Prophets of piffle -Fortune-tellers are harmless, until politicians start listening to them
AT A time of political crisis in South Korea, spare a thought for all the upstanding shamans, sorcerers, soothsayers, diviners, astrologers, numerologists, necromancers and fortune-tellers around Asia who risk being tarred by events. For years the president, Park Geun-hye, appears to have been in thrall to a family friend and informal adviser, Choi Soon-sil, in ways that have scandalised South Koreans and brought Ms Park’s presidency close to collapse. Ms Choi is said to have ruled on everything from Ms Park’s cabinet appointments, to policy towards North Korea, to the display of magic silk purses at her presidential inauguration. She is now under arrest on suspicion of influence-peddling and embezzlement. The South Korean press describes her as a shaman, a figure with Rasputin-like powers of control.
The seeds of Ms Choi’s influence go back to 1974, when a North Korean sympathiser murdered Ms Park’s mother while trying to assassinate her father, the dictator Park Chung-hee. Soon afterwards Ms Choi’s father, Choi Tae-min, the founder of a cult called the Church of Eternal Life, convinced the young Ms Park that he could contact her dead mother. Later American diplomatic reports say the late Choi controlled Ms Park “body and soul” during her formative years. Some control seems to have passed to his daughter. Yet that is not what professional, modern shamanism is all about, insists the head of Shaman Korea, a trade body. “Calling Choi Soon-sil a shaman is a disgrace,” he thunders.