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TL;DR – Health Care in Korea

August 15, 2013


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Martina’s sick today. And I’m writing this and I’m starting to feel sick. Marriage: you can share everything, including your viruses! Ah my eyes burn. Anyhow, I’m feeling woozy so this might be a bit of a silly post. First, let me direct you to one of our really old videos, before we felt comfortable on camera at all and were super awkward. Here’s our Korean cold medicine video:

You can see jjuk in that video. The stuff we made today did not look like that because Martina slow cooked two chickens with onions and celery and used the broth to make her jjuk. She even sautéed some onions, ginger, garlic, tossed in some Korean dried dates and it was SOOOOOOOOOO GOOD! And normally I hate jjuk. Anyhow, we’re gonna tell you some stories about health care and more about how to get medicine from pharmacists in Korea.

Magic Needle to the Ass

One of the things we didn’t talk about was magic-needle-to-the-ass. People who have been in Korea might know what we’re talking about. Needle to the ass. Feeling sick? Doctor’s got a needle to put in your ass for that! I thought they just did that in movies. I never got needled to the ass in Canada. I usually just get them in the shoulders. In Korea, though, the preferred method is in the ass. We have friends who went to the hospital, didn’t speak Korean, got needle to the ass, and miraculous recovery. WHAT IS IN THIS CONCOCTION!!

Point is: I’m not sure what’s in these needles, but they work. Have a cold that feels more severe than a real cold? Needle to the ass! God inexplicable groin pain that first made doctors think you’re about to die? Needle to the ass! Maybe one day you will experience this glory.

OH WAIT! Martina once got the Korean needle to the ass, but she wasn’t sick. She was trying to rescue a scared kitten crying in the park at 1AM during a thunder storm. When she tried to grab it, it mauled her hand and took a big kitten chunk out of her finger. She shamefully walked over to the hospital with her drippy bloody finger and because she’s allergic to cats and her finger was all gross and swollen and pink. She was getting all puffy and itchy and trying to explain the story to the nurses was HIIII-larious. They were like, “why would you touch a wild cat?” we’re like, “IT WAS A LOST KITTEN DON’T YOU SEE???!!!” Anyways, after we got super judged by the nurses for poor behaviour, they gave Martina some anti-infection/rabies shot to the ass. Poor Martina. She still brought that ungrateful kitten a can of tuna after that.

Korean Pharmacy Life Hack

Now, we’re not doctors in any way, shape or form, except when we act like certifieded doctors for Music Monday. These are just some of the things we’ve learned to ask for when we’re looking for medicine in Korea. A lot of this stuff is over the counter in Canada, but some of it isn’t so in Korea, but I’ve found that pharmacies aren’t necessarily uniform in their regulations. Some follow it, some don’t. Point is, we’re not doctors, so don’t take our word on this here. Do the research yourself. I’m refusing all liability if you do something and explode from death.

Also, some of the medicine you might be used to are combinations of some of these things, so, if there’s some medicine you’re used to, just get a list of the medical ingredients and a better understanding of what works for you, so you can ask for the ingredients rather than the brand when you’re in Korea. It’s also useful for when you’re in other countries. Martina got a cold when we were in Japan last, and so we just asked for the ingredients, which are universally named. Booya!

List of Common Medicines

Tylenol = Acetaminophen
Advil = Ibuprofen
Robaxacet = Methocarbamol
Getting Rid of Dry Cough/Cough Suppressant = Antitussant
Getting rid of a Mucousy Cough = Expectorant
Allegra = Fexofenadine
Sudafed (or anything else for stuffy noses) = Pseudoephedrine

Now, an interesting note. This last one (Pseudoephedrine) might not be given to you in a high dose by an over the counter pharmacist, they’ll say you need a prescription. This didn’t happen to us the first 4 years we were in Korea but recently it seems Korea is trying to crack down on illegal drug creation, more specifically meth. Any Breaking Bad fans out there? Yeah, so we were really baffled when it happened, but that’s what our local pharmacist told us. It super sucks because our sinus infections are wicked bad and require extra strength but it seems now we require a prescription to get that and AIN’T NO ONE GOT TIME FOR THAT! Australia, when we visit we will make a trip to the pharmacist.

