History of Conflict Between Korean Oriental Medical Science and Western Medical Science
Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
Research Paper, Project Study History Class, November 2008
2.) Research Methodology
II. Introduction of Western Medical Science to Korea
III. Korean Medical Science under Japanese Rule (1910-1945)
1.) First Phase - The Dominance of Western Medical Science
2.) Second Phase - Recovery of Korean Oriental Medical Science
1.) Chang. Kimoo's Column
2.) Chung, Keunyang's Column
3.) Lee, Eulho's Column
4.) Cho, Heonyoung's Column
5.) Significance of the Debate
3.) Third Phase : Re-Appreciation of Korean Oriental Medical Science
IV. The First Conflict Between Korean and Western Medicine Conflict in 1993
2.) The Background
3.) The 1st Conflict
4.) Efforts for Peace
5.) A Brief Discontent
7.) The 2nd Conflict
8.) The Cause of the Conflict
1.) The Luxurification of Oriental Medicine
2.) The Diminishing Role of Pharmacists
9.) Reasons for Difficulties in Making Peace
1.) Different Set of Principles
2.) Economic Reasons
3.) Effete Government Leadership
10.) Reasons for the Oriental Medical Doctors' Success
11.) A Contemplation of the Conflict
V. 6-Year Pharmacy Program Conflict
1.) The Course of the Conflict
2.) Arguments from Each Side
3.) A Contemplation of the Conflict
VI. The Latent Conflict between Korean and Western Medical Sciences
VII. Analysis and Conclusion
1.) Korean Sources
2.) Journal Articles
3.) Newspaper Articles
4.) Web Articles
2.) English Sources
1.) Journal Article
2.) Encyclopedia Article
This paper deals with conflicts between oriental and western medical sciences in Korea, from the prosecution of oriental medical science during Japanese reign to the
6-Year Pharmacy Program Conflict in 2004. On conflicts that are still debated on which side was correct, I gave my opinion at the end of each subchapter.
I have an oriental medical professor for a father and a former western pharmacist for a mother. When I first learned that there had been great conflicts between the
two medical sciences, even during my parents¡¯ marriage, I wondered if there was any conflict between them. I was glad to find out that there was not any, but I became
interested in the issue. The topic is also related to my would-be major in college, health care, and so the opportunity was a boon.
I.2 Research Methodology
For conflicts that occurred before 1997, I did not have access to primary sources, such as newspapers; the biggest search engine in South Korea, Naver, does not offer
newspaper articles before January 1st, 1997. Thus, I resorted to secondary sources, such as books, journal articles, and newspaper columns, that reflected upon the issues
a few years after the conflict happened. The journal articles that were found in Korean Journal of Medical History were especially helpful.
The 6-Year Pharmacy Program Conflict, on the other hand, happened recently (in 2004), so I could search newspaper articles on the issue from the start to the end.
Because the conflict involved three big organizations (oriental doctors, western doctors, and western pharmacists), it was such a big issue that hundreds of newspaper
articles were written every day. Instead of writing on the course of the conflict based on secondary sources, I was able to build the history upon primary sources.
II. Introduction of Western Medical Science to Korea
Western medical science was introduced to Joseon (1) when Shilhak scholars (2), who saw value in pragmatic knowledge,
studied western medical science in Chinese texts. Italian missionary Matteo Ricci's Catholic church in Beijing was visited by Korean envoys. These envoys brought foreign
texts translated into Chinese, and this was the introduction of western medical science into Korea.
Lee, Ik (1681 - 1763) and Lee, Gyu-Kyung (1788 - ?) were interested in the human body¡¯s anatomy and physiological functions written in western medical books.
This was very unusual for its time, for in the Confucian society he lived in, looking inside the human body was considered barbaric; even detectives who solved murder c
ases were not allowed to dissect the bodies. (3) Another Shilhak scholar, Jeong, Yak-yong (1762 - 1836) wrote about the theory of inoculation for smallpox in Jeong's
Inoculation and Comprehensive Treatise on Smallpox (1798). Choi, Hanki (1803 - 1875) compared the western and oriental medical sciences in his book, Discourses
on the Body and the Soul. In addition, there is evidence that some Catholic Shilhak scholars were inoculated for smallpox, but the western medical science remained
theoretical and limited to Shilhak scholars only.
It was after Joseon opened its door to the world in 1876 after signing the Treaty of Ganghwa (4) with Japan that actual medical practices were introduced. Before then,
Jooseon dynasty was very restrictive in importing new ideas and practices. Lee, Ha Eung (1820 - 1898), the father of the Gojong (1852 - 1919), the king of Joseon
at the time, ruled in the place of the king because the king was too young to rule. (5) Lee was very reluctant in having cultural exchanges with foreign countries, while
Gojong was willing to. When Gojong decided to rule the country himself and made his father abdicate, Japan saw its chance and forced Joseon to open. From then,
an influx of industrial products, philosophy, and many other western thoughts and materials poured into Korea. Among them was western medical science.
The intellectuals and the Joseon government were interested in western medical science. This can be attributed to the fact that Horace Newton Allen, an American
Protestant medical missionary revived an important government official, Min, Young Ik, who was badly injured during Gapsin Coup 1884 (6). The oriental medical
doctors were not able to save Min but Allen was able to. This earned the trust and interest of the Joseon dynasty. Envoys were sent to Japan's missions to learn the western public
health system of Japan and its medical practices.
During the Gabo Reform of 1894 (7), western public health system was established. After Joseon dynasty changed its name to Dae-Han Empire, a medical school was
established in 1899. The first Korean western medical doctors graduated from the school in 1902.
III. Korean Medical Science under Japanese Rule (1910-1945)
III.1 The First Phase - Dominance of Western Medical Science
Japan was forced to open its door to a foreign power when U.S. Admiral Matthew C. Perry forced the country to sign the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854
(8). After witnessing the
power of western, modern countries, Japan saw the need to modernize. After the Meiji Restoration of 1876, Japan sought to modernize itself and obliterate any trace
of the past. Oriental medicine, which was regarded unscientific by western medical science, was one victim of the modernization. After the Restoration, oriental medical
science was hard to be seen in Japan, and there was only western medical science in the country.
