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Korean J Med Hist > Volume 2(1); 1993 > Article
Korean Journal of Medical History 1993;2(1): 38-58.
조선 말기 두창의 유행과 민간의 대응
Smallpox Epidemics and Folk's Responses in the late Chosun Period
Ock Joo Kim
Program in History & Philosophy of Science, Seoul National University, Korea.
Smallpox was one of the most dreadful epidemic diseases in Korea until the early twentieth century. In the Chosun period, smallpox came to prevail more frequently and vigorously, and many people died of the disease. To cope with smallpox, the society of Chosun had various modes of measures, though they were not always effective, which included the government's rituals, medical men's prescriptions, and folk's recipes. Among various responses to smallpox, the recipes of folklore seem to be very interesting. While attitude toward other contagious diseases(e.g., typhoid fever, or malaria) mainly consisted of exorcism, smallpox was believed to be the passage of the smallpox deity, Sonnim(which means guest), through the body of patient for certain time span, and gods of smallpox were treated hospitably. This attitude toward smallpox was deeply rooted in Korean shamanism, and partly in the natural history of the disease. From 1876 smallpox vaccination was reintroduced and practiced. There were, however, a lot of difficulties in practice of vaccination due to distrust and prejudice. And traditional dealings with smallpox, in spite of vaccination, didn't disappear even after the Japanese compulsory occupation.
Key Words: Smallpox, Folklore, God of smallpox
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