Korean J Med Hist.  2017 Dec;26(3):417-454. 10.13081/kjmh.2017.26.417.

A Modern History of ‘Imperial Medicine’ Surrounding Hansen's Disease: Strategies to Manage Public Opinion in Modern Japanese Media

  • 1Department of the Center for Asia and Diaspora, Konkuk University, Seoul, KOREA. seogijae@hanmail.net


The purpose of this study is to understand the reality of imperial medicine by exploring the strategic attitude of the Japanese authority targeting the public who were not patients of Hansen's disease. For this purpose, this study examines the mass media data related to Hansen's disease published in Korea and Japan during the Japanese colonial rule. Research on Hansen's disease can be divided into medical, sociohistorical, social welfare, and human rights approach. There are medical studies and statistics on the dissemination of medical information about Hansen's disease and management measures, the history of the management of the disease, guarantee of the rights of the patients and the welfare environment, and studies on the autobiographical, literary writings and oral statements on the life and psychological conflicts of the patients. Among existing research, the topics of the study on Hansen's disease under the Japanese colonial rule include the history of the Sorokdo Island Sanatorium, investigation on the forced labor of the patients in the island, human rights violations against the patients, oral memoirs of the patients and doctors who practiced at that time. All of these studies are important achievements regarding the research on the patients. An important study of Hansen's disease in modern Japan is the work of Hujino Utaka, which introduces the isolation of and discrimination against the patients of Hansen's disease. Hujino Utaka's study examines the annihilation of people with infectious diseases in Japan and its colonies by the imperial government, which was the consequence of the imperial medical policies, and reports on the isolation of Hansen's disease patients during the war. Although these researches are important achievements in the study of Hansen's disease in modernity, their focus has mainly been on the history of isolation and exploitation in the Sorokdo Island Sanatorium and discrimination against the patients within the sanatorium, which was controlled by the director of the sanatorium. Consequently, the research tends to perceive the problem within the frame of antagonism between the agent of imperialism and the victims of exploitation by the hands of imperialism. Hence, it has limitations in that it has not fully addressed the problem of the people who were not Hansen's disease patients and as such, existed somewhere in between the two extremes in the process of administering medicine under the imperial rule. The purpose of this study is to identify the direction of imperial medicine in the history of Hansen's disease in Japan and to comprehend the characteristics of policy on Hansen's disease developed by Mitsuda Kensuke, who was behind the policy of imperial medicine, and examine the process of imperial medicine reaching out to the people (of Japan and its colonies). To achieve the goal, this study explores how the agent of imperial medicine gain the favor the public, who are not Hansen's disease patients, by means of the mass media. Specifically, this paper examines data in the Japanese language related to Korean patients of Hansen's disease including the mass media data on Hansen's disease in the source book titled The Collection of Data on Hansen's Disease in Joseon under the Colonial Rule(8 volumes) compiled by Takio Eiji, which has not been studied until now. It also reviews the cultural and popular magazines published in Japan and Joseon at that time.


Imperial Medicine; Colonial Medicine; Hansen's Disease; Sorokdo Island Sanatorium; Mitsuda Kensuke; Modern Japanese Media; Public Opinion; Public-Private Partnerships; Hansen's Images; Exhibition of Hansen's disease Policy; Public Sympathy

MeSH Terms

Asian Continental Ancestry Group*
Communicable Diseases
Discrimination (Psychology)
History, Modern 1601-*
Human Rights
Mass Media
Periodicals as Topic
Public Opinion*
Public-Private Sector Partnerships
Social Welfare
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