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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 6(1); 1997 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 1997;6(1): 49-62.
정약용의 우두법 도입에 미친 천주교 세력의 영향: 하나의 가설
권복규, 황상익, 지제근
The Influence of Korean Catholic Church on the Introduction of Smallpox Vaccination by Cheong Yak-yong : A Hypothesis
Bok Kyu Kwon, Sang Ik Hwang, Je Geun Chi
Department of the History of Medicine and Medical Humanities, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Korea.
The introduction and practice of smallpox(cowpox) vaccination was officially done in 1879 by Chi Seok-young, but we know that already in 1835 Cheong Yak-yong, a great scholar and politician of the late period of Chos?n, got a small pamphlet about cowpox vaccination named New Treatise on the Smallpox Vaccination from Beijing. The second edition of the pamphlet was published in 1828 in Beijing. According to Kim Du Jong and Miki Sakae, Cheong Yak-yong might have got it through Korean Roman Catholic group corresponding with the French Catholic Missionary in Beijing but hided it secretly for the official oppression to the Catholicism. Cheong was a member of the group of young scholars that introduced Catholicism into Korea in 1784 and leaded this movement for a time, but officially betrayed his faith since 1791. So there is little historical documents to support the claim that two conflicting groups of scholars continue to debate. One group argues that Cheong betrayed his faith completely and left the Church since the persecution of Sinyu year(1801), but the other claims that he remained as believer in heart, only to hide his faith for the fear of official oppression. In such a horror of terrible persecution did he really communicate with Catholic group who often went to Beijing? We don't know what really was. Therefore the purpose of this article is to collect the circumstantial evidences for the assumption about 'the introduction of smallpox vaccination by Catholic group' and to evaluate the possibility. From the documents of the Church of that time we can know that a few of Catholic believers actively communicated with missionaries in Beijing for the employment of priests. The agents of Korean Catholic Church visited Beijing almost annually disguised in the official diplomatic visit, where they met French missionaries, discussed their route to Korea, sent letters, and traded of the bibles, holy books and religious materials from 1828(the publication year of the pamphlet) to 1835(the year Cheong Yak-yong died). It was a most active period in the History of Korean Catholic Church. Especially Cheong Ha-sang, nephew of Cheong Yak-yong, was the central figure leading this movement with Yu Jin-kil who was an official translator in a high position and a very erudite man. They often visited Beijing, and where they could have seen the pamphlet about smallpox vaccination and taken it to Cheong secretly. The Church of that time valued medical activity as an effective mean of their mission, which is well illustrated in the letters and documents of the missionary in Korea. Smallpox was a very severe health problem in Korea and the mortality of children was extremely high. The first Korean priest Father Kim asked the missionary in Beijing to send a prescription for smallpox. Cheong Yak-yong had a great interest in medicine, especially in smallpox, wrote some books devoting this subject. He also asserted continual study and introduction of new knowledge, which we can know from the statement that he rewrote MagwaHoetong for seven times. He knew and trusted the Western science and technology as other Korean Roman Catholics. It can not be completely confirmed that he really reacted religious practices after returned from his 18 year exile as the claim of Church, but at least he recorded the history of Korean Catholic Church and was interested in the affairs of it, that known from the notes of Bishop Daveluy who preached gospel in Korea, to be martyred in 1866. He said repeatedly in the notes and letters that Cheong wrote and provided the basic material necessary to construct the history of Korean Catholic Church. On the basis of that information Bishop Daveluy tried to edit the History, but the task was finally accomplished by his successor Father Dallet, who wrote History of Korean Catholic Church(1874). From his statement Cheong hided his records of Korean Catholic Church and showed it to very few number of selected people, small group of friends and relatives. The similar situation is shown in the statement of Yi Kyu-kyoung, a scholar of Silhak school of 19th century, about smallpox vaccination in Korea in mid 19th century. He said Cheong had a book of the vaccination but hided it and showed to some limited people. Cheong also wrote secretly memorial addresses for some of his friends died in Sinyu Persecution. His son Hak-sang was baptized too. From those facts we can assume that Cheong Yak-yong was not totally disconnected from the Church as officially documented but continued works relating with it secretly under the severe persecution. In this small pamphlet the phrases suggesting its own origin from the West were carefully erased, which might have disguised its relation with the Catholicism. Yi Kyu-kyoung also said he had heard about smallpox vaccination from Nam Sang-kyo, who was a sincere catholic. It is suggested that small group of Roman Catholics knew the method but it could not be widely practiced. Because it seemed to be strange and odd to general Korean people and the Catholic believers were generally isolated in the deep mountain valley or so from the general population to escape the persecution. Chos?n government rigorously prohibited the import of foreign(Western) books and materials from China for protecting the country from the invasion of 'Western barbarians' since late 18th century. The ones committing this regulation were destined to get severe punishments. So were the related. Thousands of people were tortured and sentenced to death under the accusation of "believing foreign superstition and betraying his mother country". In such a condition who dared to get foreign materials and expose it except Catholics? We can think other routes. For example Hong Seok-joo, a high ranking official of the Chos?n government, secretly asked a Chinese official to get some books including Western books when he visited Beijing in 1831. He was an editor of MabangTonghwi, medical book about smallpox edited on the base of MagwaHoetong of Cheong. It is possible that he introduced New Treatise on the Smallpox Vaccination to Cheong. He was a relative of Cheong and some of Catholic martyrs, so he might have understanding of Catholicism. If he did, it was also done in the context of Western culture imported by Korean Catholic Church. Considering the above facts we can suggest the higher possibility of the introduction of smallpox vaccination through Catholic groups with Cheong Yak-yong. Of course other routes could have been available, but its possibility seems to be comparatively low.
Key Words: Cheong Yak-yong, Smallpox Vaccination, New Treatise on the Smallpox Vaccination, Korean Catholic Church
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