What I See in Korea?

Date: November 1, 2010

School of Post-Baccalaureate Chinese Medicine, College of Chinese Medicine,  Student, Hui-Ju Yang
Editor, General Education Center, Chiara Benham
Editor, School of Chinese Medicine, Assistant Professor Su-Yin Chiang

Before attending the study abroad course I knew only a little about Korean Medicine. I assumed that because Korean Medicine was inherited from Chinese Medicine there would not be many difference amongst the two. After three weeks in Korea, I saw some real features of Korean Medicine instead of my imagination. The following descriptions are about acupuncture, Sasang Medicine, characteristic clinic in Korean Medicine.

Although rooted from the same source, Chinese Medicine especially in Taiwan preserve much more traditional spirit, however Korean Medicine resemble Western biomedicine. Take the acupuncture for example. Korean Medicine doctors would use 20 to 30 needles on one patient, while Chinese Medicine doctors in Taiwan would use less than 10 needles per patient. In Korea acupuncture needles have 10 needles per package, but in Taiwan one package only contain one needle. As a result of the different amounts per package patients and the fact that they accustomed to using entire packages at once, Korean patients are treated with more needles. The depth of acupuncture is very shallow. Korean Medicine doctors may enter the needle into third to half depth compared to Taiwan. They explain whether shallow or deep would get equal effects according to research report. To lighten pain during treatment, they will choose the shallow depth. Korean Medicine rarely practices the supplementation and draining technique that Chinese Medicine applies to acupuncture. Major purpose of acupuncture is to stimulate locally. It can directly perceive through the senses by patient and doctor. If the patient complaint he/she had backache, doctor will select the lumbar points to treat. Through viscera and bowels theory and meridian linkage Taiwan doctor may consider points on the upper or lower limbs cooperated with lumbar points.

Within Korea pharmacopuncture is widely applied as well in China, especially through bee venom. The usage of pharmacopuncture is still illegal in Taiwan. Chinese Medicine is a truly “traditional” medicine in Taiwan. We cannot use any new technique such as CT or MRI in diagnosis and treatment, but Korean Medicine doctors can apply similar instruments called “Korean Medicine inspection”. The tools what we apply are not different from past decades. I believe Chinese Medicine is not old fashion, but population may hold diverse opinions. If the image of Chinese Medicine can be a continuous upgradable and improvable science, population will pay more intention, have more confidence and seek assistance in Chinese Medicine. Whether the application of pharmacopuncture is necessary or not, to know how the status developed of traditional medicine in other countries is essential, not limited in Taiwan. Then we can think what we can do to improve, to convey professional and confidential image, and to promote Chinese Medicine.

Sasang Medicine is a medical theory that is unique to Korean Medicine. It categorizes people into 4 kinds of constitution – Tae-Yang, So-Yang, Tae-Eum, and So-Eum. Constitutions are determined by an individual’s hierarchy and will not change during one’s lifetime. If a patient becomes sick, the doctor will use drugs or acupuncture points according to their constitution. The Sasang Clinic at National Pusan University hospital taught me a valuable example. During Professor Min-Hung Wang’s lessons in Taiwan, he stated that the diagnostic methods of Chinese Medicine cannot be restricted to four examination methods (inspection, listening and smelling, inquiry, and palpation). The Doctors can furthermore diagnose the patient through drugs, acupuncture, even dream. I did not understand how to apply these methods in clinic, but thanks for a patient in the Sasang Clinic I was able to learn. The patient’s major complain was poor digestion so the doctor originally guessed the patient would be a So-Yang constitution. After 2 days of taking medicine the patient’s situation still hadn’t changed. The doctor altered the formula towards the So-Eum constitution and the patient’s condition improved.  I was amazed and learned that the reaction of patient is the key factor in determining the constitution. By using acupuncture the doctor is able to determine the constitution within minutes! I don’t need to worry about some questions which I cannot realize and answer on the instant. The knowledge will echo from anywhere wherever I am, providing that it stay in my mind. It will be solve some time or other.

When visiting and taking lessons from three different local clinics, I have learned power of promotion. Every clinic has the definite position and proceeds according to the position and direction. Then, each clinic will attract different populations. First, Hamsoa pediatrics clinic (Picture 1) is a branch under Hamsoa Medicine Consortium. This clinic is geared towards making children feel comfortable by designing everything inside colorfully and joyfully. The drugs from their pharmaceutical factory are modified to children’s desires to be colorless and sweet and have famous cartoon icons on the package. This assists in making children not afraid of clinics and taking the medicine. Choradang (Picture 2) is a unique clinic located in the countryside and looks like the traditional Korean house. There is no fancy instrument and newfangled decorate, even no air conditioner. But Choradang serves a natural environment without troublesome in the city. You can play tennis, stroll around, or just take a rest in the “guest” room not the sick room. Therefore patients can return to simple mind and have simple life. The last local clinic specialized in tea therapy as a form of medicine by the using diverse tea formulas to be the prescription. The exterior of the clinic looks more like a café instead of a clinic. In Taiwan, I can easily recognize the Chinese Medicine Clinic because of the huge signboard. Why all Chinese Medicine clinics look in the same manner? All of these overthrow my impression about traditional medicine clinic. I can regard the clinic not only the cold consulting room but also a place with distinguishing feature. It only depends on what the image and position of the clinic would convey. If the major population of my patient is children, Homsoa will be a great model for me. If I want to specialize in fashion population, tea therapy maybe a nice reference.

In the short study trip, I had the opportunity to contact several fields in Korean Medicine. My opinion is that Chinese Medicine in Taiwan is much more close to “traditional” Chinese Medicine and that Korean Medicine is more similar to biomedicine. In diagnosis and treatment, Chinese Medicine may consider meridiem or viscera and bowels theory, but Korean Medicine doctors would depend on the inspection results. Sasang Medicine is a unique constitutional medical theory. Korean Medicine has developed the character and concentrated on the promotion. To expand the domain of Chinese Medicine in Taiwan, we can consult Korea’s model and consider what efforts we need to proceed.

(Chinese Version.)


Picture 1: the colorful drug package of Hamsoa
 Picture 2: the “guest” room of Choradang