How to: Get Your Health On the Korean Way
At the present moment, the Korean medical system is one of the most advanced in the world. Visitors from Asia as well as from other parts of the world have started coming to Korea in order to get plastic surgery but also to treat complex medical conditions. It even started a phenomenon called health tourism. From health insurance to birth control and epipens, following are key facts you need to know about the medical system in South Korea.
How to Get Health Insurance
As a foreigner living in Korea you can either sign up with a private insurance company or subscribe to the government health insurance policy. Since foreign citizens are eligible for the same insurance benefits as Koreans, the latter option is more popular. Many hospitals and clinics offering English-language services starting from hot-lines to English-speaking doctors and English speaking pharmacies.
Your company or school will help you with this but, in case you are self-employed, you will not find it difficult to work through the bureaucratic part of the health insurance process.
How to Find a Clinic
Finding a clinic is not at all hard, the internet is littered with the addresses of English-speaking clinics in Seoul and Busan areas. However, you might want to find a clinic closer to your home even if their English ability is limited – unless you want to travel across Seoul when sick, that is.
If you have a special prescription it is recommended that you bring two months’ worth until you get settled in your new country. It is also advised that you save a prescription and show it to your new doctor who can prescribe you the same medicine, albeit usually under a different name.
How To Deal With Allergies
In case you are allergic to certain medicine or chemical ingredients make sure to tell your doctor. Pharmacists cannot alter prescriptions. In case you were prescribed a medicine you are allergic to, you will have to visit your doctor’s office to have the prescription changed.
As for antihistamines, they are pronounced almost the same in Korean and average at about 7.000 KRW. A pack usually contains a 10 pill blister. Write it on a paper and show it to the pharmacist as they can often get confused by accents.
Epipens are harder to come by, most doctors will refuse to prescribe them to foreigners. It is best to go to either Seoul National University or Samsung Medical Center (requires an appointment). The consultation costs 70.000 KRW and the price of an Epipen is 135.000 KRW. If you have national insurance, however, the price of an Epipen drops to only 40.000 KRW.
Where To Get Non-Prescription Medicine
At pharmacies, you can buy cold medicine, vitamins and digestives without a prescription. However, when buying antibiotics and hormone-based drugs a doctor’s prescription is necessary. The medicine will be dosed into individual plastic bags and the pharmacist will instruct you on how to take them. The plastic bags do not have extensive instructions. In fact, they usually say 1/1 which stands for once a day, 2/1 which stands for twice a day. Your pharmacist can advise you whether you need to take them before or after meals.
Get Medicine From Convenience Stores
The ever-bountiful convenience store will come to your help when you have indigestion, headaches or are in pain as these are all sold without a prescription, so you won’t need to hunt down a pharmacy.
Convenience store even sell tiny drinks for you to ingest before going out drinking. These drinks claim to prevent hangovers. You can also find hangover-relieving chewing gum and pills. Ask the convenience store clerk for haejanghada and he will know what you need. One of the most popular hangover-curing drinks are Heotgae Condition, Dawn 808 and Morning Care.
From convenience stores you can also get (flu) seasonal items such as masks, antibacterial gel, heat packs, tissues – all vital items for riding any kind of public transportation during the cold season.
Available Birth Control Measures
Although in Korea abortions are technically illegal, you can easily access birth control measures. Acquiring birth control pills, patches, the NuvaRing, diaphragms, cervical caps and morning-after pills can be done over-the-counter. Clinics provide injections (such as Jadelle or Implanon), IUDs, tubal ligations as well as vasectomy. You can buy condoms in any supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores.
Oriental medicine is still highly popular in Korea. From cupping and acupuncture to massage, along with the famous Korean sauna, jimjilbang, you can find a plethora of interesting healing techniques to either try or rely on. Read our guide on how to handle jimjilbangs like a pro.