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Korean traditional Taegyo prenatal education based on Sajudang Lee's 'Taegyo singi'.

Taegyo is a traditional Korean set of practices and beliefs about prenatal education for pregnant women. Asian cultures, including Korea, consider Taegyo important because the human being is considered to be already developed from the moment of conception.

According to Chung (2014) the principles of Taegyo presuppose parental influence on temperament formation, and that the emotional states of the mother in the prenatal and pre pregnancy periods are the most influential variable in a child's temperament formation. The methods of Taegyo presuppose that the human mind interacts with behavior. Emotional support from family members, promoting 'jon-sim' (serene mind) and 'chung-sim' (upright mind) are key methods of Taegyo. The Korean tradition of Taegyo is focused on the emotional domain of development, especially emotional regulation.

the emotional states of the mother in prenatal and pre pregnancy periods influence a child's temperament

Almost 200 years ago during the Joseon Dynasty, Sajudang Lee wrote 'Taegyo singi,' a book which opened new prospects in the field of prenatal development. Lee was a Confucian and Silhak (practical) scholar. She was 62 years old in 1800 when she finished writing the book. She was not a doctor, but a distinguished scholar who studied Chinese and Korean medicine. Women in the Joseon Dynasty typically were not socially independent and active, but she made a difference.

Even before Lee wrote her book, Korean Buddhist, Taoist, and Shamans were already knowledgeable about Taegyo. Lee states that proper practice of Taegyo will result in better fetal development, and increase chances that the baby in the womb will become a good person someday. Kweon (1972) was the first researcher of Taegyo singi, and published a commentary in Korean on the book's preface and postscript. Follow-up studies were made by Park, (1985), You, (1990), Jung, (2000), Ahn, (2005), Jang, (2005), and Lee, (2007), using various perspectives. But this research was not enough to effectively introduce traditional Taegyo singi into modern practice. Many people consider Taegyo practice as simple superstition, and unsuitable in modern times. The truth is that Taegyo singi is empirically based and grounded in philosophy (Chang, 2005; Ha, 1989; Lee, 2007; Yeo, 2005), education (Ahn, 2005; Ha, 1988; Kim, 2012; Kim, 2005; Lim, 2011; Ryoo, 1983), and medical science (Ahn, 2001; Kang, 2001).


Composition and Contents of Taegyo singi

Taegyo singi, a hanja (Chinese) text written by Sajugang Lee (1738-1821), is a theoretical treatise and manual that deals with "Taegyo, a set of traditional beliefs and regulations regarding prenatal development." The motive for writing was that there was not yet any detailed literature about Taegyo. Taegyo singi was a compiled book which included ideology and principles, as well as practical guidelines. Lee stated that Taegyo singi is useful for pregnant women and women planning to be pregnant. Lee's son Yu hee translated the book from Chinese to the Korean language.

Chapters 1 through 3 are concerned with Taegyo theory, effect, and necessity. Chapter 4 discusses methods of Taegyo. Chapter 5 discusses details about Taegyo and chapter 6 explains the disadvantages to pregnant women who do not practice Taegyo. Chapter 7 discusses how to protect the fetus's emotion and chapter 8 reveals the advantages of Taegyo. Chapter 9 cites the purpose of the practice and gives examples on how to execute the program for pregnant women. Chapter 10 emphasizes the essence of Taegyo, and explains the importance of the father and other family members to the development of the child in the womb.

Traditional Taegyo singi Methods

Lee explains methods of Taegyo in chapter 4. Practical methods of Taegyo are classified under three headings calm and respectful mind, behaviors, and dietary practices. Actions are categorized as encouragement and avoidance. See Table 1.

Main subject of traditional fetal education in Taegyo singi

The mother is in charge of practical roles in Taegyo, because she is the one who influences the fetus when it is still in the womb. Prior to this, Sajudang emphasizes the father's role. Husband and wife have to respect each other and pick appropriate words in conversation. The father's good behavior and duty must be emphasized. The father's main focus in Taegyo is harmony and consistency. Sajudang also refers to the importance of family cooperation and support, rooted in principles of respect for life.

