Moving to Korea > Health and Medical Services

Traditional Korean Medicine

Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM), while based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has developed its own unique diagnostic and treatment features. For instance, acupuncture techniques such as Sa-am, Tae-guk and Hand Acupuncture are not found in TCM. Experts estimate that 80-90% of acupuncture trigger points are the same in both TKM and TCM, with 10-20% being unique to the Korean discipline. 

Sasang Constitutional Medicine (SCM), which classifies people into four different types - Taeyangin, Taeumin, Soyangin and Soeumin - was developed in Korea in the late 19th century. SCM types are based on the congenital formation of certain organs.  A Taeyangin (TY) type is referenced has strong Lungs and a weak Liver, a Taeumin (TE) type has a strong Liver and weak Lungs, an Soyangin (SY) type has a strong Spleen and weak Kidneys and a Soeumin (SE) type has strong Kidneys and a weak Spleen.  These four constitution types each have their own symptoms and treatments.

Pain Management is considered one of the major benefits of Traditional Korean Medicine. Proponents of acupuncture and herbal medicine define these treatments as safe, reliable and effective ways of eliminating pain.  Many people also choose to have acupuncture as a preventive measure or as an option when they don’t feel well but have not receive a diagnosis of a specific illness by a Western medicine practitioner. TCM acupuncture is described as a holistic form of healing, one that aims to remove the underlying causes of a person’s health problem(s), rather than just suppressing the symptoms.

Traditional Korean medicine has also branched out into cosmetic applications as a safe, effective and natural way to reduce the signs of aging that is not as invasive and "extreme" as plastic surgery. The needles work by improving muscle tone in the face and neck, while also treating internal imbalances that contribute to signs of aging.

Training of Practioners
Oriental Medicine practitioners in Korea undergo a six-year training programme. The curriculum includes Western Medicine, Chinese Medicine as well as Korean Medicine practices. Following graduation from medical college, students are required to sit for a national examination in order to receive their Oriental Medical Doctor’s license. Graduate schools of oriental medicine confer doctoral and master degrees. University affiliated hospitals offer 4- year specialist residency programs for further qualifications.

Treatment Coverage
Many Oriental Medicine treatments, excluding cosmetic treatments, are covered under the Korean National Heath Insurance System. Herbal medication in powder form may be covered but those in liquid form are generally not.

Conditions Treated by Acupuncture
In an official report, Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials, the WHO (World Health Organisation) has listed the following symptoms, diseases and conditions that have been shown through controlled trials to be treated effectively by acupuncture:   
low back pain
neck pain
tennis elbow
knee pain
periarthritis of the shoulder
facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
dental pain
tempromandibular (TMJ) dysfunction
rheumatoid arthritis
induction of labor
correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation)
morning sickness
nausea and vomiting
postoperative pain
essential hypertension
primary hypotension
renal colic
adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
allergic rhinitis, including hay fever
biliary colic
depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
acute bacillary dysentery
primary dysmenorrhea
acute epigastralgia
peptic ulcer
acute and chronic gastritis

K4E Editor: We try to provide as complete and accurate information as possible so if you note any errors or omissions above, please let us know at

Last Updated on 2021-02-20

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