By Kim Tong-hyung
Medical doctors and Oriental medicine practitioners are clashing over something least expected for the usual reason ― pride.
Following the UNESCO designation of "Dongui Bogam," an ancient traditional medical encyclopedia, as a world heritage, the Korean Medical Association (KMA), the lobby for doctors, downplayed its importance with an irritable panache Tuesday.
"Interpreting its UNESCO registration as the stamp of excellence for Oriental medicine is like trying to make a national car-navigation system based on the Daedong Yeoji Jeondo (a 19th century Korean map)," the KMA said in a statement.
"It shouldn't be taken as anything more than a recognition of the book's value as a historical relic," the association said. "It should not be taken as an acknowledgement of traditional medicine for its superior effectiveness."
"It is a pity some people fail to tell the difference between cultural heritage and science," the KMA said in a poignant reference to spin put out by the Oriental medicine practitioners on the UNESCO recognition.
The KMA statement was issued after the Association of Korean Oriental Medicine (AKOM) claimed that the UNESCO recognition reflects the growing international respect for Oriental medicine and its techniques in treatment and diagnosis.
In a tit for tat, AKOM accused the doctors of the lack of their appreciation of the influence of the "Mirror of Eastern Medicine" and history.
"There were a lot of absurdities in Western medicine, but the theories and treatments have been advancing continuously since," said an AKOM spokesman. "It's our job to inherit and advance traditional medicine."
The Joseon Kingdom medical book was among the 35 items registered to UNESCO's Memory of the World. The book was written by royal physician, Heo Jun, and published by the Medical Center for the Royal Family of the 1392-1910 Joseon Kingdom.
The book has long been considered among the country's most valuable treasures. The book has been widely printed in Asia and is cherished for its clinical compilation by Oriental medicine practitioners both in Japan and China.
Korea has staged an organized effort to have it recognized by UNESCO ahead of China's pursuit of the same recognition for its traditional medical science that portrays old Korean medicine as part.