Adventures with Korean Healthcare

August 28, 2016
korean healthcare


foreign-correspondent badge final I’ve sought more medical attention in the 11 months that I’ve been in Korea, than any year of my life in the U.S. This is not to say that I’ve been sicker in Korea, but I can go to the doctor more because the healthcare here is awesome! Medicine and doctor’s visits are cheap, and unlike back home where I would usually wait till I was dying to go to a doctor, here it’s expected to see a doctor once you have a problem so you can fix it as soon as possible. It’s a habit I’m pretty fond of. Here are some of my greatest adventures with the Korean healthcare system:

Health Checks: The first thing I did on my first full day in Korea was get my health checked. As a foreign teacher, I have to undergo a medical exam, and let me tell you, you haven’t experienced efficiency until you’ve undergone a Korean medical exam. I had an eye exam, breast exam, hearing test, EKG, mental health exam, urine test, and blood test in less than 15 minutes. It was amazing.

Adventures with Korean Healthcare.

I had to get another health check about 5 months ago because I am a city employee, and since the first test was so fast I wasn’t really worried. My head teacher translated our results aloud for us and said to me in a matter-of-fact tone, “So, you’re obese and I think you have a liver problem.” Oh the joys of Korea.

Pills, Pills, Pills: My mother’s #1 fear, for reasons I do not know, is that I will become addicted to pills. Whenever my siblings and I have been prescribed painkillers, our mother’s immediate response is, “Flush them down the toilet.”

This was her exact response when I showed her a long line of pill packets I got from my pharmacist to combat laryngitis. Generally speaking, medications come in small, plastic packets perforated so you can tear off one packet from a line of them. I had six pills in each packet that I had to take three times a day. It seemed like a lot, but the pharmacist told me they all served a specific purpose.

Adventures with Korean Healthcare.

Once I told Mom there was a painkiller she said, “Flush it down the toilet.”

“No, Mom, I don’t even know which pill it is. And it’s Ibuprofen strength!”

“Flush them all down the toilet then.” Uh, no, I’m not going to do that. Sorry, Mom. The pills worked just fine and I still don’t pop pills.

Butt Injections: I’ve experienced plenty of awkward moments in my life, from falling asleep on a bus and smashing my head into a window, to knocking over an entire display case of butterfly pins at ‘Butterfly World,’ but the most awkward thing that has ever happened to me was the butt injection I got a few months ago.

I was returning to a dermatologist who had diagnosed me with eczema that, while not serious, had still failed to go away after using medicated cream. So, I had to lift up my skirt and shut my eyes while a kind Korea nurse smacked my butt a few times, and then rubbed my butt while injecting medication into my ambled sized derrière.

Adventures with Korean Healthcare.

To make matters worse, I almost fainted afterwards in the waiting room, so I had to lie down in a recovery room for 20 minutes until I stopped feeling woozy. My head teacher, who brought me to the doctor, laughed and said, “you’re so cute!”

Physical Therapy: After three years of knee trouble, I finally decided to get it checked out a month ago here, and I’ll tell you, Korea did not disappoint. After discovering that the root of the problem is nothing more than weak cartilage, I was told to lay off the taekwondo for three weeks and go to physical therapy for three weeks instead.

Physical therapy involved lying on a bed, getting my knee in a heat wrap, some kind of ultrasound, electric shock thing, and then a few exercises with the physical therapist. It helped a bit, and I got to lie down, relax, and study Korean while I was there. The best part? An hour-long session cost me less than $5.

So, to recap: Korean healthcare is pretty amazing in my book, except for those butt injections. Those are the worst, but, hey, at least they’re cheap.


Adventures with Korean Healthcare photo by Kylie Genter.

About Kylie Genter

Kylie Genter is an English teacher in South Korea.

One thought on “Adventures with Korean Healthcare

  1. Lindsay
    August 28, 2013

    Miss you kylie and great article!!!!! Leah got a butt shot a few months ago also….I died laughing at her pain. I know, I know, I’m the worst sister!!

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