Koreans - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefe and Practices. Koreans who settled in the Soviet Far East and were later deported to Central Asia came at the end of the Cho-Sun dynasty, with a 500-year history guided by Confucianism. During the czarist period a number of Koreans accepted Orthodox Christianity. The majority of "landless" Koreans, on the other hand, hailed the October Revolution, denouncing Orthodoxy. Most Koreans in Central Asia are atheists.

Korean shamanism is mixed with Confucian and Buddhist beliefs; superstitions are common in rural areas. Among elderly people some elements of shamanism and Confucian traditions of ancestor worship still remain. In celebration of Hwan-Gap, one's 60th birthday, young people bow to their parents, wishing them long life. On Han-Sik day, rites for the ancestors are observed—the whole family visits the tombs of its ancestors to pay them respect. Funeral services were traditionally performed with complex rituals, but now they have been simplified and have lost any religious significance except for respect for the elders. There is an old custom in celebration of a child's first birthday, called dol. At the party the child is seated before a table, on which are displayed objects such as a book, a pair of scissors, thread, or money. The child's fate will be determined by what she or he picks. For example, the child who picks up a book will become a scholar. On the table at a wedding ceremony is placed a cock cooked with a red pepper inserted in its beak as a token of love and decorated with blue or red threads as symbols of long life. Korean cultural traditions and customs are being preserved through the efforts of older Soviet Korean intellectuals, who are concerned about their gradual disappearance in the course of urbanization and modernization.

Arts. Lenin Kichi (the Banner of Lenin), a newspaper in Korean published in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan, is the most important source of information on the changing aspects of Soviet Korean cultural life. The historic Korean Theater, which was formed in Vladivostok in 1932, is being operated in Alma-Ata with performances of such Korean classical plays as Chun Hyang Jun and Shim Chyng Jyn. The founding of the Korean Theater contributed to the wide use of the Korean literary language and to the promotion of Korean traditional culture. Korean-language radio broadcasts are aired three times a week in Alma-Ata. About fifty Soviet Korean writers and poets, some of whom are members of the Soviet Writers' Union, write in Korean and are being printed in Tashkent, Alma-Ata, Kzyl-Orda, and Sakhalin. The Zhazushy publishing house in Alma-Ata published annually one book in Korean: Haibaragy (The Sunflower, 1982), Hangboky Norai (The Song of Happiness, 1983 by Yon Song-Yong), Soom (The Breath, 1985 by Kim Joom), Ssak (The Sprout, 1986 by Kim Kwang Hyun), and a novel by Kim Chul. Many Soviet Korean writers manage to publish their work in the literary section of Lenin Kichi. Anatoly Kim, a third-generation Soviet Korean and the popular author of the novel Squirrel and other works, writes in Russian. He can be characterized as a symbolic representative of successful Soviet Korean descendants after half a century of suffering and endurance as he strives in search of an image of a future human being, an embodiment of human goodness.

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