Consolidating Patients' Rights in South Korea : The Case of the Breast Cancer Patients' Movement

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Miwon SEO , École Hautes Études Sciences Sociales, France
The promotion of patients’ rights and quality care have been rapidly spreading in South Korean hospitals since the 1990s. The most conspicuous method of spreading these two concepts has been the breast cancer patients’ group. This paper will treat the evolution of the breast cancer patients’ movement since 2011, focusing on an organization that claims to represent female breast cancer patients in South Korea, the Union of Korean Breast Cancer Patients (hereafter UKBCP). Established by Korean women with breast cancer, the distinctive characteristics of the UKBCP will be presented and analyzed; these characteristics derive from the birth of patients’ self-help groups promoted by biomedical professionals in university hospitals.

My theoretical approach is indebted to the present scholarship on the sociology of individuals, particularly Danilo Martucelli's work on subjectivity(2002) and the theoretical framework of Health Social Movements (Brown, Zavestoski et al. 2005). In my analysis, I will refer to materials collected from different sources: web information provided by the UKBCP, participant observation and in-depth interviews.

The study will lead to a better understanding of objectives and strategies of the UKBCP. My hypothesis is that the heteronormative femininity has developed with the current regime of breast cancer. In this perspective, I will further examine the impact the regime has had on the biomedical world and the life of patients. I will also explore actions specifically concerning the rights claimed by patients and amendments in legislation. This paper will discuss the regime of breast cancer, which resonates with the cultural and political characteristics of reframing a South Korean welfare state and particular elements constituting the subjectivity of breast cancer patients.