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Special feature: Chinese Medicine: The Global Influence of an Evolving Heritage

The Characteristics of Korean Medicine Based on Time Classification

Kang Yeonseok
p. 33-41


Korea’s exchanges with the West only effectively began after World War II. This makes the situation in Korea very different from that of China or Japan, where various exchanges with Western countries were already being carried out in the sixteenth century. The introduction of modernised research methods was also delayed. Nevertheless, Korean medicine (KM) has been well modernised, while at the same time traditional medicine, less tainted by the wave of modernisation, has been preserved. Moreover, KM is now attracting young and capable talent of a kind never before seen in this field. Often reduced in Chinese official discourse to a mere variant of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), KM in fact constitutes a tradition of its own. This paper tracks the history of KM using time classification in order to better inform Western society regarding KM. The history of KM can be divided into the following five time periods:
1) The time of local medicine (for which all medical records have been lost);
2) the time of Hyangyak medicine (i.e., medicine made solely from medicinal herbs grown in Korea);
3) the time of compilation of East Asian Medicines;
4) the time of independent formation of KM; and
5) the time of exchange with modern medicine.

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Bibliographical reference

Kang Yeonseok, « The Characteristics of Korean Medicine Based on Time Classification », China Perspectives, 2011/3 | 2011, 33-41.

Electronic reference

Kang Yeonseok, « The Characteristics of Korean Medicine Based on Time Classification », China Perspectives [Online], 2011/3 | 2011, Online since 30 September 2014, connection on 20 June 2018. URL :

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About the author

Kang Yeonseok

Korean Medical Doctor (KMD), assistant Professor, Department of Medical History, College of Korean Medicine, Wonkwang University, Iksan City, Jeonrabuk-do, Korea, 570-749 (

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