Increase of Fortunetellers in North Korea

[imText1]Recently in North Korea, with the increase of wide cult of superstition, there has been an increase of fortune tellers who receive money to read one’s face or body parts and do performances of exorcism to chase away ghosts.

Such fortunetellers receive from 100 won to 300 won to read face or body parts, and more than 1000 won to do performances of exorcism. Acupuncture is one of the main things these fortunetellers also do.

Taken to the Labor Detention Camp for Exorcise Performance

Park Sung Soon, a defector residing in Yanji, China was one of the best fortunetellers in 00 town of Hamheung city. She was arrested and taken to a labor detention camp for having conducted an exorcist performance. Having nearly died doing hard labor in the camp, Park defected as soon as she was released and currently resides in outside of the Yanji city.

Park was requested to do a exorcist performance by the town’s people’s leader to chase away the ghost that appears every night in he dream. She was promised to receive 1,000 won. The people’s leader spent 800 won to set the table for the exorcist performance. After the performance, his nightmare did not disappear, so he menaced Park to pay him back 1,800 won in total. When Park did not return the money, the people’s leader reported Park for committing “sin of spreading ghost idealisms and confused people’s mind.” Park was sentenced to five months of labor detention.

“How are the people living in Chosun (North Korea)? There’s no medicine when you are sick, there is no hope for living, but they are just poor, sick, so all you can do is to console the souls. I learned acupuncture and moxibustion from my father before I got married. That is why I received some money for performing acupuncture and when I heard of sad stories, I consoled them for doing exorcist performances in order to encourage them. The people’s leader of the town had a bad reputation but he had a lot of money, so I intentionally approached him. At the end, I was the one who paid the price…”

Put number of foods and coins as much as your age and bow three times to the East

When asked about what happened, Park said, “the age of the town’s leader was 51. I told him to set the table including foods and coins the number matching his age, including pork, rice cake, traditional foods and rice grains. When I went to do the performance, he included corn kernels, candies from China, cigarettes and all sorts things that goes into mouth, 51 of them. I was surprised to see that.”

”I bowed heading toward the east side three times and said, “Grandpa Obangjieun (made up name), please chase away the ghost attached to this person and prevent the death coming to him.” Then I ordered him to pour liquor at the four pillars of the house. I told him put coins of 5 won and 10 won with his finger nails and toe nails covered in a silk clothe and to place it on a street where a lot of people pass by. “The person who take those silk clothes will take away your back luck.” When I told him that, he did what he was told so fast.”

The people’s leader took the silk cloth and placed it on the town street at the sunset the next day. When the sun arose high, people appeared and a young lady took the cloth and ran away. She probably would have thought “today is my luck day.”

Superstition is a Must be Published under the Kim Jong Il Dictatorship

According to Park, there is a fast increase of self-acclaimed fortunetellers in North Korea. The people who did not even have names suddenly come to and say “I met spirit” and tell people that they met “while grandfather and gave me a prophesy last night.”

When such phenomena spread “activities of superstition” became something that must be punished. It is known that Kim Jong Il said, “activities of superstition is an ideological and cultural interference from the imperialists to collapse socialism” and ordered many times to stop such cultural interference from outside, at the border areas and among people. Some of the security officials and patrols wearing civilian clothes pretend that they want to have their faces read and arrest the fortunetellers at the sites and send them to the labor detention camps.

Park told that she still has nightmares about how the security officials called them “American spy” to torture her.

“People of the security department tortured me saying, “tell us why you wanted to spread ghosts among the people.” When I think about it I still shiver. Then they asked, “where did you learn such ideology?” then they accused me, “are you not an American spy?” If you become a spy in North Korea, then that is the end of your family. I endured till the end saying that I am not a spy, then they told me, “since you were arrested searching for ghosts, how about you become a ghost in the prison?” Then I realized that I could not live in North Korea any longer.”

In North Korea, superstitious activities are “must be punished” just as religious activities. That is because if you believe in superstition, you will no believe in “Suryeong.” The North Korean government has been conducting a ideology campaign for decades saying, “Religion is like heroine that rot away the independent mindset of the people and the mass.”

Most of the People Believing in Superstitions are from Cadres

North Korean people say North Korean society was relatively stable until mid 80s. They say at least until them their basic needs were secured. The evidences are free education and free health care. In such environment, the North Korean people did not believe in God who is not in this world, but believed in Kim Il Sung who was a living god.

However, when Kim Il Sung died, the North Korean people strayed away. After the common living routine completely destroyed after the mass starvation due to the food crisis, people stopped believing in Kim Jong Il. Since then, “people with prophesy from god” appeared here and there.

According to Park, there is a difference between the ways cadres and the ordinary people believe in superstition. The fortunetellers individually spread rumors that they are the best fortunetellers in order to seduce cadres. At nights those who visit the “renowned fortunetellers” are mostly the cadres.

At the end of the interview, Park said,

“Even the cadres do not know where to rely on, how would it be like or the ordinary people? They cannot live, but they cannot die, that is the reality of the Chosun people.”