Yeongdeok Snow Crab Festival

The 15th Yeongdeok Daege Chukje, or Yeongdeok Snow Crab Festival, is slated for this month. On March 8-12, the seashore of Yeongdeok, Gyeongsanbuk-do will attract throngs of crowds with swarms of crabs. Come and enjoy exciting activities including catching snow crabs that wear gold rings and snow crab auctions.

Ganggu is where the most Yeongdeok snow crabs are bought and sold. This is readily apparent when oe visits the port. A gigantic model of a reddish crab greets you like a billboard from high above Ganggu Bridge, and the main road of the seaport is lined with hundreds of snow crab restaurants for about three kilometers. The iron pots standing before the restaurants emit muggy steam from snow crabs being cooked, along with their palatable scent that mingles with the salty sea winds to stimulate your olfactory sense.

A snow crab is called daege in Korean, and its Korean name frequently misleads people into believing that the crabs are very large since dae usually means “big”. Here, dae signifies daenamu, which is bamboo, and indicates that the legs of daege are as long and straight as bamboo. One cannot simply say that the larger a snow crab the better. All else being equal, the heavier the better. Experts add that the best crabs are the ones that are alive with all their legs still attached intact.

The crabbers of Yeongdeok start catching snow crabs in December, one month later than in other areas, in order to protect marine resources. Around 8:30 in the morning, when the sun shines bright red over the seaport, the crabbing boats come in with seagulls eagerly in hot pursuit. A tiny band is put aroung one of the legs of every quality snow crab when crabs are unloaded from the decks to label it as a Yeongdeok snow crab of high quality, and the crab auction space is covered with countless snow crabs.

The Yeongdeok snow crab season runs from December to April. Snow crabs caught during this time are completely packed with sweet flesh. The best variety of snow crabs in Korea is bakdal daege. This name requires some more explanation. Bakdal is a kind of birch. In other words, bakdal daege has dense flash like bakdal trees and the most delectable fragrance and taste. So precious are they that one single bakdal daege weighing two kilograms usually sells at auction for over KRW 100,o00, or approximately USD 91.


Yeongdeok holds the Yeongdeok Snow Crab Festival every March in order to give as many people as possible the opportunity of enjoying and tasting Yeongdeok snow crabs. This year, the festival will take place in and around Samsa Marine Park, Ganggu, and a village dubbed Daege Wonjo Maeul, or Origin Village of Snow Crabs. This is the 15th festival to be held, and it will run from March 8 to 12. The theme this year is “Stories of Yeongdeok Snow Crabs”. A play will be staged on this theme to show the life and history of Yeongdeok snow crabs as well as the lives and the joys and sorrows of crabbers of the east coast of Korea.

There will be hands-on activities, too, for everyone to enjoy. The most representative of them is the Golden Yeongdeok Snow Crab Catching Game. Visitors can try their hands at catching Yeongdeok snow crabs from a large water tank. One person may catch two to five crabs, and if you are lucky, you will catch a snow crab wearing a gold ring. This catching game is for everyone – young or old, male or female, Korean or foreign – and your five senses will all be stimulated with fun and good taste.

The surprise auction of bakdal daege is another event you should not miss. Let’s not forget that a good bakdal daege goes for over KRW 100,000 at a standard auction, but this auction is your chance to get such a crab at deep discount. It will be a steal!

The Ganggu marina allows you to ride water cycles and catch Yeongdeok snow crabs, while looking out over the beautiful East Sea. Besides water cycling, visitors are also invited to try other water sports and leisure equipment.


Source: KOREA People & Culture Magazine, March 2012



Where the bleak winter recedes, golden clouds of flowers blossom

By the middle of March, the south of the country emerges from the last vestiges of winter, breaking the monotony of weeks and weeks of successive cold snaps and thaws. This month, your traveler visits Gurye, Jeollanam-do, where blossoms of sansuyu, or cornelian cherries, are coming into yellow bloom after a long battle between the seasons. Come and join your traveler in greeting the new spring unfolding with cornelian cherry blossoms.

