Recent cases of “Korean exorcism” in the U.S. and other countries suggest that women in Korean-American churches are more likely to be the “willing victims” of such deliverance practices, in some ways paralleling their involvement in similar shamanic practices in Korea, writes Kyung Hong in the International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society (Vol. 5, Issue 3). Hong examines cases of recent exorcisms in the Korean-American and other Korean diaspora societies, which resulted in the death of women victims in most cases. These exorcisms took place in Korean charismatic churches but in the media were often connected to folk “shamanism,” which also practices a version of exorcism. Hong notes that these exorcisms, called “anchal gido,” or healing and cleansing rituals, are often held in “gidowan,” which are a form of retreat center located in remote areas frequently visited by Korean Christians for prayer and revival meetings. They are often places that also accommodate the physically disabled, mentally disturbed, the homeless and the abandoned elderly.
There have been reported cases of abuse in the gidowan in Korea, but Hong argues that the anchal gido rituals are their own kind of abuse, since they often involve forms of physical violence against those deemed to be possessed. “The intensity of the healing prayers for cleansing demonic spirits…also often accompanies intense physical contact in the belief that physical assaults intimidate and assist to expel demons. Thus, the healing ritual may well become so intense as to involve physical striking, beating, poling, or choking the possessed individual, though each action is viewed by the healers as attacking the demon, not the person,” she writes. There is a similarity between Korean exorcism and shamanic rituals, but the latter often lacks the violence and is more about appeasing unfriendly nature or ancestral spirits than outright spiritual warfare. Hong finds that women who are seen as demon possessed are often viewed as disobedient to their husbands and are subject to shame and condemnation, even in their deaths. She argues that the subordination of women common in Korean Protestant churches legitimizes such practices, though she acknowledges that women ministers have also conducted these exorcisms.
(The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, http://ijn.cgpublisher.com/)