With the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, spreading across the world beyond Asia, Korean medicine is drawing huge interest based on its uniqueness. The excellence and superiority of Korean medicine was been evidenced when the medical encyclopedia of Donguibogam beat China’s HuangdiNeijing to be registered as a part of the UNESCO’s Memory of the World in 2009. The Donguibogam is an eastern medicinal manual written by Heo Jun in 1613, and its purpose is to treat and prevent disease by means of easy-to-find medicinal herbs.
Under the circumstances, the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) set a goal in 2009 to attract 50,000 medical tourists and reach a production inducement effect of 900 billion won (US$848 million) by 2013, the 400th anniversary of the publication, in order to accelerate the globalization of Korean medicine. In compliance with such efforts by the Government agency, Son Insuk (George), who is descended from a famous doctor of Korean medicine, has been in the front lines of the promotion. He is the head of Son Korean Medicine, the management of which was handed over by his father three years ago while working devotedly as the secretary general of the Korea Medical Tourism Association.
Committed to the Internationalization of Oriental Medicine
It was during the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships in Daegu back in 2011 that he became interested in earnest in the internationalization of Korean medicine. At that time, he volunteered as an interpreter utilizing his studying experience in the United States, and saw a lot of injured athletes recover fast thanks to acupuncture.
He has been committed to the promotion of Korean medicine since then, volunteering to work as an interpreter at almost every international event held in Daegu City and North Gyeongsang Province. He served as an interpreter when the deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia and a Senegalese minister visited Daegu. The national team of India that participated in the Gyeongju Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships last year visited his hospital in Yeongcheon City, North Gyeongsang Province for treatment as well. And, more recently, 11 countries’ ministers and their wives attended his Korean Medicine Promotion Session in May this year at the National Assembly. In August, he went to the Busan International Medical Tourism Convention and organized the invited lectures of Western and Oriental medicine professors from Washington University. Also, he received an appreciation plaque in 2011 from the KTO for his contribution to the promotion of Korean medicine at major international events like the IAAF Championships, Gyeongju World Culture Expo, UN World Tourism Organization General Meeting, and the general assembly of the DeutscherReiseVerband (DRV). He won an accolade from the Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism last year for the same reason, too.
Starting Medical Career at 40
When he was young, he dreamed of becoming an Oriental medicine doctor like his father. However, he happened to study in the United States and completed his MBA at the University of Bridgeport, CT, before his father told him to come back to Korea. His father, Son Jae-lim, is an Oriental and Western medicine doctor very well-known for stroke treatments. The president married his current wife after returning to Korea. “I followed my father’s will to marry her who is a doctor of Korean medicine, and I think that I made the perfect choice at that time,” he said.
Many of his family members are doctors, including his younger sister and brother. His father graduated from the college of Oriental medicine at Kyung Hee University and opened the second Oriental medicine hospital in Korea, the Yeongcheon Son Korean Medicine Clinic, in 1981. Six years later, he obtained a license to practice Western medicine, too. He has devoted himself to stroke treatment for over 40 years and cured a great number of patients. Two of his daughters-in-law who are Korean medicine doctors have learned from him for years and continue his reputation.
In such family background, the president made his mind up to become a medicalpersonnel himself at the age of 40. He wanted to offer medical services in the third world and, at the age of 40, entered the department of nursing of a college located in Gyeongsan City. This year, he was elected as a general assembly member of the International Council of Nursing (ICN) and is scheduled to liaise with foreign ambassadors in Korea for its 2015 general meeting.
Another Plan for the Globalization of Korean Medicine
“What is more important than the treatment of a disease is to prevent it in advance,” he said, emphasizing, “This is the number one principle of Korean medicine, whose purpose is to maintain the body of a human being in the optimal state to strengthen its immunity.” According to him, not only can Korean medicine make a great contribution to the maintenance of health and immunity for children and those who lived for a long time in a foreign country, but also ailments such as allergies, back pain, jetleg fatigue, insomnia, constipation and chronic headache can be cured by the non-pharmacological treatment based on Oriental medicine.
In this context, president Son is planning to kick off some hands-on programs for the general public as well as foreign companies, international schools, and foreign embassies in Korea through which their awareness and understanding of Korean medicine can be increased. The free programs cover Korean-style massage, hand acupuncture, moxibustion, Oriental medicinal therapies and many more.
