So, before we begin, we just want to state how hesitant we were to talk about this topic. It’s a sensitive topic, and I know that some keyboard warriors get very defensive when we talk about issues in Korea. We saw this topic come up a few times in the questions you send us, and we figured that now, after we’ve done a couple lighthearted topics, we could tackle this subject, without our TL;DRs seeming too overwhelmingly serious. Serious topics are great at times, but put up too many in a row and people will start thinking of you differently. More awkward stories and fart jokes are needed to water down the severity.

Back to talking srsly: what surprises us the most about discussions on mental health in Korea is the lack of talk about it from Korean teachers. ADHD is a fairly open topic to discuss, from our experiences at least, as teachers in Canada. In Canada, before we stepped into any classroom we taught we’d be given a list of all of the special needs of the students in the class. For instance, I once had a student in Canada who needed all of his handouts to be printed on blue paper. In Korea, we weren’t given any such reports. We were just warned about bad students. That’s it. The students who we saw had ADHD weren’t accommodated by teachers, just ignored, or thought of as bad seeds. Students with autism were also just left to their own devices. Any talk about special needs for students was met with blank stares. Maybe it was just our schools. Maybe things have changed since then. I hope they have, because there are students in Korea who need help and aren’t getting it.

Outside of the classroom, though, this is a topic that we have very little experience with in Korea. We haven’t experienced any counselling services here, and so we can’t compare them to the ones we received ourselves while we were in Canada. When we asked people here in Korea who have friends in universities, though, we were told that very little in terms of services are offered. Is that the case for all universities? I’m not sure. Hell, I’m not even sure if all universities in Canada offer counselling services. We do know that they were really important to us when we needed them. In our video Martina talked about her use of counsellors. I was going to a counsellor right up until I met Martina as well. Both of us benefitted greatly from our counsellors, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the help we got. Especially considering the high suicide rate in Korea, a more open and accepting approach to counselling wouldn’t hurt. Soo Zee says it’s starting to happen in morning shows more. Hopefully we can see the topic approached more broadly from now on.

Since we don’t know that much more about it, and can’t really say more about the topic, if you’ve got anything to share, any info you can give, now’s the time to share. Any places you know of that are useful, any services that you know that are offered now, let us know, and hopefully other readers here can use that info if they need it.

Anyhow, if you liked this video, and want to see us talk more about our experiences in Korea, you should subscribe! We just passed the 400,000 subscriber mark today. Huzzah! Time to start planning out a video to celebrate! Till then, you should click on the button below if you haven’t already:

  1. I realize that this is a couple months after the video was posted, but I wanted to say something about this because of my experience as both a student in Canada and South Korea. I have OCD, general and social anxiety, as well as a tendency for depression; due to this, a psychologist I was seeing recommended some accommodations during my time at university, which Queens wholehearted granted me, along with a few others that the counsellors there thought would benefit me. There was an entire department designated to helping students dealing with mental illnesses and making arrangements for them with their professors (ie. coordinating for a student to write an exam in a separate room). Professors were always informed of these accommodations, but never questioned them.

    In my third year, I went on exchange to Korea University. Not wanting to leave things to the last minute, I asked the North American contact (about three months in advance) who to contact about my mental illness and my accommodations from a psychologist – I even sent him the letter from the psychologist and the Queens list of accommodations. He didn’t give me anybody to contact but said he would pass on the papers to the right people. When I got to the University, I wasn’t told of anybody I could contact and was told that the best I could do was tell the professors that I usually get accommodations and it was up to them to decide what I would have. Most of them were fairly good, although none really understood WHY I needed them, even if I tried to explain. During midterms, I had three in the same day (while one of my accommodations was to only ever have one exam per day) and no teacher was willing to change their midterm; because I was so stressed, I didn’t write any of them. I emailed somebody from the department for exchange students when I calmed down enough and they referred me to somebody else, who referred me to another person who then asked me to come in the next day. I never got to see an actual psychologist because there was no program in place for exchange/foreign students with mental illness to go to or contact – there was a very small one with a resource room for Korean students, however.

    I try to be very open about my OCD and anxiety, so I tell most of my friends. Whenever I told Korean friends though, a lot of them didn’t know what I was talking about.

    Long story short: I have a mental illness and it was easily recognized and accommodated for in Canada. When in Korea, I struggled to get any accommodations because of lack of resources and recognition. I was told, however, that because of my stressful experience, they would start up a program for exchange students with mental illness. I don’t know if they did, but I hope nobody else has to go through all the undo stress and lack organization that I had to deal with.

  2. I’m interested in being an English teacher in Korea but I’m not sure if I’d get the job because I’m on medication for Anxiety and have been for a while. I’ve also been through a lot of therapists too and I’m not sure if that’s going to be an issue or not. I would just like to know if it’s worth it for me to go back to college or would I be wasting my time.

  3. I was going to write an essay on this topic, do you know of any other sources I can look up? (Also is it okay if I use you guys a s a source as well?)

  4. Hi Simon and Martina!

    I hope South Korea does move forward in being more accepting and willing to talk about metal health issues. I mean as a teacher myself, I see the enormous help that it is to students when accommodating for their special needs. I can’t imagine simply labeling a student a “troublemaker” when what they actually need is focused attention. I bet many just fall through the cracks. Or like you said, that’s why suicide has a high rate over there – many students commit suicide. For the sake of future students I hope that the way of approaching students with special needs changes and they actually get the specialized help they need while at school.

