SECTION 3 – KOREAN ORIENTAL MEDICINE CONNECTING WITH THE WORLD
A NEW ATTRACTION FOR KOREAN TOURISM
More and more foreign tourists are visiting South Korea every year for the sole purpose of receiving treatments of Korean Oriental medicine. Last year alone, over a 100,000 visitors from Japan, Hong Kong, and Thailand came to South Korea for treatment, and this year, the number is forecast to exceed 150,000.
Korean Oriental medicine has gained worldwide recognition and acclamation ever since the television drama Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the Palace) aired in 2003 and became a big hit with viewers in over 25 countries. The popular drama is based on the true story of a lady whose name is believed to have been SEO Jang-geum, the first female chief royal physician of the Joseon Dynasty. The drama captivated foreign viewers as the heroine solved medical mysteries and healed patients through the powers of Korean Oriental medicine as well as her wisdom, progressive spirit and perseverence. Ardent fans soon began coming to South Korea in droves and knocked on the doors of Korean Oriental medicine clinics and hospitals for diagnosis and treatment.
The South Korean government is focusing on Korean Oriental medicine as the next tourism theme and seeks to attract 500,000 foreigners a year by 2013. Hospitals are seeing patients from Japan and China and also from Russia and the Middle East. Korean Oriental medicine clinics specializing in dermatology and aesthetics are very popular among female visitors, but clinics and hospitals are searching for new ways to provide more extensive services for long-term visitors by expanding treatment for diet, spine, and joint related illnesses.
GOOD DEEDS FROM KOM DOCTORS
Overseas volunteer work by Korean Oriental medicine practitioners is led by the Korean Oriental Medicine Service Team Abroad (KOMSTA). KOMSTA was conceived in 1993 when a group of Korean Oriental medicine doctors began to provide medical service in Nepal as volunteers. The group carried out volunteer work every year, and in 1998 KOMSTA was officially founded and registered as a nonprofit organization with the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
KOMSTA doctors serve in developing countries all over the world to provide medical services to those who are most in need of medical help. So far, the organization has sent Korean Oriental medicine volunteer groups to 27 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe, and they have treated over 130,000 patients.
At present, eight Korean Oriental medicine doctors are stationed as long-term residents in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Vietnam. Smaller groups are sent abroad five to ten times annually to provide medical services and disease-prevention training.
KOMSTA members not only treat patients but also train local doctors so that they can continue to treat their patients once the Korean doctors leave the country. A good example of this effort is the Sri Lanka Acupuncture Medical Service Team (SAMST) organized by Sri Lankan traditional medicine doctors. Dr. Han Gyu-eon, who led the project, paved the way for Sri Lankan doctors to treat their patients with Korean Oriental medicine. Since 2000, KOMSTA has been promoting Korean Oriental medicine by treating over 20,000 locals and providing medical supplies to SAMST doctors.
Source: KOREA People & Culture Magazine, March 2012