Sunday, June 20, 2010

Awesome Things about Korea #8: Inexpensive Medical Treatment

Inevitably, at some point in your time in Korea, you will probably get sick. It might be from allergies, changing weather, exposure to kid germs while teaching, or from the yearly yellow dust invasion from China (화사). Whatever the cause, Korea makes it very easy to get back on the healthy side of things.

Clinics are everywhere in Korea, and they all have various specialties: dental, skin, ENT, plastic surgery, eye, internal, diet, and women's and men's-specific. Going to a doctor for a cold or minor problem is as simple as going to the nearest clinic that caters to your needs. If you're not sure which one is the best, it's good to ask some other foreigners or Korean friends who they would recommend.

My first year here I had a lot of trouble with the different plants and the yellow dust in the spring, so my allergies gave me a lot of problems. Thus, my local ENT doctor and I became very familiar to each other! He spoke a little bit of English, so it made it easier to communicate what was wrong with me. (Many doctors know a little bit of English, especially regarding medical terms/problems.) He was very helpful and always knew what medicines to prescribe to help me get better. The other good part of visiting his office? The doctor's fee! For a simple consultation, it would cost me around 10 dollars. No joke. Anyone who's been to a doctor in the US knows how expensive and time-consuming it is. Here is a relief.

After that, I would head downstairs to the conveniently located pharmacy (which are also located everywhere, and are called 약국). I hand my printout of medicines to the pharmacy tech, and ten minutes later, walk out with my little bag of wonder meds! They make it easy for you to remember which drugs to take, too, by separating each dose into a little packet. So, you end up with this nice little strip of packets, marked with which meal to take it after. No fumbling with a bottle and counting out the pills yourself! The price for this? Also amazingly cheap, compared to home. My prescriptions have cost me about 5-10 dollars on average anytime I went to the pharmacy.

Going to the eye doctor or eyeglass shop (안과 의사 or 안경 가게) is also less expensive than at home. I can get my eyes examined in the eyeglass shop and pick out a pair of glasses for about 80 dollars, even with my prescription! At home, I would pay over 100 dollars for my lenses because the prescription is so strong. The same goes for contacts. I can buy two boxes of contacts for 60 dollars that last me about 5-6 months. At home, the same would cost twice that.

And a trip to the dentist (치과) for a cleaning? Only about 40 dollars.

It's just one of the awesome things about Korea!

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