SEOUL, KOREA ― King Sejong invented the Korean alphabet, known as Hangeul because the Korean is different from Chinese. Heo Jun wrote an Oriental medical book since Koreans differ from Chinese in physicality and in region. Today, Hangeul receives positive evaluations from people around the world thanks to its scientific nature. Since the Korean alphabet was created on the basis of five consonants and three vowels, everyone may learn to read and write the Hangeul with ease. "Donguibogam," a medical encyclopedia written by Heo Jun was registered as an UNESCO world heritage in 2009. The book is still regarded as one of the most valuable traditional cultural heritages of Korea.
Traditional Korean medicine is part of Oriental medicine which is recognized worldwide. Chinese tourists always remember to buy traditional Korean medicines before leaving Korea. Among the most popular medicines are, “Woohwang Cheongsimwon” and "Goryeo ginsengs." These medicines were once given as diplomatic gifts to imperial families of China, so at the time ordinary Chinese people were not able to obtain Woohwang Cheongsimwon and ginsengs. Nowadays, such traditional Korean drugs are now immensely popular among the Chinese.
Some people are continuing this Korean medical tradition. They are students of oriental medicine at Korean medicine colleges. Korea currently has 11 oriental medicine colleges and 1 graduate school; the most prestigious being the College of Oriental Medicine at the Department of Medical History- Kyung-Hee University. Dr. Kim Namil, Dean of the College of the Oriental Medicine Department of Medical History at Kyung-Hee University is a man of great erudition.
Dean Kim’s has written many books concerning Korean traditional medicine. Two of his these books are “Intellectuals of Joseon who Affected Traditional Korean Medicine,” and “Leading Figures of Modern Traditional Korean Medicine.” The first book mentions topics less-known to traditional Korean medicine doctors who studied medical theories on the basis of Confucian philosophies. The other book written discusses Korean doctors in the traditional Korean medical world in the period from the Japanese colonial period until present time.
Dean Kim insists that we should globalize traditional Korean medicine through education of the general public about the benefits of using Korean traditional medicine.
The Korea IT Times interviewed Dean Kim about the education of traditional Korean medicine which became systematic during the Japanese colonial rule period. He also discussed the history of the College of Oriental Medicine Department of Medical History at Kyung-HeeUniversity
First Traditional Korean Medical Education Institute in Korea
On April 27, 1965, a ceremony to celebrate the union of Kyung-Hee University and Dongyang Medical College was held with the participation of school employees, faculty members and distinguished guests from the traditional Korean medical world. The ceremony was quite meaningful in that it laid the foundation for the development of Kyung-Hee University as a university which takes the lead in traditional Korean medicine.
Afterwards, Kyung-hee University admitted the first freshmen to the Department of Traditional Korean Medicine. The Department of Traditional Korean Medicine at Kyung-hee University began its term by introducing a six-year-long system where western and Korean traditional medicines were taught.
In fact, 60 percent of Korean traditional medicine and 40 percent of western medicine were included in the curriculum of the students at the time. Hence, the first department of Korean traditional medicine was born at Kyung-Hee University.The Department of Oriental Medicine at Kyung-Hee University was the first Traditional Korean Medical department established at a University after liberating from Japan.
Dongyang Medical Society was formed in 1947 and carried out academic activities by publishing a medical journal called “the Oriental Medicine” and educational activities. In 1945, traditional Korean medical students in Gyeonggi Province donated the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Student Hall to the Association to Support the Establishment of Dongyang Medical School.
This school was promoted to the Seoul Traditional Korean Medical College in 1951. By 1957, three traditional Korean medical doctors became Korea’s first three modern professors of traditional Korean medicine at a college of traditional Korean medicine. Dongyang Medical College suffered some financial difficulties and shut down at the beginning of 1960, so Kyunghee University took over the college and established the Department of Traditional Korean Medicine.
