Korean J Med Hist.  2007 Jun;16(1):21-35.

A History of Korean Medical Association's Emblem : the Caduceus of Asklepios and Hermes

  • 1Department of Preventive Medicine, Hanyang University College of Medicine, Korea.


An emblem represents the identity of an organization. Through the emblem of an organization, they differentiate the members from others and reinforce the membership, homogeneity, and pride. It is also a tool that an organization officially publicizes its mission and values. The symbol designed by Cho, Byungduk was announced as the first emblem of Korean Medical Association(KMA) on October 31st 1947. His design work has the caduceus with the Taeguk sign on the top, the symbol of Korea, and the Red Cross in the background including the name, 'KMA'. Since then, the emblem was revised three times: in 1964, 1973, and 1995. The current symbol is based on the design of the first one. Although Asklepian, the single serpent-entwined staff of Asklepios, is the one known as the symbol of medicine, this emblem takes the caduceus of Hermes who is the patron god of merchants, thieves, and travelers. The mistake comes from the unawareness of the distinction between the caduceus of Asklepios and Hermes. Moreover, it proves that U. S. Army Medical Corps(USAMC) heavily influenced the reconstruction of Korean health care system including KMA. The USAMC has used the symbol of caduceus since 1902. In 1947, the year that the first emblem of KMA was established, Southern part of Korea was governed by the United States Military Government(USMG, 1945-1948). The current emblem of KMA brings up a question whether we should continue to use the symbol that was taken from USMAC in the historical period of USMG governance. Celebrating 100th anniversary year of KMA, KMA needs to re-evaluate the appropriateness of the KMA symbol.


Korean Medical Association(KMA); History; Emblem; Symbol; Asklepios; Caduceus
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