Life and ideas of Lee Kap-soo: Focusing on the ideas and activities related to eugenics

Young Jeon Shin, Ilyeong Jeong

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Lee Kap-Soo (April 23, 1889-December 5, 1973) graduated from Gyeongseong Medical College in 1920, went to Germany to study, and returned to Korea after graduating from Berlin University in 1924. On September 14, 1933, he played a leading role in the founding of the Joseon Eugenics Society, and he contributed eugenic ideas through written publications and lectures. He was a leading eugenicist who continued his activities related to eugenics, such as re-establishing the Korean National Eugenics Society and making efforts to enact the Eugenics Act after Korea's liberation from Japanese occupation. His ideas on eugenics were then a rapid acceptance of the world's times and science, and his ideas were an expanded eugenics that emphasized the nation. He actively carried out the campaign for eugenics and maintained a consistent stance before and after liberation. His eugenic ideas and activities show that Korean society was not free from the influence of eugenics that was gaining popularity around the world. His eugenic ideas were related to enlightenment, but the basis of eugenics was the logic of discrimination and exclusion. In particular, his eugenic ideas and activities have caused pain to Hansen's patients through forced isolation and discontinuation. In addition, his doctrine of eugenics still holds sway in Korean society. The history of Lee Kap-Soo's life and eugenics-related activities shows the important points and characteristics of the history of eugenics in Korean society before and after the liberation from Japan, and furthermore provides an important clue in understanding and explaining the colonial vestige in Korean society, economic growth first ideology, enthusiasm for scientific development, and competitive social culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-88
Number of pages46
JournalKorean Journal of Medical History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019


  • Eugenics
  • Korea Eugenics Society
  • LEE Kap-Soo
  • Leprosy
  • Sterilization law


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