Korean Chiropractors Fight for Existence By Dennis Richards, BSc, DC, WFC First Vice‐President Many of us are aware that DD Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, was jailed for practising medicine without a license and that thousands of other pioneer chiropractors were charged for this terrible crime, with many jailed. We thought that this persecution had ended in the US in 1975 and more recently in France and Spain, but it continues even today, in South Korea. There is a long list going back many years of Korean chiropractors who have been convicted in this way and forced to leave their country if they wanted to continue to practise. CAA President Dr Laurie Tassell and I recently travelled to Seoul, the capital of Korea, to attend the Annual Assembly of the Asia Pacific Chiropractic Doctors’ Federation (APCDF) and to investigate further the legal situation in Korea. We spent considerable time in discussion with Dr Taeg Su Choi, President of the Korean Chiropractic Association, who has been convicted twice, placed on probation and recently reported again and interviewed by the police. Along with Dr Choi and Dr Janet Sosna, President of the APCDF, we visited the tiny office of Mr Tae Won Park, the KCA’s constitutional lawyer. We were joined by KCA member Dr Jun Young Ahn, who has also been charged, and listened to Mr Park explain via translator their future plans in this matter. In Korea there are about 100,000 medical doctors, 20,000 Oriental medical doctors, and 100 properly qualified chiropractors. The KCA has 17 members. Physiotherapists must practise under the control of a medical doctor and are permitted to practise ‘chiropractic.’ Many hospitals and orthopaedic clinics advertise ‘chiropractic’ services. It is illegal for a chiropractor to practise chiropractic in Korea. If they do, they are subject to arrest and prosecution. Medical and oriental medical doctors can do chiropractic, even though they have no or inferior training and cannot skilfully adjust. So the Korean people cannot legally have skilled chiropractic care. Under the Korean system they can only have drugs, surgery, physiotherapy, oriental medicine or massage, which can legally be performed only by blind people.. Mr Park explained that there are two choices to work towards legalisation of chiropractic: 1) The National Assembly could change the current legislation, but the medical lobby is too powerful for that to happen. It will take many years before the small Hanseo University chiropractic program in Korea produces enough graduates to give chiropractic more political influence. How will new graduates and existing chiropractors practise illegally before then? 2) Use the Constitutional Court. Dr Choi has tried this twice and failed both times. But the number of judges voting his way is increasing and is getting close to what he needs to win. He will try again, arguing that the Court should declare that current law contravenes the Constitution, that chiropractors should have the freedom to practise and that this should be put into legislation. The Court will have to be shown that chiropractors have appropriate professional education and that chiropractic care is safe. To assist in this he has requested that we supply
documents supporting this and we are doing so. More importantly, Dr Choi has asked us for financial support to fund legal costs. The KCA has only 18 members and an annual budget of $5,400. So far they have paid their own legal costs. However, Dr Choi estimates that the total cost of the legal process will be about $40,000. They cannot afford that as they have small, hidden practises. The World Federation of Chiropractic has announced an appeal and donations so far amount to $6,500. Dr Choi has put substantial amounts of his own money, effort and time into these matters. After the Seoul meetings I was privileged to stay with Dr Choi and his family. This enabled me to get to better know him and his situation. He is a quiet and determined man, in spite of the high financial and personal costs to him in this battle for chiropractic. He finds it very stressful. He has been President of the KCA for nine years and does all the administrative duties on his own. The KCA has no separate office, staff or equipment. He finds this plus the legal battle and threat a heavy burden to carry but does so with great courage and without flinching. His wife Dongyong is a chiropractor also but does not practise as she is afraid of possible effects on their fifteen‐ and nine‐year‐old children if she too were charged. The outcome of this matter has important implications beyond Dr Choi and the tiny profession in Korea. Korea is very close to China. As China develops, it looks to its advanced Asian neighbours for guidance as to how to advance itself. China has a huge population and a handful of chiropractors. The teaching of chiropractic to medical doctors and laypersons and their practice of it in largely unregulated Asia is a massive threat to the future of the profession and its standards. It is therefore very important that Korea (and Japan and Taiwan) obtain appropriate legislation covering chiropractic. Dr Choi is attempting to make this happen, with just a handful of supporters and very limited resources. We in Australia are so fortunate that we can practise freely and profitably, without the threats our Korean colleagues face every day. It is essential that we assist them as much as possible. The easiest way for you to do this is to send a donation to the KCA legal fund. You can do this conveniently by credit card via the donation form at http://www.chiro.or.kr/index_eng.htmlTaeg Su Choi and the other Korean chiropractors fight on valiantly against huge odds but feel very alone. They need and deserve our support. Will you help them?