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  • 작성자 사진Kim Si-eun

[Tradition] The Aesthetics of Korean Medicine

No. 154 / Oct 18, 2021

In Gojoseon, where the founding myth of Korea is recorded, there is a story of a tiger and a bear who ate wormwood and garlic to reincarnate into humans. This shows that, even in the days when shamanistic medicine was mainstream, herbs were used as a curative agent in Korea. Medicinal herbs at this time were used as remedial treatments, such as for easing pain or tending to injuries.In the period of Joseon, many books on medical specialties were published. Dong-ui Bo-gam, the Korean medical book that details 2000 years of the history of Korean medicine, has been listed on the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Memory of the World Programme. This work further integrated the Korean and Chinese medicine of its time and was influential in oriental medicine.

Another major influence in traditional Korean medicine is the Sasang typology. Lee Je-ma and his book The Principal of Life Preservation in Oriental Medicine systematically theorized the influence of Korean Confucianism with his clinical experiences. He said that, even if patients suffer from the same illness, they need to use different herbal applications, and that the health of the human body is closely related to the state of mind. Traditional Korean medicine involves identifying the physical constitution of each patient and finding customized care and prescriptions accordingly. Lee Je-ma also classified human beings into four main types based on the emotion that dominated their personality—greater yang, lesser yang, greater yeum, and lesser yeum—and developed treatments for each type.

Traditional Korean medicine adopts more natural treatments, such as herbal medicines, acupuncture, and moxibustion, over the artificial drug regimens of antibiotics and painkillers. Herbalism is the study and practice of using plant ingredients for food, medicine, and health. Herbal medicines have various forms. A typical Korean medical technique is acupuncture. Acupuncture is used to withdraw blood or stimulate certain points by inserting small needles at specific pressure points in the body. Pressure points can be stimulated by many methods, ranging from the insertion and removal of very small needles to the use of heat, known as moxibustion. Moxibustion is a technique of heating the body with a stick or cone of burning mugwort.

Traditional medicine in Korea has its own treatments, hospitals, and prescriptions that are comparable to Western medicine. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized traditional Korean medicine, known as hanbang, as a valid form of medicine. Recently, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has been focusing on advancing the cooperative system of Korean-Western medicine in real clinical situations to provide more effective treatments beyond classical hanbang therapy. The aim of this model is to evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness of collaborative Korean medicine and Western medicine treatment in patients with dementia or mild cognitive impairment. As efforts to establish an optimal medical system for patient treatment continue, we may expect a new aspect of medicine in the future.


By Kim Si-eun, AG Reporter

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