J Korean Med Assoc.  2018 Feb;61(2):90-95. 10.5124/jkma.2018.61.2.90.

Historical footsteps of Korean women doctors during modernization in Korea

  • 1Korean Medical Women's Association, Seoul, Korea. shy801117@gmail.com
  • 2Dr. Rim's Obstetrics & Gynecology Clinic, Seoul, Korea.
  • 3Seoul Medical Association, Seoul, Korea.
  • 4Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Chungnam National University Hospital, Daejeon, Korea.
  • 5Department of Family Medicine, Myongji Hospital, Goyang, Korea.


Women doctors played an exceptional role during the period of modernization in Korea, making tremendous contributions toward the development of Korean society. The first woman doctor, Esther Park, started a community service program for women in adverse circumstances, but later, expanded it to serve both men and women equally. Esther Park's spirit of service earned her tremendous respect and inspired later generations of women doctors, whose contributions and competences have been acknowledged, and who made steps toward establishing and demanding sexual equality between men and women. In addition, women doctors have contributed to informing people on about important health issues, administering treatment, and preventing of disease. All these considerations demonstrate that during the modernization of Korea, women doctors played a crucial role in the national liberation movement. The most important aspect of this period was that women became role models in many parts of society and pioneered the path toward sexual equality. They became a symbol of responsibility and collective leadership for the following generations, and women doctors, in particular, were notable examples of the spirit of leadership.


History; Korea; Social change; Women; Physician

MeSH Terms

Family Characteristics
Social Change*
Social Welfare


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2. Korean Medical Women's Association. 90 Years of Korean medical women doctors 1986. Seoul: Korean Medical Women's Association;1986.
3. Korean Medical Women's Association. 50 Years of Korean women medical doctors 1956–2005. Seoul: Korean Medical Women's Association;2005.
4. Park JH. Dr. Rosetta Sherwood Hall. Paju: Dasan Books;2015.
5. Won DO, Kim EK. Passionate Korean doctors who fought for independence. Seoul: Foundation for Commemorating Korean Doctors' for Their First Century of Achievements;2017.
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