Korean J Med Hist.  1997 Jul;6(1):63-82.

Nursing in the Modern Hospitals in Korea (1885-1910)

  • 1Department of the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.


Modern nursing, which specializes nursing in medicine and has the characteristics of profession, has been constructed during the time of modernization. To see how Korean modern nursing was constructed from the late 19th century to 1910 makes us understand the change that Korean society experienced during that time, and the historical origin of today's Korean nursing. We will see the nursing in the modern hospitals in Korea during the time, specially four governmental hospitals. JeJoongWon, the first Korean modern hospital, 1885-1894, did not specialize nursing. Because of the neo-Confucian ethos by which unrelated men and women were to be completely segregated, JeJoongWon needed medical women. JeJoongWon tried to solve the problem by governmental women-slaves, but failed. American missionary nurse acted as a supervisor of women's department, not as a nurse. Governmental Infectious Disease Hospitals were constructed during the cholera epidemic of Korea in 1895. At first, Korean government planned to hire Korean ordinary men as nurses. In the governmental infectious disease hospitals of Seoul, Western missionary nurses, Western missionaries and Korean ordinary people acted as nurses. KwangJeWon, 1899-1907, began with the characteristics of HwalInSeo, traditional institute for the poor, and incorporated some Western medical techniques. wangJeWon had no specialized nursing. KwangJeWon had special unit for the communicable diseased patients, and the relatives of patients nursed in the unit. KwangJeWon changed to be a Western style hospital, and in 1906, it hired three Japanese nurses. Korean Red Cross Hospital, 1905-1907, specialized nursing, but who were appointed as nursing personnel were Korean men who had never been trained as nurses. DaiHan Hospital, 907-1910, had specialized nursing, qualified nurses and midwives, school for nurses and midwives. DaiHan Hospital showed almost everything of modern nursing. However Japanese had strong influence on DaiHan Hospital, and most of personnels of the hospital were Japanese. So nursing at DaiHan Hospital regarded the need of Japanese more than the need of Koreans. From 1885 to 1910, nursing in Korean governmental hospitals became modern, that is, of specialization and professionalization. This process was not so much different from that of the Western world. During this time, Korea became Japanese colony, and which made Korean modern nursing different from that of the Western world.


Nursing; Modernization; Hospital; Daihan Empire Period
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