    As far as adults and mental health issues, I hope that also stops being a stigma and can be more easily talked about as a nation. Here in the USA, especially due to several tragedies, there has been an open discussion about mental health: services and signs to look for. There has also been a big push in advertising mental health centers and mental health services to the public. Here in L.A., there isn’t a bus you get on and don’t see a poster about Mental Health with Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace) on it. He has been a big advocate for mental health awareness. And personally, towards the end of last year/early this year my family and I were dealing with my younger brother’s mental health issues. It was bad. He stayed at the hospital’s psych ER for three days under observation and then was transferred to mental health facility for three weeks. There he was able to get the help he needed. And now he is doing WAAAY better than how he was during his stay at that facility. He takes medicine that helps him, talks to a counselor every month, and he’s back to being the way he was before that whole ordeal. So I can’t even imagine what would have happened to my brother without those services. I’m getting teary eyed just thinking about it. If those services weren’t offered because it was so taboo or if we had the mindset that actually using those services was a big no no, then my brother’s story would be a whole lot different today.

    So hopefully, the stigma of mental health issues can one day go away completely in every nation and not just South Korea. Oh and I’m not saying that we’re completely way ahead of every other nation in acceptance in the USA either. I mentioned that lately mental health awareness has been prominent in the country or at least where I live due to tragedies nationwide but I can tell that it’s still a sensitive issue that’s not discussed unless absolutely necessary. So yeah hopefully that changes.

  5. For the next TL;DR: Can you turn right on a red light? Are the street signs like in Canada? If not, how is it different?

  6. Thanks for discussing this topic. I’ve always wondered how people with mental illnesses are treated and how mental illness are looked at in general. Since I’m getting tested for ADD, Anxiety, and Depression, this topic is very important to me. And you would think that with South Korea having the SECOND HIGHEST SUICIDE RATE IN THE WORLD that they would be more open to people with mental disabilities. It really makes me feel very bad for all of the people in SK that are dealing with things such as Depression, OCD, Autism, and ADD and they’re not really able to get help. I don’t even want to think about idols who already have enough stress in their lives. Take Joonie from MBLAQ. He has Bipolar disorder. And all of the people in SM who are in the MILK club, a support group for people with depression. G-Dragon, Daesung, and Taeyang all suffered from depression at some point in their idol career, and Daesung even developed severe social anxiety to the point to where he couldn’t look ANYONE in the eye during Big Bang’s La La La days. And as everyone knows, he became severely depressed and even became suicidal when he was dealing with that car accident back in 2011. But I can see that steps are being taken to help these people. Not big steps and not a lot of steps, but steps regardless. Like I said before about SM, they don’t really seem to have a problem with the MILK club, and I haven’t seen members like Onew, Yoona, Taeyeon, and Leetuk looked down upon for being in the MILK club. I know G-Dragon and possibly Taeyang received counseling (I presume from a psychologist) for their depression. YG Papa even sent G-Dragon on a vacation so that G-Dragon could have a break. Changmin received actual therapy because of severe anxiety brought by saesangs. Poor baby even broke down as he was surrounded by them as they kept hounding and harassing him. He talked about it on some show and I didn’t see anyone giving him BS for talking about it. While these changes are the best I’ve seen, I’m not naïve enough to think that the mental health stigma in SK is completely solved. I and everyone else that knows about and is interested in the Korean culture knows that SK has a LONG way to go when it comes to this subject.

  7. In regards to this video, I’ve just came back from my first visit to South Korea and I was alarmed to find out the people who stutter/stammer are seen as stupid and seem to be placed in the lowest classes during school.

  8. hey i was wondering of the foreigners in korea, what type of races do u guys see the most (ahh no offense) white, black, hispanic?

  9. It’s hard enough dealing with the major stigma schizophrenia gets here in the states, I dread to think of how things would be if I lived somewhere like Korea…eek!

  10. lots of koreans have bipolar and depression.
    chosun ilbo stated that 14%of koreans(1000 responses) said they have taken drugs or at least seen a shrink.
    but still koreans think anyone who has depression is mad.

  11. irritablevowel

    Heh, I couldn’t help but think of the song “Turn it Off” from the musical Book of Mormon after watching this TL;DR.


  12. The high school that I teach in has a counsellor who does an awesome job. There’s also a unit for students with special needs. It could definitely be better, but I’m really pleased to see how my school cares for those students. I know it’s not the case all the time, but I don’t want people to think that nothing exists in schools for those kids who need special help.

  13. About mental illness, it’s definitely a stigma in East Asia. Just like what Simon and Martina said, students that have ADD, ADHD, etc. are considered “bad students”. I know that some parents from China purposely move to US because their child has mental problems. I also think the stigma came about from Confucius teachings, because Confucius said that children should take care of their parents when they are older, and have to be respected and dutiful citizens (something along those lines). But if the child has some mental problem, he or she won’t be able to be respected and dutiful, and won’t be able to take care of his or her parents. Thus, mentally ill children are shunned from society.

  14. Why are Koreans so obsessed with getting the latest thing? I read that they all seem to have neophilia. Why? Plus, I agree with Martina with the whole counselling thing, I have counselling recently and it really helped me get through my difficulties. :D I feel bad for the Korean teenagers who have to suffer it all alone, which, in my opinion, is the worst thing anyone could try and do. :(

  15. Jeremy Jermatria Keating

    How does the whole mental health screening go in regards to foreigners getting jobs? Was this something you guys had to deal with yourselves? I’ve considered attempting to enter music journalism or perhaps even the industry at some point in Korea, and am wondering if I would be faced with this? If so I’m a little screwed to say the least, as my rap sheet of mental health issues is longer than santas xmas list….

