Korean J Med Hist.  2007 Dec;16(2):161-176.

Traditional Medicine Seen from the Perspective of Western Medicine during the Late 19th and Early 20th Century in Korea

  • 1Department of Medical History, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Korea.


From the 18th century traditional medicine began to be criticised by some of Korean intellectuals who attained the knowledge of Western medicine through the imported books on Western science. In the early 20th century, Western medical doctors in Korea generally had critical attitude toward traditional medicine. Their critical opinions on traditional medicine are typically recognizable in the debate between two camps that occurred in 1930s. However, some exceptional doctors such as Chang Ki-moo and Bang Hap-shin had special interest in traditional medicine despite their education in Western medicine. It was their clinical experience of the limitation of Western medicine which led them to study traditional medicine. Both of them were particularly attracted by the School of Old Prescriptions, which was a school of Japanese traditional medicine. The medical theory of the school was characterized by the simplification of vague and complicated theory of traditional medicine. The school held the theory that all diseases are caused by one poison. Consequently, treatment of all diseases consists in eliminating the poison. He also put forward a theory of one prescription for one disease, and therefore the same remedy should be applied to a disease with the same cause even though it might manifest various symptoms. Given the fact that their theory of diseases is very similar to that of Western medicine, it is understandable that they were attracted to the School of Old Prescriptions. As the doctors trained in Western medicine, they were possibly more familiar with the doctrine of the School of Old Prescriptions than the traditional medicine based on Yin Yang and Five-Phase theory.


Traditional Medicine; Western Medicine; School of Old Prescriptions; Chang Ki-moo; Bang Hap-shin

MeSH Terms

History, 19th Century
History, 20th Century
Medicine, East Asian Traditional/*history
Western World/history
Full Text Links
  • KJMH
export Copy
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Similar articles
Copyright © 2023 by Korean Association of Medical Journal Editors. All rights reserved.     E-mail: koreamed@kamje.or.kr