This month your traveler sets foot in Gurye, Jeonnam-do, where yelow cornelian cherry blossoms are proudly showing themselves after weeks of last-ditch winter cold spells and heralding the long-awaited arrival of spring. There are a number of villages in Gurye, including Sangwi Maeul, or Sangwi Village. This is the first destination of your traveller’s trip to Gurye. The village commands the most magnificent view of cornelian cherry blossoms in Gurye as it stands at the highest elevation in the entire county. Another attraction of Sangwi Village is a narrow path lined with stone walls called Saranggil, or Path of Love. Here, lovers whisper words of their budding love while walking along this romantic path amid delicate, classical beauty.

Sangwi Village is naturally dubbed Sansuyu Maeul, or Village of Cornelian Cherry Blossoms, and hosts a festival of cornelian cherry blossoms every year. Other villages in the country bear the same nickname, including Bonghwa and Uiseong in Gyeongsanbuk-do and Icheon in Gyeonggi-do, but none of them matches Sangwi Village. It is not only that Sangwi Village has more cornelian cherries, it is also because Sangwi is the first every year to become shrouded under the golden, fresh clouds of cornellian cherry blossoms.

Now that your traveler has taken in the breathtaking scenery of golden clouds of blossoms, she demands her due portion of culinary delight. What fare is best in this beautiful mountain village? Sanchae jeongsik, or a full course meal of wild herbs and vegetables with rice and soup, is the obvious choice.

There are many restaurants in Gurye that are renowned for this special meal. The restaurant Geuyennal Sanchae Sikdang is especially well recommended. After your traveler sits on the warm floor of one of the rooms, two elderly ladies come in bearing a table full of dishes.

The dishes are prepared from a variety of seasonal wild herbs and vegetables. They are picked and dried in a manner that retains their unique tastes and flavors, and then blanched, fried, or grilled. For example, deodeok, a variety of bonnet bellflowers (Codonopsis lanceolata), is grilled, but only slightly to retain a crispy taste. With blanched herbs, grilled deodeok, pickled vegetables, salted fish, and other delicious side dishes, your traveler devoured her entire bowl of rice, leaving not a single grain. Hence the reason the Korean call tasty side dishes “robbers of your rice”.

Having eaten delectable food to her heart’s content, your traveler made her way up the near mountain to Hwaeomsa (Hwaeom Temple). Gurye is home to a number of Buddhist temples besides Hwaeomsa: Cheoneunsa (Cheoneun Temple), Yeongoksa (Yeongok Temple), and Munsusa (Munsu Temple), to name a few. Hwaeomsa is the largest and most majestic. Here and there on the grounds of Hwaeomsa are important cultural assets including Gakhwangjeon Hall (Korea’s largest extant wooden structure), a stone lantern in front of Gakhwangjeon Hall, and Sa Saja Samcheung Seoktap (a three-story stone pagoda with four pillars in the shape of lions).

Perhaps, the best time of year to visit the temple is spring, when the apricot blossoms are out. They are a strong red with a hint of black and are so sensually fragrant that they are emotionally moving even to the ascetic monks. These bewitching dark-reddish blossoms called heungmae come into bloom only after the bright yellow blossoms of cornelian cherries wither and fall down to the ground, so your traveler was not able to experience them on this trip. She now turns toward Unjoru Pavilion.

Unjoru Pavilion is a traditional Korean house built in 1776 by Ryu I-ju, a local official during the reign of King Yeongjo (1724-1776) of the Joseon Dynasty. It was originally 99 kan (approximately 327 m2), but just about one-third remains.  Back then, only royal palaces could be as big as 100 kan. The name of the house, Unjoru Pavilion, literally means “house of clouds and birds”. It may be interpreted either as a secluded house like a birh in the clouds or as an outstanding house where birds that fly over the clouds dwell.

