Who has the right to practice?

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Who has the right to practice?


Heo Jun, a Joseon-era court physician and the author of the medical encyclopedia “Donguibogam,” is quoted in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, as telling King Seonjo: “I am not very good at acupuncture.” Perhaps the master physician was very humble, or perhaps he was confident that his herbal remedies were good enough to treat his patients.

But his preference for herbal remedies generally contrasts with Eastern medicine, which prioritizes acupuncture as the first method of treatment. The second method of treatment is moxibustion and the third is medicine. In Eastern medicine, it is believed that a single acupuncture treatment can save a life and that two moxibustion treatments can cure all illnesses. Medicine is the treatment of last resort, and it is said that the best medicine is a meal. That’s why practitioners of Eastern medicine joke that they hate the saying, “Food is the best medicine.”

Acupuncture has roots in the Stone Age, when prehistoric people used sharp rocks to puncture a festering boil and squeeze out the pus. In the Iron Age, rocks were discarded in favor of needles made of bones, bamboo and ceramic. Moxibustion was also widely used during this time.

According to “The Inner Canon of Huangdi,” a medical text from the Warring States Period of China, “The people of the North tend to be cold in their stomachs, and stomachache can be treated with moxibustion.” The Chinese philosopher Mencius also recommended moxibustion for chronic illnesses.

In Korea’s creation legend, Ungnyeo, the mythological mother, was given mugwort as the herb of life.

The ancients were not the only ones to recommend traditional treatments. Dr. Seok Young-hwan, who worked at the Kim Il-sung Longevity Research Institute of the Pyongyang Medical School, provided several North Korean folk remedies: If your blood pressure is too low, drink ginger tea and eat leeks. For bronchitis, eat omija (five flavor berry). Mung beans and kelp can reduce obesity, and nicotine-related illnesses can be alleviated with seaweed. Garlic juice works for hair loss, and acorns can treat chronic stomach flu. If you suffer from night blindness, conventional medicine says you need vitamin A, which can also be found in liver. Some folk practitioners recommend smoking after eating, since nicotine activates the movement of the colon.

Ancient people did not analyze the components and effects; their remedies are the result of their collective experience.

In the appeal instituted by Kim Nam-soo, a master practitioner of Eastern medicine, the Constitutional Court upheld Thursday the law that says that only licensed personnel can practice moxibustion or other forms of Eastern medicine - no matter how well you do your job or how long you have been practicing.

Kim says he is planning to move his acupuncture and moxibustion center to Jeju Island. When he does, his practice will still be illegal, but I imagine that flights to Jeju are about to become a lot more crowded.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Jong-kwon
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