John P. DiMoia, "Reconstructing Bodies: Biomedicine, Health, and Nation-Building in South Korea Since 1945" (Stanford UP, 2013)


For a patient choosing among available forms of healing in the medical marketplace of mid-20th century South Korea, the process was akin to shopping. In Reconstructing Bodies: Biomedicine, Health, and Nation-Building in South Korea Since 1945 (Stanford University Press, 2013), John DiMoia explores emergence of that marketplace in the context of a confluence between biomedicine, bodies, and the nation in South Korea since the last half of the 20th century. In a series of case studies that range from quarantine efforts after the arrival of the U.S. Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK) to plastic surgery in today's South Korea, DiMoia traces a number of themes through his history of biomedicine and healing: the gradual transition from German/Japanese academic medicine to American and international models of medicine; a corresponding embracing of diverse forms of bodily intervention; and the ultimate adoption of private models of health care in modern South Korea. We meet several fascinating characters in the course of the narrative, from practitioners of traditional Korean medicine, to groundbreaking vascular surgeons, to men and women whose bodies became the testing grounds for reform in birth control technologies. DiMoia's account introduces public health practices that included spraying of human bodies with DDT, surgical practices that transformed the spaces and bodies of medicine mid-20th century South Korea, and antiparasitic practices that saw thousands of children bring stool samples to school. It is a rich account of a hybrid medical ecology with moments that would collectively make up a riveting fictional novel if they weren't all true. Enjoy!

Your Host

Carla Nappi

View Profile