Afterward, Kyung-Hee University opened a traditional Korean medical hospital affiliated to the Kyung-Hee Medical Center in 1971. At present, the College of Korean Traditional Medicine is operating at three traditional Korean medical hospitals including Gangdong Traditional Medical Hospital of Kyung-Hee University. The Department of Traditional Korean Medicine of Kyung-Hee University was promoted to the College of Oriental Medicine in 1976. There were four graduates who received a PhD in traditional Korean medicine – Drs. Kang Hyo-sin, Ku Bon-hong, Choi Yong-tae and Yu Keun-cheol.
The college succeeded in drug-free acupunctural anesthesia for the first time in the world in 1972. The college launched a research project on applying the combination of both traditional Korean and western medicine. That is to say, the college opened the Traditional Korean and Western Medicine Department in 1973. The next year, the college established a center for stroke patients.
Education of Traditional Korean Medicine Continues Despite Japanese Invasion
The birth of the Department of Traditional Korean Medicine of Kyung-Hee University and the development of traditional Korean medicine were attributed to traditional Korean medical scholars who kept traditional Korean medicine afloat during the Japanese colonial period. This time proved to be a dark period of traditional Korean medicine as Japan colonized Korea (Joseon at that time). As the Joseon Kingdom fell, the Japanese colonial government implemented policies to annihilate the culture of Joseon.
In 1905, Japan robbed the Korean Empire of its diplomatic right through the Eulsa Treaty and established the Japanese Colonial Government. Japanese Colonial Government forced out traditional Korean medical doctors from Gwangjewon University a year later. These doctors were professors at the national medical institute, but were forced to take a western medicine-oriented test, and only use western medicines. Until the liberation of Korea in 1945, traditional Korean medicine underwent a 30-year dark period. Japan ridded Korea of its medicine and obtained western medicines from the Netherlands, in an effort to eliminate the country’s traditional medicine.
Traditional Korean medical scholars operated Dongje Medical School beginning in 1904 with the help of King Gojong. King Gojong was dethroned after his envoy to Hague failed to accomplish his mission and the Dongje Medical School was closed. A medical program forcibly established by the Japanese Colonial Government in 1914 lowered the status of traditional Korean medicine by supporting western medicine. In spite of the oppression of the Japanese Colonial Government, traditional Korean medical scholars did everything they could to continue to use traditional Korean medicine and pass it on to the next generation. They formed a coalition and agreed to systemize traditional Korean medicine and continued to teach young students while avoiding the oppression of the Japanese Colonial Government. Small medical training schools began to open across the country with a strong pride from the teachers and students. Small medical training schools were predecessors of modern traditional Korean medical colleges and offered a three-year-course. They dealt mainly with traditional Korean medicine but also included western medicine.
In 1915, 770 traditional Korean medical scholars held a pan-national medical students rally in the plaza of Changdeok Palace with an industrial exposition for change. At that time, they formed the Korea Medical Doctors Association. In 1921, they established the Dongseo Medical Research Society, an organization to promote friendship among traditional Korean medical doctors and academic activities. They promoted the revival of traditional Korean medicine by steadily carrying out academic activities despite the oppression of the Japanese Colonial Government.
Even during the Korean War, they put forth efforts to establish a traditional Korean medical doctor system. In January 1951 during the Korean War period, traditional Korean medical doctors such as Kim Yeong-hun and Bang Ju-hyeok had the main session of the temporary National Assembly in Busan pass a draft on a traditional Korean medical doctor system by undergoing active negotiations with lawmakers. With the implementation of the traditional Korean medical doctor system, the Traditional Korean Medical Association and the Traditional Korean Medicine Society officially inaugurated and since then, have carried out their activities.
Teaching Advanced Alternative Medicine
Traditional Korean medical doctors strongly believe that medicine is a benevolent art. In the popular Korean TV series, Ryu Eui-tae, a mentor of Heo Jun and author of Dongeui Bogam emphasized, “Become a doctor who can care about a person’s mind.” Dean Kim is also teaching students while saying, “Become a doctor who respects the value of a human being,” and “Become a good-natured person before becoming a doctor.” Dean Kim asks his students to remind themselves that they are people with a strong sense of duty to succeed and develop a Korean tradition. Dean Kim added that he did not forget to help his students understand that traditional Korean medicine is a Korean tradition and at the same time, modern medicine.