Noteworthy at Unjoru Pavilion is a wooden rice chest placed in front of the storeroom. The stopper of the rice chest bears four Chinese characters pronounced as tain naeunghae, which means “Other people can open the chest”. Anyone in need of food could come, pull out the rectangular stopper, and get some rice from the wooden chest.

The house is also notable for its short chimney. It was built not even one meter high in order to not show the smoke to hungry neighbors when rice was being cooked in the kitchen. Your traveler feels humbled at her ancestors’ heart-warming consideration of their needy neighbors.


The final destination of this trip to Gurye is Hwagae Jangteo, or Hwagae Market. This street market crosses the border between Gyeongsangnam-do and Jeollanam-do. It was one of the five largest markets in Korea before the national liberation from Japanese colonial rule, and was always thronged with buyers, sellers, and spectators. Today, the marketplace bears a facade of modernity, but still exudes all of the vitality and human touch of a traditional country market of old with many attractions such as dotori muk (acorn jelly), jaecheop guk (small clam soup), wild edible greens, green tea, tradional inns called jumak, and taffy sellers. You can also see a traditional blacksmith where hoes, sickles, and other implements are still made in the traditional ways. What a sight to enjoy!

From Sangwi Village to Hwaeomsa to Unjoru Pavilion and finally to Hwagae Market, these fascinating tourist destinations are all along the Seomjingang. The river springs in Jinan, Jeollabok-do and runs more than 200 kilometers before it empties into the sea. It passes through Imsil, Gokseong, Gurye, and Osan; flows between Jirisan (Jiri Mountain) and Baegunsan (Baegun Mountain) and runs through Hadong and Gwangyang. The river must have a great deal of beautiful stories to tell to spring travelers.


Source: KOREA People & Culture Magazine, March 2012


GAROSUGIL, A Trendsetters’ Promenade

Garosugil, that quaint street in Sinsa-dong, is the “place to be” and the “place to be seen” for Seoul’s trendsetters and fashion gurus. Now, it’s gaining global recognition as international fashion brands are competing to secure spaces along the trendiest promenade in Seoul.

Just as fashion changes through the years, the most popular and trendiest area in Seoul shifts to different parts of the city. During the 1960s and 1970s, young people flocked to Jongno and Myeong-dong in Gangbuk (north of Hangang (Han River)). Those areas were then the center of guitar music, retro fashion, and free literary minds. In the 1990s, Apgujeong in Gangnam (south of Hangang) reigned as the “place to be” for night life, high-end shopping and trendy restaurants. But, in today’s Seoul, there can be no denying that the location that is in vogue for youth culture is Garosugil in Gangnam’s Sinsa-dong negihborhood.

Garosugil means “tree-lined street” and stretches between Sinsa Station and Apgujeong Station. The official street address is Dosan-daero buk 5-gil, but it is more popularly known as Garosugil for the ginkgo trees that neatly adorn the 700-meter street, one of the most salient feeatures of the most fashionable promenade in Seoul.

The ginkgo trees were planted in the early 1980s as part of Saemaeul Undong, a redevelopment movement back when the still underdeveloped. Art galleries and antique shops started to open in this quiet neighborhood, giving it an artistic edge. By the late 1990s, many art galleries had moved to the now famous Insadong in Gangbuk, and design agencies and studios came in to take their place. Pretty soon, many young artists opened their own studios, and fashion designers launched their brands. In time, the neighborhood became known as “Designers’ Street”.


These days, Garosugil is home to an array of open cafes, restaurants, bars, and fashion shops blended together to create a chich venue for young people. While other areas in Gangnam are said to be fancy and modern, Garosugil presents a bohemian charm with the alfresco eateries and boutiques. Building exteriors here are unlike those of other shopping districts in Seoul. Many of the closely knit shops have an uncommon architectural flare – stylish boutiques with bright red doors and French-style shop windows line the street along with open-air brunch cafes, rendering a feeling of Paris or New York’s SoHo.

