[Life and medical missionary activities of Esther K. Pak (1877-1910)]

Uisahak. 2007 Dec;16(2):193-213.
[Article in Korean]


Esther K. Pak (1876-1910) is believed as the first medical doctor in Korea. Esther's life can be largely reviewed in three parts: school-hood at EwhaHaktang (currently Ewha Womans University), Education in the United States, and medical missionary work after coming back to Korea from the United States. The foreign Methodist missionaries was able to enter Korea after opening of its ports and establishing its diplomatic relationship with the United States. Esther met modern sciences and Christianity at EwhaHaktang, which was founded by those missionaries. She could dream of being an American-style medical doctor in the future, while she assisted medical missionaries at PoKuNyoKwan in EwhaHaktang. She could get substantial academic help from those missionaries. With the support of Dr. Rosetta Sherwood Hall, who first introduced the world of medial science to Esther in a real sense, Esther went to the United States to study the field in 1894. While learning it, she suffered from academic frustration, economic difficulty, her husband's death and so on, but she eventually got over those adversities and completed the four years of academic courses to become a medical doctor. Her religious faith and will to help Koreans as a doctor encouraged her to finish what she had originally planned. Esther came back to Korea in 1900 and began to work earnestly as a medical missionary delegated from Woman's Foreign Missionary Society. At PoKuNyoKwan in Seoul and Woman's Hospital in Pyongyang, She performed medical work and enlightenment campaign against the superstitious healing conduct. Esther also took part in the circuit missionary performances. She devoted herself for evangelical work at Bible Institute as well. Esther's activity made people understand the effectiveness of education. She helped people to recognize education for woman, occidental medical treatment and Christianity in a positive way. On April 28, 1909, based on these excellent performances for the social development, she was invited, honored and granted a testimonial at the first welcoming ceremony, which was held by the united body of civilians and officials, for students studying abroad. But on April 13, 1910, about one year after the ceremony, she died of illness. She was 34. Although she was born at the turbulent last period of Korea Empire and lived for only 34 years, Esther's medical missionary work was evaluated as the opening of woman's participation in medical science in Korea. Not only in the 'woman's' but also in 'whole' field of medical science, her performance left significant marks in woman's and Christian history in Korea as well.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Korea
  • Medical Missions / history
  • Missionaries
  • Protestantism / history
  • Religious Missions / history*

Personal name as subject

  • Esther K Pak