encompasses a variety of indigenous beliefs and practices that have been practiced for thousands of years. In contemporary Korea, shamanism is known as muism and a shaman is known as a mudang (무당, 巫堂).
The role of the mudang, usually a woman, is to act as intercessors between a god or gods and human beings. Women are enlisted by those who want the help of the spirit world. Shamans hold gut, or services, in order to gain good fortune for clients, cure illnesses by exorcising lost spirits that cling to people, or propitiate local or village gods. Such services are also held to guide the spirit of a deceased person to heaven.
Koreans, like other East Asians, have traditionally been eclectic rather than exclusive in their religious commitments. Their religious outlook has not been conditioned by a single, exclusive faith. Today, Buddhists or Christians still turn to the old folk traditions of muism. Even though belief in Korean shamanism is not as widespread as it once was, the practices are kept alive. In the past such shamanistic rites have included as agricultural rites, such as prayers for abundant harvest. With a shift away from agriculture in modern Korea this has largely been lost. Korean shamanism is distinguished by its seeking to solve human problems through a meeting of humanity and the spirits.
This can be seen clearly in the various types of gut (굿) that are still widely observed. Often a woman will become a shaman very reluctantly--after experiencing a severe physical or mental illness that indicates possession by a spirit. Such possession allegedly can be cured only through performance of a gut.