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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Logo der Einrichtung

In-Hyo Park



Adapting to a 'biomedical world': the relationship between doctors of Korean medicine (KM) and biomedical doctors in the process of 'Western-Korean Cooperative Medical Treatment' (WKCT) in hospital settings

The relationship between modern biomedicine and traditional medicine (TM) / complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been widely discussed within the concept of medical pluralism since the 1970s with the re-emerging importance of TM and CAM worldwide. As a case study, this thesis explores the relationship between doctors of Korean medicine (KM) and biomedical doctors in clinical practices in South Korea, in which they are mutually involved with patient management under 'Western-Korean Cooperative Treatment' (WKCT). Grounded upon the concept of 'medical pluralism' and 'biomedical dominance in situations of medical pluralism' as the main conceptual framework, it attempts to find the crucial mediating factors that enable KM and biomedical doctors to work together despite their different viewpoints on health and illness, and to examine their power relations in the process of the WKCT in clinical settings.

Based upon the qualitative field research in 4 hospital settings in the city of Busan - influenced by grounded theory approach - this study argues that KM doctors' biomedical knowledge plays a central role when KM and biomedical doctors communicate with each other for cooperative patient management. In the process of the WKCT, KM doctors are steadily situated to recall, utilize and develop their biomedical knowledge to communicate with biomedical doctors who do not have any KM knowledge, and their patients who predominantly prefer biomedical explanations to KM. In this situation, unequal power relations between biomedicine/biomedical doctors and KM/KM doctors - with equal legal status as "medical doctors" - come into view in the daily clinical process of the WKCT, which is not explicitly visible in the South Korean medical system when they work in separate spaces.

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