Recycling Body Parts

이화여대 법학전문대학원

6기 박유미 (You Mi Park)


One of the harshest laws regarding medicinal practices have been the use of deceased bodies. As far back as humans have been hunter-gatherers, the recognition of   humans as a collection of organs led to the practice of body-snatching in hopes of gaining extra health by eating an enemy’s heart or their brain. Greeks were especially diligent in leading a thought-movement that would lead to a reductionist approach to viewing the human body to nothing more than organic piping, and that Western tradition has continued to this day as we gather more and more body parts for reuse. Some ethical speculators have renounced such reuse as a mark of profanity against the sanctity of the human body, but in a world of marketable ideas, bodies come cheap, and there is plenty of bodies around.

The legal basis for organ donorship in Korea is much more complicated, since the infrastructure for harvesting and maintaining organs is far more lacking than the counterparts in the US. The Red Cross, for instance, cannot support more than a few truckloads of blood at any moment, since the “expiration date” for blood is not long. Even though it is not legal to harvest a brain-dead patient’s organs for use later, it has been subject to much scrutiny by the media, in both drama and news. Korea Network of Organ Sharing (KONOS), launched in 2000, now monitors the shipment and distribution of organs throughout Korea for use by priority patients in surgery.

The creation of a legal market always leads to a black market as well. The increase in organ trafficking through North Korean or Chinese routes have seen a profitable increase in sales, since the demand is now steadily ensured by better medical practices. It should be noted that only countries with advanced medical techniques can even afford to think about organ transplantation, because the surgery is a state-of-the-art medical triumph. Criminal law is slow to catch up to the special punishment required for the perpetrators of organ trafficking, as it crosses ethical boundaries, because legally speaking, a recently deceased person is still a valuable asset to the family members as well as the country.

The advent of 3D printing and the ensuing cell culturing techniques may render the organ harvesting useless, since we can now print and grow an artificial heart. Successful attempts at making entire limbs, ears and eyes have been successful, making modern day miracles for those who can afford it. As with any innovation, it will be the role of law to stay one foot ahead and ensure that the intellectual property rights for new organ transplantations are secured, so that organ trafficking will die out and instead of recycling bodies, we can start purchasing them off the shelf.


Jin Joo, MD “Management of brain-dead donors in Korea” J Korean Med Assoc. 2014 Feb;57(2)

Neff, Robert (2011) “Organ Trafficking Increasing in South Korea” Available:

Ledford , Heidi “The printed organs coming to a body near you” Nature 15 April 2015, Available:

Winter, Stefen. “Vera’s Kidney, Gunter’s Money” Spiegel Online International, 2012 Available:

Recycling Body Parts”에 대한 2개의 생각

  1. 이 글을 읽고 최근 개봉한 영화 중에 이선균이 주연을 한 라는 작품이 생각 났습니다. 이 영화에서도 죽은 사람의 피부조직이나 장기등을 매매하는 것을 업으로 하는 사람이 나옵니다.
    우리나라의 경우 장기를 기증하는 사람이 너무 적다보니 편법에 의하여 신체의 일부가 유통된다는 것이 예견될 수 밖에 없는 상황인갓 같아 안타깝습니다


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