Comic draws on med texts for series

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Comic draws on med texts for series

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The late physician Heo Jun, left, and comic writer Heo Young-man over a Go game table board, in a comic drawn by Heo Young-man, right. [JoongAng Ilbo]

In this age of medical miracles, there are pieces of ancient books that are still regarded as reference works. Although the great physician Heo Jun (1539-1615) worked for royal families in the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) for most of his life, the sympathetic physician compiled “Dongui Bogam,” a series of comprehensive books for the general public, which was prone to illnesses. The books feature accessible herbal medicines, folk remedies and guidelines for living a healthy life.

The spirit of the legendary physician is being preserved by one of his descendants, the comic writer Heo Young-man. Heo, 65, has recently breathed life into the great works by converting the text into drawings to make the material more comprehensible for modern people.

Heo is a famous Korean comic writer who made several hit comics such as “Gaksital” in 1974, “Tazza” in 2000 and “Sikgaek” in 2003, which were adapted into movies or dramas.

Since April, he has uploaded comic strips titled “Heo Heo Dongui Bogam” to Kakao Page, which will be published in a book on Sept. 3. The book will have 20 series in five years if it goes as he plans.

“I think it is meaningful, as I am the same clan of the physician” Heo said. “As it so happens, this year marks the 400th year of the books’ publication.”

What bridged the ancestor and the descendant is the chronic pain in his shoulder he gained while working on comics. As he attended an Oriental medical clinic and received acupuncture, he got much better and was captivated by Oriental medicine.

The first volume, titled “Die or Live?” features how to live a long and healthy life based on human anatomy depicted from the first of five volumes of Dongui Bogam on the inner body.

“Heo Jun wrote his initiative on the books that he prescribed accessible herbal medicines so poor members of the public can take care of themselves. So I also tried my best to write based on practical medical knowledge so readers can easily adopt it,” Heo said.

In order to deliver accurate knowledge, the meticulous writer has been learning Oriental medicine from three doctors for two years. In addition, he did hands-on studying in the mountains to explore medicinal herbs.

Ever since his studies, Heo has been taking extra care of his health. To follow the regimen of the books, he wakes up early in the morning, saves his saliva and swallows while covering up his body with a blanket. “Sometimes my wife frowns at me,” he laughed.

The veteran writer made a slight change by putting an emphasis on simple drawings. He said it was pleasant work to draw freely, unlike his previous work, “Sikgaek,” which is faithful to reality.

“Now, as I am thinking back, I think what matters more is how you portray in an interesting way than how to draw” Heo said. “I feel like I can continue drawing as long as I have power to lift chopsticks.”

BY KIM HYO-EUN [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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