Clinic director 1st occidental oriental doctor in the countryRaimund Royer, 42, is not only the first Westerner to work as a doctor of Oriental medicine, he’s also the director of the international clinic at Jaseng Hospital of Oriental Medicine in Gangnam, southern Seoul, which opened just six weeks ago.
Mr. Royer first arrived in Korea 18 years ago as a backpacker and had a “quite interesting experience” as he described it. The native of Groebming, Austria, became interested in Oriental philosophy, Buddhism and martial arts and started learning Taekwondo.
Then one day he sprained his ankle and tore a ligament. He couldn’t walk for several days, and his Taekwondo teacher took him to an Oriental medicine clinic. The doctor inserted needles into his ear and the back of his hands. Soon afterwards, the pain was gone.
“It was amazing. I thought few Westerners had experienced it. Then I wondered why these remarkable techniques were not better known in the world,” Mr. Royer said.
In 1991, he decided to pursue Oriental medicine as his career and entered Daegu Haany University. Mr. Royer, who is fluent in German, Korean and English, graduated from the university in 1999, becoming the first Westerner to work as a doctor of Oriental medicine in Korea.
“In the beginning, people were surprised to see a blue-eyed doctor of Oriental medicine. Then they got used to it and they don’t seem surprised anymore,” he said.
Mr. Royer is a well-known figure in Korea’s foreign community, and his patients come from all over: Austria, Argentina, Italy, Costa Rica, Indonesia, the United States and Australia. He also writes a column on Oriental medicine for Seoul Magazine, an English-language monthly.
Mr. Royer said his specialty is acupuncture, but he also prescribes herbal treatments and deals with internal medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, and ear, nose and throat ailments. He treats back pains and spinal problems using herbal medicine, acupuncture, and a technique called chuna. Chuna, also known as Tuina, is a combination of massage and acupressure, applying pressure to muscles or nerves to remove blockages that prevent the free flow of qi, or “life energy.”
These methods can be a good alternative to surgery, he said. “The only way to treat spinal problems is surgery in Western medicine, but it has side effects and a high rate of recurrence. The Oriental medicine approach is very effective. It improves the spine by realigning the bone tissue.”
Mr. Royer said acupuncture has become quite popular in Europe. About 20,000 medical doctors use acupuncture in Germany, comparable to the fact that there are around 17,000 doctors of Oriental medicine in Korea. “Westerners came to seek alternative therapies that have fewer side effects [than Western medical practices]. Patients request this kind of treatment,” he said.
He added that many Chinese oriental medicine practitioners went to Europe and America in the 1970s and ’80s. Thus acupuncture is largely considered to be “Chinese medicine.”
“If people believe in the efficacy of acupuncture, they will also think herbal medicines are equally effective,” he said. “It’s late, but there is still a chance for Korean Oriental medicine practitioners to participate in the market.”
Mr. Royer is married to a Korean woman and has two children. His goal is to practice Oriental medicine in Europe. “My dream is to open an oriental medicine clinic in Vienna, Austria, in the near future,” he said.
by Limb Jae-un