Shops purvey clothes and bags that are of the latest trends, and for more fashion savvy shoppers there are designers boutiques that boast a range of one-of-a-kind dresses and shoes that can be custom-made. Street vendors set up their tables along the sidewalks to display items of vintage clothes or handmade accessories.

Together with shopping, many visitors come to Garosugil for the unique cafes, incomparable anywhere else in Seoul. Popular desserts in Garosugil are delicate pastel colored cupcakes, frutiy tarts, and a dessert of Korean red beans on ice shavings called patbingsu. The interiors are equally quaint and unique, in keeping with the area’s reputation, but customers prefer the small tables on the pavement outside, where they can see and be seen. Even in chilly weather, young men and women sit outdoors with warm blankets amid the gas heaters.


Garosugil is a relatively young part of Seoul. It has only become popular in recent years among Seoul’s trendsetters, but it has quickly developed as the trendiest locale in all of Seoul. The fashion industry, both domestic and international, has begun to acknowledge this. For global fashion brands, domestic fashion conglomerates, and cosmetic brands, Garosugil is synonymous with “antenna street”, a street where consumer trends can be tested. Last December, American fashion and watch brand Fossil opened its first Asian street shop in Garosugil.

“Korea is popularly promoted as the trend-setting country in Asia, and Garosugil is the place where all fashion-conscious consumers come,” says Lee So-yeong, the brand manager of Fossil Korea, hinting, “A shop on this street has tremendous symbolic value in the industry.”

Global brands like Massimo Dutti and Forever21 opened stores on the main street last year, and Zara and Lacoste are getting ready to add Garosugil to their lines of shops.


Source: KOREA People & Magazine, March 2012


Korean Oriental Medicine Reaches Out Beyond Korea


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.


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

Korean Oriental Medicine Reaches Out Beyond Korea


In a narrow sense, a prescription is a document specifying the drugs and doses thereof to be administrated. From a broader prospective, it refers to all treatments of diseases. In addition to the medicines to be administrated, the prescription in Korean Oriental medicine specifies the therapeutic treatments to be rendered based on the diagnosis of the patient’s condition. These treatments include acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, exercise, and dietary therapy as well as the doctors’ specific directions and advice to the patient based on the characteristics of the patient, including his or her constitution.

In acupuncture therapy, the prescription specifies the acupuncture points that correspond to the patient’s specific ailments or symptoms, or site to be treated such as legs, fingers, and toes. It is also used in the same manner in moxibustion, exercise therapy, dietary therapy, and other available therapies.

According to this narrow definition of the prescription, the diagnosis determines which medicines are to be administered to the patient and how. It entails preparing a remedy by mixing a number of medicinal substances in precise dosages and administering them to the patient.

Medicinal therapy generally involves what are called sovereign, minister, assistant, and courier medicinal ingredients. Sovereign ingredients signify the primary medicinal ingredients of the prescription. Minister ingredients refer to medicinal substances and supplements that help the administration of the primary medicinal ingredients, bolstering their effectiveness. Assistant ingredients neutralize any possible toxicity of the sovereign medicinal ingredients and relieve their side effects. Courier ingredients help the active ingredients work on the target sites of the body and temper the functions of the ingredient mixture. Jujube, licorice, and ginger are the three most frequently used courier medicinal ingredients.

A needle can be used as a medical tool to treat diseases in humans and animals. Acupuncture is the treatment of illness or pain by sticking needles into the body. According to various historical accounts, acupuncture originated in the eastern part of China adjacent to the Korean Peninsula and spread throughout East Asia.

It is believed that needles were first used for medical purposes in the Stone Age. The oldest acupuncture tool is a stone needle. It was made by grinding stone or jade into an awl or wedge. Such a stone needle was used to stimulate the skin, to cause blood letting by shallow pricking, or to squeeze pus out. In primitive societies, people may have suffered from more various kinds of aches, pains, and wounds as they lived in hilly or dark and humid areas. This gives us clues as to how a stone needle must have come into use.

