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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 22(3); 2013 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 2013;22(3): 759-800.
doi: https://doi.org/10.13081/kjmh.2013.22.759
“독학 의학박사”의 자수성가기: 안과의사 공병우(1907-1995)를 통해 살펴 본 일제강점기 의료계의 단면
The First Korean Doctor of Medicine in Ophthalmology: Early Career of Kong Pyung Woo (1907-1995) as an Unusual Example of Medical Profession in Colonial Korea
Tae Ho Kim
Institute of Medical History and Culture, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Korea. salsin@snu.ac.kr
Received: November 7, 2013;  Accepted: December 9, 2013.  Published online: December 31, 2013.
This article traces early career of Kong Pyung Woo, a public figure famous for being the first doctor of medicine in ophthalmology with Korean ethnicity in 1936, for founding and running the oldest and still the most successful private eye clinic in Korea since 1937, and also for his engagement in development of Korean mechanical typewriter since 1949. His case is an illustrative example of how a Korean under the Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945) could build up a career to become a medical doctor, taking full advantage of the chances available. Kong, born in 1907 in a rural province in northwestern Korea, acquired a doctor's license in 1926 by passing the qualifying examination of the Government General in Korea. The qualification test was in itself an outcome of colonial education system, in which the supply of medical doctors by only a few tertiary schools could not meet the demands. After working for a state hospital for one year, Kong volunteered to be a visiting student at Keijo Medical College, to fulfill his dream of "becoming a prominent bacteriologist like Noguchi Hideyo." He was soon officially appointed as a tutor at Department of Ophthalmology, as he had been endorsed by professor Satake Shyuichi for his diligence and earnestness. Satake also encouraged Kong to pursue a doctoral degree and recommended him to Tokumitsu Yoshitomi, a professor in the Department of Pathology at Keijo Imperial University, so that Kong could experience cutting-edge research at the imperial university. Kong reported on his experiments on the pathology of chorioretinitis centralis by 1935. He submitted the reports to Nagoya Imperial University, Japan, as a doctoral thesis, and eventually obtained the degree in 1936, which was the first Korean doctor of medicine in ophthalmology. The doctorate made Kong a public figure and he opened his own private clinic in 1937. The Kong Eye Clinic was the first private eye clinic owned and run by Korean, and soon became popular in Seoul. Kong's fame as a successful practitioner gradually made him express his opinion on various social issues. Kong did not hesitate to utilize his influence to advocate the new "modern" way of living, with special emphasis on speed and efficiency. His engagement in typewriter business since 1949 may also be attributed to his firm belief in the value of speed and efficiency. Although he could not fulfill his dream of being an academic, Kong still remains as an important figure in the history of medicine in modern Korea, not only for his publicity. By closely analyzing Kong's personal story, one can see various aspects of opportunities, personal networks, social norms, and limitations within the colonial setting.
Key Words: Kong Pyung Woo;Kong Eye Clinic;Keijo Medical College;medical education;Colonial Korea;social status of doctors
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