[FOUNTAIN]Doctors and paupers

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[FOUNTAIN]Doctors and paupers

Walking along the streets of Berlin, one often notices nameplates that begin "Dr. Dr." These titles can be found on business cards as well. "Dr. Dr." means that a person has received two doctoral degrees. If the person is a professor at a university, the title becomes longer: "Prof. Dr. Dr." Although some say it sounds ridiculous, it shows the German respect for education, tradition and authority.

Anyone with a Ph.D. may well be proud of the achievement. A doctoral degree stands for high scholarly attainments. Even though not an academic, a person who excels in a certain area may be given the nickname of "doctor." Japanese call a well-informed person "Hakase" instead of "Hakushi," which means an academic doctor.

The word "baksa," a doctor in Korean, is said to have originated in ancient China in 135 B.C. Chinese at that time called instructors at academic institutions "doctors." They particularly respected a scholar who had mastered the Five Classics of Confucianism, calling him a "doctor of the five books."

The ancient Goguryeo (37 B.C.-A.D. 668) and Baekje (18 B.C.-A.D. 660) dynasties of Korea introduced a doctoral education system after China, and promoted knowledge and technologies. Doctor Wang In of Baekje was particularly famous for propagating Chinese writing in Japan in the fourth century.

In the West, the University of Paris is said to have been the first university to confer doctoral degrees. It first conferred the degree, in theology, in about 1150. The English word "doctor" comes from a Latin word that meant "teacher" in the Middle Ages. In the 15th century, people began to call medical practitioners doctors to emphasize their rigorous education.

The first doctor in Korea in modern times was a medical doctor, Seo Jae-pil, an activist in the Korean independence movement during the Japanese occupation. He received a doctoral degree in microbiology from Columbia University in 1893. Seoul National University first conferred doctoral degrees in 1952.

The number of doctors in Korea has greatly increased in recent years, but their stature has not. Many are unemployed, especially those with degrees in the humanities -- literature, history and philosophy. They are being avoided by businesses here, who tend to prefer new graduates to better-educated persons who command higher salaries.

The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo's Berlin correspondent.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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