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Traditional Asian medicine gains popularity in South Korea


July 21, 1996
Web posted at: 11:59 p.m. EDT (0359 GMT)

From Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Seven-year-old Ji-Hoon has a stomachache. But instead of using a stethoscope to diagnose his problem, Ji-Hoon's doctor takes his pulse, and after much persuasion, pushes seven small needles into pressure points, helping the stomachache go away.

Ji-Hoon went to one of the more than 6,000 South Korean traditional medical clinics, gaining new popularity here.

"I've tried giving him medicine from the pharmacies, but after a while, the trouble comes back," says Ji-Hoon's mother, Gong Yae-Ok.

Many people like her are finding that the age-old practice of acupuncture, supplemented by modern science, is a safe and at times more effective alternative to Western medicine.

"There are many things Western medicine can't cure...even the common cold. And increasingly, people are coming to us for their ailments," says traditional medical doctor Lee Sung-Jo.

Growth prompts new regulations


The growth in popularity of traditional Asian medicine has prompted the government to recently introduce measures to regulate and modernize the industry.

One step: the requirement that all raw ingredients of traditional medicine, like herbs and animal parts, be packaged and labeled.

In this traditional Asian medicine market, new regulations have forced many smaller shops to go out of business.

But it was the government regulations that first allowed Western pharmacies to deal in traditional medicine, causing outrage among traditional practitioners.

doctors protesting

"Stop oppressing traditional medicine," shout more than 2,000 of its practitioners.

Many of them have shaved their heads to protest the government's rule to let Western pharmacies sell and dispense herbal medicine.

"The government talks about modernizing our field, but it is their policies which are preventing us from developing," says Roh Sang-Ryong, a doctor practising traditional Asian medicine.

Roh's clinic is a prime example of just how developed and modern traditional medicine can be. He even has machines to help him diagnose the correct herbal brew.

Indeed, traditional medicine is being used for some modern concerns including helping burn off fat.

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