Korean Biomedical Review
Korean psychiatrists bolster ethics education after ‘You Ah-in incident’
By Marian Chu
April 20, 2018

Psychiatrist Kim Hyun Chul

Psychiatrist Kim Hyun Chul

The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association said Thursday that it would add an ethics portion to the exam for psychiatric specialists following a controversial psychiatrist tweeting that a top Korean celebrity had bipolar disorder in December.

The psychiatrist Kim Hyun-chul publicly claimed through a series of tweets that top star You Ah-in displayed symptoms of acute hypomania without having any experience of meeting, treating, or diagnosing the actor.

Hypomania is a feature of bipolar II disorder characterized by little need for sleep, an overall increase in energy, talkativeness, and confidence. Kim was referring mainly to You’s activities of signing various movie deals simultaneously as well as his “eccentric” social media posts.

The doctor justified his tweets posted in December by saying he was fulfilling his duty “to protect” as a psychiatrist, sparking a fierce outcry from both psychiatric associations and even You himself.

Despite the widespread criticism, Kim justified his social media diagnoses by saying that he was performing his “duty as a psychiatrist” and saying that he did not get his doctor’s license to “stay put.” He also went on to comment on SHINee member Jong Hyun’s suicide and many social issues.

In response, the Korean Neuropsychiatric Association launched an investigation through its ethics committee to find Kim had maintained inappropriate sexual relationships with his patients, among many other ethical violations. Kim was also seen to have posted private information and secrets about one of his patients on his online community forum, the committee said.

The Korean Neuropsychiatric Association expelled him from the psychiatrist group last month.

“The association believes [Kim’s] unethical, and illegal actions have tarnished the reputation of psychiatrists,” it wrote in a statement. “We have decided to expel him from the association after getting consent from a majority vote that believes the case to be a severe error that breaks down citizen’s trust.”

The association pointed out that maintaining boundaries with patients and confidentiality of patient information are crucial, primary duties of a psychiatrist. The ethics committee also noted that while psychiatrists can voice their opinion on specific social issues, publicly stating their professional advice on the psychological state of a person who they have not directly diagnosed and treated is a breach of ethics.

In light of the events, members of the association’s ethics committee stated it would strengthen ethics education, adding a new ethics portion to the examination for psychiatrists specialist that will take up more than 20 percent of the whole exam. The questions will pertain to not only medical ethics but also to ethics specific to psychiatry, it said.


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Psych Kim Hyun-chul