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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 19(2); 2010 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 2010;19(2): 225-254.
From Influence to Confluence : Positioning the History of Pre-Modern Korean Medicine in East Asia
Soyoung Suh
EAST medicine Research Centre, School of Life Sciences, University of Westminster, UK. soyoungsuh@gmail.com
This article surveys studies focusing on pre-modern Korean medicine, which are both written in English and analyzed primary sources up to 1876. Overall, the history of pre-modern Korean medicine is an unknown filed in Anglophone academia. Yung Sik Kim's, James Palais's, and Carter Ecart's problematization of the nationalist framework of Korean scholarship partially explains the marginality of the field. Addressing these criticisms, this review argues that pre-modern Korean medicine's uneasy task lies in both elaborating Korea's own experience of medicine, while simultaneously avoiding making the "Korean" category itself essential. Korean narratives of premodern medicine need to go beyond the mere territorilalization of Korean medicine against its Chinese, Japanese, or Western counterparts, thereby to tackle the field's own boundary of research objects. The existing scholarship in English responds to this challenge by primarily examining the way in which Korea has shared textual tradition with China. Sirhak scholars' innovation in medicine, visual representation of Tongui bogam, Korean management of epidemics in the eleventh century, and Korean indexing of local botanicals, engages not only native achievements, but also the process of modifying medicine across geographical and political boundaries. More to the point, the emerging native narratives, although written in Korean, are implicitly resonant with those currently present in Anglophone academia. Taking "tension," "intertextuality," and "local traits" as a lens, this article assesses a series of current research in Korea. Aiming to go beyond appeals for a "distinctively" Korean experience of medicine, the future study of Korean pre-modern medicine will further elucidate confluences of different flows, such as "Chinese and Korean," "universal and local," "center and periphery," and "native and foreign," which will eventually articulate a range of Korean techniques of creating a bricolage in medicine.
Key Words: Korean medicine, Sinicization, Tongui bogam, cultural identity
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