The trend of body donation for education based on Korean social and religious culture

Jong Tae Park, Yoonsun Jang, Min Sun Park, Calvin Pae, Jinyi Park, Kyung Seok Hu, Jin Seo Park, Seung Ho Han, Ki Seok Koh, Hee Jin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Until a century ago, Korean medicine was based mainly on Oriental philosophies and ideas. From a religious perspective, Chinese Confucianism was prevalent in Korea at that time. Since Confucianists believe that it is against one's filial duty to harm his or her body, given to them by their parents, most Koreans did not donate their bodies or organs for education in the past. However, by the end of the 20th century, a unique fusion of Western and Oriental medicines were produced on the Korean Peninsula, revolutionizing traditional perspectives on the human body, mortality, and the relationship of medical science to society. Koreans began to think about others' lives as well as their own by realizing the importance of donating one's organs and bodies for scientific purposes. Since then, the number of people donating their bodies to Korean medical and dental schools for the purpose of improving academic learning has increased dramatically. In response, Korean medical schools have begun to hold various types of funeral ceremonies to honor body donors. We have compared such ceremonies performed in Korea with those performed in the United States of America and Taiwan. These ceremonies are viewed as a suitable way to pay proper respect to the dead and to promote knowledge about body donation programs in Korea. Overall, the transition of religions and social ethics in Korea has greatly facilitated body bequeathal programs, benefiting both medical education and the Korean public health administration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-38
Number of pages6
JournalAnatomical Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Anatomy education in Korea
  • Bequeathal programs
  • Body donation
  • Confucianism
  • Funeral ceremonies
  • Korean's quality of life
  • Medical education in Korea
  • Religions in Korea
  • Thanksgiving ceremonies


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