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Observations placeholder

Concept - Korean mystic shamanism – Judgement, Paradise and Hell



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Korean Shamanist Ritual - Symbols and Dramas of Transformation - Daniel Kister

In the course of a Seoul kut, the Emissary from the Ten Kings of the Buddhist World of Darkness comes to snatch away the soul of the deceased to a realm of judgment and punishment for sin where all fears of what lies beyond the grave seem eminently realizable. Frightening though he is, however, the Emissary Spirit may appear as quite a clown.

Mouth grotesquely stuffed with rice cake and arms flailing a long white cloth, he tries in some versions to lasso the soul of the deceased, symbolized, by white papers attached to paper-craft flowers on the table of offerings.

As family members fend him off in mock battle, the episode temporarily shatters sorrow and solemnity with farcical banter and gleeful laughter. The humour helps objectify and heal the grief of the family; but it dissipates serious concern about sin, punishment, or the judgment of the gods.


Korean Shamanism – Muism – Dr Kim Tae-kon

After death, Muism believes in a judgment. There are ten great kings who preside over this procedure in the nether-world. When people die, their souls pass by each of the ten kings (Shiptaewang) in turn, who judge different aspects of their performance during their lifetime, to determine if they have been good or evil. Those who have been judged to have performed well during their lives are sent to paradise and enjoy eternal life. Those who have been judged to have committed evil will fall to hell and there experience everlasting pain [This view of life-after-death obviously has been influence by the coming of Buddhism, which must have brought about many changes.]


Korean Shamanism – Muism – Dr Kim Tae-kon

What kind of a place is it in which immortal souls reside forever? In Muism this place is called "kungnak" (and in the west of Korea it is known as "Soch'on soyokkuk).

Kungnak is described in the phrase of the muga which is sung by the mudang in the ritualistic ceremony that perceives the soul of the deceased going to the next life:

"kungnak is a Utopia where flowers bloom and birds sing during the four seasons, and where there is no death nor sorrow."

The reason that the next life is emphasized in Muism, is based on an effort to send the soul of the deceased comfortably to such a Utopia. The two types of dead souls go to one of two different places: one is kungnak (Utopia) and the other is chiok (Hell).

Once one dies, the soul of the deceased goes to myongbu to be judged on their deeds during life by the Shiptaewang of myongbu. Those who have lived an honourable life will be sent to kungnak, there to be reborn and to live a happy eternal life; while those who have done many bad deeds in life will be sent to chiok (Hell) to be punished.  Muga describes chiok, under different names, including

  • ongmanjiok (Hell of ten-million punishments),
  • k'alsanjiok (hell filled with threatening knives),
  • pulsanjiok (a fiery mountain),
  • toksajiok (filled with poisonous snakes),
  • hanbingjiok (filled with ice),
  • kurongjiok (filled with large snakes),
  • paeamjiok (filled with many snakes),
  • muljiok (suffocatingly filled with water),
  • hilkamjiok (place of total darkness).

In general these are depicted as they are named: a mountain covered with swords pointing out, a mountain burning with flames, a region where it is always extremely cold, or a cave or dark place filled with snakes.


The source of the experience

Korean mystic shamanism

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps