Abstract

This article examines how multiple actors participated, both consciously and inadvertently, in commodifying Cheju shamanic tradition during the 2002 World Cup celebrations in South Korea. Approaching this sports event as an opportunity to draw global attention to Cheju and increase tourism on the island, the central and provincial governments sponsored various festivals in which shamanism was frequently appropriated as a cultural commodity. This article focuses on one local festival held on Cheju Island during the international soccer tournament. During the festival, diverse agents—including shamans, local residents, nonstate elites, and representatives from cultural institutions and the national and provincial governments—fashioned Cheju shamanism to foster their imagined global audience’s cultural curiosities. The desire to cultivate Cheju’s prestige mobilized a variety of people. However, in the process of controlling and directing customary rituals for public display in specific performance situations, the participants’ asymmetrical social positions and their different expectations and interests inevitably led to tension. Furthermore, the poor domestic and foreign attendance at festival events and the scant media coverage they received confirmed the nation’s preexisting power differentials, which globalization discourse and practices often mask.

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