Terms For Being Sick

So for those of you currently in Korea or planning on moving here, here is a little list of terms we put together that I hope you find helpful when you’re sick in Korea.

Stuffy Nose/ A Cold 감기 kam–gee
A Cough 기침 gee-chim
Runny Nose aka Snotty McSnotterson 코물 koh-mool (which literally means nose water! Hahahahh I LOVE IT)
Sore Throat 목아프다 or 목쓰림 mohk ah-poo-dah/mohk sseu-reem
The Flu 독감 Dok-gam
Barfing 구토 Gu-toe (FYI the “sound” of barfing in Korean is “UUUUUEEEHHKKK” but I liked to use “TOOOOEEEEEEE” which always made my students laugh)
DIHHARREEEHHAA 설사 seol-sa (or as I say, “SALSA PARTY!” and then I dance the salsa before running away sadly)
Constipation 변비 byeong-bee
Fever 고열 goyeol

Onto those things involving PAIN which always end with = 통 THAT TONG TONGTONGTONGTOOOooOOOONGG! Get it? Guise? Ahem…

A Headache 두통 Du-tong
A Toothache 치통 Chee-tong
Tummyache 복통 bok-tong
Girly cramps for that time of the month 생리통 saeng-retong (or secret term between girlfriends “ma-jik” aka MAGIC *Martina breaks in singing MAAAAAAGIC MAAAAAGIC MAAAAAGIC, OHMO OH MO OH MO…)

Korean Health Care Locations

This may not seem that important, but a couple notes on this. First of all, everything in Korea is stacked vertically so you might not expect to find your local Dentist on the 15th floor but that’s actually a normal thing, so learning the Korean words for health clinics can help you find one where you least expect it. Pharmacies are normally on ground level and dentists usually have teeth or other obvious things, but the E.N.T and Oriental Clinics are much craftier to find. Also, if you’re ever in an emergency and hop in a taxi, you can just tell them BYUNGWON. Here are some of the other names you might need:

– Pharmacy 약국 yahk-gook (medicine is just 약, so we always joke about being sick by saying we need to find a YAAAAAKKK)
Hospital 병원 Byeong-won
Dentist 치과 Chee-gwah
Oriental Medicine Clinic 한의원 Haneewon
E.N.T 이비인후과 ee-bee-en-hoo-gwaah BUT just “ee-en-tee” can be enough for people to understand you if you charade enough.

The E.N.T, aka Ears, Nose, and Throat specialists, are very common near universities and have all types of funky things for when you’re suffering from a severe cold, like hot air breathing machines with masks and warm cup things that look like big headphones to comfort your ears during infections. A visit to one of these without health care and no appointment (all you have to do is sign up and wait) cost me under $20.00.

I Can See Your Insides

Another story: Martina had some wicked painful heartburn a while ago, when she was still teaching. Turns out she was drinking green tea like water + coffee + eating spicy food and the combo was burning her esophagus from all the acidity. When we went to the hospital to check it out, we had to make an appointment to see the specialist and they put a camera down her throat. I was in the waiting room, and the nurse told me to look for screen number 7. Turns out there’s a big TV in the room with a bunch of squares. Square number 7 was going to be Martina’s innards. They broadcast that on TV in the hospitals! All the other peeps waiting for their loved ones are just sitting around me watching the screen. Woohoo! It kinda took our relationship to a new level. I saw the inside of Martina’s throat and stomach. Love, right there, boys and girls. That’s love. We opted for that version because that was the cheapest version. Turns out they also had pill cams. PILL CAMS! You swallow a pill and it’s a gortdamned camera that records what’s inside you and you just poop it out and doctors can watch that movie or put it on YouTube or something, I don’t know. I bet you there’s a secret YouTube channel known only to Koreans and it only shows people’s innards and its got a million subscribers. I’d subscribe to that.

Speaking of subscribing, if you like these TL;DRs, you should subscribe to us on YouTube! We’ll do more of them and talk about other experiences we’ve had in Korea.



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