There are nine general types of classical acupuncture needles according to size, shape, and use: the shear needle, round-pointed needle, spoon needle, lance needle, stiletto needle, round-sharp needle, filiform needle, long needle, and big needle. Needles are typically used to prick the skin or muscle, deeply or shallow. Sometimes a knife-like needle is used to cut the skin and squeeze out blood or pus or to draw stagnant water out from a joint. Of these nine classical needles, filiform needles are used most widely in acupuncture. They are 2-17 centimeters long and relatively thin at 0.2-0.4 millimeters in thickness. Once stuck into the skin, they can be lef for a while partially embedded in the skin without causing irritation.

Acupuncture has been used to treat all kinds of disease including internal, surgical, gynecologic, pediatric, otorhinolaryngologic, and ophthalmologic diseases by controlling the flow of gi. It has also been used for anesthesia, diagnosis, and the treatment of animals. In addition, acupuncture is used to help people quit relief and recovery from sprains, indigestion, children’s convulsions, and acute diseases such as tonsillitis, conjunctivitis, and syncope. For chronic diseases such as neuralgia, and dysphasia, satisfactory results require long-term treatment.

Moxibustion treats diseases by heat stimulation. A drug material is burned on a certain spot of the skin, or such spot is exposed to the hot smoke from the burning material. The most often used material is dried mugwort. Basically, moxibustion raises the body temperature, so it can be used for all diseases with a “cold nature”.

While acupuncture temporarily makes you lose giun (energy), moxibustion raises your giun, making it effective for treatment of enervation due to a lack of jeonggi (vitality) and chronic diseases that consume your energy.

There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect. In the direct method, dried mugwort is burned directly on the skin and the spot festers, which in turn improves your constitution and immunity. In the indirect method, the skin does not have direct contact with the burning mugworts, but is only exposed to the heat emitted from it.


Compared with acupuncture, cupping is rather simple. You place a suction cup on a gyeonghyeol (acupuncture point) of the skin with its mouth down and vacuum the cup using heat or a compression pump so that the cup will tightly adhere to the skin. The spot soon becomes congested with blood. This process can be used to change the blood composition or to remove bad blood from circulation. The process also activates gas exchanges in the body, which in turn facilitates metabolism and stimulates the autonomous nervous system. As a result, digestion, defecation, and sleep are improved.

Cupping is basically either wet or dry. In wet cupping, the suction cup is larger than the blood-extraction area. Caution should be exercised to not extract more than 10 cc of blood per session. Dry cupping does not involve blood-letting, but only applies suction on the skin. This is used for patients who are feeble or when the purpose or treatment can be achieved by only a change in blood composition.

Since it is easier to place a cup over a larger area that contains a gyenghyeol than to stick a needle into such a point exactly, cupping has long been a common folk therapy. Many families in South Korea practice cupping by themselves even today to treat light pains such as a stiff shoulder.


Chuna is a therapy that prevents and cures disease by tapping or massaging gyeonghyeol and gyeongnak (meridians; pathways of gi) on the surface of the body with the power applied by the fingertips and palms. It helps to strike a balance of gi-hyeol (energy for the organs), facilitate the natural flow of go through gyeongnak, and improve metabolism and the body’s resistance to germs. Chuna has also in recent years come into wide use to rectify spine and joint problems or to improve blood circulation.


Source: KOREA People & Culture Magazine, March 2012


Korean Oriental Medicine Reaches Out Beyond Korea

Principle of yin and yang brings disease under control. Korean Oriental Medicine (KOM) began to attract worldwide attention when 동의보감 [Dongui Bogam] was inscribed on the Memory of the World Register by UNESCO in 2009. Korean oriental medicine views the human body as a small universe in itself and attempts to cure disease by identifying and handling its fundamental causes. It is welcomed as a medicine of the future and is spreading quickly around the world. Increasingly many foreigners visit South Korea to receive Korean Oriental medicine treatment, and KOM doctors travel to developing countries to provide voluntary medical services to those in need.