Japan therefore had no reason to preserve oriental medical science in Joseon; instead, Japan wanted to modernize Joseon and use it as a bridge for overtaking China.
Since Joseon was virtually under the control after the Protectorate Treaty of 1905, Japan could influence Joseon¡¯s policies. It, however, did not move to eradicate
Korean oriental medicine all at once because the Korean people were too unacquainted with western medical science and because there was not any medical resource
to supplant oriental medical science.
Politicians, who were in agreement with the idea that oriental medical science should be abolished, had different opinions regarding the eradication. At the third Conference
for Improving Korea on April 4th, 1906, Lee, Wan-Yong, the Prime Minister of the Korean government at the time, and Ito Hirobumi, the Prime Minister of the Protectorate
Government, discussed the eradication of Korean oriental medicine. Lee thought that Korean oriental medicine was a hindrance in absorbing the western medical science
and thus wanted to get rid of it quickly, while Ito thought that the eradication process should be taken gradually, due to the fact that there was not enough western medical
doctors to supplant the oriental medical doctors. Instead, Ito proposed differentiating western medical doctors from their counterparts in a way that future generations would
choose to become western medical doctors instead. Ito got his way. Until the establishment of Eui Sang Policies that put Korean oriental doctors in an inferior position in 1914,
however, the Korean oriental doctors retained their privileges, such as being free to open their hospitals.
After the Protectorate Treaty of 1905, Korea was virtually under the colonial rule of Japan and not a free country. After going through series of steps to weaken Korea,
Japan finally annexed Korea on August 22nd, 1910. During Japan¡¯s reign, one of the slogans was "We are providing the Koreans with the benefits of the modern medical
service." (9) During its process, Japan defined oriental medicine as old and useless, and therefore declared that it should be abolished. From then, Japan began to
prosecute the oriental medical doctors.
In Kwangjaiwon, the national hospital in Seoul, until 1904 patients were treated by Korean doctors trained in oriental medicine. When the Japanese took over the administration
of Kwangjaiwon, they held an unannounced examination testing the knowledge of the hospital's doctors in western medical science to fire oriental medical doctors. In 1906,
Korean oriental doctors were fired from the Korean government in July, and from the army in September; in effect, there was no government official practicing oriental medicine
In addition, Japanese government granted the oriental medical doctors inferior positions (Eui Sang, Medical Student) to western medical doctors. Even though Japanese
government decided not to take jobs away from doctors practicing Korean oriental medicine all at once because it would not be able to handle the medical crisis when there
were no doctors, the act of being given an inferior position was an insult to the oriental medical doctors.
There had been some efforts to resist Japan's hostile policies. Some people sought to establish a state medical school that solely taught Korean oriental medicine, but it was
unable to be established because Japan exercised much influence on the Korean government and did not want such a school. For instance, Chang, Youngjun, the director of the
Kwangjaiwon hospital (located in Seoul), asked the Ministry of Education to build an oriental medical school in 1906. The petition was rejected, so a few oriental medicine
practitioners, under the open support of Gojong, opened a private school of oriental medicine, called Dongje, in 1906. It was established to promote oriental medical science,
and enjoyed much enthusiasm from students and teachers, but it closed due to financial problems and due to the fact that Gojong abdicated in 1907; the subsidy from the
government stopped after 1907, and after it was revealed that Gojong secretly sent agents to the Second Hague Peace Conference to proclaim that the Eul Sa Treaty (10),
which took away Joseon dynasty's political rights, was invalid, the king was forced to abdicate, because he proved to be a threat to Japanese dominance on Joseon.
More efforts became futile after the annexation of Korea to Japan in 1910. On November 7th, 1915, Society of Korean Oriental Doctors was established to study oriental
medical science, but the government abolished it on April 4th, 1916.
To make matters worse for the oriental medical science, in 1914, with the introduction of Eui Sang Policies, official education and new licenses of Korean oriental doctors
were banned; Korean oriental doctors were left to gradually diminish until there were no oriental medical doctors, as Ito had hoped.
Since there was no input of new Korean oriental doctors, the number of the people in the occupation decreased gradually. While in 1914 the number of oriental doctors was 5827,
the number reduced to 4594, and in 1940 only 3594. (11) The oriental doctors were becoming old, and since there was no new doctors to replenish the population,
the occupation was at the verge of demolition.
While the number of oriental doctors declined, due to the fact that no new oriental medical doctors were granted, the number of Western doctors increased, but to a much
lesser degree. The number was 608 (Koreans 144, Japanese 464) in 1914 and 1717 (Koreans 921, Japanese 796) in 1930. (12) The problem was, there were less than two
Western doctors per ten thousand people. In 1938, 66% of the districts did not have a doctor, and 21% of the districts did not even have Eui Sangs. (13) The Japanese
administration had promised the Koreans better medical service, but it was not living up to its promise.
III.2 The Second Phase : Recovery of Korean Oriental Medical Science
Japan was at war with China from 1937 to 1945 and with the United States from 1937 to 1945. Because of wars, there was not enough western medicine and doctors for all the
population. Since there was a shortage of medicine, the district governments started growing oriental medicinal herbs and establishing research institutes for Korean oriental
medicine to meet the shortage of medical service that people needed. As the circumstances for Korean oriental medicine grew auspicious, people began to re-appreciate the
science that had been debilitated by the Japanese.
In 1934, from February to November, the debate regarding the topic was published in Chosun Ilbo (Daily). There had not been such a topic that generated heated debate; no topic
had been debated for nine months in a daily newspaper. The columns are of chronological order.
