Religion and Beliefs
Our book New Goddesses on Mt. Paektu is a study on origination and development of Paektu-related myths in South and North Korea. We focus on two divinities: the first goddess is Ch’ŏnsŏnnyŏ (天仙女 the Woman of Heaven) from the contemporary legend of GiCheon (氣天 Kichŏn), one of the ki suryŏn (氣 修練) training methods for perfection of mind and body in South Korea; our second goddess is Kim Chŏng-suk, the first wife of Kim Il-sŏng, founder of North Korea. Mountain worship has always been one of the central features of Korean cultural landscape. While specific traditions of mountain culture have been utilized by North Korean leadership for the promotion of state ideology, in South Korea mountain culture has acquired different forms. We argue that contemporary South Korean ki suryŏn practices constitute such manifestation of mountain-related culture.The ancient tradition of mountain gods (sansin 山神) is a source from which the legendary figures of New Goddesses on Mt. Paektu emerge. In our work we consider sources from different fields of knowledge, such as folklore, art, philosophy and religion, politics, literary criticism, political science and environmental science. We apply an interdisciplinary approach to two seemingly incompatible processes of mythmaking of contemporary South and North Korea. The two countries, divided geographically, politically, economically, have for many centuries been one nation and one people, one language and one culture. This commonality has not disappeared into the depth of history, but comes to the cultural surface even in the most difficult of contemporary times.