The movement to overthrow the worship of gods (Hangul: 미신 타파 운동 misin tapa undong), also described as movement to overthrow superstition, as 미신 misin is also translated after the movement, was a series of waves of demonization and attempted violent uprooting of Korean shamanism and folk religion that took place in the period between the late 19th century and the 1980s. In modern Korean language, misin has the meaning of “illusory” or “false spiritual beliefs”, and implies that gods and ancestors do not exist. This term was adopted from Japanese in the late 19th century, and largely emphasized by Christian missionaries to target Korean indigenous religion.
Waves of misin tapa undong started in the 1890s with the rise of influence of Protestant preachers in Korea, culminating during the New Community Movement of the 20th century, in South Korea. These movements destroyed most of the indigenous cults and shrines of folk religion, which were largely replaced by Christianity.
Protestantism sunk deep roots in Korea in the 1890s, establishing a network of schools and hospitals. Protestant missionaries labeled indigenous religious practices and shamans as “devil worship”. The missionaries led campaigns for the burning of idols, ancestral tablets, shamans’ tools and clothes, and shrines. According to missionary reports, they were “destroyed as were the “books” (magic scrolls) in Ephesus”. The missionaries also circulated stories about shamans who had converted to Christianity becoming themselves advocates of the destruction of the indigenous religion. The exorcistic struggle between a shaman and a Christian was made into a literary motif in Kim Tongni’s colonial-period novella Portrait of a Shaman.
Missionaries found allies among Korean intellectuals in the final years of the Joseon kingdom. Together, they produced The Independent (Tongnip Sinmun), the first newspaper published in Korean language. The newspaper promoted iconoclasm and addressed government officials on the necessity to eradicate the indigenous religion.
In 1896, the police began to arrest shamans, destroy shrines and burn ritual tools. These events were acclaimed by The Independent. At one point, the newspaper even came to criticize Buddhist monks.