III.2.1 Chang, Kimoo's Columns
The debate started with Chang, Kimoo's arguments on Chosun Ilbo. Chang was a graduate of western medical school. Even though he majored in western medical science,
he mainly practiced oriental medicine because he believed that western medical science was not effective in healing the patients. He believed that oriental medical science
could become a well-organized branch of science if it simplified the terms and standardized it. The fact that western medical doctor promoted oriental medical science received
great attention from the public.
III.2.2 Chung, Keunyang's Columns
Chung, Keunyang, a graduate of medical school of Kyeong Seong University (now Seoul National University in Seoul, South Korea), immediately refuted Chang's claims.
He believed in western medical science's superiority because it was based on scientific methods. He did not deny that oriental medical science had practical use, but he maintained
that this use could be acknowledged only after it is tested by scientific methods.
III.2.3 Lee, Eulho's Columns
Lee, Eulho, a graduate from Kyeong Seong School of Pharmacy, joined the debate. Unlike other debaters, he believed that neither science was absolutely better. He believed in
the scientific method of western medical science, but he thought that ideal medical science should treat the patients holistically, like oriental medical science.
III.2.4 Cho, Heonyoung's Columns
The last person to join the debate was Cho Heonyoung, a graduate of Waseda University in Japan. Oddly enough, he majored in English literature, but his columns had power
because he was a politically important person. He criticized western medical science for concentrating too much on treating only the symptoms of the disease and thought that
oriental medicine treated the body as a whole. Also, he thought that western medical science was only for the rich, while oriental medical science was available to the masses.
III.2.5 Significance of the Debates
The debate was significant in some aspects. For one, it was regarded as a movement for finding solutions for poor medical service in Korea by resorting to oriental medicine;
the deficiency of western medical doctors and persecution of oriental medicine were bad enough, and Korea being the base for Japan's waging wars made it even worse.
Another more important aspect of the debate would be that Koreans finally stood up to the dominance of the western civilization. After Korea opened its gates to Japan and
European nations, Koreans were forced to change the way of living to adopt western way of living in the name of modernization. This debate, however, attacked a part of the
western civilization and showed some weaknesses in it; western medical science, although expensive and makes uses of various equipment, did not prove to be perfect, while
oriental medical science was much cheaper and proved its effectiveness.
III.3 The Third Phase : Re-Appreciation of Oriental Medicine
Population increased, but since oriental medical doctors were dying out, the number of medical personnel per population decreased. In addition, the costs of being treated by
western medical doctors were too exorbitant for ordinary citizens. One popular solution to the discrepancy was simple: to use oriental medical science, the branch of medical
science that was widely used among people cheaply before persecution.
The Japanese government therefore began to relieve its prosecution of oriental medical science. Scientific research of herbs and their cultivation in rural areas were encouraged.
The establishment of a special committee on oriental medicine was approved in1931, and Japan expanded the cultivation of herbs nationwide; Japan benefitted economically,
and Korean agricultural economy too ameliorated. Training courses on the uses of herbs were open in 1934. Oriental medical doctors were even employed by government
hospitals. A great improvement, as a few years ago all oriental doctors were fired.
As 2nd Sino-Japanese War began in 1937, lack of medical supplies began to exacerbate, and oriental medicine was used more widely. With in war with China, Japan found it
impossible to import medical herbs, and it needed an efficient way of managing herbs. An investigation on medicinal herbs was conducted to know them and to standardize
the quality. The oriental doctors¡¯ argument that there should be more doctors to make use of oriental medicine, won over. The Japanese government allowed three hundred
people to be educated and trained in oriental medical science. The test to become Eui Sangs, which formerly included only questions on western medical science, began to
include questions on oriental medicine.
In 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, starting the war against the United States. With already in war with China, Japan was even more short of medical supplies. Oriental
medicine was rationed and controlled by the government. The public was encouraged to use oriental medicine, which was more available than western medicine.
IV. The First Conflict Between Korean and Western Medicine Conflict in 1993
The Oriental and Western Medicine Conflict (Han-Yak Conflict in Korean) is a very interesting example of how the media and the public influenced the outcome. This conflict
should be looked upon carefully because the media and the public can be very biased. The western pharmacists were portrayed in the media as selfish, powerful professionals
who tried to take away an important part of oriental medical doctors, people who upheld the Korean culture; western pharmacists stopped fighting against the oriental medical
doctors because they were portrayed too negatively to earn any favor from people. Perhaps the pharmacists were ill-intentioned, but legally, they were not restrained in making
and selling oriental medicine for a couple of decades after 1945. In fact, the western pharmacists had been given the right to sell western medicine without prescriptions from
the time Republic of Korea was established, because early Korea did not have the resources to have a separate dispensary from medical practice. The western pharmacists
may have not understood why they should be excluded from making oriental medicine.
IV.2 The Background
The origin of the Oriental and Western Medicine Conflict can be traced to the 1970s, when the pharmacists saw the increasing demand for oriental medicine and started selling it.
The 1970s was an era of economic boom; people became richer, and therefore could afford to pay attention to their health more. With pharmacists' joining in the competition,
as well as the internal competition due to the increasing number of oriental medical doctors, the oriental medical doctors began to dislike the pharmacists¡¯ entering the market.
To make matters worse, western pharmacists argued that they could lower the prices of oriental medicine through using modern production. This was a threat to the oriental
medical doctors, for pharmacists could take patients away.
In 1969, the Seodaemun district division of the Seoul Pharmaceutical Association began teaching the use of oriental medicine to the pharmacists. This movement became bigger
with the establishment of Association of Korean Pharmacists of Oriental Medicine, which offered regular courses on oriental medicine. The Ministry of Welfare, in 1974,
presented an authentic interpretation of the laws that allowed pharmacists to work with oriental medicine.
