Cases from Korea
Edited By Marion Eggert and Florian Pölking
Shin Dongwon - Hygiene in Korea Around 1900: Between Civilisation and Colonialism
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Hygiene in Korea Around 1900: Between Civilisation and Colonialism
Abstract A great transformation of hygiene and medicine took place in Korea for three decades after the opening of the nation in 1876. Not only the emergence and development of macroscopic political concepts but also the imports of Western medicine and hygienic knowledge were significant elements of this transformation.
1 Introduction of the Hygiene Concept from the West after the Opening
The concept of hygiene was newly established after the opening of the nation in 1876. The Korean word wisaeng 衛生 for the concept of hygiene, was defined in Chōsengojiten (Korean Dictionary)—the thesaurus of nationally authenticated terminology, published by the colonial government in 1920, fifty years after the opening of the nation—as follows.
– wisaeng: Keeping up physical health while taking precautions with everything regarding food, clothing, and shelter in general, and taking good care to keep the body free from diseases.
– wisaengguk (Bureau of wisaeng): Internal Affairs Ministry was to be in charge of sanitary affairs.1
Given the definitions entered into the dictionaries, wisaeng is referred to as nourishing a life, not to fall ill, and keeping the body healthy, while taking every cautionary measure for human well being. Pot’ong hakkyo Chosŏnŏ sajŏn (The Korean Dictionary for Primary School Students) published in 1925 contained the two entries wisaeng and wisaengsang 衛生上. In this dictionary, wisaeng is defined as “being...
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