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Institute of History of Medicine, Yonsei University Ed., Hanŭihak, singminjirŭl alt’a 한의학,식민지 를 앓다 : 식 민지 시기 한의학의 근대화 연구 [The Modernization of Korean Traditional Medicine during the Colonial Period] Seoul: AKANET, 2008. 310 pages. ISBN: 9788957331378 Soyoung Suh Received: 6 December 2009 /Accepted: 6 December 2009 /Published online: 29 June 2010 # National Science Council, Taiwan 2010 The contemporary Korean ambition to globalize traditional medicine is often reported by the country’s leading newspapers. A growing number of Korean doctors of traditional medicine are planning to take the licensing examination in the USA. One who passed the examination, a physician confident in his knowledge and experience, is planning to open a clinic in an American city soon; he proudly declared that Asian medicine in his adoptive country lags behind Korea by more than 20 years. Supporting this trend, another doctor argued that “traditional medicine should be Korea’s leading industry in the future.” This doctor insisted that Korea should overcome competition from China through a comprehensive strategy, then play a leading role in the world market for Asian medicine, which will grow to “$250 billion in ten years, and $5 trilion by 2050.”1 Such ambitions amount to a marked change for a nation whose history of traditional medicine remains unknown outside Korea. In addition to a language barrier, there is a methodological problem. Korean medicine has shared its textual tradition with China for more than a thousand years. The advent of Western medicine in East Asia reframed that tradition. The Japanese colonial regime (1910–1945) reformed institutional settings, prioritizing scientific medicine. Complicated by multiple origins, diverse groups of agents, and contingent opportunities and limitations, the history of traditional medicine in Korea cannot be conveyed simply by describing what Koreans have done in their own territory. Responding to this challenge, The Modernization of Korean Traditional Medicine during the Colonial Period seeks to elaborate the multilayered elements of Korean medicine in transition. As a collection of nine articles by six authors, it aims East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal (2010) 4:363–366 DOI 10.1007/s12280-010-9141-2 1 JoongAng Daily, December 1, 2008; Chosŏn Ilbo, August 31, 2006. S. Suh (*) EASTmedicine Research Center, School of Integrated Health, University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London, W1B2UW, UK e-mail: primarily to highlight how Koreans faced challenges of the modern, which had to be unfolded within the millennium-long convention of indigenous medicine. Mediated through Japanese imperialism, the unprecedented demand for a transformation of medical policy, institutions, and markets profoundly affected the lives and careers of Korean doctors, patients, drug sellers, and intellectuals. Previous scholarship has already examined the colonial regime’s enforced hygienic administration, medical policies, and education—mostly through the framework of the “colonizer and the colonized.” This edited volume, however, offers a more nuanced perspective, examining the intersection, not bifurcation, between colonialism and modernity. Four sections, each of which comprises two or three articles, offer rich narratives built on in-depth analyses of primary sources, images, and a series of statistical surveys carried out by the colonial government. The book’s first section examines the impact of the system of medical licensing imposed by the colonial regime on Korea. The “student of medicine” category— specific to practitioners of traditional medicine—is highlighted, as this was unique to colonial Korea and thereby exemplifies the Japanese colonialist compromise: Western medicine was officially promulgated to replace the outmoded traditional medicine, yet the old system was still in demand and was tolerated. However marginalized, the student of medicine was an indispensable element of the medical system. As Yeo In-sok points out, newly organized associations of traditional medicine practitioners often sought acknowledgement from the Japanese authorities, which they viewed as a means to secure their careers (56). The book’s second section examines Korean responses to the Japanese regulations. Among the groups discussed are doctors of Western medicine, doctors of traditional medicine, and patients. Here Yi God-me offers a vivid portrayal of the popular use of traditional medicine. She confirms that far more patients sought care from the students of medicine than from the newly authorized doctors of Western medicine. Yi’s research depends on statistical surveys carried out...


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pp. 363-366
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Archived 2021
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