Korean J Med Hist.  2008 Jun;17(1):37-55.

Establishment and Activity of PoKuNyoKwan

  • 1Department of History, Ewha Womans' University, Korea.


PoKuNyoKwan was established in 1887 by Meta Howard, a female doctor who was dispatched from Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, an evangelical branch affiliated with U.S. North Methodist Church. PoKuNyoKwan was equipped with dispensaries, waiting rooms, pharmacies, warehouses, operating rooms, and wards for about 30 patients. It used a traditional Korean house, which was renovated for its medical purpose, in Ewha Haktang. Residing in Chung Dong, the medical institution had taken care of women's mental and physical health for about 25 years, until it was merged with East Gate Lillian Harris Memorial Hospital in 1912, and then its dispensary function was abolished in 1913. Medical missionaries(Meta Howard, Rosetta Sherwood, Mary M. Cutler, Emma Ernsberger, Esther K. Pak, Amanda F. Hillman) and nurse missionaries(Ella Lewis, Margaret J. Edmunds, Alta I. Morrison, Naomi A. Anderson), who were professionally trained in the United States, and their helpers, who were trained by those missionaries, managed PoKuNyoKwan. Nurses who were educated in Nurses' Training School, which was also established by PoKuNyoKwan, helped to run the institution as well. At the beginning, they usually had worked as a team of one medical missionary and three helpers. Since its establishment in 1903, however, the helpers began to enter the Nurses' Training School to become professional nurses, and the helpers eventually faded out because of the proliferation of those nurses. PoKuNyoKwan did not only offer medical services but also executed educational and evangelical activities. Medical missionaries struggled to overcome Koreans' ignorance and prejudice against westerners and western medical services, while they took care of their patients at office, for calls, and in hospital dispensaries. Enlightening the public by criticizing Korean traditional medical treatments including fork remedies, acupuncture, and superstitions, they helped modernization of medical systems in Korea. In the area of education, Rosetta Sherwood taught helpers basic medical science to make them regular medical staff members, and Margaret J. Edmunds established the Nurses' Training School in PoKuNyoKwan for the first time in Korea. The nurses who graduated from the school worked at PoKuNyoKwan and some other medical institutions. Evangelical activities included Bible study in the waiting rooms of PoKuNyoKwan and prayer meeting on Sunday for those who were treated in PoKuNyoKwan. The institution in the end worked as a spot for spreading Christianity in Korea. As the first women's hospital, PoKuNyoKwan attempted to educate female doctors. Eventually, it played a role as a cradle to produce Esther K. Pak, who was the first female doctor in Korea. The hospital also ran the first nurse training center. It was, in a real sense, the foundational institution to raise professional practitioner undertaking medical services in Korea. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that PoKuNyoKwan provided sound basis for the development of modern medical services for women in Korea.


PoKuNyoKwan; U.S. North Methodist Church; Woman's Foreign Missionary Society; Rosetta Sherwood; Mary M. Cutler; Nurses' Training School; Margaret J. Edmunds

MeSH Terms

Education, Nursing/history
History, 19th Century
History, 20th Century
Hospitals, Religious/history
Hospitals, Special/*history
Missions and Missionaries/*history
United States
Women's Health Services/*history
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