Dangun, Founder of Gojoseon(檀君)
Dangun is the founder of Korea’s first kingdom Gojoseon (2333-108 B.C.E.) and is also worshipped as a deity in Korean folk religion.
Earliest records on Dangun appear in 13th century historical texts including Samgungyusa (Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms) and Jewangungi (Songs of Emperors and Kings). Dangun’s status in Korean history was firmly established during Joseon, when his tomb was identified and state-organized rituals were launched to worship him as the national founder. During the Great Han Empire (1897-1910), Dangun was newly recognized as the originator of the Korean people, which was developed into the belief that Koreans are a single people, all descendants of Dangun.
This was not a readily acceptable idea within the feudal class system of the time, but as the kingdom declined in the face of foreign invasion, an ideology was required to bring the people together and Dangun suited this need.
Alongside the attempts to historicize Dangun, the tradition of worshipping a deified version of the king continued as well. The name Dangun can be interpreted as “shaman, ” which signifies that he was the ruler of Gojoseon and at the same time a ritual officiant of the highest authority. This led to his deification as Josang (Ancestral God) and Sansin (Mountain God) of Gojoseon. The tradition of Dangun worship is preserved today in the form of new religions, with over thirty Dangun-related faiths, and in the form of shamanic or folk worship. In folk religion, Dangun was worshipped as a village god, as found in records from the Japanese colonial period of Dangun worship observed as part of village tutelary rituals (dong je) in Yangyang, Gangwon Province, and in Hamyang, Gyeongsang Province. Today, Dangun Harabeoji (Grandfather) and Halmeoni (Grandmother) are enshrined, along with various other gods, at Bugundang (Government Office Shrine) in Dongbinggo-dong, Seoul. Shamanism itself is believed to be a national religious tradition that originated from Dangun, and the various segments of a shamanic ritual, from the Jeseok segment, royal subject segment (byeolseonggeori), general segment (daegeori) and house guardian god segement (seong jogeori) are all related to Dangun. Dangun is also mentioned in the narratives of shamanic songs.