Compassion and Service

The Roles of Two Missionary-Physicians in the Korean Mission of the Presbyterian Church of Canada (1898-1969)


  • Jeremy Lloyd O. Cosmilla



The Korean mission of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, influenced by the success of the social gospel model, built hospitals and dispensaries in Korea on their arrival in 1898. Medical work and evangelization were the primary missions of the physicians sent to Korea. 

Arriving in 1901, Dr. Kate McMillan had a hard time balancing evangelical and medical work, as well as work with the bible-work, women’s city work, fellow missionaries, and training Korean aides enough for them to go to medical school. While most of the female missionaries’ focus were on girls’ and women’s activities, McMillan treated both men and women, evidenced by a letter requesting for the mission to send male physicians as “male patients have diseases which a lady should not be asked to treat.” 

Dr. Florence Murray arrived in Korea in 1921, a year before McMillan’s death in 1922. Murray was pulled into the medical work in Ham Heung rather suddenly, as she was in Seoul learning Korean before McMillan’s death. She doubted McMillan’s expertise and was horrified of how unsanitary the conditions were. Due to funding shortages, the hospital started charging their patients. The patients blamed the new physician for this. 

Gender dynamics of the mission resulted in the “women’s work for women” approach. This gave them an advantage and focus on a certain demographic instead of spreading themselves thin. The rise of the social gospel model created more roles for women, as was the case for McMillan and Murray.