To stop the pharmacists, the Association of Korean Oriental Medicine(AKOM) presented a petition to the Ministry of Welfare to stop the pharmacists from selling oriental
medicine. Congress, through Supplementary Resolution of the Revised Version of Pharmacy Laws, tried to end the conflict and proposed a resolution to the government. In
1980, the Policies of Pharmacy Laws stated that "Western pharmacists should keep medicine cabinets other than traditional oriental medicine cabinets and keep them clean."
This law was interpreted differently but favorably by both sides and initially ended the conflict. The oriental medical doctors thought that this clause banned western pharmacists
from keeping and selling oriental medicine. The western pharmacists, on the other hand, interpreted the clause as a mere statement that the pharmacies should be kept clean.
Which side is correct ? The Ministry of Welfare, in 1991, said that the clause was not meant to stop western pharmacists from selling oriental medicine. On the other hand, in
1980, Jee, Dalhyun, the chief of drug administration, said that the clause was to stop western pharmacists from selling oriental medicine. The Ministry of Welfare's answer
proclamation to the AKOM, too, stated that the clause was meant to prevent the citizens from thinking that pharmacies can professionally make and sell oriental medicine.
Apparently, the same ministry had different opinions of the same clause during the ten-year period. But the statement made at the time when the clause was created has more
credibility than the statement made ten years later. It can be thought that the western pharmacists, who had made considerable assimilation into the government and had much
influence, could have influenced the ministry during the period.
IV.3 The 1st Conflict
The peace was shattered when the Ministry of Welfare deleted the clause regarding oriental medicine storages in pharmacies in 1993. The Ministry explained that it was merely
deleting a law that was obsolete, but the oriental medical doctors protested vehemently.
The oriental medical society began the protest. On March 4th, it posted an advertisement on the newspaper to criticize the decision, while on the 12th, 3000 oriental medical doctors
and students had a protest demonstration in front of the Government Complex. On the 22nd, the oriental medical students began refusing classes. Until then, the conflict was
between the government and the oriental medical society; the oriental medical doctors were urging the government to restore the clause.
On 31st of March, the Korean Pharmaceutical Association posted an ad against the Association of Korean Oriental Medicine, changing the direction of the conflict by making
it between the pharmacists and the oriental medical doctors.
The students' strike become problematic, due to the fact that not taking classes meant not going on to the next grade and preventing the new students from entering, a great
inconvenience to the high school seniors. To stop the problem, the government announced that the pharmacy law would be changed so that the respective interests of doctors,
oriental medical doctors, and pharmacists could be protected. It was taken back, however, after strong opposition from the pharmacists.
The situation became favorable for the oriental medical society when the public turned their backs against the pharmacists. Western pharmacists initiated a three-day shutdown
of pharmacists around the country and caused great inconvenience. The press, too, was in favor of the oriental medical doctors.
IV.4 Efforts for Peace
The Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice volunteered to become a middleman for both sides to solve the problem. The Ministry of Welfare said that it would agree to the
resolution reached. After negotiating, the oriental doctors and western pharmacists agreed to the resolution that the oriental medical industry would be separated into oriental
medical doctors and oriental pharmacists and that oriental medicine would be prescribed by oriental medical doctors and made by oriental pharmacists. The law was built so
that only a small portion of western pharmacists would be able to make and sell oriental medicine, but the oriental medical doctors would lose a fair part of their income. Still,
the oriental medical doctors would have oriental pharmacists under them, thereby establishing the oriental medical doctors' status parallel to that of western medical doctors.
This was not the best resolution, but since each side did not want the other to have the sole right to make and sell oriental medicine, the resolution was accepted.
The law¡¯s revised clauses are listed below:
1. That the principles of "separation of dispensary from oriental medical practice" be clarified.
2. That the system of oriental pharmacists be established and that they can make and sell fifty to hundred medicines without prescriptions before the system becomes established
3. That the western pharmacists who had been selling oriental medicine for more than a year be allowed to continue the practice for two years, and that the pharmacists who
pass the examination within the two years of the ratification of the law be allowed to make and sell oriental medicine. In addition, the pharmacy students during the law
ratification who took oriental medicine classes and pass the examination within two years of graduation be allowed to make oriental medicine. (14)
IV.5 A Brief Discontent
Radical western pharmacists resented the resolution and started shutdown of pharmacies in order to nullify the resolution, on September 22nd. The press criticized the
pharmacists, while President Kim, Youngsahm commanded strict suppression of pharmacists who went on strikes. The pharmacists stopped the strike a day later and posted
an apology on the newspaper on September 25th.
On January 7th, 1994, a new Pharmacy Law was proclaimed, and it was to be implemented from July 7th of the same year. To be confirmed as pharmacists who had been
selling oriental medicine, so many pharmacists bought oriental medicine cabinets that the cabinets became a rare item.
IV.7 The 2nd Conflict
The conflict did not end in 1994. The Ministry of Welfare presented the guidebook to making and selling oriental medicine on March 10th, 1995. The Ministry set the limit
of number of medicine that pharmacists can sell at 100, the maximum number in the range of 50~100 that was proposed. This decision was made without the consent of
AKOM. The decision to have the department of oriental medicine under the colleges of pharmacy without the consent of the oriental medicine community exacerbated the
conflict. The oriental medical society insisted that the department of oriental pharmacy be established under the oriental medical college in consideration of the academic
relevance. Oriental medical students around the country again went on a strike in protest.
Meanwhile, the many pharmacists took the oriental medicine examination in order to make the Pharmacy Law obsolete. The Pharmacy Law's clause on the oriental medicine
examination was meant to limit the number of western pharmacists that made oriental medicine, but if many pharmacists passed the test, the Law was to become meaningless.
To aid the cause, Korean Pharmacy Association restarted the oriental medicine classes and pressured the Ministry of Welfare to make the examination be taken twice a year.
In addition, KPA hired pharmacy professors who were likely candidates for making the oriental medicine examinations to teach the oriental medicine examination classes.