  16. honestly im an asian girl i grew up around the asian culture but these are the shit that i hate about my life. when im going through time like these i have no in my family to talk to know one in my family notice anything about it. i have turn to many thing that i try to hide from i self harm im suicidal im depress anorexic and im insurecure about myself. i think the asian culture should not try to raise their kids on the idea of perfection. martina i notice that you mention every once in a while that youre a metal head or something like that and then now you mention that you went through depression before i guess if i put the pieces together you find music as your escape.

  17. You talked about tattoos in Korea before, but I was wondering about piercings. What kind of ear and body piercings are socially acceptable in Korea?

  18. This topic is very close to my heart, and I greatly appreciate you guys addressing it. My heart goes out to all the students unable to or discouraged from seeking help for their mental health.

  19. In the latest upload of Discussing Interesting Contemporary Korean Slang: Ep 03, Miss Leigh and Miss Soo Zee had brought up “manscaping” the personal grooming of men in North America but not Korea. The way Miss Soo Zee reacted was amusing but surprised me. Obviously South Korean men don’t do it, even though “South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skincare last year” according to global market research firm Euromonitor International. So why don’t men groom “down there”? What about the women? Is keeping the area “down there” trimmed a practice? What about waxing or for that matter the Brazilian? Is it just taboo?

  20. The lack of guidance counselors is due to homeroom teachers acting as ones. Homeroom teachers in Korea take responsibilities of each student in her/his classroom and guide them through their school life.

  21. I know mental health is sort of taboo in SK, but what about reproductive health? I am a high school teacher in the US right now and am really considering moving to SK for a year with my boyfriend… will I be able to get birth control pills easily or should I plan on packing some with me?

  22. How are single parents and their children treated in South Korea? Is there a stigma to be from a one-parent household?

  23. That’s heartbreaking to hear you had ADHD and autistic students and there was zero administrative support. I’ve had students in America who were perfectly capable and almost indistinguishable from the rest of the class with the proper medication and a teacher who was aware of their issues and supportive. I hope that can change in the future as no child deserves to be labeled as a trouble maker for something beyond their control.

  24. Hi Simon and Martina… I was wondering if you guys could tell me or make a video about what the Korean dress code is… Because in your U-Kiss interview Martina stated that her tank top was inappropriate for Korea… but in Korean Dramas, and some of your other videos there are girls walking around in booty shorts… Thanks!

  25. irritablevowel

    Education wise this doesn’t surprise me. Culturally the west is very much about the individual while East Asian countries are culturally focused on the group. So when you teach in the U.S. you could have a class where every kid is performing at the highest levels (stop laughing! It could happen!) but if little Timmy is disruptive in class and falling behind it’s your job to figure out how Timmy needs you to teach him. In East Asia it sounds like if little Timmy (or little Taemin maybe? The kid who seems to always want Doritos.) is falling behind and disrupting class, it’s your job to make sure the class as a whole isn’t adversely affected.

    Having said that, I think there is probably more awareness. Parents of kids with special needs now realize that their children CAN achieve, but just need some flexibility in their education. As that awareness grows, it will result in more pressure on the schools to do their best to help those children live up to their potential.

  26. In the Netherlands it’s even like this that when you need more help then others you can go to special schools with small classes of 15 children and less so that they could give you more attention. Also with school based on religion and a lot of other stuff and I find it a really good thing that those that need a little bid of extra help get help. Even the dumpest children learn to do things on there own and might are even able to be a part of society like all the other people.

    And you even can study and ask for the extra help from different people. Just last week I had something called introduction week. This is a week where they show students how to be comfortable with where you are and show you around the school and city. I had a lot’s of fun and noticed also a lot of foreign students at this introduction week and where actually surprised to see so many foreigners. There where also lot’s of asians whom need to pay a lot in order to study here and that is pretty admirable.

  27. there’s an awesome counseling place in Gongdeok staffed with ceritifed American and Canadian professional and experienced counselors that do family, individual and professional counseling. They helped me so much I cannot say. AHS – Adaptable Human Solutions. They are priced on a case by case basis but typical of top quality professional mental healthcare services in the US or UK – about 200,000won per hour. But they are worth every penny (won). They also provide services in Korean for Korean speakers, but they are all native or fluent in English. I can also say the mental health ward staff at Seoul Paik Inje Hospital are extremely kind. They mostly deal with anorexia patients, and people over 50 with the onset of dementia. But they have a variety of therapies and are very progressive in trying different things. Their director is a bit of an a*hole if you ask me, more into his tv appearances, but the young resident doctors and the technical staff are incredibly progressive, open-minded and caring.

  28. I think the change has already started, though slowly. I’m at an elementary school and we have 6 or 7 special needs kids who are integrated into the classrooms in a way that I would see back in Canada (I’m Canadian too). 4 of them go to each class with the equivalent of an SNA (Special Needs Assistant). The SNA encourages them to chant along and helps them do the activities in English class.
    The other kids are great with them too. I’ve met a couple of special needs kids without SNAs and the other kids help them out. They hold their hands down the stairs and make sure that they get back to their homeroom class and don’t wander off. I even saw one girl helping a special needs girl open a candy. It was so nice!

  29. It makes me sad to hear that. Avoidance, and ignorance of a problem doesn’t make it go away.Perhaps with more information being put out there about mental health issues there will be changes in S.Korea. Recently they put out a drama called Good Doctor that is about an Autistic man who utilizes his special talents to become a well acknowledged pediatrician. Who knows what will be different in 1-5 years time hopefully.

  30. Lol ….when I took civics and careers in high school, they told us if anyone ever asked for a photo with your resumé to run, not because of racism or being judged on your appearance, but that it was probably some thing shady!!