“I want to get more foreigners in Korea to be more familiar with Korean medicine,” he remarked, adding, “At the same time, I am planning to send some of the doctors working with me out of Korea so that the people around the world can be familiar with the science.”
Another Dream at the Age of 50
Now at the age of 50, he has another goal, that is, the rebirth of Korean medicine by refining its international competitive edge. To this end, his hospital has signed industry-academia cooperation agreements for the scientific and harmonious development of Korean medicine in tandem with Western medicine. The organizations that have signed agreements so far include Tongmyong University in Busan City, the Busan University Hospital, the Dong-A University Hospital, the Daegu Catholic University Medical Center, and the Yeungnam University Medical Center in Yeongcheon City, following that with Keimyung University in Daegu City in October 2002. Son Korean Medicine Clinic concluded another such agreement with the Dongsan Medical Center of Keimyung University two years ago for cooperative medical treatment as well. “More and more people are getting interested in Oriental medicine worldwide,” he said. “I believe that it can cover more diseases and patients on the primary diagnosis and treatment side, is less limited by time and space, and is more cost-effective than Western medicine.”
He went on, “It seems that there are not a few people who still think Korean medicine is not scientific and the herbs are not free from safety problems, even though its methods have been proven to be scientific enough through the course of history.” However, things look favorable for him these days, since the inauguration of the new government, as seen in the fact that President Park Geun-hye was accompanied by an Oriental medicine doctor during her state visit to the United States.
He is also trying to revitalize the local Oriental medicine industry. For example, he is making great efforts to promote Yeongcheon City as host to the 2015 World Traditional and Oriental Medicine Expo. The 2013 event was held in Sancheong, South Gyeongsang Province. “Not just Sancheong, but also Yeongcheon has been the largest hub of medicinal herbs in Korea while the “medical city” of Daegu with abundant medical related human resources and the attractive tourist destination of Gyeongju could be biggest supporters, which means Yeongcheon will be the best choice for the international event,” he remarked.
Striving to Remain Great Contributor to Local Community
President Son and his hospital are committed to their contributions to the local community, too. His father built the Son Jae-lim Cultural Heritage Museum to put on display his 40 year-long treatment data, medical books, rare herbs, and many more, and promote the excellence of Korean medicine, providing visitors with dietary information suitable for their health conditions.
His hospital has participated in the Yeongcheon Korean Herb and Fruit Festival for years as well. In the 12th festival of this year, his clinic provided the Korean Medicine Healing Camp for Families and was received extremely well by the visitors. The camp was attended by many ambassadors and military personnel from overseas.
In October 2011, the Son Korean Medicine Clinic joined the promotion booth of the KTO in the 19th UN World Tourism Organization General Meeting in Gyeongju to represent Daegu City. There, it publicized Korea’s superiority in Oriental medicine and its medical tourism policy.
Moreover, the clinic is running a variety of programs to promote the health of adolescents. It has signed MOUs with Kyeseong Middle School in Daegu in 2010 and Shinmyeong High School the next year to provide free healthcare consulting and lectures for students to understand the superiority of Korean medicine, a valuable heritage from our ancestors. In July this year, it concluded a medical treaty with the Yeongcheon branch of the North Gyeongsang Provincial Association of Deaf Adults. On September 5, it provided medical training for 12 of the interpreters and volunteer workers in the World Energy Congress 2013 in Daegu. It donated a scholarship of 10 million won to the Yeongcheon City Scholarship Foundation on October 14, too.
For Curing of Patients across the World
At present, the Son Korean Medicine Clinic’s medical services are available not only in Yeongcheon but in Daegu, Busan, Seoul, Gyeongju, the KTO, and Korea National Defense University. The clinics are specialized in the treatment of cerebrovascular diseases such as cerebral hemorrhages and cerebral apoplexy, obesity, arthrodynia, spinalgia, chronic pain, etc.
Many people are paying keen attention to what will become of his and his clinic’s dedicated endeavors for the modernization and globalization of Korean medicine.
“Some people think that they can be happy only when their dreams come true, but I believe that an unfulfilled dream will let you have another dream to be fulfilled in the future,” he said.