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Chejungwon (Hangul제중원; Hanja濟衆院) was founded in Seoul in 1885, and is known as the first Western medical institution in Korea.


Establishment as Gwanghyewon[edit]

In 1885, during the Gapsin Coup, Min Young-ik, the nephew of Empress Myeongseong (wife of Emperor Gojong), was stabbed and seriously injured. The German diplomat Paul Georg von Möllendorff was present at the massacre and quickly requested Dr. Horace Newton Allen's medical care. Horace Newton Allen was an American Presbyterian missionary who studied medicine at Miami University. Under his modern medical treatment unknown to Korea at the time, Min recovered in three months. Thereafter, Gojong displayed an interest in Western medicine, leading to the appointment of Allen as his personal court physician. Together, they established Gwanghyewon (Hangul광혜원; Hanja廣惠院; lit. "House of Extended Grace" or "Widespread Relief House"), Joseon's first Western hospital, on 29 February 1885.[1] The hospital was located in Jae-dong, Seoul.

Renamed as Chejungwon[edit]

On 12 March 1885, Gojong renamed Gwanghyewon as Chejungwon (Hangul제중원; Hanja濟衆院; lit. "House of Civilized Virtue"). In March 1886, sixteen men were selected as Chejungwon's first batch of students to study Western medicine. Twelve of the sixteen students successfully became doctors.

Renamed as Severance Hospital[edit]

In 1893, Oliver R. Avison, a professor of the University of Toronto, became the fourth hospital director of Chejungwon. In 1900, while on furlough in North America, Avison was invited to speak at a conference of missions in New York City, and among the audience was Louis Severance, an American businessman and philanthropist from Cleveland. Severance donated a large sum of money (US$45.000) to Chejungwon, with which a new hospital was built in front of Sungnyemun. Chejungwon subsequently changed its name to "Severance Hospital" on 3 September 1904. In the same year, the hospital added the Severance Hospital Medical School and the attached School of Nursing. After Severance's death, his son, John Severance, donated an additional US$120,000 to the hospital. Severance Hospital became one of the best-equipped and most famous hospitals in Asia.[2]

The first seven medical licenses in Korean history were all graduates of Severance Hospital Medical School on 3 June 1908: Hong Jong-eun, Kim Pil-soon, Hong Seok-hoo, Park Seo-yang, Kim Hui-yeong, Ju Hyun-cheuk and Shin Chang-hee. All seven doctors later became important figures in the construction of modern Korea.

In 1942 during Japanese colonial rule, the Japanese forcefully renamed the hospital and medical school as "Asahi Medical School." When Korea regained independence in 1945, the hospital officially reclaimed its name as Severance Hospital. The medical school was upgraded to "Severance Medical College" in 1947.

On 5 January 1957, the Severance Medical College was united with Yonhee University under the name of Yonsei University. The Severance Hospital is currently part of the Yonsei University Health System and affiliated with the Yonsei University College of Medicine.

Hospital directors[edit]

  1. Horace Newton Allen (Hangul엘런) - March 1885 to September 1887
  2. John William Heron (Hangul헤론) - September 1887 to July 1890[3]
  3. Charles C. Vinton (Hangul빈튼) - April 1891 to November 1893
  4. Oliver R. Avison (Hangul어비슨) - November 1893 - 1932


Chejungwon was the first Western hospital and medical school in Korea. Its transition into the Korean society, however, was not easy. The older generation of Koreans did not believe and trust them as doctors because they were foreign; because of these doubts, Koreans thought that Western medicine was not effective. Yet, under the leadership and efforts of its hospital directors, Chejungwon became one of the most renowned hospitals at that time, eventually earning the trust of the locals.

In popular culture[edit]

The 36-episode television series Jejungwon, starring Park Yong-woo, Han Hye-jin and Yeon Jung-hoon, aired on SBS in 2010.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim, Jong-rok (25 April 2011). "The home of modern medicine in Korea". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  2. ^ Phillips, Douglas G. (29 November 2000). "Avison of Korea". Cogeco. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  3. ^ Im, Seung-rye; Kim, Jung-rok (21 January 2010). "Heroes in their adopted country". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 
  4. ^ Kang, Hye-ran (14 January 2010). "Historical drama concocts formula for success". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2013-08-31. 

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