  31. QUESTION…..hi!^^
    what are the ways of citizenship in S.Korea?How much money does it need?can some one become citizen just with university degree or something other than marriage with Koreans?

  32. A couple comments as someone living in Korea “with a close friend” who is maintaining the treatment of her mental illness:
    1.She asked a couple pharmacies if they carried her meds (she thought it would be faster than seeing a doctor and asking them) and they didnt carry any of them. She has to get her meds shipped from Canada in 3 month batches (custom regs). It gets super expensive to have them shipped priority so they dont get lost in the mail.
    2. She had to ‘fib’ on her health forms to get a teaching position because the question about mental illness and whether she had ever had a problem with it cost her 3 teaching positions. Seriously: She was offered THREE jobs that were retracted when they saw her health form that was clear except for that.
    3. A great measure for which people are discriminated against – what do teenagers call each other as (semi) insults: ‘crazy’. Its something i hear from my middle school kids all the time when they speak with me in English. These are kids that don’t know that word to sometimes be used as a synonym for ‘wacky’ or ‘strange’ but rather only ‘someone with a mental illness’.

  33. I think from my and my friends’ experience, things are getting a bit better in the teaching world here. All of my teachers are aware of students with problems beyond simple classroom dislike. However, there are no behavior plans, or seperate classes or any kind of help for the teachers, and one student freaking out and beating the crap out of their neighbor student or throwing heavy objects across the room at people can really put a strain on your ability to teach a class :/

  34. Hollowhispers

    As a Korean-American with clinical depression and siblings with autism, mental health has always been something that’s been swept under the rug for us in Korean communities.

    • “mental health is a topic that’s often been swept under the rug for me in Korean communities. In MY EXPERIENCE, Korean adults seem to think that mental health is something that’s not a medical issue but rather an issue with character.”

      As an Asian-American I can’t point that out enough. I’m mixed and it’s sometimes discouraging to see that one half of the family is really matter of fact with my mental disorder and the other side of the family I know won’t be able to accept or understand it, in fact I have to keep it a secret from everyone but one of my Aunts whose a teacher here in the US.

  35. If there’s such a stigma around seeing psychologists, is psychology not a common or sought out field in South Korea?

  36. Martina, I absolutely love your makeup in this video. Can you do a tutorial on it??

  37. I hope more attention to mental illnesses, disorders, etc, will be implemented in SK and other countries. I watched the Japanese drama and movie “One Litre of Tears” when I was younger which really opened my eyes to these problems. Peeps should watch it if you haven’t!!

    • Except, while I also love that drama, ‘One Litre of Tears’ is a physical illness, not a mental one. It affects the physical areas of her brain, not the psychological. But you’re right that it was awful that she had to deal with the attitudes about her disability. :(

  38. I’m always surprised to hear the counseling services aren’t embraced as widely as they are in North America. I live in Kentucky, a state that’s known for not being super modern in it’s education systems, but throughout my entire school life I’ve always had super easy access to counselors. In high school each grade had it’s own counselor and if there was a tragedy at the school, like the death of a student, a licensed psychologist was brought in for a few weeks to just be there if anyone needed someone to talk to. Even in the case of special education there were several special education teachers and classrooms and students could volunteer to help out in the special ed rooms as well.

    In college there is even more support. There is an entire building dedicated to being a “safe zone” for talking things out. If you go there you can talk to other students or psychologists and it can be alone or in groups. They have all sorts of campaigns where they put fliers all over campus and hand out pamphlets to let people know where they can go if they need help. There are always speakers being brought in to talk about different struggles with mental illnesses and traumatic situations and encourage people to talk things out with someone.

  39. I’m a new teacher here in Korea and I have come in contact with a few students with ADHD and autism (i’ve been teaching for two weeks). I’m not a licensed teacher back in the US, but I do have a counseling background which is why it was easy for me to identify their behavioral problems. I mentioned it to the head instructor (not director) and she was like, “ahh. yeah. .yeah. I can see that.” So I think maybe they are starting to KNOW about it, but they still don’t really… do any thing about it. :

  40. in korea mental illness is considered a shame. If any of your family members have any kind of illness its a shame to the entire family so a lot of people will keep it on the down low.
    I heard that there are special schools( im not sure tho ) but as i mentioned mental illness is a shame so if you mentioned my kid goes to and you name the school. People would probably recognize quickly that is a special school and will soon look down onto that kid and parents. So I think the main reason why these kids are still in these regular schools is because of that reason. In regular school they can just be labeled as the troublesome kid rather than the disability kid if they go to the special school.

    I remember seeing a video on how korean parents who have just given birth to babies with disabilities or babies likely to get disabilities getting dropped at a home of a pastor. There were so many babies being dropped in front of his home that he made a box where parents could drop the babies in.

  41. Thank you for doing this video! I have a question! (also open to other ESL teachers to answer?) I’ve been looking to teach in Asia and they all ask about any mental problems…. should I just lie? I have had mental health issues since I was eight so it is definitely in my medical records. I have been medication-free for months now, but I don’t know if I did relapse how readily available medication would be? Can it be sent to me through the mail?
    To anyone with experience – your advice would be greatly appreciated!!!

    • If you are concerned about relapses, I’d suggest talking to your doctor about these concerns and see if you can get some dosages before leaving as an emergency supply. That way you don’t have to stress about finding them or waiting for them to arrive. I don’t know about how easy/hard it’d be to get meds for relapses though. You may want to look into getting someone to mail them to you.