Korean Oriental Medicine (KOM) began to attract worldwide attention when Dongui Bogam was inscribed on the Memory of the World Register by UNESCO in 2009. This was the first book of medicine to make its way onto the list. The book is an encyclopedia compiled over 15 years by HEO Jun, chief royal physician to King Seonjo of the Joseon Dynasty, around 1600.

Korean Oriental medicine is a relatively new term. It refers to the medicine native to Korea developed over a period of nearly two thousand years after being grafted with traditional Chinese medicine. It had been called traditional Korean medicine since 1986 until recently. Before that, it was simply referred to as traditional Oriental medicine.

Korean Oriental medicine refers to a range of traditional medical practices based on Asian philosophy, which itself was deeply grounded on observation and study of natural phenomena. Korean Oriental medicine sees the human body as a small universe. It is based on the concept of yin and yang, which describes all the objects and phenomena in the universe according to a paradigm of two opposing forces such as the sun and moon, summer and winter, north and south, and male and female. It studies o-haeng, or the five phases or elments comprising the universe: geum (metal and rock), mok (wood), su (water), hwa (fire), and to (earth). It also studies the process of yuk-gi, or the Six Atmospheric Influences, in the realm of natural science, which are pung (wind), han (cold), yeol (heat), hwa (fire), seup (humidity), and jo (dryness). Western medicine focuses on the human body’s internal organs and is based on anatomy and cytology. It values apparent phenomena and treats patients on a statistical basis.

Korean Oriental medicine links physiological changes in the human body to changes in natural phenomena and observes the phenimena on gi (gi in Chinese). For example, in spring when everything springs up with new energy, regeneration functions become active. During summer, which is the season of torrential rain, the body is influenced by humidity. In the dry autumn, the body becomes lighter, while in the cold winter, it rejuvenates itself due to the activation of the storage function, after having fallen into a state of idleness. Western medicine tends to find the causes of these phenomena through observation of the structures and functions of specific organs, not by linking the causes to phenomena in nature.

Korean Oriental medicine treats a disease on the assumption that the disease stems from discrepancies between the natural phenomena and the states of the human body, while Western medicine treats a disease by identifying the germ that caused the disease.

Korean Oriental medicine cures a patient by prescribing herbs found in nature. These are chemically most similar to the human body, with the result that they change the condition of the human body and bolster immunity to the disease, preventing any possibility of germs harming the body. Some foreigners regard herbal medicine simply as health supplements, but this is a misconception arising from poor understanding of Oriental medicine.

As explained so far, Korean Oriental medicine and Western medicine take very different approaches with regard to physiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Practitioners of Korean Oriental medicine and Western medicine should, therefore, strive to reconcile the different systems to pursue development in tandem by learning from and benefitting each other.

Chinese medicine was introduced in Korea during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC – 668). It assumed its own unique nature as Korean Oriental medicine and has since developed substantially, through the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and up to the present day. It advanced to an especially marked extent during the Joseon period. Such medical collections as Hyangyak Jipseongbang (Compilation of Native Korean Prescriptions, 1433) and Uibang Yuchwi (Classified Collection of Medical Prescriptions, 1445) were compiled at the instruction of King Sejong the Great, the fourth monarch of Joseon. These efforts laid the foundation for Korean Oriental medicine to advance based on more independent, in-depth, and extensive research. Later, during the rign of King Seonjo (1567-1608), HEO Jun eventually compiled Dongui Bogam. In the compilation, Dr. Heo classified diseases in a manner that was most appropriate for Koreans and listed practical prescriptions. The book also reported the findings of his research into folk remedies, including acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, and the health management method called doin. Dongui Bogam was eventually brought to China and Japan. It made a tremendous contribution to the development of traditional medicine in East Asia, and its influence is still very strong today.

