Culture and Illness Behavior in South Korea
AbstractThis article describes characteristic illness behaviors in Korea, traces the traditional and medico-social roots of these illness behaviors, estimates the associated social and medical costs, and introduces relevant public policies and programs. The illness behavior of Korean lay people is characterized by seeking help from multiple sources, noncompliance with medical treatment, resort to medical facilities that treat exclusively physical illness (somatization), preference for magico-religious therapies, use of health foods, and reliance on word-of-mouth advice from lay persons. The author attributes these behaviors to traditional concepts of illness in shamanism, Oriental herbal medicine, Taoist tradition and a cultural tendency toward syncretism. This pattern of illness behavior hampers efforts at secondary and tertiary prevention. Public and governmental policies and programs to address this problem have been insufficient. The author emphasizes the need for policies and programs to promote better health care in Korea.