The qualifying examination for oriental medicine was the cause of the second Han-Yak Conflict. The government hoped to help the pharmacists who would face economic
hardship from the partial ban on selling oriental medicine. Unfortunately for the government, this examination proved to be a fiasco. The oriental medical doctors who
participated in making the test resigned because the pharmacy professors made inordinately easy questions, so in the end the professors of pharmacy were the only ones
who made the test. (15) Therefore, over 90% of the western pharmacists who took the test passed it. When it was discovered that the second qualifying examination was
flawed but that the government let the pharmacists keep the certificates, oriental medical society protested.
When the problem became large, the Ministry of Welfare tried to appease the oriental medical society by making some policies favorable for oriental medical doctors, on
May 16th. This included setting the oriental medicine examination once a year instead of twice, making a position in the government who is in charge of oriental medicine
at a level equal to chief of a bureau, and setting order in the oriental medicine market.
This did not work, however. Oriental medical students again began to go on a strike, professors began to resign, and oriental medical doctors decided to give up their practices.
The Ministry of Welfare gave the oriental medicine examination anyway, but since too many pharmacists passed the test, it delayed the proclamation of the results and
ordered inspection of the examination.
The inspection revealed that pharmacy professors gave 67% of the questions from specific textbooks, and 13 out of 21 professors worked as lecturers for KPA. (16) But
the Ministry proclaimed that the results of the examination were valid. Oriental medical professors went into long-term demonstrations at Meongdoong Catholic Cathedral,
and the students continued their demonstrations.
The government proclaimed a plan for promoting oriental medicine on August 30th, establishing a department of oriental medicine policies within the Ministry of Welfare by
November 23rd . Oriental medical students who had been refusing classes returned on March 11th, 1997, and this ended the Han-Yak Conflict.
IV.8 The Cause of the Conflict
The Han-Yak Conflict was begun when the pharmacists began selling oriental medicine at pharmacies. The main motive behind the pharmacists was financial. When there
was lack of medical facilities, the prestige they held was comparable to that of doctors. This image began to break, however, when the number of doctors increased, the
number of general hospitals began to grow, and universal healthcare was implemented. The pharmacists were losing ground, and they needed a breakthrough.
The pharmacists were desperate, but so were the oriental medical doctors, even though the citizens may have found it confusing that the two prestigious professionals fought
for survival. The oriental medicine market was becoming full; every year, 700 oriental medical doctors gain new licenses. In addition, the oriental medical doctors did not
want outsiders to steal their customers.
IV.8.1 The Luxurification of Oriental Medicine
The breakthrough for the western pharmacists was to sell oriental medicine. During the 1950s, oriental medical science was marginal because the western medical science,
which was introduced during the early 20th century, was at the center of the medical industry. However, when economy boomed during the 1970s and 1980s and the middle
class, who can afford to pay for medical service, grew, things changed.
The growing buying power of the middle class brought about the increase in buying oriental medicine. Oriental medicine, contrary to western medical science, was used to
supplement western medical science. (17) Therefore, the growth of middle class, who could afford to pay additional price for their health, was a boon for oriental medicine.
Increase in demand raised the prices of oriental medicine. In addition, since the oriental medicine market was becoming full, the oriental medical doctors resorted to selling
expensive medicine to make money. Therefore, oriental medicine became a luxury.
IV.8.2 The Diminishing Role of Pharmacists
There were too many pharmacists, but the role of pharmacist was too parochial. The role was too provincial because the South Korean medical industry rather imported raw
materials and produced than invented new medicine. There was limited prospect in R&D. Therefore, pharmacists had limited choice in working in the pharmaceutical industry.
It also coincided with the growth of western doctors and hospitals. In 1975, there were only 37 hospitals that could sit more than 80 people, but in 1980, there were 82, and in
1995, 266. (18) More people could afford to use such hospitals, so the pharmacists¡¯ role was comparably diminished. To make matters worse, the western medical doctors'
skills improved dramatically, and the pharmacists, who once served as first-level practitioners, could not compete with doctors. As going to hospital became common, patients
visited pharmacists less often.
IV.9 Reasons for Difficulties in Making Peace
The main theme of the conflict was the question on the ability of pharmacists to make oriental medicine successfully. Some people say the question may have been solved easily;
pharmacists could have just taken the exam and ace it. However it was not as simple as that.
IV.9.1 Different Sets of Principles
Oriental medical doctors assert that the theories of oriental medical science come from experience and not just from knowledge. Oriental medical doctors gain expertise as they
treat patients according to their personal characteristics. Therefore, the same disease might be treated differently depending on the patients. Thus, western pharmacists cannot
sell oriental medicine. In addition, western and oriental medical sciences look at the human body and diseases differently. The oriental medical science understands the body
holistically and tries to restore the balance in the body. (19) On the other hand, western medical science believes that diseases and human bodies are in a cause-and-effect
relationship and therefore try to find the source of the disease and eradicate it. The oriental medical doctors think that the basic theories are fundamentally different and
therefore the western pharmacists should not make oriental medicine.
On the other hand, pharmacists insisted that oriental medicine could be chemically analyzed and be used like western medicine according to rules similar to western medical
science. (20) By doing this, pharmacists argued that they could do the job more scientifically and precisely than oriental medical doctors. Therefore, they concluded that they
could sell oriental medicine successfully. In addition, because they have been selling western medicine without prescriptions for decades, they did not understand that they
should be excluded from selling oriental medicine.
In addition, the two sides¡¯ vision of an ideal medical system differently. The oriental medical doctors wanted to be on equal terms with the western medical doctors. As western
medical doctors had pharmacists under them, oriental medical doctors wanted to have oriental pharmacists, making two separate medical systems. Pharmacists thought differently.
They thought that western and oriental medical doctors could each prescribe medicine and the pharmacists alone could sell medicine. This is why the pharmacists did not like the
resolution, because it did not give them the right to sell oriental medicine and lose it to the oriental pharmacists.
