Conservation experience: Invite the gods and goddesses for protection, Juju Island, South Korea


Near the Gureombi village on the South-Korean island of Jeju, Shamans pray to the ocean for abundance and prosperity. They perform the Chogamje ceremony where they invite the 18.000 Gods and Goddesses from the ocean into the sacred place. Before the gods enter the site it must first be purified. For thousands of years these religious and spiritual rituals have provided prosperity for the villagers.

“(…) After seating them, the Shimbang Shaman prays to them for the well being of the villagers and for saving Ganjeong.”


Photo: Bas Verschuuren, 2012

– Hong Sunyoung, expert and researcher

The Gureombi’s sacred sites, and with it the traditional rituals, are directly threatened by the construction of a navy base near Gangjeong village. Development of the base conflicts with the original lifestyle of the villagers and the fear is that presence of the base will permanently change the unique lifestyle of the villagers. This is both a danger for the environment and for the socio-cultural life of the villagers as the two are closely connected.

A difficulty in protecting  Gureombi sacred site, and many others, is that they are not registered and often only visited by the older generation. Destroying these holy natural sites will bring an end to an age old lifestyle and might destroy it forever.  Safe Jeju now is part of an international protest campaign aiming to stop development of the navy base. For more information about protests or threats to the site see the  ‘Save Jeju now’ website or read the online  case study that was developed after the SNS initiative visited the site and recorded the traditional ceremony in 2012 as part of a group of international sacred natural sites custodians.


By: Rianne Doller

Comment on this post