Severance Hospital expands to meet its next challengesOn a cold December night in 1884, a pro-Japanese faction in Korea set off a plot to assassinate Min Young-ik, the nephew of Queen Min, Korea’s last empress. He survived the attempt, but suffered multiple stab wounds. The royal court physicians were not able to stanch the flow of blood, so the court called for a Western physician who had become famous for treating malaria.
Dr. Horace N. Allen, who had been dispatched to Korea by the American North Presbyterian Church, sutured the wounds, and his patient healed. The Korean king told Dr. Allen, “Teach us this type of new medicine,” and granted him a building in which to practice and teach others. That building, called Gwanghaewon and renamed Jaejongwon two weeks later, was the first westernized hospital in Korea.
At the turn of the 20th century, Dr. Oliver Avison, a Canadian missionary physician in Korea, went on furlough to North America, and spoke at a missionary conference in New York. One of the attendees was a steel millionaire from Cleveland, Louis Henry Severance. He was moved by the presentation, and decided to donate funds to create a new hospital in Korea. His philosophy in giving was: “My joy in giving was greater than your joy in receiving.”
With Mr. Severance’s financial aid, the hospital was moved in 1904 to what is now the Daewoo Building near Seoul Station, and named Severance Hospital and Medical School. The hospital was destroyed in the Korean War. But after the war, Christian Union College (Yeonhi College) and Severance Medical School decided to merge; they combined one syllable from each name, creating Yonsei University.
During the entire period, missionary doctors had been involved not only with the medical care and education of local people, but also the treatment of other expatriate missionaries and their families. In 1962, the International Health Care Center was granted separate status from the rest of the hospital. By the 1980s, the international clinic was seeing patients from a broad spectrum ― including diplomats, engineers, teachers and business people.
Against that background, the International Center at Severance Hospital will move into a new facility next year. A 21-story building housing the clinic and departments, ranaging from ear, nose and throat to neurology, is being erected on the Yonsei University campus to celebrate the hospital’s 100th anniversary this year. Construction is scheduled to be completed in March, and patients will be accepted beginning in May.
by Joe Yonghee