The purpose of the thesis is to explore the characteristics of the system of medical
professions and its changes in terms of the conflicts existing among the medical
professions in South Korea since the 1990s, in the light mainly of Abbott's theory of the
professional system (Abbott, 1988). Four cases of conflict were examined and analysed:
the conflict between oriental medicine and pharmacy over preparing oriental medicines;
the one between western medicine and pharmacy over the separation system; the one
between western medicine and oriental medicine over unification; and the one among the
three medical professions over the National Health Insurance. This study used primary
data from interviewing members, particularly elites, of the three medical professions, the
government, the press and civic groups. The data included active and dynamic inside
information about individual medical professions and conflicts.
With the conflicts, the situations of the medical professional system has changed:
pharmacy kept and even strengthened its position in the professional system; oriental
medicine also found opportunities to develop its professionalism and fortify its position in
health care; and western medicine faced its weakening influence in the medical
professional system. In addition to a change in the influence of individual medical
professions, the features of the conflicts have changed. The former two open conflicts
were undertaken in a strong and violent way, using strikes and street demonstrations.
However, in the latter two conflicts, professions attempted academic and logical
strategies to control their situations.
Through the four medical conflicts, more complex causes and situations have
been uncovered in the medical professional system and health care in Korea. The
conflicts have developed from professional jurisdictional ones into economic and political
ones. Applying Abbott's factors to the Korean cases, the following points are outstanding:
salient organisational development of individual professions; inconsistency between the
influence of a dominant profession and the actual result of conflict; more dynamic and
fundamental influences of political, economic, social and cultural factors; and the
influence of the government's mismanagement.