North Korea: The Many Religions of an Atheist Country
Religions of North Korea: Shamanism, Christianity, Juche, Chondoism and Buddhism in the most isolated country of the World
With the exception of war or pandemic times, most countries in the World are somehow open to foreigners.
One famous exception is the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), so secluded that many prefer riding their fantasies over learning something about it.
Getting a clue on the country is indeed no easy task.
When it comes to religion, we face the fact that North Korea gives no official data on it, so all info is based on estimates.
North Korean Constitution states that citizens enjoy freedom of religion, as well as “freedom to oppose religion”.
In fact, there is evidence of past and present religious persecutions and most people are atheists, but the religious palette is surprisingly colorful.
At this point, a reminder is needed: Korea was a unified country since the late 14th Century to 1948.
This means Koreans enjoyed a standardized language, homogeneous culture and similar religious beliefs for centuries.
Unsurprisingly, the division between a Communist North and a Capitalist South brought very rapid historical upheavals.
Two facts will give you an idea about how fast were such changes:
1. Before 1940s, around 25–30% of Pyongyang population was Christian, earning it the nickname “Jerusalem of the East“.
2. Even Kim Il Sung’s mother (✝ 1932) was a Presbyterian deaconess and his father was a devout Christian too.
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SHAMANISM: Ancient Way of the Spirits
Korean Shamanism(신교, 神教) is based on the belief in Gods, Ancestors and Spirits and the power of the Shamans to communicate with them.
It has been around since prehistory and despite being persecuted for centuries, it’s still alive in the country.
Some estimates even consider Shamanism the single most popular religion in North Korea.
However, Shamanism has no centralized structure or formal membership, so it is almost impossible to confirm this.
Yet we do know that most North Korean shamans are kangshinmu (not hereditary) and that many fled to the South to avoid persecution.
Some affirm that shamanism in North Korea is ineradicable and that people (including top elites) consult Shamans before making important decisions.
Shamanism is not even mentioned in the official page of DPR Korea, so I guess the only way to get more info is to go there and get it yourself.