Korean Pentecostalism and Shamanism

Developing Theological Self-understanding in a Land of Many Spirits


  • Kirsteen Kim Leeds Trinity University




Korea, Pentecostalism, Shamanism, Yonggi Cho, Minjung theology


The background to this article is the controversy caused in 1980s South Korea when some theologians accused Yonggi Cho’s Full Gospel theology of syncretizing “shamanism” with Christianity. In this article, I shall problematize the use of both “shamanism” and “Pentecostalism” in this controversy. Instead, I shall set the episode in the wider context of what might be called Korean traditional religion, which has an animistic cosmology. By pointing to an affinity between Korean Protestantism more generally and Korean traditional religion that goes back at least to the 1907 Korean Revival, I shall argue that the Pentecostal–Charismatic and the liberationist strands of Korean Protestantism together represent a developing understanding of what it means to do Christian theology in the context of animism – or in a land of many spirits.

Author Biography

Kirsteen Kim, Leeds Trinity University

Kirsteen Kim is professor of theology and world Christianity at Leeds Trinity University, UK. Among her monographs are The Holy Spirit in the World (Orbis, 2007) and A History of Korean Christianity (Cambridge, 2014). She is the editor of Mission Studies – journal of the International Association for Mission Studies – and an editor of the Brill book series Theology and Mission in World Christianity.


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How to Cite

Kim, K. (2017). Korean Pentecostalism and Shamanism: Developing Theological Self-understanding in a Land of Many Spirits. PentecoStudies, 16(1), 59–84. https://doi.org/10.1558/ptcs.31639