Korean Medicine, a Cross between Superstition and Medical Science
Korean Medicine, a Cross between Superstition and Medical Science
  • Lee Woo-yoon
  • 승인 2018.12.11 19:40
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     There is always a clash of views on whether Korean medicine is verifiable or not. Some people agree on its effectiveness, while some denounce it as just one superstition. However, it is hard to say that Korean medicine is not effective at all. ST discusses the pros and cons of Korean medicine to facilitate your understanding of the controversy…………………………Ed.

     Korean medicine is Korea's independent form of medicine, and aims at boosting internal vitality and promoting health based on the ‘Yin-Yang and the Five Elements Theory.’ The said theory divides things into yin and yang energy (negative and positive energy). Korean medicine studies the traditional view of nature and physiology, and the principles of pathology, diagnosis, treatment, and medication. Korean medicine began during the Gojoseon Period. Then, after the Three Kingdoms and Joseon Periods, it had been actively engaged in medical exchanges with neighboring Asian countries, gaining numerous experiences, theories, and systems of treatment. However, as Western medicine spread to Korea in the late Joseon period, Western medicine practices became common, and more and more critics questioned the scientific nature of Oriental medicine.

     First, there is criticism that Oriental medicine is not quantitative. Since Korean medicine has no clear, digitized results, there is a wide gap in the capabilities of Oriental medicine doctors. For this reason, Korean medicine cannot be recognized as an integrated study. When patients exhibiting the same symptoms go to two different Korean medical clinics, they often make different judgments based on their respective theories. Others say Oriental medicine is unreliable because the diagnosis is based on the flow of invisible energy. Second, there is a view that it is not suitable in the modern times because Oriental medicine is an ancient study based on the book, Donguibogam. It is also criticized because its classification is based on the Yin-Yang and the Five ElementsTheory, like a floating cloud. Finally, critics often distrust the administration of drugs. Korean medicine is usually prescribed by a combination of different ingredients. They suspect that the efficacy or the combination of ingredients has not been studied properly.

     However, these criticisms are limited. First, Oriental medicine, which recognizes the body on an organic level, is difficult to determine as non-scientific because quantitative measurement can be tricky. We do not regard unproven mathematics or natural science as unscientific. It is unjust to judge whether or not ancestors' culture and learning are right or wrong with the narrow concept of science (Naturwissenschaftlicher Materialismus). While a new study of Western medicine persists, Korean medicine doctors are likely to be culled if they treat patients based on old knowledge. However, there is no reason to denigrate Oriental medicine as superstition. The Korean medicine community must develop its in-depth and systematic research to be able to present standardized medical concepts without turning a blind eye to criticism. There are also lingering suspicions about the efficacy of the drugs. Contrary to the concerns, all medicines currently used in Oriental medicine clinics are approved by the KFDA (Korea Food and Drug Administration). Furthermore, drugs that have worked for hundreds of years are usually prescribed, and most medicines have been tested in the modern times.

     However, some criticisms on Oriental medicine may be right. It is true that it is lacking in professional guidelines regarding its system and side effects on continued drug use compared to Western medicine. Therefore, Korean medicine doctors must prepare a systematic medical guideline in response to the criticism. Western medicine, on the other hand, must cooperate with the development of Korean medicine to further knowledge and have a positive impact on the health care industry as a whole.

 

Lee Woo-yoon (News Editor)

dndbs14@soongsil.ac.kr


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