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September 30, 2020

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South Korean specializes in traditional medicine

WONSOOK Hong, the first South Korean to get a traditional Chinese medicine li­cense in Shanghai, has received another honor — the city’s Magnolia Gold Award for con­tributions to the city in the past 27 years.

Hong had planned to be a teacher and studied family edu­cation at Dongguk University in South Korea. But she decided to study traditional Chinese medi­cine after graduation because several relatives were suffering from rare diseases that Western medicine wasn’t able to cure.

Hong came to Shanghai in 1993 to study at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chi­nese Medicine. Her ill relatives accompanied her, and their health conditions stabilized in a year after being treated by tra­ditional Chinese doctors.

“I thought I would go back home after earning a bachelor’s degree, but then I decided to stay and do master’s and doc­toral studies,” she said.

In 2002, China began to ac­cept foreigners in the exam to qualify as traditional medicine practitioners. Hong was among the first group of foreigners to take the exam and the first South Korean to get a license.

Since then, she has been working as a physician in local traditional medicine hospitals, including Shuguang, Yueyang and now the Minhang TCM Hospital. Linguistically, she can treat both Chinese and Korean patients.

Hong said she was once in­vited by the Korean Chamber of Commerce to deliver a speech to expatriate South Koreans on coping with health prob­lems and then asked to join a group to help South Koreans in Shanghai.

“They told me that some South Koreans don’t speak Chinese well and they didn’t know how to handle emergencies, such as traffic accidents or medical emergencies in a foreign envi­ronment,” she said. “They even don’t know which hospital they should go when diseases strike. So I agreed to join.”

Knowing Hong is working at the Minhang TCM Hospital, some Korean patients visit the hospital even though it may not specialize in their health problems.

Sino-Korean exchanges

Hong is also active in pro­moting exchanges between Shanghai and South Korea in the field of medicine.

She said, modern Chinese traditional medicine has de­veloped better than its Korean counterpart, partly because the Chinese have been more willing to embrace some of the advanced technologies of West­ern medicine.

“My teacher Ma Guitong told me we should not treat Chinese medicine and Western medicine as two separate entities,” she said. “Instead, we should use all the tools we have at our dis­posal to help our patients.”

She said she would like to promote traditional Chinese medicine in South Korea so that Korean patients don’t need to come to Shanghai for treatment as her relatives did.

With her efforts, 16 delega­tions of representatives from Korean health care authorities, universities, medical and media organizations have visited the Shanghai University of Tradi­tional Chinese Medicine and its affiliated hospitals since 2008. Some 150 Korean medical per­sonnel have come to Shanghai to receive training in traditional medicine.

In 2011, the Busan Univer­sity Affiliated Hospital set up an integrated medicine center, bringing Chinese medicine to South Korea. Two years ago, Busan University signed a mem­orandum of understanding for cooperation with Shanghai Uni­versity of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Hong said she now spends most of her time in Shanghai and returns to South Korean only on holidays to visit her mother and other family members.

“I have been living in Shang­hai for 27 years, longer than the time l have lived in South Korea, so Shanghai is my sec­ond home,” she said.

This year, she was stuck in South Korean due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

She bought 6,000 masks and donated them to the Shanghai University of Traditional Chi­nese Medicine.

She helped the community of South Koreans in Shanghai by sharing coronavirus preven­tion information and providing consultation services. No South Korean who stayed in Shanghai during the height of the pan­demic contracted the disease.

Hong was also in Shanghai during the outbreaks of SARS in 2003 and the H7N9 bird flu in 2009.

“During the SARS epidemic, many foreigners returned to their home countries, and I asked my mother whether I re­turn, too,” she said. “My mother told me that I should stay be­cause I am a doctor. So I stayed. Learning from the experiences of SARS and H7N9, Shanghai established an efficient team and mechanisms to handle coronavirus.”

Hong said she loves Shang­hai because it is an inclusive city where foreigners are welcomed.

“When I first came, I was actu­ally a little bit afraid of living in an unfamiliar city,” she said. “But I adapted very soon. The people in the city are friendly and open. Now I feel a bit out-of-touch with life in South Korea every time I re­turn, and when my flight touches ground in Shanghai again, I feel I am home.”


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