"Expect Health Food and Functional Food to Play the Role of Alternative Medicine"

  Dr. Young Kyoon Kim

Alternative medicine is enjoying a big boom in the U.S. and attracting the attention of other advanced nations which have deep concerns about soaring medical costs, at the same time as traditional medicine and medical lore are being reviewed. By fusing the advantages of traditional medicine with those of Occidental medicine, medical treatment is gradually moving towards an integrative medicine. We held an interview with Dr. Young Kyoon Kim, and asked him about the status of alternative medicine in the country.
――Please tell us the current situation of alternative medicine in Korea.P

Doctors of Chinese medicine are eager to promote alternative medicine.

Kim: Recently, alternative medicine has suddenly been taken up in our country as well. It covers traditional medicine and medical lore that have been practised out so far, but it is not a particularly novel type of medicine.

Speaking of alternative medicine, it encompasses various kinds of treatment such as Ayurveda in India, Quigong, aromatherapy and light therapy. In our country, it appears that doctors performing Chinese medicine have a very strong wish to promote alternative medicine. They see Chinese medicine as the core of alternative medicine. Some types of drugs are not effective in curing a disease, so they have a belief that alternative medicine, such as Chinese medicine, is very much required to treat patients fundamentally to improve their physical condition. Recently, health food and folk remedies, combined with rational scientific explanations, have come to attract attention as a type of alternative medicine.

Alternative medicine as such sometimes covers that modern medicine cannot deal with. However, there still remain nonscientific aspects, which means that it has not been adequately tested. It has neither been systematized nor has it become commonplace yet. However, those suffering from cancer or chronic life-style diseases such as hypertension are very interested in it. Even if they received drug treatment, their symptoms would only be relieved temporarily, while the illness itself is not cured. They feel that their symptoms would revert to the former state if they were to stop taking the medicines. In order to remedy illness, it is necessary for patients to change their physical condition. When they do that, they recognize that alternative medicine would help them do so. In Korea, young medical students have an interest in alternative medicine, and a movement about it is spreading among them. Recently, a medical college at Hyundai Group, a major industrial group in Korea, invited teachers from Harvard University to hold a two day seminar on the subject of "The contact point of Occidental medicine, and mind and body therapies". Thus, public recognition of it is on the increase.

――Please tell us the status quo of the medical system in your country.

Kim: We now have 43 medical colleges. In addition, there are about 20 schools for Chinese doctors under the control of the Ministry of Education. In our country, the dual system of medication is not allowed, so Chinese medicine must be incorporated into Occidental medicine. That is, there is an idea that Chinese medicine has to be placed beneath the structure with these medical techniques integrated into one. However, Chinese doctors would not agree to it. Nowadays, young Koreans are attracted by and have an interest in Chinese medicine. There are some cases where high-achieving students tried to get into Chinese medical schools. Chinese medical practitioners are very advantaged financially, so this is one of the motives for the young for aim at this occupation.

――It has been said that the roles of health food as alternative medicine have drawn attention lately.

Extensive development of health food would start from now.

Kim: The expansion would happen in a few years from now. For materials, mushrooms, chitin chitosan, Agaricus and Ganoderma Iucidum are popular. Information related to them is mainly supplied from the U.S. Materials which were once booming in Japan are likely to be marketed here with a time lag of 5 to 10 years. The market size is still small compared with that of Japan.

Chinese medicine still leaves room for future development in its own way. My own view is that health food in general will have future growth potential for the purpose of alternative medicine. People would generally require health food with background or rationales, or that with scientifically proven evidence.

――Could you tell us about health management through ordinary food in the daily diet.

Kim: In Korea, we consume a lot of vegetables, especially those which have undergone a fermentation process, such as 'kimuchi,' Korean hot and spicy pickles. In addition, we frequently take soybean products such as miso-soup and bean curd. However, I think that we take too much salt. I believe that we take much more salt than Japanese people do. We eat a lot of meat as well. But recently we have come to consume more fish than before. It appears that eating fish is good advice for a longer life and lower incidence of life-style related diseases.

Dr. Young Kyoon Kim
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