Lee Jema and his Sasang Constitutional Medicine is a brainchild of traditional Korean medicine, and praised highly as a unique medical ideology.
His book Donguisusebowon (Longevity and Life Preservation in East Medicine, 東醫壽世保元), published in the late Joseon period, was not regarded as highly as he had expected in the beginning. His medical approach was introduced as Sasang philosophy in Hanbangeuiyakgye (漢方 醫藥界), an institutional journal for the Association of Joseon Physicians, the first association for doctors of oriental medicine organized in the 1910s. His philosophy evolved into Sasang theory, and yet, it hardly settled firmly in the circle of oriental medicine in Gyeongseong.
Then in the mid-1920 and afterwards, his reputation began to grow.
This was facilitated by Lee Eulho (李乙浩), one of main discussants in disputes between Eastern and Western medicine that arose in the 1930s.
Lee Eulho defined nature of Lee Jema’s theory as constitutional medicine, and introduced a philosophical, medical, and pharmacological analysis of Sasang Constitutional Medicine to the public through newspaper articles.
Eventually Lee Jema became one of leading medical figures of Joseon Dynasty, and his book Donguisusebowon was raised to the status of one of two pillars in the medical society along with Heo Jun’s Donguibogam (東醫寶鑑). This transition, or the process by which new classics came to be established in Oriental medicine, showed how a basis for medical authority shifted from medieval norms related to social status to academic integrity and perception of the public.
One of interesting aspects in debates regarding Lee Jema and his book Donguisusebowon is that while the emphasis of Sasang Constitutional Medicine is based on a nationalistic view, the academic backgrounds — medicine in particular — of the figures who tried to reassess Lee Jema had little to do with a nationalistic view. Jang Gimu (張基茂), Jo Heonyoung (趙憲泳), and Lee Eulho all had extensive academic expertise, and they were also strongly affected by academic atmosphere and trend in Japan. Presumably this was possible because medicine is an academic discipline that operates on dual layers of theory and practice.