Shifting agencies through new media: New social statuses for female South Korean shamans

Liora Sarfati*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


South Korean shamans (mansin) increasingly rely on new media for networking and advertising their services. They exert power and intention through their manipulation of the Internet and other mass communication media, while facilitating the expansion of these spiritual activities in South Korea and internationally, despite the lingering stigma. Historically, Korean shamanism (musok) was an orally transmitted tradition that was mastered mainly by illiterate low-ranking women within the neo-Confucian hierarchy. A growth in literacy has sparked a process of change, which has been accelerated by new media and technology. Since the 1970s, the individual agency of mansin in creating positive publicity and a positive social image for themselves has significantly increased. Evidence of this new agency is based on fieldwork among successful mansin in Seoul. Daily and ritual mansin activities, film representation of mansin, Internet home pages, and online portals of musok associations are analyzed to demonstrate how the visual and textual dimensions of the new media work jointly with other semiotic modalities to construct the image and scope of musok in contemporary South Korea and worldwide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-211
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Korean Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016


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