Recently, there was a heated controversy among students regarding the Korea University College of Medicine and the Medical Center including the history of Bogu Yeogwan and Dr. Esther Park in their promotional materials.
Although they did not say that Park was from Korea University, she was recorded as one of the most important people in the history of their medical center and that the College of Medicine share root with Bogu Yeogwan. However, as Bogu Yeogwan and the career of Park all began in Ewha, students were not pleased how Ewha’s proud history was being used in other university’s PR pamphlet as it could confuse the readers of the origin of medical education for women in Korea.
The first women’s hospital in Korea, Bogu Yeogwan was started at Ewha in 1887 by Mary Scranton. As it was not socially acceptable for male doctors to treat women at the time, Dr. Meta Howard came to Korea to treat women and help Scranton in educating young girls. Esther Park is one of the first students to study in Ewha and with the support of Rosetta Sherwood Hall, the medical missionary who worked at Bogu Yeogwan. Park continued her studies at the Baltimore Women’s Medical College, becoming the first Korean woman physician in 1900. She returned to Korea and after working at Bogu Yeogwan and in rural places offering free medical services, after which she died of tuberculosis in 1910.
For Hall, she hoped to foster more Korean women physicians, so she opened Chosun Women’s Medical Training Institute in 1928, which is now considered as the body of Korea University College of Medicine. Thus the reason why Korea University includes Park into their promotional materials is mainly because of Hall’s connection with Park.
However, many Ewha students claim that due to the huge influence Hall had in Park’s career and in Bogu Yeogwan, the university seems to overly connect their history to the extent where they do not actually have any relation. In fact, the Chosun Women’s Medical Training Institute was built 18 years after Park’s passing. Park practically had no influence in the institute, meaning that the usage of Park’s name in Korea University Medical Center’s “Early Historical Figures Biographies” section is faulty.
First Korean female doctor Esther Park’s career began at Ewha
Lee Bang-won, a history professor and the author of the book “Esther Park” stated in an interview with Ewha Weekly that considering Park’s career as the beginning of Korea University is wrong.
“To be able to say that Park is Korea University’s early historical figure, there needs to be Park’s actual connection to the school, however there clearly isn’t,” Lee said. “Park is part of Ewha history, not theirs.”
The dean of Ewha College of Medicine, Lee Ji-hee also agreed with Professor Lee saying that Park has no direct connection with Korea University and does not agree with their statements that Park is one of the key figures of their medical center.
In regards to how the school handled the situation, they uploaded card news about the history of Bogu Yeogwan and Esther Park on the school’s official Facebook, Instagram, Naver blog and website on May 2.
Further, along with the recent opening of Ewha Womans University Seoul Hospital, the Office of Communications has been working hard on spreading the right history thorough the hospital’s official Instagram and to the press.
“Currently, we don’t have plans on discussing the issue with Korea University, but we are aware of the issue and trying our best to set the record straight,” said one of the official from the Office of Communication.