IV.9.2 Economic Reasons
Financial reasons made it also very difficult to reconcile. To explain, there is a big difference between oriental and western medical doctors. Western medical doctors have
sophisticated equipment to treat their patients. The role of medicine in western medical science is limited. On the other hand, oriental medical doctors' skills are pretty much
what predecessors had used hundreds of years ago. The equipment did not develop much, so the doctors depend on the medicine to treat the patients. Much of the profit comes
from oriental medicine. If the pharmacists sell oriental medicine, it is basically taking away the job of oriental medical doctors.
The western pharmacists, too, were suffering from economic hardships. There were too many western pharmacists, but the number of patients was limited. More and more
patients were now going to doctors instead of pharmacists, and this made it more difficult for western pharmacists.
IV.9.3 Effete Government Leadership
The government was another reason why the conflict was hard to reconcile. The government had not been paying close attention to oriental medical society and did not have
proper divisions in the bureaucracy that could listen to what the society wanted.
IV.10 Reasons for the Oriental Medical Doctors' Success
The oriental medical doctors, even though they had to give the western pharmacists the right to make and sell some oriental medicine, in effect won the battle. While the
western pharmacists had quite a few ex-pharmacist government officials on their side and have been one of the biggest lobbying powers in South Korea, the oriental
medical doctors were relatively weak. The oriental medical doctors were outnumbered, too. There had been fewer than ten thousand oriental medical doctors while
there had been more than forty thousand western pharmacists. The oriental medical doctors might have lost the battle completely and concede the right to make all
oriental medicine to western pharmacists, but it is not how it turned out.
The first reason is that people recognized oriental medicine not merely as a part of the medical industry but as a cultural heritage that preserved the Koreans' spirit.
This argument arose when it was shown that the western pharmacists and oriental medical doctors had fundamentally different set of ideas and the conflict did not improve.
The oriental medical doctors instead emphasized the Korean tradition of oriental medicine. It was effective because many Koreans think highly of preserving national traditions.
Positive relationship with the media also helped.
The earlier conflict between the massagers and acupuncturists helped structure the system in a way that facilitated effective response. (21) The oriental medical doctors
reorganize the administrative officers in order to react more effectively in battles against other professionals. Younger generations began to participate in leadership positions.
This had an effect in communication among the members. The early 1990s was a time when computer networks began to be established. The network among oriental medical
doctors made quick action possible. Since there were many young oriental medical doctors, the network was very effective.
IV.11 Contemplation on the Conflict
Which side is correct? The pharmacists claim that oriental medicine is medicine and thus claim the right to make and sell oriental medicine. If they pass the examination,
they argue, they feel they should be given the right. In addition, they feel that oriental medicine can be analyzed scientifically like western medicine, making possible that
western pharmacists can make and sell oriental medicine.
On the other hand, oriental medical doctors say that oriental medicine is fundamentally different from western medical science and that western pharmacists need much
more education to sell oriental medicine. In addition, as patients with the same illness may need different treatment, oriental medical doctors claim that people who treat
patients should be given the right to decide which medicine to give. Oriental medical doctors think that western pharmacists do not understand each patient's needs
and thus should be precluded from making oriental medicine. In addition, since western pharmacists had regarded oriental medicine as quasi-science, not in the league with
"scientific" western medicine, it is hypocrisy that western pharmacists begin to sell oriental medicine for the sake of financial needs.
Each side's arguments make sense to a degree. But if western pharmacists really cared about oriental medicine, they should have been making it before Korea was liberated.
However, they started making oriental medicine after it became very lucrative. One can infer that their motive was mainly financial. The oriental medical doctors' arguments
also make sense. Doctors, from time to time, prescribe different medications to patients who have the same disease, because circumstances differ. This kind of experience
can only be acquired by seeing patients many times, but western pharmacists usually cannot get the same experience. In addition, four years is not enough for people to
acquire expertise in both western and oriental medicine, but at the time, western pharmacists only got four years of education. In conclusion, the oriental medical doctors
should have been, and were, the victors of the fight.
V. The 6-Year Pharmacy Program Conflict
V.1 The Course of the Conflict
The Ministry of Welfare proclaimed its plans for changing the undergraduate pharmacy program from 4 years to 6 years on June 7th, 2004; the 6-year pharmacy program was
planned to start from 2007. The oriental medical doctors believed that western pharmacists started this in order to gain more expertise and thereby earn the people's trust in
making and selling oriental medicine. Therefore, the Association of Korean Oriental Medicine (AKOM) formed a committee to set its course to stop the western pharmacists
and the Ministry. The western medical doctors sided with the oriental medical doctors because they feared that western pharmacists would try and encroach on their sphere:
diagnosing, prescribing, and treating the patients. The western pharmacists asserted that the change in the program was not to infringe upon others but to provide better service
for consumers by training clinical pharmacists. They also said that 6-year program was the trend around the world, mentioning that even DPRK had a 6-year pharmacy program.
In addition, the pharmacists argued that the new government promised to make it happen.
On June 11th, the western pharmacy students went on a strike in order to show their determination in the cause. On June 15th, the oriental medical doctors declared that they
would have a mass meeting around the country on the 23rd and continue the protest by putting advertisements on the media. The Ministry of Welfare tried to assure the oriental
medical doctors that they would change the law so that the western pharmacists would not be able to make and sell oriental medicine instead of the oriental pharmacists, but the
oriental medical doctors said that they wanted to see a distinct law that would assure the promise. Some oriental medical doctors declared that the current pharmacy law was
inadequate in distinguishing the functions of western pharmacists and oriental medical doctors and thus wanted a major change in the law so that there would be no confusion.
Meanwhile, on June 16th, the oriental pharmacists rose up. They wanted a 6-year program if the western pharmacists were to have it because they wanted the same, professional
status. The students went on a strike and held demonstrations.
On the 18th, the oriental medical students decided on an indefinite strike. Luckily, it was nearing the end of the semester, so the students were not expecting to postpone education
for a year by remaining behind. They also demanded a meeting with the Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare.
