Esther Park, born on March 16, 1877 in Jeong-dong,
was the first and only woman scientist and one of the few university graduates during her generation.
She practiced free medicine for the poor, traveled around Pyeongyang and emphasized the importance of educating women. She received a silver medal from Emperor Gojong for her contribution and it is said that she treated about 3,000 patients after returning from her medical studies abroad until the day she died.
Park first met Ewha’s founder, Mary F. Scranton, through her father who was helping foreign missionaries in
. Park became one of the first students in Ewha Haktang, the educational institute that eventually became today’s Ewha. With the help from missionaries, Park married Park Yeo-seon (1868-1899) in 1893 and changed her name from Kim Jeom-dong to Esther Park.
Park followed an American missionary, R.S. Hall, and moved to Liberty, New York to study English in 1895. When her language studies were done, Park enrolled at a nursing school for one year. Finally, on October 1, 1896, she entered the Baltimore Women’s Medical School (BWMS), the forerunner of Johns Hopkins Medical School and became the first Korean woman to graduate from BWMS and receive a doctor’s degree. This was 15 years after a Japanese woman began medical practice.
After receiving her degree, Park immediately came back to and began practicing Western medicine at Bogu-yeokwan, the forerunner of today’s
The Esther Park award was established in 2008 by the alumnae committee of Ewha School of Medicine to commemorate Park’s achievements and award Ewha alumnae who carry on the legacy of Park as woman doctors and scientists.