J Korean Med Assoc.  2011 Nov;54(11):1137-1145.

Development of medical professionalism in South Korea

  • 1Department of Plastic Surgery, Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. dsahn@Korea.ac.kr


Consensus on an accurate translation of 'professionalism' for the Korean language has not been reached. Therefore, it is not surprising that medical professionalism as a concept is in a stage of infancy in Korea. The rudimentary nature of collective professionalism in East Asia can be attributed to the historical and sociocultural differences found in Western countries. In this study, the author identifies and describes the facilitating and hindering factors for the development of the concept of collective professionalism in Korean medicine. The collective nature of professionalism could not naturally develop in an authoritarian and hierarchical social environment such as Korea. Furthermore, the recent trend of commercialization and industrialization of medicine as a major business enterprise has also contributed to the medical community's lack of knowledge on this issue. Nevertheless, the global trend reappraisal of professionalism has shed light on theoretical discourse on professionalism in Korean medicine. It is essential for Korea, as one of the developed nations, to explore not only the historical trajectory of the current Japanese-style Western medicine, but also to understand the sociocultural background of the original Western medicine with knowledge of the professionalism that developed subsequently in the West. If Korean medicine is to rise above its colonial roots and guarantee its prosperity and survival as a profession, it has no choice but to put effort into the establishment of medical professionalism.


Collective professionalism; History; Authenticity

MeSH Terms

Developed Countries
Far East
Republic of Korea
Social Environment


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