      • You answered me in two places! Thank you! I’ve had medication sent to me while abroad before, but I just wasn’t sure what the laws were in SK. Or what the laws were as far as bringing medication with me on the plane. I am only allowed a three month supply at a time in the US, so I didn’t know if I could only have so much of a drug on me while in SK. I will definitely try to find some ex-pat forums though and see what they have to say. Thank you for all of your help, really! <3

  42. (I live in the states and went to small private schools all my life. same one from 2nd to senior year)
    I went to speech therapy, a psychologists, counselor, and tutor all before the age of 11. Thanks to my mother and teachers who picked up on my ADHD and dyslexia. Because i was diagnosed at a young age i learned tools to help me learn in my own way. Because i look at things differently i was bullied all throughout kindergarten to middle school (i stopped taking that BS when i entered high school, screw the bullies, they can suck it.), but i still had someone to go to on campus at all times. I most likely wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the help of school counselors.

    I hope any of the younger people reading this realize that asking for help or seeking mental heath services is nothing to be ashamed of. You aren’t stupid you just learn differently. And talking to professionals about problems your are having really does help. It makes me sad that Korea seems to not be fully open to mental health issues. The US is still learning and not completely informed about mental illness and autism. With the tragic events that have been happening in the US people are becoming more aware of the affects that mental illness can have if gone untreated. Silver Linings Playbook worked to bring awareness to the general public about mental illness.

  43. Ugh ADHD being lumped in with special ed irks me.
    But maybe that’s just because special ed at our school really had barely any special needs kids and was mainly just full of the incredibly stupid kids who were also incredibly lazy.
    I think my parents were kinda mad/offended when they asked about putting me in it once.
    We both also got ticked off about teachers constantly asking about meds.

    I was bored out of my mind most of the time and struggled to focus… and I was incredibly lazy and would rather play video games than do school work at home.. BUT I was/not dumb. When I was motivated I usually did pretty well, but if you put no effort into making the class interesting, then I most likely put no effort into doing what you expected of me.
    (Also math, yeah idk how to show my work for anything, like seriously… but I can do it in my head. Teachers don’t like that….)

  44. Random thing to say buuut is there BLUE in your hair Martina?

  45. Depression is also a SERIOUS problem here that has all kinds of negative connotations. My wife had postpartum depression so bad it gave her insomnia for a month – she went to the doc for medication and was ashamed to tell anyone in her family (even ashamed to walk into the hospital). Her mother had also been hospitalized for depression before. My wife said that even depression is considered “crazy” by many in Korea. (That’s probably also why there’s such a high suicide rate.)

  46. Here’s a movie about an institution for deaf children and how some were treated: http://asianwiki.com/Silenced_(Korean_Movie). It’s really sad and probably overexaggerated, but it does give a general look at South Korea and children with physical disabilities.

  47. Thank you for this. I really did need more information. Not only do I plan on teaching there, I do suffer from OCD and Panic attacks as well hopefully transfering my medicine properly to Korea (if that’s possible) I will keep my eyes open when I go

  48. Former ESL Teacher in Korea, Sufferer of Depression

    - I know my school (regular public middle school) had a special ed classroom and special ed teacher (specialized in the subject) though I know that’s not always the case

    - There are some special ed SCHOOLS in Korea, I’ve heard from co-workers, but those are only a recent thing and not too common. But expensive!!!

    - Why there aren’t any guidance counsellors in Korean schools? I know from talking to some of my Korean co-workers that Koreans, in general, don’t like to talk about their problems to other people that they KNOW so talking to counselors would be even more difficult and more frowned upon. It comes down to saving ‘face’ and image

    - True story: one of the boys at my school suffers from a mental illness (sorry I don’t remember the name ^^;;) and in his family, he has a younger brother who does as well. He use to have an older brother who didn’t but he died in a car accident. My co-teacher told me about the story but when she did, she talked about how the other teachers pitied the mother because her “normal” son died so young and was left with two “special” sons to take care of. Yeahhhh~~

    - As someone who suffers from depression: you do NOT talk about it at your job site. Period. Koreans don’t understand what it means to be suffering something like depression, or any other mental illness. I can see this being a result of a lack of understanding and not having those types of discussions with people. “Oh, you’re depressed? Just stop thinking about what makes you depressed and that’ll solve you’re problem.” Errrr that’s not how depression works yo.

    - People who suffer from mental illness and want to work in Korea: don’t put it on your application or resume. Or mention it in the job interview. I’ve talked to other people who’ve suffered from mental health issues as well and they’ve agreed that that’s the best thing to do due to Korean society lack of understanding/tolerance of the subject, and it can be used as a type of discrimination

    • Question: If you need medication while abroad, how do you get it? Can it be mailed to you or do you have to seek a professional there? And if you see a professional there, does your employer learn about it?
      I’m an ESL teacher with depression as well and wondering if Asia would ever be a fit for me. Your answers are very much appreciated! Actually, just this comment answered a lot of questions – thank you ^^

      • You need to see a doctor to get the medication, but I’m sure if you ask around any ex-pats when you land for suggestions, they’ll be able to help you out with a doctor who’d give you medication. Or even go onto Ex-Pat forums to see what they have to say. As for will your employer find out about it, errrr… from my experience and others, they don’t find out about it if you don’t say anything really about it. I’ve never heard about employers finding out after the fact if any fallout happens. I think the general role of thumb is if you act happy and smiles and you act fairly stable, they don’t go looking into that kinda stuff.
        I went on my meds in Korea (side note: I MISS YOU KOREAN MEDICARE!!! I don’t know what I was taking but it was $20 for a month and a half worth of DAILY meds) but I was able to get medicine easily enough through a doctor’s prescription and a visit to the pharmacy (just a normal one). Other case: I have a friend living overseas and I know she gets her meds mailed to her (not sure how that works) so that would be something you’d have to discuss with your doctor. My best suggestion would be to ask around on ESL/Ex-Pat forums about your meds and see how easy/hard it is to get them, if possible and if not, talk to your doctor about it :)

  49. Thank you for discussing these issues; I know you guys are always hesitant about serious discussions, but for those of us wanting to go to Korea, this is information that is totally useful. You talked mostly about ADHD, autism, and anxiety/depression, but I was curious as to “more serious” mental illnesses. I’ve been told there is a stigma about illnesses such as schizophrenia (more so in Japan apparently, but still existent), and was wondering if having a family history, or discussing it openly, would be an issue there?