Scientific evidence for Taegyo

Western research studies have supported the claim that Taegyo activities influence the fetus for many years. Alcohol consumption and smoking by pregnant women have been found to interfere with fetal brain development and significantly increase heart rate and blood pressure in the fetus (Guerri & Renau-Piqueras, 1997). Emotional distress in pregnant women is known to increase susceptibility to disease, and to cause low birth weight in the newborn (Nordstrom, Dallas, Morton, & Patel, 1988). Environmental noise and vibration also induce irregularity in the fetal heart rate, breathing, and movement (Petrikovsky, Schifrin, & Diana, 1993; Sherer, Abramowicz, Damico, Allen, & Woods, 1991). On the other hand, when the mother listens to good music or natural sounds, alpha waves are produced in the brain, which subsequently increase the fetal heart rate and facilitate fetal maturation (Park et al., 1999). Verbal stimulation with a low voice has also been reported to help fetal brain development (Fifer & Moon, 1994). Provision of a secure and stable prenatal environment has been found to make a significant difference in the baby's IQ (Devlin, Daniel, & Roeder, 1997). Furthermore, good nutrition for the mother affects the embryo in the early stage of pregnancy, and also promotes the structural and functional development of the fetus (Scrimshaw, 1997). These data illustrate that environmental stimulation of the fetus influences fetal growth and development.




Korean traditional Taegyo starts with the concept that education starts in fetal age. Lee's Taegyo singi expresses the origin and traditional practices of Taegyo, and outlines a specific and systematic method of Taegyo. As those assisting mothers from the Korean culture an understanding of the traditions may be of benefit to providing culturally sensitive care.



Ahn, K. S. (2005). Korean traditional educational philosophy on children. Seoul: Hakjisa Publisher.

Ahn, M. O. (2001). Taegyo and mind-body medicine. Paper presented at the 15th Conference of the Korean Society of Jungshin Science, Seoul, Korea. 16-22.

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Chang, S. B., Park, Y. J., Choi, Y. S., & Chung, C. W. (1996). Factors of the Taegyo of Korean pregnant women: Self care of pregnant women based on oriental folk behavior. J Korean Academy of Nursing, 26(2), 345-358.

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Fifer, W. P., & Moon, C. M. (1994). The role of mothers voice in the organization of brain function in the newborn. Acta Paediatric, 397(2), 86-93.

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by Yuna Lee, PhD, Jiyoung Lee, EdD, and Ninez B. Tulo, EdD

Dr. Yuna Lee is a instructor at Gachon University and teaches development of young children. Dr. Lee teaches education of pregnancy and prenatal education at child care center. Dr. Lee has expertise in young children education and parental education especially in Taegyo.

Dr. Jiyoung Lee is a general director at The Story Institute. Dr. Lee is interested at young children's education, parental education, and technological education.

Prof. Ninez B. Tulo is an instructor of Tarlac State University office of International Affairs and Studies. She finished Master of Arts in Education major in Educational Management and Master of Arts in Education in major in English. Currently she is in her first trimester of her pregnancy and she is very much interested about Taegyo practices.
Table 1. Methods of Taegyo Examples

Category                             Examples

1. Calm, respectful mind             * Pregnant women and their
                                     families need to be careful in
                                     their behavior

                                     * Don't tell pregnant women about
                                     furious, terrible, embarrassing,
                                     or frantic events

2. Seeing, listening, and speaking   * Avoid exposure to the
                                     following:--clowns, dwarves
                                     monkeys, fighting

                                     * Always look at the
                                     following:--good-natured person,
                                     peacock, glittering objects

                                     * Avoid listening to the
                                     drunkenness, crying

                                     * Listen to the
                                     following:--reading the classics,
                                     sound of Korean mandolin

                                     * Avoid saying the
                                     following:--harsh speech, showing
                                     gums when laughing, teasing

                                     * Avoid doing the
                                     following:--sleeping with husband
                                     after pregnant, wearing dirty
                                     clothes, sitting on cold or hot

                                     * Do the following:--exercise,
                                     calm mind and, divide food

3. Eating                            * Avoid eating the
                                     following:--rotten fruit,
                                     catfish, unripe fruit, cold food

                                     * Foods to eat:--carp, cow
                                     kidney, barley, sea cucumber,
                                     shrimp, seaweed, hot foods
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Author:Lee, Yuna; Lee, Jiyoung; Tulo, Ninez B.
Publication:International Journal of Childbirth Education
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:Apr 1, 2016
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