Korea

Organized Panel Session

2 - Defining "Korean": American Medical Missionaries' 'Scientific' Studies on Korea

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Park Tower 8219, Lobby Level

In Korea in the 1910s to 1930s, American medical missionaries and Japanese physicians produced discourses on Korea through their medical knowledge. These physicians wrote and published medical articles on Korea, studying various diseases while speculating on their causes. Despite their assumed objectivity as scientists, however, both their premises and conclusions were often directed by the existing images and discourses on Korea which were produced by earlier American missionaries and Japanese intellectuals. American physicians translated and used Japanese medical knowledge and physical anthropology. While declaring their research to be scientific (and thus objective), they often concluded that the causes of Korean diseases came from "uncivilized" customs, such as the tradition of early marriage. Meanwhile, the perception of "Korean natural character" produced by these medical articles were strengthened through the authority of science. By examining articles in medical journals such as China Medical Journal, this paper explores how American doctors appropriated medical knowledge in producing "Korean-ness." It argues that the American physicians' own subjectivities were interwoven with their scientific studies on Korea, and how their perspective as missionaries guided them to contrast "uncivilized and diseased" Korean customs with "Western" science and civilization. Ultimately, this paper attempts to reveal how "objective" medical knowledge on Korea was influenced by subjective judgements, images, and politics.

Sangmee Oh

University of California, Los Angeles, California

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