The situation suddenly changed when on June 20th, the president of Korean Pharmaceutical Won, Heemok, the president of AKOM Ahn, Jaekyu, and the vice secretary of the
Ministry of Welfare Kang, Yoonku met and decided on a resolution that would initiate the 6-year pharmacy program. They agreed that oriental medicine would be made only
by the oriental pharmacists, but other clauses were yet to be decided upon. The rights the oriental medical doctors had protested for, such as prohibiting the western pharmacists
from buying oriental medicine, deleting a clause in the pharmacy law that allowed the western pharmacists to make oriental medicine, and separating the department of oriental
medicine from the college of western pharmacy were not agreed upon by the three. In addition, the oriental medical students were greatly dissatisfied with the decision.
Some oriental medical doctors, who were dissatisfied with the decision, remarked that the resolution did not reflect the interests of the oriental medical doctors and was so vague
that it could be interpreted differently by so many. Some of them wanted impeachment of the president of president Ahn, so AKOM decided to hold a meeting to discuss the issue.
But on the 22nd, the oriental medical doctors decided to wait and see and postpone protests.
Oriental medical students thought different, however. On June 30th, the oriental medical students' organization announced that it did not understand AKOM's stance on the issue.
On July 5th, ten oriental medical students, who had been protesting in front of the Government Complex, tried to enter it and clashed with the police, demanding a meeting with the
Secretary of the Ministry of Welfare.
The oriental medical society continued to be in turmoil. Conspiracy theories regarding Ahn's decision brew. Since Ahn had been fervently fighting the 6-Year Pharmacy Program
before the agreement, the oriental medical doctors and students thought that something was behind Ahn's decision.
On July 7th, the Ministry of Education proclaimed that it would settle specific plans and details for the pharmacy program in 2005. The plan was therefore postponed to be initiated
in 2009 instead of 2007. Prime Minister Lee also commanded a reappraisal of the 6-Year pharmacy plan. The oriental medical doctors, seeing this as a chance to completely
overthrow the plan, pressured the government to repeal it.
On July 29th, the Ministry of Welfare formed a policy committee consisting of education, pharmacy, and other professionals in the field to set plans to evaluate the pharmacy program.
The situation seemed to settle; the oriental medical students, who had been on a strike, decided to come back to school on August 18th.
The conflict began to be solved. The policy committee gave its opinions from August to November, 2004. In December 2004, a mid report was made on the policy. On May 6th, 2005,
the final report was submitted. On August 19th, 2005, the final plan for the pharmacy program was proclaimed.
V.2 Arguments from Each Side
The main actors in the conflict were the western pharmacists and oriental medical doctors. Western medical doctors too were active participants, but since it is a bit off-topic for
this paper, they are not discussed a lot.
The western pharmacists, in transforming the undergraduate pharmacy program from 4-years to 6-years, argued that the change will be instrumental in improving the quality of
medicine, developing new medicine, and prevent certain medical accidents because students can learn more and become more professional. Referring to the United States, the
pharmacists insisted that four years is not enough to learn pharmaceutical knowledge as well as learning to deal with patients in pharmacies. In addition, western pharmacists
say that the current western pharmacy education is based on what was taught fifty years ago. Since then, they argue, pharmaceutical science expanded greatly while the length
of education stagnated. In effect, pharmacists argued that 6-year program will improve expertise and give more satisfaction to consumers.
Oriental medical doctors did not think so, however. The oriental medical doctors thought that the pharmacists, who had been rebuffed by the oriental medical doctors for "inexpertise"
in oriental medicine during the Han-Yak Conflict, try to solve the problem by transforming the undergraduate pharmacy program. By completing two more years of education,
western pharmacists will then be exempt from criticisms that they are not fit to make and sell oriental medicine. They also worry that lengthening the western pharmacy education
will increase the costs of education and put a burden on many people; it is estimated that it will cost anywhere from 325000000 won to 925000000 won. (22)
V.3 A Contemplation on the Conflict
On August 23rd, 2004, Oriental Medicine Pharmacists Association posted an advertisement. The phrases included, "Let's Stay Together to Keep the Rights for Oriental Medicine
for Western Pharmacists", "Oriental Medicine is the Center of Managing Western Pharmacies", and even violent phrases like "Let's Demolish Oriental Medicine
Storages from Oriental Medical Clinics." Because the association is consisted of western pharmacists, people criticized that this organization revealed the true intention of the
western pharmacists in changing the undergraduate pharmacy program.
Although one organization cannot represent the whole group of western pharmacists, it is true that quite a few western pharmacists had oriental medicine on their minds. Still, it is
wrong to say that western pharmacists initiated the 6-year pharmacy program because they wanted to override the effects of Han-Yak Conflict eleven years ago. The idea of a
6-year pharmacy program was conceived during the 1970s when oriental medicine was not a big issue. It would be wrong to regard all western pharmacists as greedy when some
right-minded western pharmacists might have really thought of the plan in order to provide better service for consumers.
VI. The Latent Conflict between Korean and Western Medical Sciences
The conflict between the two sides arises from utilizing each other's knowledge and equipment. Some of the doctors trained in Western medical science now use techniques that
are similar to acupuncture in order to treat their patients, while doctors trained in Korean medical science use equipment that were usually used by their counterparts. Oriental
medical doctors, who had been criticized for being unscientific, are trying to solve the problem by utilizing modern equipment from western medical science but are facing opposition
from western medical doctors.
The western medical doctors use a new technique called intramuscular stimulation, which utilizes a metal stick in stimulating the muscles to relax the muscles and reduce the pain.
The oriental medical doctors claim that it is a mere copy of acupuncture, that the western doctors are encroaching upon the oriental medicine's territory. The western medical doctors
argue that they are following Chan Gunn, a western doctor who developed the method as an alternative way of treating pains. The oriental medical doctors' counterargument is that
Gunn pointed to acupuncture as the origin of his treatment.
