Korean J Med Hist.  2004 Dec;13(2):315-334.

Encounters of the Korean Body with Traditional and Modern Medical Systems

  • 1Department of Medical Humanities School of Medicine Inje University, Korea.


The body has been an intense focus of attention since the 1990s both in academic and mundane discourse. In philosophy, literature critique, sociology and anthropology the body has been found to have various implications and auras around it. I try to explain the body as the subject of medicine rather philosophically, in terms of nature, culture and phenomena. And then I look into the Korean body of the late 19th century when western biomedicine was first introduced. The Korean body was encountering traditional and modern biomedical medicines in three different spaces i.e., corporal, social and moral. The corporal space was the space into which direct intervention such as surgery was performed. The body was also situated in the social space where imperative social measures such as sanitation and sterilization was imposed. The body also had the moral space, invasion into which evoked great moral upheaval. It was when the government ordered the public to cut the long and bound hair, which had long been the symbol of their identity. Reflecting upon the philosophical perspectives and examining concrete cases of the encounters of the body with the two medical systems, I argue that we should have new perspective that embodies the historical and phenomenological experience of the body.


body; nature; culture; phenomena; corporal space; social space; moral space

MeSH Terms

English Abstract
History, 19th Century
History, 20th Century
History, 21st Century
*Human Body
Medicine, Oriental Traditional/*history
Philosophy, Medical/*history
Western World/*history
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