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October 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1983 ; 17(19): 1467-76.

A legacy without heirs: Korean indigenous medicine and primary health care.

Yoon SY.

The ancestral shadow of Korean indigenous medicine is long, alive and kicking. The problem is what role it should have in the future of primary health care. The issue of the integration of past medical systems with the modern ones requires a closer look at theoretical as well as practical issues. In this endeavor, medical social sciences are just beginning to reconstruct models which reflect the real concerns of developing countries. These would challenge the illusion that any medical system is an ahistorical institution with autonomous ideologies or intentions. And while bio-medical interventions have significant effects on health and fertility patterns, the distribution of resources within the society and historical patterns appear to have greater persuasion. The model proposed identifies the indigenous and cosmopolitan medical systems along with the household as the main units of the 'social reproduction' of the society, or, the means by which society is renewed. In the final analysis, integration would mean that a compromised alliance had been created between all institutions involved in social reproduction--including biological reproduction, reproduction of the labour force and society's values and institutions. The key structures are the triangle-indigenous medicine, primary health care and the household. The limitations of their functions are in the modes of production from which they derive their resources, political support and even many of their values.

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