A study of the Office for Saving Lives (活人署), a government office in the Joseon, through its history and use of a standing prescription

조선 시대 활인서 연구 - 연혁 및 상비처방을 중심으로

  • Park, Hun-Pyeong (Dept. of Medical Classics & Medical History, College of Korean Medicine, Dong Shin University)
  • 박훈평 (동신대학교 한의과대학 원전의사학교실)
  • Received : 2020.04.21
  • Accepted : 2020.05.14
  • Published : 2020.05.31


The Office for Saving Lives (活人署) (OSL) was the office in charge of the treatment and relief of the poor in the Joseon Dynasty. This study disputes prior scholarship on the OSL by analyzing the use of a ready-made prescription and by focusing on the personality of the OSL's medical institutions. The work of the three government offices, the Office of Great Mercy (大悲院) (OGM), which was the formal office of OSL, the Office of Benefiting People (惠民署) and the Office of Aiding Life (濟生院), overlapped in the area of relief of the common people. But OGM was different from the other two in that it was not a purely medical office, had no educational function, and did not manage medicine. By analyzing a standing prescription, this article argues: 1) Heojun's influence on the composition of a standing prescription is absolute. 2) Epidemic warm disease (溫疫) was a major social problem in terms of emergency medical care at the time. 3) In the late Joseon Dynasty, the treatment of epidemic warm diseases became more sophisticated than the previous era.