Jesus is transfigured, the boy’s vision
of the wondrous event on the mountaintop and the communication thereof
is depicted. The interpretation that the transfiguration of Jesus was communicated to the people via the vision of a shamanistic boy may be one which
The Vatican might perhaps consider inappropriate. I would surmise that
this picture has continued to be accepted in the Vatican over time due to the
avoidance of this “shamanistic” interpretation, via the received explanation
that the picture shows two different scenes in its upper and lower sections.
One may also point to similar examples in Japanese culture in which the
shaman “sees” a wondrous event and relates it to the people. Let us give
the example of the Noh play Aoi no Ue 葵上 (Lady Aoi). A shamaness (fujo
or miko 巫女) is called to heal Aoi no Ue, wife of Hikaru Genji, who has
been laid low by a serious illness. As the shamaness sounds the catalpa bow
(azusa yumi あずさ弓), the spirit of Rokujō no Miyasudokoro 六条の御息
女, former lover of Hikaru Genji, appears to the shamaness in a vision. The
spirit tells of its vendetta against Aoi no Ue, and attacks her. A high ranking
monk from Mt. Hiei is called, and he subdues the evil spirit (akuryō) with
prayer. What is of great interest here is that it is only the shamaness who can
see the spirit of Rokujō no Miyasudokoro, the principle role at the center of
the action on stage. The others on stage, even the high ranking monk, cannot see it directly. The presence of the spirit is believed in only through the
words of the shamaness. One might draw a comparison with this situation
and that which is illustrated in Raphael’s “Transfiguration.”
If we designate the shaman as one who fulfills some religious role by making direct contact with the non-ordinary sacred object via changes to the
144 | The Full Gospel Church and Korean Shamanism in Japan
ego such as humans in ordinary states cannot experience, should we not
consider such people to exist in almost every society (though they are often
seen as heretical in the Christian world)?
Even if we were to accept the influence of Korean shamanistic traditions
on the Full Gospel Church in Korea, we need not necessarily understand the
primary factor at work in that influence to be of a peculiarly Korean nature.
We may see it rather as an instantiation of a fundamental religious factor
universal to mankind. Consider cases in which the traditions of shamanism
may not be particularly apparent, such as that of the modern American Pentecostal movements. I would argue that even there we may see the presence
of shamanism, being a fundamental religious factor universal to mankind,
in the foundations of the spread and development of charismatic (Pentecostalist) Christianity.
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[translation by Jon Morris]
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