  50. It’s great that Kpop is introducing the world to South Korea with all its flashy modern fashion, sets and extreme dance coordinations, but to what degree is Kpop a huge misinterpretation of the country to our eyes?

    This wouldn’t just be in terms of how young people dress all shiny and act-*cough* pointing at fire “cough”-but also in terms of atmosphere, history and how South Koreans truly view themselves and their culture as a whole.

    Do a lot of SKs find it irritatingly ridiculous and misleading?

    Schpank you peeps and meems.

  51. Happy 400K!

  52. Hello Counselor is pretty good, although sometimes I think that things that the audience and the “counselors” say aren’t issues most definitely are. That could be a difference in culture though. If anyone hasn’t seen it yet, check it out. The episode with Kris, Suho, and Chanyeol from EXO was pretty good. Like your hair Martina! I’ve always been a fan of the pink and blue combo :)

  53. Every time I hear about touchy subjects and it involves schools in Korea I always end up with this desire to just go to South Korea and build a school unlike any other Korean school that will be built for the students and to help the students JESUS CHRIST! Although I know that will most likely never happen! But I would love to help in some way!!!!

  54. Akira Miyashi

    As someone studying Psychology, I really do think that it is a major concern. I would say that South Korea needs a whole lot more awareness about these problems and its seriousness. Mental health in my country isn’t that great either but things are slowly changing here. We’re more and more embracing and aware about mental illnesses here. I hope Korea will come to realize it too.

  55. Well, that sucks. Things like ADHD are acknowledged in my area (Southern Oregon Coast), but your still considered a trouble maker! There are ZERO programs for adults (and some kids) with Autism here. I have Aspergers syndrome and there isn’t anything for people like me. If I were to move to a Large City in Oregon my chances might be better, but cities are too busy and too noisy for some one like me.

  56. I just wanted to say thank you to you guys for making such positive videos all the time. I have severe OCD and depression to the point where I only leave my house for medical appointments and I tune into you guys and can forget about all my troubles for a little while. Martina, your story about the girl who couldn’t be touched really struck a cord with me. I haven’t touched people in years. I agree that mental health professionals are very very important and university counselors in particular hold a place very close to my heart. I have one who has gone above and beyond her job description for me and has saved my life many times. As someone who suffers greatly from something that’s so often used as a punchline for a joke I really feel for people with mental illnesses who are surrounded ignorant people.There is huge stigma involved in mental illness and it’s a very tough road to walk.

  57. Thank you for addressing this topic.

  58. I suffer from depression and panic disorder. They go hand in hand together for me. Where as I have a panic attack, then get upset that I had one so I get depressed. I always say “oh I was doing so well, I hadn’t had to take my panic meds for (insert time here) and now I have to start all over.” I used to talk to a therapist but I lost my health insurance awhile back (oh hey usa), but sometimes therapists can’t really help I feel because it’s the thoughts in my head that go away and come back. I haven’t been suicidal, but I have in the past self-harmed. I feel bad that they’re is such a stigma in Korea, because I know how these people feel and I wish people understood these conditions better, because I think that will make it easier on everyone who suffers.

  59. Im from Chile, and we don’t have counselors here either, nor in high school or middle school nor in university… I mean, if you ask to, you can go to the institution’s psycologist, but unless you study at a great university, they generally suck, speacially at school.

  60. What’s it like for a disabled person to make their way around South Korea (including rural areas)? Are they able to easily get onto busses and trains? Because in Sydney, half of the bus fleet is wheelchair accesible and I’ve seen people struggle to get on/off busses that aren’t wheelchair accessible.

  61. I cannot speak in great detail about this, cuz I’m still quite new to SK. However, I’m a teacher in a rural area of South Korea and our school has a special needs teacher with only two students. He is amazing with them! One of them has autism, and all of the teachers in the school make an effort to be patient with the boy and still treat him with respect. I have a few friends teaching in other rural areas who also have special needs teachers at their schools….This sounds crazy, but rural Korean schools often get better funding from the government than inner city schools, so maybe that is part of the reason.

  62. Thankyou so much for posting this! I am currently writing essays to earn scholarships to study at sungkyunkwan university in korea (wish me luck) as a psychology major. This is so relevant to what i want to study and do with my life. ^^ -hopefully its a sign of good fortune.

  63. MARTINA UR MAKEUP IS PRETYYYY. I wish I was that talented in makeup…

  64. On the flip side, I do think north America is trigger happy when it comes to diagnosing children with conditions. Back in the 1990s, doctors were diagnosing every kid as ADHD and putting them on ritalin. Even today, autism is a really broad term. Just because someone seems different doesn’t necessarily mean they have a mental health problem. Getting all philosophicalish here, but what is a mental illness? Even doctors are still trying to define these things. But yeah, having no counselors in schools is ridic. Korea definitely needs to be careful in how it approaches this subject, because I can totally see prescription drugs being abused (abuse of adderall anyone?)…speaking of which, what’s drug use like in Korea, EYK?

