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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 8(2); 1999 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 1999;8(2): 127-136.
한국의 공중보건 1세기
One hundred years' history of public health activities in Korea
K H Meng
Department of Preventive Medicine, Catholic University College of Medicine, Korea.
In a dictionary of epidemiology, recently edited by John Last, public health was defined as one of the efforts organized by society to protest, promote, and restore the peoples' health. It is the combination of sciences, skills, and beliefs that is directed to the maintenance and improvement of the health of all the people through collective or social action. In most countries, the efforts to protect, promote, and restore the peoples' health are mostly organized by the government, and therefore, the history of public health in the respective countries is closely related to the state of government and its administrative structures. In this article, the history of public health activities in Korea during the last 100 years has been reviewed in four consecutive time periods from the end of Li Dynasty till now. The public health during the first some 50 years from 1897 when the Dae Han Empire began to 1945 when the Japanese colonial period ended can be characterized by enforcement of personal and environmental hygiene by the police. In those days, communicable disease control was the main purpose of such public health measures. Second phase of Korean public health from 1945 to the time of military coup in 1961 is characterized by enactment of various public health laws and the related public health practices. Major health related laws are communicable disease control law, environmental hygiene act, industrial safety and health law, and so on. Important public health practice in this time period was family planning. Third phase of public health history from 1962 to 1992 can be recorded as the time when the actual public health practices were fully developed. Because of well established health center activities throughout the country, basic public health services were provided together with primary medical care services to the people in rural areas. Since 1993, two civilian governments have been trying to change the concept of their health administration from providing public health services to improve welfare of the whole population. Emphasis was put on health promotion, and for this, the government enacted a health promotion law. Based on this law, even special funds for various health promotion activities are now available by taxing on tobacco sales.
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