Korean Oriental medicine was in its prime when Western medicine was wholly introduced in the waning years of the Joseon Dynasty (1885). It immediately began to fade virtually disappearing during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945). Even in the mist of this decline, however, Lee Je-ma (1838-1900) produced notable research findings and put forward a new theory of sasang constitutional medicine, or medicine on the basis of the four types of constitutions. He defined the four constitutions, or chejil, based on people’s personalities, diseases they are prone to contract, the foods they like, and psychological traits, and he maintained that treatment should take into account the chejil of a patient for maximum benefit.

Sasang constitutional medicine classifies human constitutions into the four types of tae-geum (greater yin), tae-yang (greater yang), so-eum (lesser yin), and so-yang (lesser yang). One’s constituion in inborn and fixed for life as it is determined by the size and functional power of one’s internal organs. Each of the four constitutions is characterized by a different personality, behavior pattern, appetite, psychology, efficiency, adaptability, and the like. The efficacy of a treatment or drug for a disease can vary depending on the constitution.

After a near complete hiatus under Japanese colonial rule, Korean Oriental medicine experienced a renaissance following national liberation in 1945. In the 1970s, Korean Oriental medicine began to spread internationally and was even introduced in the US. The first international academic conferences on Korean Oriental medicine were held.

In the US, some celebrities including former First Lady Nancy Reagan became loyal costumers of the Uri Korean Oriental Medicine Clinic in New York, leading Korean Oriental medicine to spread quickly throughout American society.

in 1997, the National Institute of Health of the US recognized acupuncture as a bona fide medical practice. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has sharply increased its financial support for research and development in complementary and alternative therapies.

Rising interest in natural therapeutics in Europe has led to increased spending on such non-pharmacological therapies as acupuncture and yoga. In Germany, the government is leading an initiative to collect natural substances in order to develop natural drugs; already over 50,000 medical doctors practice both Western and Oriental medicine; and more notably, acupuncture has become popular and a range of Oriental medicine therapies are being practiced. In Britain, the acupuncture association has thousands of members.

The rising global interest in Korean Oriental medicine has naturally resulted in increased international exchange and cooperation. Colleges of Korean Oriental medicine in South Korea and foreign colleges are engaged in academic exchange and join research, and the South Korean government supports Korean Oriental medicine hospitals in their efforts to establish their presence overseas. Some hospitals, in fact, are already cooperating with clinics and hospitals in Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Ostrov Sakhalin in Rusia, Vietnam, Cambodia and other countries where patients are treated free of charge through medical service tours.

As Korean Oriental medicine gains increasing recognition around the world, more and more foreign patients seek services at Korean Oriental medicine clinics and hospitals. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Korea, the number of foreigners visiting Korean Oriental medicine clinics and hospitals has risen 110.8 percent since 2009. The largest contingents of foreign patients are Russian and Japanese, and there are also considerable numbers of American, Germans, Mongolians and Chinese.

There foreign patients are primarily drawn to Korean Oriental medicine because it does not require surgery: they can instead be healed or cured merely by means of acupuncture, Oriental drugs, and physical therapy.

“A friend of mine recommended this hospital. It’s been two or three days, but the symptom has abated significantly already,” says Russian patient George, adding, “If I receive this treatment long enough, I don’t think I’ll need surgery.”

He says that the Jaseng Hospital of Oriental Medicine, a Korean Oriental medicine hospital specialized in spinal conditions, was recommended by a friend for effective treatment of his spinal problem without surgery.

As morea foreigners seek services, more hospitals are opening international offices staffed by doctors, nurses and interpreters to provide consultations and treatments exclusively for foreigners at any time.

At Kyung Hee University Oriental Hospital, which is the oldest and largest Korean Oriental medicine hospital in Korea, doctors of Western and Oriental medicine work together in close cooperation to cure patients, so it is especially trusted by foreigners. Recently, the president and vice president of the Tuva Republic of Russia and the minister of environment of Cambodia visited the hospital for medical checkups.

