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The current status of
legal medicine education in Korea

Jong Tae Park, MD, PhD
Department of Forensic Medicine, Chonnam National University Medical School

Medical education of Korea is heavily influenced formerly by Japanese and now by US system. Although Korea retains 6 years medical college system consisting of 2 years of premedical and 4 years of medical courses, the curricula of US medical schools provide a benchmark for the contents of the medical course. Among 41 medical colleges, only thirteen colleges have department of forensic medicine or other departments where forensic pathologists are working. Although there are forensic medicine classes in forty medical colleges, the class hours and credits are unsatisfactory and going on shrinkage. The trend in medical education in Korea can be summarized as clinically oriented and stressed on license examination. The enforcement of the national license examination caused the extension of the hospital training period and shortening of the lecture semesters, especially for non-clinical subjects, in the curricula. Due to this change, the forensic medicine classes in curricula were also shrunk. Medicolegal death investigation system of Korea, regulated by the criminal procedure law, does not guarantee the presence of forensic experts at the scene. Because this very forensic procedure is ruled and operated by non-experts, the prosecutors, the legal procedure of unusual death always involves some risk of malfunction. The autopsy rate is also limited by this medicolegal death investigation system. Limited numbers of medicolegal autopsies again limit the overall size of the forensic field. The small field of work is capable of maintaining small number of forensic pathologists. Because forensic pathologists in Korea are constraint in their range of duty and overall numbers by the limitation of the legal system, it is less attractive to medical students as a potential job. Because medical education in medical colleges and medicolegal death investigation system do not guarantee the appropriate postmortem examination at the scene, the police investigators and the prosecutors rely on the death certificate written by non-expert physicians and make decision whether the autopsy should be performed or not. In Chonnam National University Medical School, beside 16 hours of theoretical education, forensic medicine practice is a mandatory course in the 4th grade. We provide an opportunity for autopsy observation, case discussion, the supreme court case analysis for medical disputes, and tour to the National Forensic Service. In conclusion, weakness in the medicolegal death investigation system is not compensated by forensic medicine education in Korean medical colleges. Enlargement of hospital training period shrinks not only basic medical sciences but also forensic medicine education. Standardization and practice-oriented reform of forensic medicine education is required.

* This presentation was based on Park JT et al.'s paper published in Korean Journal of Legal medicine in 2004 and Park SH's presentation at an academic meeting of Korean Society for Legal Medicine in 2014.

  • Education Center for Forensic Pathology and Science Symposium
国立大学法人 長崎大学  
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