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Introduction

HOME > About YUCM > Introduction

Historical photos

In the late 19th century, a turbulent time of political intrigue and burgeoning Western thought, Korea, the Hermit Kingdom, was struggling against Japanese expansionism. The last ruling royals were of the Yi Dynasty. It was then that modern medicine began in Korea. when Dr. Horace N. Allen, a Protestant missionary doctor from the Presbyterian Missions in New York, arrived in seoul.

In December of 1884, Dr. Allen was given the opportunity of saving the life of the nephew of powerful Queen Min. In gratitude, at the behest of King Kojong, the Royal Hospital Kwang Hye Won, which means “House of Extended Grace” was founded. Soon after, this was renamed Che Jung Won or “Universal Helpfulness”. The King appointed Dr. Allen as head of the hospital, after whom Dr. Charles C. Vinton and Dr. Oliver R. Avison successfully carried on his work. Dr. Allen and his colleague, Dr. J. W Heron, went further, establishing a medical school in 1886. They named it Che Jung Won Medical School – the basis for modern medical education in Korea.

In 1894, the Presbyterian North Mission was given control of the hospital from the government, and since then it has been a distinctly missionary institution. In the early years, hospital care was furnished in an remodeled, though small, traditional Korean building. However, it was determined that an adequate facility needed to be erected, and so in 1899, Dr. Avison was authorized, this time by the Mission Board, to raise a sum of $10,000. In addition, plans and estimates were drawn up. At the Ecumenical Missionary Conference in New York in 1900, Dr. Avison presented his proposal entitled, “Comity in Medical Missions”. Mr. Louis H. Severance, an American philanthropist in the audience, was enthralled upon hearing the speech.

He then decided that Seoul would be on ideal place to build a hospital – a project he had been planning for years. He arranged to meet Dr. Avison and was shown the plans and quotations. Within a few days, a donation of $10,000 was secured. The hospital was completed in September of 1904, and became the first modern hospital in Korea. It was named “Severance Memorial Hospital”. Subsequently, the original donation was increased to approximately $25,000. Mr. Severance also donated the funds to support the hospital and medical education. Even after Mr. Severance’s death, his son and daughter graciously continued to support the institution as their father did.

The first regular class of medical students was enrolled in 1900. The beginning of modern medical education, however, dates back to 1886, during which medical instruction continued, even though it did not take on a regular and systemic form. The first class of seven men graduated in June of 1908. The school by then was named “Severance Hospital Medical School”. After the graduation of the first class, efforts were then undertaken to unite the various missions that were involved in the school at the time. Until 1912, hospital care could hardly be termed “united”, for doctors form various missions other than Presbyterian North, had been offering assistance in courses and lectures, and they were not in truth “residents”. That year, however, marked a new phase into the medical school’s future.

The Southern Presbyterian Mission appointe Dr. Kung Sun Oh as the first Korean dean of the school. This was soon followed by the appointment of staff from different Mission Boards, i.e., the Southern Methodist Mission, the Methodist Episcopal Mission and the Australian Presbyterian Mission. The name of the medical school was aptly changed to “Severance Union Medical College (SUMC)”.

As the number of graduates increased, the faculty of the school, at the time mainly consisting of missionary doctors, was gradually replaced by its own graduates. SUMC remained the only medical school for Koreans, operated by Koreans until the end of the Japanese colonization. During these difficult years of Japanese rule and the transitional period after World War Ⅱ, deeply dedicated leaders led Severance. This began with Dr. Kung Sun Oh, who succeeded Dr. Avison, followed by Dr. Yong Joon Rhee, Dr. Dong Choy, Dr. Yong Sul Lee, and Dr. Myung Sun Kim.

The outbreak of the Korean War tragically saw more then 80% of the building and facilities destroyed. But, the staff and students set up refugee hospitals on Koje Island, at Chungdo and Wonju, in hope that Severance would continue to function as a hospital and medical school. The old Severance building was partially restored and used until 1962.

The merger of Severance Union Medical College and Chosun Christian to form the new Yonsei University in January of 1957 was the realization of a decades-ole dream. Dr. Myung Sun Kim, the former president of Severance Union Medical College, became the vice-president for Medical Affairs at Yonsei University. In 1955, the construction of Yonsei University Medical Center was undertaken on the campus of Chosun Christian University. This was accomplished with the help of the U.S. 8th Army, the United Board for Christian Higher Education In Asia, The China Medical Board and Alumni of SUMC.

The 8th Army aided in the creation of the Memorial Chest Surgery Hospital; the United Board, the General Ward Hospital; the China Medical Board, a basic science building and library; and SUMC alumni, outpatient clinics. In 1962, the former Severance Union Medical College and Hospital ware moved to the present Yonsei University Campus, a beautiful 15-acre site located in the western portion of Seoul.

 

Yonsei University College of Medicine continued to advance to meet the challenges of constant change in, the need for leadership in medical education and in the Christian ministry of healing. In 1968, the first electron microscope in Korea was installed, and a cardiac laboratory and intensive care unit were added to the hospital. In 1969, a 4-story wing functioning as a private ward was added. This was expanded to 10 stories in 1979. The Speech and Hearing Center was established that same year.

The Yonsei Cancer Center was also founded in 1969 as a joint effort between the Korean government and Yonsei Medical Center to meet the needs of those afflicted with cancer from around the nation. It was equipped with the most up-to-date radiotherapeutic and diagnostic facilities at that time. In 1973, the Basic Science Building was expanded and a new library building was constructed. In 1975, the Kwang Wha Community Health Teaching Center was formed with the support of the protestant Central Agency for Development Aid(EZE) of West Germany and the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.

In 1983, a new 400-bed hospital was built in Gangnam, an area south of the Han River. Following this, in 1987, as part of the Centennial Projects, construction of the Yonsei Rehabilitation Center, restoration of the first Korean hospital (Kwang Hye Won), and construction of the Allen Memorial Guesthouse were completed. In the wake of international trends, the hospital began decentralization into a complex of specialized centers in 1992, beginning with a 240-bed Cardiovascular Center. Kwangju Severance Psychiatric Hospital opened in 1993 and a specialized institute for Ophthalmology and ENT opened in 1996.

The Yonsei University College of Medicine Alumni Association has played many crucial roles in the continued growth and expansion of the Yonsei University Health System. The Chejung Haksa(1974), then- state of the art dormitory for medical students, the Mooak 3 Haksa (1998) dormitory, and the Allen Memorial Guesthouse were erected by the Alumni Association. The Kwang Hye Won – the birthplace of Yonsei University – was also restored within the campus by the Alumni Association. Completed in January 2017, Chejung House has a total of 302 rooms with 604 students residents. This state-of-the-art dormitory comes with various facilities including a fitness center, a history wall, and a study room.

Currently, Yonsei Medical College enrolls 100 students every year, has more than 550 full time faculty members and over 1,000 full-time fellows and staff. Severance Hospital, a 2,300-bed state-of-the-art hospital with more than 10,000 daily outpatients is the main teaching hospital. Yonsei University College of Medicine strives to grow continuously in the spirit of Creativity, Christianity, and Cooperation and will pledge to maintain a highest standard of education, research and service for which to serve to public.

memorial tablet
Commemorating the Selection
as the Most Outstanding Medical School

In the first national survey of medical schools conducted by Korean Council for University Education (KCUE) in 1996, Yonsei University College of Medicine is distinguished as the only school in Korea to receive the highest rating in each of the 6 survey categories and pledges its commitment to excellence.

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