We are now in our fifth week here in Korea and things are beginning to level out. Classes, mentoring partners, roommates, and the Yonsei Wonju campus are all becoming familiar in this ‘land of the morning calm.’
I’ve taken two trips to Seoul thus far, but trips to Seoul are reserved for weekends that are less busy or at the request of a relative. Seoul is where all the action is (clubbing, shopping districts, monuments and museums, entertainment) so it’s always a blast to travel there on occasion.
I must admit, Wonju is a subdued place with mountains surrounding us on all sides and native flora and fauna readily seen. There are tradeoffs to not being able to go to school in the capital, Seoul, but the purpose from my visit was educational in nature, so I am glad I chose this place. I definitely can afford more time to ponder the life of a university student without all the city distractions here at Yonsei, Wonju campus.
I must tell you about this unusual experience I had the other weekend. As I was exiting Wonju bus terminal from my trip back from Seoul, a man and a woman approached me and asked me for 15 minutes of my time. At first I rejected, but the woman pleaded with me. She said that she was a medium and that she could see that there was dark, negative energy surrounding me. If I were to listen to what she had to say, she could instruct me on how to eliminate this negative force from my life. I decided to hear here out. Mind you, I am somewhat of a superstitious person and believe in the power of shamans to do supernatural things.
She continued to tell me that the energy, both negative and positive, was left for me by my many ancestors and that my ancestors’ spirits were wandering the earth looking for me so that they could find their way to heaven as heaven’s gate had been locked for them and therefore, they could not gain entry.
For my ancestors to locate me and have the gate to heaven unlocked, it would involve an ancestor worship ritual of offerings and the burning of a letter written by the medium upon the palm of my hand which would leave a lasting mark. The ceremony would cost 50,000 won, approximately 50 US dollars, and it would have to happen tonight as my ancestors were near the point of exhaustion from all the suffering they had to endure up until this point while looking for me. Of course, at this moment red flags were going off in my head. I told the woman I would take down her number and call her later after evaluating the situation. She said no and asserted this would have to happen now. I kindly refused and left.
After speaking with several native students about this, I gathered that such an indigenous religion does exist in Korea and that they are always trying to recruit new members. There was as much as a documentary produced about the subject on television. It explains that for those members who get heavily involved, their money is extorted and they are indoctrinated into the ways of the church—a kind of a brainwashing. The advice I received was just to ignore these people and not to get involved. But had the individual performed the ritual for me, what might have happened? Would I be free from the shackles of pain and suffering left for me by my ancestors?
Koreans have an expression called ‘Han’ that is interpreted as the feeling one suffers from having had to endure long periods of oppression and inhumane treatment as the African slaves did in Colonial America and the Jews who were exterminated by Nazi Germany. I suppose all of us in this world have a gripe or concern that weighs on them and at some point it can evolve into the condition of ‘Han’. Is there some unconventional truth that can relieve us humans from this feeling of despair? Can the secret to a happy life be given to us by this indigenous Korean religion? If it can, I’m sure you will hear about it.
Please post your questions or comments in the area below. Until next time, be well. And congratulations to the Aztec MBB team for making it past the first round of the NCAA March Madness tournament. Go Aztecs!