“It is not proper to regard traditional Korean medicine as old and unscientific traditional medicine,” Dean Kim said. “We study not only traditional Korean medicine but also traditional Korean medicine as modern learning.” Generally people think that traditional Korean medicine is outdated learning where people learn traditional Chinese medical prescriptions, how to check pulses and acupuncture practices.
In the 1970s, the College of Oriental Medicine Department of Medical History at Kyung-Hee University already applied traditional Korean medicine to treating chronic diseases, and cancers with excellent results. “The goal of our college is to use traditional medicine to keep modern people healthy. Traditional Korean medicine has absorbed the strengths of western medicine for one hundred years. The Department of Traditional Korean Medicine at Kyung-Hee University teaches students traditional Korean medicine and western medicine at a ratio of 60% to 40%, the higher percentage being the traditional Korean medicine curriculum. The study includes basic science, medical English, Chinese letters and traditional Korean medical philosophies.
Dean Kim defined this new traditional Korean medicine as “new medicine.” Dean Kim picked Jasaeng Hospital, a hernia-specialized hospital in LA, the medical treatment system of theKyung-Hee Medical Center and Woohwang Cheongsimhwan as success cases of the new medicine. The Kyung-Hee Medical Center introduced a hospitalization system for the first time in traditional Korean medicine.
“Western and traditional Korean medicine are based on different epistemology,” Dean Kim said. “Traditional Korean medicine attaches greater importance to experiences and the base of traditional Korean medical recognition is the human body.” Dean Kim explained that traditional Korean medical doctors use recognition through physical contacts. Therefore there exist traditional Korean medical areas which were processed into words. Traditional Korean medicine has a delicate system that systemizes perceptional experiences.
This fact is based on the unique education system in the traditional Korean medical world, interactions with patients, the principle of yin and yang, the five elements and thoughts. Traditional Korean medical books such as Dongeui Bogam and Dongui Susebowon are valuable materials which support this fact. The College of Traditional Korean Medicine at Kyung-hHee University prepared a curriculum on the basis of Dongeui Bogam for the education of traditional Korean medicine. On the other hand, the college prepares a wide array of programs to give students opportunities to share active traditional Korean doctors by inviting active traditional Korean doctors.
The College of Traditional Korean Medicine at Kyung-Hee University is positioning itself as the world’s top traditional Korean medical education institution. The Kyung-Hee Medical Center, an affiliated hospital of the college has five branches of traditional Korean medical hospitals and offers the finest traditional Korean medical services. The college is matchless in sectors such as palsy, cancers and geriatric diseases. The college is striving for the globalization of traditional Korean medicine.
Since its establishment, the college has promoted the development of traditional Korean medicine through exchanges and joint research with overseas traditional medical schools. Since the establishment of the Kyung-hee International Traditional Korean Medical Education Institute, the college has accepted more and more foreign students and conducted more exchanges with overseas traditional medical schools. The Department of Traditional Korean Medicine at Kyung-Hee University has ties with Meiji University, the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, China Medical University in Taiwan, Hong Kong Baptist University, and the RMIT University Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University of Australia. In addition, the college is putting spurs to globalize traditional Korean medicine by supporting overseas training programs of its students in Asian countries such as China.
Korea IT Times and Kyung-Hee University (the College of Oriental Medicine Department) run a Year Series of articles on “Traditional Korean Medicine Sparks Global Interest.”
July 2011 — Opening article in 12 parts- The World Loves Oriental Medicine. Introduction of Traditional Korean Medicine by Interviewing Kim Namil, Dean of College of Oriental Medicine, Kyung-Hee University (Published)
April 2012 — Outstanding Specialist, Dr. Park Sang-dong, Board President of Dongseo Oriental Hospital
May 2012 — Donguibogam 400th anniversary project in 2013/ International Traditional Medicine Expo 2013 (co-hosted by Gyeongsangnam-do & Sancheong-gun from September 10 to October 19, 2013)
June 2012 — Outstanding Specialist – Dr. Yu Bong-ha, President of Oriental Hospital Kyung-Hee University and Presidential Practitioner of Oriental Medicine.
July 2012 — An Interview with the president of Association of Korean Oriental Medicine.