    • I totally agree! My second grade teacher wanted me put on ritalin because I was always distracted. I’m not ADHD, his class was boring. Then my senior year I got tested for high functioning autism and they decided I just have anxiety. How are those two even related? Like one problem didn’t stick so they threw another one to see if it would? I feel like north america and south korea are on the two far ends of the scale and they should be more in the middle.

      • many people with autism have something like a sensory overload, everything from movement, colors, sounds, emotions, touch (why the girl Martina was talking about didn’t like being touched), they’re all coming in fast and constantly, so you’d understand why that would make them anxious all the time. Have you ever been anxious and felt absolutely restless because of it? It’s why some of the signs of autism are rocking, humming, and a constant, almost rhythmic moving of their hands. It’s also why many people with sever autism are incredibly intelligent on specific subjects, they latch onto it like a moment of quiet in a world that is constantly and sometimes painfully distracting.

    • This actually quite true and worth pointing out

  65. I notice more and more kpop artists are getting tattoos. I too, l have a number of tattoos and I felt happy to see Koreans stars with their own tattoos. How do Koreans accept tattooing in general?

  66. I think for a country like South Korea, it doesn’t surprise me that Mental Illness is not managed well, because I doubt it was managed well for ages in western cultures and it probably will just take time.
    I wonder if the same holds true for Intellectual Disabilities and disabilities.

  67. Man, what an intrusion of privacy that companies can look at your medical records. That’s just sooo messed up. I hope that counseling will become more and more accepted. It seems like the best rout for the government to take instead of only dealing with surface issues…

  68. This makes my heart break a little bit. I have two severely autistic brothers who can barely communicate with anyone and are far behind the rest of kids their age. My one brother is 16 and has no reading comprehension skills at all. I just hate to imagine kids just like my brothers having no one to go to for help and no special education. I hope there will be change coming soon.

  69. I know that Singapore (and I guess this will kinda extend to SK as well) in the past, mental illness wasn’t acknowledged as mental illness, but more passed off as behavioural problems. However, they’ve now begun to properly acknowledge mental illnesses and provide better access to the professionals.

  70. Thanks for doing this difficult topic. The culture is very stoic and judgmental. I mean, look at the handicapped services in Korea – there are virtually none for the physically handicapped, so why would there be anything for mentally handicapped? The entire country is traumatized from repeated invasions and war and domestic violence. They all have PTSD and don’t even know it. The educational system is inhumane, gender discrimination and racism is inhumane, stigma against mental illness is inhumane. The country is expert in figuring out how to be inhumane.

  71. Alicia Davis 알이샤 데비스
    Alicia Davis 알이샤 데비스

    This is heartbreaking, I can think of personal experiences for nearly all the worst case examples you talked about! I wanna give Korea the benefit here though because like you said they seem to be developing, and maybe you’re constantly reminded being in Korea and all, but the country’s development so far is in its infancy so it’s still got a long way to go! Korea seems like a country that is very much set in a modern fast paced society with somewhat archaic values/ very old fashioned mind sets. I hope you’re right and that issues like these get addressed as soon as possible!
    Also the story of the autistic kid reminds me of the movie Silenced ( Korean movie featuring Gong Yoo).

  72. I always knew you guys were crazy! Needing counselors! I’m just joking. ^-^
    I had a counselor for a few months and then she….quit on me. >.>;
    My guardian sent me for “my attitude.” Hahahaha yeah well…..no comment.
    On the serious note, the USA also still has small issues identifying needs for such students in school but at least we are, I guess, farther along in the process than Korea. Especially for suicidal and bullied kids having the telephone hotline to call for help.

  73. Having just received a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, the topic of mental health is very important to me. After teaching in Korea for a year I moved back home to pursue my Masters degree. I can attest to the lack of mental health awareness in my private high school as well. I am interested in knowing more about how English speakers get there mental health needs met. Having fallen in love with Korean people and culture, I would love to move back to Korea and provide English language Counseling to those who need it. But given the difficulty in moving to Korea as a non-teacher, I don’t know if that will be possible in the near future.

  74. This is a really interesting and important topic. I got pretty much the same impression as a teacher in Korea. I was lucky enough to be at a school that DID have a special education classroom with about ten students. They generally had their own classes, but were brought in on my English lessons with the larger group of students, which was nice. My students definitely included them without any bias that was obvious to me. I also was in a carpool with the woman who was in charge of these students, and she was a very sweet, warm and loving young teacher with training specific to her students’ issues. It was really encouraging to see at my school, but it is rare in Korea overall (from my knowledge and experience) to have a dedicated special needs class.

    Something cute: all of my classrooms in the school has signs on the door with the name of the class, which was also translated from Korean into English. On the door of the Special Education room, the sign said “Love Class.” ^_^

    • Wow that is so encouraging to see that these kids can actually get the help they need. I grew up with AD/HD but needed a lot more help than I was given and to see them getting what they need warms my heart.

  75. Thanks for doing this video. I suffer from clinical depression and I found this to be very interesting. I like that you did include depression in this video of mental illness cause a lot of people don’t take it as a serious issue, that it’s something that goes away. I just wanted to thank you for treating the issue the way you did.

  76. Hello Counselor and Healing Camp I think are some of the shows Soozee is talking about. I saw the episode where Daesung and GD were on Healing Camp and Daesung talked about how he went through depression and even thought about sucide :( after the car accident he got into in 2011.

  77. bigbangfosho

    Have you guys watched Good Doctor? I don’t think it’s super relevant to this topic, but the actor portrays autism really well.

