Korean J Med Hist.  1993 Dec;2(2):122-125.

The History of Small Pox Prevention in Korea

  • 1Inje Medical School, Pusan, Korea.


The first record of small pox epidemics in Korea claims that the malignant pestilence came from China around the 4th-5th century. Records have been found indicating that this pestilence attacked Korea every few years and that the havoc it caused was beyond description. China was the first country in the orient to use Jenner's vaccine, 10 years after its invention in 1796. The effect of the vaccine had been widely recognized and it was introduced to Korea through Japan. Mr. Sok-Yong Chi, an educator who was much interested in modern medical science, with the cooperation of the public, introduced wide usage of the vaccine in December 1879. Through continued effort with vaccination by 1959 this pestilence had completely disappeared from this country. Before the introduction of vaccinations, the variolation method, which came from China was also practiced here. Its effect was not recognized by the public and the method did not became popular. In addition, a few other methods to prevent this pestilence were introduced. Methods such as inhalation of pox-liquid and insertion of scar-pills(a chinese style of intranasal inoculation) were also practiced. However, in Korea the Turkish style of cross facial skin inoculation which was introduced by Lady Mary Worthey Montage does not seem to have been practiced here. Before the practices of vaccination and variolation were introduced small pox epidemics were considered to be the "coaxing of the pox-devil". People tried to fight against small pox epidemics by setting up wooden guardian poles as a nears of divine protection at bridges at the foot of Mt. Ami. The recent edition of the Korean comprehensive bibliography of place names shows about 90 locations for Mt. Ami which suggests there were a lot of attacks of small pox epidemics all over the country in the past.

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