There has not been any overt conflict regarding the issue. Oriental and western medical doctors are criticizing each other, there has not been any clash. However, it is certain that the
trouble will be big once the two starts fighting each other. The oriental medical doctors, who were once weak during the Han-Yak Conflict, now grew to be a huge power (although
still smaller than western medical doctors), and the western medical doctors have always been a big power. When conflict arises between two sides, the size and intensity of the
conflict will be unprecedented. To avoid inconveniences that may arise from the conflict, the government should step in before the conflict proves to be a bigger version of Han-Yak
or 6-Year Pharmacy Program conflicts.
VII. Analysis and Conclusion
The first conflict between oriental and western medical sciences was one-sided. Western medical science dominated Korea, while oriental medical science had to suffer from the
public policies' penchant for western medical science. Western medical science criticized oriental medical science for its lack in scientific organization, and oriental medicine had
to suffer and could not say anything, for the colonizing Japanese government was too powerful and had been supporting western medical science.
The second and third conflicts, which occurred several decades later, proved to be different. The oriental medical doctors were able to put up a successful fight against western
medical science. The government was not in favor of each side, so the conflicts were purely between the two medical sciences. In addition, the Han-Yak and 6-Year Pharmacy
conflicts were different in characteristic. The conflict during the Japanese reign was not motivated by economic reasons but rather ideological ones. On the other hand, the two
recent conflicts happened because of financial means. The third impending conflict, too, will occur because of economic reasons because the medical market is already
oversaturated with pharmacists and doctors.
I am of the opinion that both sides, oriental and western, should stop their conflicts and concentrate on the well-being of their patients rather than their profits. They seem to be
ignorant of their priority and instead concentrate on vanquishing the other side and making more profit. The doctors¡¯ and pharmacists¡¯ priority is to treat the patients and save their
lives, not to expand their areas of domination.
Expanding the idea of doctors' priority, I think that the concepts of oriental and western medical sciences be coalesced into one. I understand that both branches of medical science
are effective in helping the sick and that they have both advantages and disadvantages. For instance, western medical science is very useful in reviving patients in emergency rooms,
precisely diagnosing and predicting the course of the diseases, and measuring the disease and treatment quantatively. But western medical science is limited in treating chronic illnesses.
Oriental medical science, on the other hand, has been useful in treating chronic illnesses. For instance, scaly tetter is a chronic illness that western medical science find hard to cure,
but oriental medical science has proven to be effective in treating it. By incorporating the advantages, the patients will be able to receive better service. If a single doctor, instead of
two, can treat the patients with two branches of medical science, the patients will not have to visit many doctors and still receive the still treatment.
Still, history has shown that the cultures of the native countries have succumbed to the invasion of the western culture. Oriental medical science has died out in Japan, and it has
been modified by western medical science in China. South Korea is the only country that still has functioning oriental medical systems. It would be a great loss to have oriental
medicine assimilated into western medical science.
Treating patients in both western and oriental medical sciences is the ideal method for patients, but the oriental medical science may suffer if integrated with western medical science.
Oriental medical doctors are a big power, but oriental pharmacists are too small and young to be their partners compared to western pharmacists. Western pharmacists and medical
doctors' power and influence will surpass that of the oriental pharmacists and medical doctors. Therefore, it would be best to give time for oriental pharmacists so that they can grow
to match western pharmacists. When balance between the two branches of medical science is reached, then it would be safe to integrate them for the patients' sake.
(1) Wikipedia : Joseon Dynasty
(2) Wikipedia : Silhak
(3) People who believed in Confucianism thought that a dead body should be buried unharmed.
(4) Wikipedia : Treaty of Ganghwa
(5) Note that Gong is not his real name but rather a name given to the king after he passed away. His real name was Lee Jin.
(6) Wikipedia : Gapsin Coup
(7) Wikipedia : Gabo Reform
(8) Wikipedia : Convention of Kanagawa
(9) Shin 2006
(10) Encyber : Eul Sa Treaty
(11) Shin 2003 for Korea Journal of Medical History
(12) Shin 2004
(13) Shin 2004
(14) Lee 2000 pp.212-213
(15) Lee 2000 p.215
(16) Lee 2000 p.216
(17) While western medical science can be used to revive patients in desperate times through surgeries, surgery are not common in oriental medical
science. Instead, oriental medical science is usually used for ameliorating the overall health of the patients, such as stamina.
(18) Cho 2000 p.264
(19) Kim 2004 p.93
(20) Cho 2000 p.269
(21) Kim 2004 p.106
(22) KPhA 2004
IX.2 English Language Sources
IX.2.1 Journal Article
Lee, Jong Chan, and Chang Duk Kee. "The Rise of Western Medicine and the Decline of Traditional Medicine in Korea, 1876-1910." Korean Journal of Medical History (1996).
16 May 2008 .
IX.2.2 Encyclopedia Articles
(1) Article : Traditional Korean medicine, from
Wikipedia . 8 Apr 2008, 17:10 UTC. 17 Apr 2008
(2) Article : Meiji Restoration, from Wikipedia
18 Sep 2008, 15:55 UTC. 3 Oct 2008 .
(3) Article : Gabo Reform, from Wikipedia, 26 Apr 2008, 00:07 UTC.
7 Nov 2008 .
(4) Article : Gapsin Coup, from Wikipedia
8 Jul 2008, 07:40 UTC. 7 Nov 2008 .
(5) Article : Joseon Dynasty, from Wikipedia
5 Nov 2008, 08:15 UTC. 7 Nov 2008 .
(6) Article : Silhak, from Wikipedia. 27 Jun 2008, 13:56 UTC. 7 Nov 2008
(7) Article : Treaty of Ganghwa, from?Wikipedia. 6 Sep 2008, 00:18 UTC. 7 Nov 2008
(8) Article : Convention of Kanagawa, from?Wikipedia. 6 Sep 2008, 00:18 UTC. 7 Nov 2008