The earliest description of modern ophthalmological practice goes back to the year of 1885 at 'Kwang-hye Won' which later became 'Che-jung Won' as the first western medical institution in the Chosun Dynasty. In 1899, the first national hospital, 'Kwang-che Won', was opened consisting of the departments of internal medicine, general surgery, ophthalmology and otolaryngology. The first Korean ophthalmologist was Suk-hoo HONG, MD, with his license being issued in 1908.
The Korean Ophthalmological Society was inaugurated on November 1, 1947. Until then, the Society was a part of the Academy of Chosun Medicine. The first president of the Society was Prof. Bong-heon YOON of Seoul National University. From 1952 the qualification of ophthalmologist has been regulated by law dictating that board certification requires both completion of the residency program and passing the qualifying examination. In addition, the Society has endeavored to promote public education by appointing November 1 as 'The Day of Eye Health' since 1956, which later became 'The Eye Day' on November 11, 1989. In 1949, the first academic meeting of the Korean Ophthalmological Society was held in Seoul. The meeting has been held annually from 1949 to 1967, with the exception of the Korean War years of 1950 and 1951. From 1968, the meeting has been held biannually. Throughout these early pivotal years, the quality of the academic meetings and the number of attendees has steadily increased. In 1958, the Journal of Korean Ophthalmological Society was first published.
During the 1960s, the pattern of ocular diseases noticeably changed with a decrease in infectious diseases mainly due to the introduction of modern medicine, including antibiotics and steroids. For the correction of refractive errors, contact lenses were introduced and popularized over glasses especially in younger generations. During this period, a number of ophthalmologists in academic institutions went abroad, mostly to Europe and the United States, to attend fellowship programs. Upon their return, these newly trained young ophthalmologists played a major role in advancing domestic ophthalmological practice, education and research of ocular diseases. The Society had 108 regular members and 40 associates by 1964. In the same year, the first ophthalmology textbook in the Korean language was published by Prof. Won-sik YOON of Seoul National University.
During the 1970s, the Korean Ophthalmological Society became even more specialized in its scientific ability and training by consolidating its organizational structure and system. The Society began to provide academic meetings biannually together with regional meetings. At the 39th annual meeting in 1977, the chairman-centered administrative system was introduced replacing the previous president-centered one. In relation with its global activities, the Society joined international ophthalmology associations and academic forums in 1970s. Moreover, the members of the Society began to attend international ophthalmology symposiums, such as the meetings of the Asia-Africa Ophthalmological Society and Contact Lens Association for Ophthalmologists. While having constantly paid attention to academic activities, the Society accomplished public activities providing free medical services to the public in conjunction with the annual Eye Day activities on a voluntary basis. In 1972, the members of KOS performed medical activities for prevention and treatment of blindness. One year later, the Korean Foundation for the Prevention of Blindness was established holding the first general meeting of founders and nominating the staff members.
During the 1980s, the Korean Ophthalmological Society experienced rapid change alongside the remarkable economic development of Korea. In particular, young ophthalmologists enjoyed opportunities to learn advanced medical technology and basic knowledge through the qualified training programs abroad in institutions from advanced, developed nations. With the introduction of new diagnostic devices for surgery equipped with the latest knowledge, ophthalmologists in Korea began to perform operations with the most up-to-date techniques and made significant improvement to the diagnosis and treatment of various ocular diseases. Also, the subspecialty societies were initiated in the same period. In 1984, the overseas branch of the Society was established in the USA recognizing the significant contribution of Korean-American ophthalmologists to the development of ophthalmology in Korea. In 1989, the 12th Asian/Pacific Ophthalmology Congress (APAO) was held in Seoul with 1,200 members including 550 foreign members presenting 286 sets of research results. In the same year, the official journal title was changed to the 'Korean Journal of Ophthalmological Society'. The English summary has been published monthly since 1990, which became a key tool for sharing the ideas and clinical results of their study internationally. In addition to the expansion of the Society, remarkable developments had been made in the ophthalmology field, including the development of various advanced medical instruments, the introduction of new therapies, and the establishment of respective subspecialty societies.
From the 64th annual meeting of the Society in 1990, scientific conferences have been held by each subspecialty society. In 1991, the 4th International Cataract and Refractive Surgery Annual Symposium and Congress was held in Seoul. The ophthalmologic terms were consolidated, and set as the standard for scientific papers. The abbreviated English title for the Korean Journal of Ophthalmological Society was changed from 'J Korean Ophth Soc' to 'J Korean Ophthalmol Soc'. and its international recognition was raised by registering an English abstract of the relevant articles on the Ophthalmic Literatures. In 1993, the training period of the residency program was extended from 3 years to 4 years. In 1994, the Society initiated the scientific exchange of Korea-China-Japan Ophthalmology by holding the biannual Korea-Japan Ophthalmology Congress and Korea-China Ophthalmology Congress. In 1997, the 50th anniversary of the Korean Ophthalmological Society after its foundation was celebrated in conjunction with the 39th annual meeting of the Society in Seoul. A quarterly bulletin 'News of the Korean Ophthalmological Society' was released for the purpose of exchanging news and information among the members. The homepage of the Korean Ophthalmological Society is linked to the 'Digital Journal of Ophthalmology' of Harvard University with the website address as 'http://www.ophthalmology.org'. Following the opening of special ocular disease clinics within university hospitals, ophthalmic practice has been consistently updated with newly introduced surgical methods and medical devices in addition to the latest knowledge in diagnosing and treating ocular disorders.
In the year of 1998, a pilot project of DRG (Diagnosis Related Group) payment system was introduced. In March of 2005, 'the Cornea Donation Year 2005' promulgation ceremony was performed receiving the pledge of corneal donation over 750 KOS members in order to create public awareness for corneal donations. The Korean Ophthalmological Society biannually has provided free medical service and public education about ophthalmologic diseases under the title of 'Eye is another life'. The Society set November 11 as 'The Eye Day' to be followed by a week of special activities for the public.
As the attendees of the academic conference increase in number, the scale of the facilities for the convention has expanded. Since the biannual congress of 2003, the Society needed a more expanded venue for the academic conferences and subspecialty meetings and designated the convention centers such as BEXCO (Busan Exhibition & Convention Center) and KINTEX (Korea International Exhibition Center). Since then, more members have been inspired to attend the scientific meetings and share new information. In November 2007, the 60th anniversary of the Society was performed in conjunction with the 98th KOS academic congress at KINTEX with more than 200 presentations and 1800 participants to celebrate its achievement. The entire text of the Korean Journal of Ophthalmology has been made accessible through Pubmed, and currently planned to be registered in SCI (Scientific Citation Index). The Society members enthusiastically conducted research activities and presented their works in international academic meetings around the world. These efforts have led the hosting of several international conferences in Korea. The 3rd congress of Asian-Oceanic Glaucoma Society (AOGS) was held in 2001, and the first Asian Angle-Closure Glaucoma Club (AACGC) conference was held in 2002. Each subspecialty society published materials for the education of residents, including textbooks and disease synopsis.
The beginning of the 21st century has seen the Korean Ophthalmological Society make a rapid development in each field of ophthalmology. The future international status of the Korean Ophthalmological Society will be enhanced by these academic activities and marked contribution to the continuing development of clinical activities.