In the Republic of Korea, the oldest record of traditional medicine, known as oriental medicine, dates to the Gochosun period, about 4332 years ago. Oriental medicine flourished until 1894 when the Gab-O Reform abolished the law of oriental medicine, leading to its decline in favour of allopathic medicine. In 1945, oriental medicine was revitalised and is very popular today.
Intended to represent oriental medical doctors and foster legal order, the Korean Oriental Medical Association (KOMA) (263) was organized on 16 December 1952 to promote health through the development of oriental medical science and by facilitating cooperation among its members. KOMA has 16 branch offices established under the National Medical Treatment Law in 1952. These are located in both cities and provinces.
The establishment of the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine (264) was initiated on 24 March 1994 by National Act 4758. The Institute opened on 10 October 1994. It employs over 30 persons, and in 2000, it had a budget of 5047 million won. Among other things, the Institute focuses on clinical trials of oriental medicine, research on the standardization and development of oriental medicines, investigation and analysis of acupuncture, and research to assist in the development of the oriental medicine industry. Plans for expanding the Institute are expected to make it a major research institute for oriental medicine and a worldwide centre for research and study of traditional and complementary/alternative medicine.
There are 107 oriental medical hospitals and 6590 oriental medical clinics. There are 9914 oriental medical doctors (264). Public health doctors of oriental medicine work at 69 provincial Government health centres. Oriental medicine doctors have worked for the Surgeon General in the army since 1989. There are about 133 acupuncturists, 41 moxibustion practitioners, and 76 acupuncture/moxibustion clinics. Approximately 30 chiropractors are practising in the Republic of Korea (45). The Korean Oriental Medical Association has about 10 000 members.
According to national medical insurance records, 13 907 000 persons received oriental medical treatment in 1998. This represents 4.8% of the total number of people receiving medical treatment.
The Civil Medical Treatment Law, brought into force in 1951, established a dual system of medical treatment comprised of oriental and allopathic medicine. In 1969, the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare published a notification permitting pharmaceutical companies to produce herbal preparations whose formula is described in the 11 classic books on traditional Korean and Chinese medicine, without first having to submit clinical or toxicological data (219).
The Medical Affairs Division under the Medical Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Welfare was in charge of the administrative management of oriental medical treatment until 1993, when the Oriental Medicine Division was established. In November 1996, this Division was expanded into the Oriental Medicine Bureau (264), a major bureau of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, with two of its own divisions. The Oriental Medicine Bureau works on short-term and long-term policy planning, research on oriental medical systems, and the administration of oriental medicine. One project is a programme of cooperation with China involving collaborative scientific research and the exchange of researchers and research information. Another project, intended to promote oriental medicine abroad, offers free medical examinations and treatment by oriental medicine in the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region Member States. Future plans for the Bureau emphasize the importance of quality control in manufacturing and distributing oriental medicines, particularly through licensing. Research will also be carried out to index materials and develop methods of chemical analysis of oriental medicines.
In 1993, an advisory council on oriental medical policy was established in the Ministry of Health and Welfare (264). Oriental medical doctors are allowed to perform medical acts, including acupuncture and moxibustion. However, they do not have the right to order X-rays and pathological tests. To get an oriental medical doctor's licence, one must graduate from an oriental medical college and pass the national examination for oriental medical doctors. Under the Medical Treatment Act (265), acupuncture can only be practised by persons holding a certificate of qualification. The policy of cultivating acupuncturists was abolished in 1962 and since then only oriental medicine doctors can practise acupuncture.
Under the Pharmacist Law, which became effective on 1 July 1994, pharmacists must pass the national oriental medicine exam in order to practise oriental medicine (264).
There is no chiropractic law.
Education and training
The education system for oriental medicine in Korea was established in 1964. Oriental medical studies (263) consist of a preparatory two-year programme and a regular four-year programme covering the basic subjects of oriental and allopathic medicine. In 1994, there were 3922 students majoring in oriental medical sciences enrolled in six-year programmes at 11 colleges throughout the country. Every graduate school has a Master's and Doctorate programme in oriental medical sciences. In each case there is an affiliated oriental medicine hospital providing clinical education. In 1996, the Government approved the establishment of oriental pharmacy departments at several universities (213).
A national medical insurance programme covering oriental medical services has been in effect since 1 February 1987. Included in the coverage are oriental medical diagnosis, acupuncture, moxibustion, and 56 kinds of medicines based on herbal extracts (263). Total medical insurance payments for oriental medicine treatments in 1998 were 315.55 billion won, or 3% of the total medical insurance payments for medical treatment. Patients treated with unauthorised complementary/alternative medicine are not covered by the medical insurance scheme.