Understanding of and demand for Oriental medicines including Korean Oriental medicine and traditional Chinese medicine are increasing worldwide, and the South Korean government and academia are spurring the development of new drugs, equipment, and theories in Korean Oriental medicine in order to further advance Korean Oriental medicine and promote it worldwide.

Western medicine generally deals with the diseased part of the body; Korean Oriental medicine seeks to find the fundamental cause of the disease to cure it. The basic principle of Korean Oriental medicine is to restore the harmony between yin and yang under natural law. Thus, Korean Oriental medicine not only looks at the symptoms but seeks to eliminate the fundamental cause of disease in accordance with the principle of yin and yang. For example, let’s say you have a high temperature, feel tight in your chest, and have cold hands and feet. In such a case, Korean Oriental medicine deems that a lack of harmony in heat is the essential cause of those symptoms and chooses treatment accordingly.

The therapies of Korean Oriental medicine are extremely varied. They include medicines, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, and chuna. All have been tested and their efficacy and safety proven over thousands of years.

Source: KOREA People & Culture Magazine, March 2012

Freezing Fish Frenzy

This January, experience winter to its fullest by ice fishing in Gangwon-do Province. From seasoned pro to daring amateur, try your hand – literally, in some cases – at landing some of Korea’s tastiest wild trout for a fresh catch.

Imagine stepping out onto 40 cm thick ice, floating atop a winter stream. Everywhere around you, couples, friends and families peer into the icy waters below that blur with fish.

Flipping, floundering sancheoneo (trout) make for some of the best fishing, and Gangwon-do Province is the place to be for the winter sport. The small village of Hwacheon draws in more than a million visitors each year with the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. This year’s edition is set to take place from Jan 7 to 29, and expectations are running high after the last-minute cancellation of last year’s events. CNN inlcluded the festival on its list of seven winter wonders and organizers are looking forward to a new year of festivities.

“A total of 1,330,000 people came in 2010, but our chairman has decided to dedicate our efforts on the quality of the festival rather than on keeping a headcount,” says festival PR spokesman Oh Se-bin. “Instead, we are doing our best to ensure that each individual who comes will be able to enjoy their time.”

The main event at the ice festival is, of course, the ice fishing. Most prefer to ice fish on top of the frozen stream, though others with more expertise might opt for lure fishing. This year, 11,000 ice holes will be made for visitors and 200 spots for lure fishing will be open each day. Kids will also have a chance to partake, with 500 holes dedicated just for children.

For those who prefer to take no chances on the best fishing spots, reservations can be made ahead of time (4,000 of the ice holes are set aside for reservations). The remaining holes and line fishing are first come first served, so it’s best to arrive early.

Each person is allowed to catch up to three fish, but don’t worry about there not being enough to catch – organizers replenish the trout in the stream regularly.

If you’re unafraid of bone-chilling temperatures, try the hands-on fishing pit. After stripping down to shorts and a T-shirt, those willing to brave the freezing waters can jump into a pool of trout and catch their prey with their bare hands. Certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, hands-on fishing will take place three times a day (11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm).

However, the best part of the ice festival comes after all the hard work has been completed. Successful fishers can enjoy their catch on site, as places to grill or bake are available throughout the festival grounds. Alternatively, the sancheoneo can be enjoyed as fresh sashimi at the sushi stalls, as many prefer the trout raw.

Sledding on Korean traditional sleighs will be available, as well as skating, ice soccer and more. Families can explore the snowman exhibit or wander around cavernous monuments made of ice. Others can go for a stroll on Seon Deung Way, a 440 m street of lights located in Hwacheon.

Ambitious DIY folks may want to enter the sledding competition, where groups compete for the best homemade sled. Judged on design, complexity and speed, the grand prize is 2 million won.


Source : KOREA People & Culture Magazine, January 2012