Friday, July 16, 2010

not the best PR for Korean shamanism

From the Moscow Times:

4-Year-Old Boy Dies During Exorcism
15 July 2010
The Moscow Times

A 4-year-old boy sickened with pneumonia died in the Primorye region after being made to participate in an exorcism by a Korean shaman, news reports said Wednesday.

The parents of the child asked shaman So Dyavor, 59, and her husband, Kim Sende, 62, to perform a ritual to exorcise “evil spirits” that they believed were plaguing him, the local news web site reported.

The child stopped breathing during the ritual in the local village of Sergeyevka on Saturday.

No traces of violence were found on the boy's body, and forensic pathologists on Wednesday had not established what killed him.

It remains possible that the boy's pneumonia was the cause of his death, a police spokesman told RIA-Novosti.

The tabloid Tvoi Den identified the boy as Dmitry Kazachuk and said he arrived in Sergeyevka with a delegation of relatives that included his mother, aunt, uncle and grandmother.

The family intended to request help for the grandmother, who has diabetes, but So Dyavor told them that the entire family was jinxed and the boy had put a curse on them, the report said.

Nobody was present in the room when the shaman performed the exorcism on the boy, it said, without commenting on the role of So Dyavor's husband in the incident.

The local branch of the Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case into suspected negligent homicide, which is punishable with up to three years in prison, but has not charged anyone, Interfax said.



Charles said...

Not to defend any of the parties involved, but that article is a bit of a misrepresentation of Korean shamanism. Shamanic rituals in Korea are not like exorcisms in the West. Western exorcisms are focused on the possessed or plagued individual, and thus may involve physical contact with that individual. As you know, Korean shamanic individuals are focused on the spirits themselves, and are designed to placate the spirits rather than expel them from a person or place--these rituals are conciliatory gestures rather than confrontational gestures.

Of course, I am assuming that the ritual was performed the way such rituals would be performed in Korea, and had not been influenced by local shamanic practices. I know nothing about shamanism in the Maritime Territory.

However, the mention of negligent homicide would seem to indicate that the police don't feel that there was any direct violence against the boy. And the only possible targets of a negligent homicide charge would be the parents, not the shaman.

So this is really just a case of parents not taking care of their child. But you're right about it being negative PR for Korean shamanism. What actually happened (probably that the parents were simply negligent) doesn't matter as much as what people might think happened (the exorcism got out of hand, à la The Exorcist, and the shaman killed the child).

Kevin Kim said...

Good points.

Charles said...

Ah, after rereading my comment, I see a goof. In the first paragraph, I write: "As you know, Korean shamanic individuals..."

"Individuals" there should, of course, be "rituals." I have no idea how I got "individuals" from that. My mind works in mysterious ways.

(And I even previewed the comment!)

Kevin Kim said...

One of the ways in which Blogger sucks is that you can't go back and edit your comment. I've hit "send," much to my regret, on many occasions, and on many blogs.

As Mr. Clinton would say: I feel your pain.


Charles said...

Such is life. I will survive.