  78. This topic is so true. I have ADHD and a whole but of other disabilties and i have experenced stuff like what you are talking about. Almost all my friends are Korean I also go to a Korean Church. Personally I can’t stand like they do and pray i feel more comfortable sitting. Along with other things. And all elders would do is come up to me and as me why i am not doing what there doing. Asking me if i was okie because i wasn’t doing what there doing. It makes sence that there just worried but when i told them i just have to sit and etc they just gave me blank stares. My one friend asked me one day and i told him my disablities.. and he gave me this blank stare and all he said was “but they will go away right?” I looked at him it’s not that simple ADHD and my other disablities don’t just go away. His thinking on all of this is was that it was all in my head. He had no idea … when it comes to the rest of my friends a few of them understand because they have been in canada for a long time but all the people i have found unless they have went to school for psycology they think its all in there head and it will go away. There is also one thing is people with ADHD can spot other people with ADHD. like you can be taught the signs and etc. I know when i go to church there is this one little boy who is 3 years old and i could till when i first might him a year ago that he had ADHD. His parents don’t even help him they let him run around and do what he wants, scream and do everything. which isn’t bad but everything i see him he also has chocalate. I thought maybe it was a sugar high because he is so young and lots of sugar so unless he gets what ever he wants and thats sugar all the time i know the boy has ADHD.

    I think the big thing is and it’s the same mentally with LGBT people also in korea and this is what my korean friends have told me. is that Koreans believe that there is nothing wrong. It’s like the parent saying it’s okie if that the neibours child is Gay but it’s not okie if mine is. That also goes same for disabilties. A lot of koreans believe that stuff like disablities and LGBT people are something that only happens outside of Korea. Korea is such techniolically advanced country but they still go on old vaules which isn’t bad but it harms many people as you can see.

  79. Starsania

    Interesting topic. My mother is a Special ED teacher in the US and I hear all the time about the different accommodations that need to be implemented for each student on an IEP. She still struggles with getting some of the general ED teachers to comply with the accommodations but with parents threatening to sue the school if their kid isn’t getting the proper help they require the special ED students are taken care of pretty dang well.

    She’s told me before her parents came from a generation where getting any sort of mental help was a stigma and you were supposed to deal with issues on your own and not show anyone your weaknesses. She’s had some kind of anxiety pretty much all her life and would have benefited from seeing someone about it if it wasn’t such a taboo back then.

    (It is a slight double edged sword as well. Some students come to depend on their disability as a crutch (with their parents threatening to sue the school as their support) when they really could push themselves to try harder and would actually do well in school.)

    No system is ever perfect but I’m glad there is a better acceptance rate when it comes to how people perceive mental health than there was in the past.

    Hopefully more of Korea will come to accept that mental health is important and shouldn’t be hidden away or ignored.

  80. I think some schools do better than others when it comes to dealing with special needs students. I taught English in Gangwon-do for 2 years and while I was there, I had 3-4 special needs students, and my school had a special needs teacher and special classes the students went to.
    I think it is really sad that admitting to depression or mental illness is still considered taboo, but I hope Korea will eventually come to accept it as a fact of life.
    You guys are awesome and I love your videos, except you make me miss living in Korea!

  81. Oh my gosh, wow. That was enlightening and terrible to hear. It makes me really thankful that in the US we have HIPAA (which is an act that protects the privacy of a patients mental records). Although there is a stigma of mental illness in the US (look at the current push to make mental health providers more affordable and available) at least there are guidance councilors for those that are willing to go for help.

    This makes me wonder about politics and lawmaking in Korea. Does anyone know if there are lobbyists (if that exists) or people that are pushing to change this. By the sound of it, this is a huge form of discrimination.

    Btw: Great TL;DR. It’s good to see that you guise actually have experience with this.

  82. that’s so sad to hear :(( In germany it’s not that big of an issue a friend of mine goes to a psychotherapist and it really helps her and another friend of mine thought about going too and we told her to go and that she doesn’t have to be embarrassed about having problems

  83. I love the, um, irony? of GD in the thumbnail. Maybe it’s just a coincidence for a good theme image but he’s a little wacky :D

  84. This tl;dr got me curious though. What is it like for people with physical disabilities like people in wheelchairs or on crutches. Are places wheelchair accessible/ wheelchair friendly? Are there handicapped parking spots? Are the sidewalks wheelchair friendly? I. Ask because I have a friend in a wheelchair and even here in America I know it can be a pain the a** for him to get around, huge cracks or holes in the sidewalk and aisles at some stores are too narrow.

    • Yeah that got me curious too. Like don’t you walk a lot in Korea, especially the city with all the traffic. From subways to taxis. I think in the USA, we have a van service for people in wheelchairs but I’m not sure if it’s just for the elderly or anyone who can’t really walk and don’t have their own handicap van.

    • I wondered the same and also I was curious about people with hearing disabilities (as I do and in america I had a hard time getting teachers to cooperate even though I did have a consoller) or those who are blind along with physical disabilities. And I was curious about the attitude towards people with such disabilities

    • I’ve been wondering the same thing as I’m physically disabled myself. I notice a lot of stairs or steps in the food shops they go to and wondered how common ramps and elevators are. Also curious how people with disabilities are treated in general.

    • My best friend and I both agreed that you don’t realize just how unfriendly the world is for handicapped people until you or someone you love is in the position. As far as wheelchairs, there are very few places with automated doors, the holes in the sidewalk, or having to roll yourself way out of the way so you can get onto that dip in the sidewalk. This country is even worse for people who are legally blind, paper money is all the same size, and barely any braille. Although I have noticed they are making more accommodations for the hearing impaired which is nice.

      • I completely get that. I was fighting fit until this year when I became ill and now have to use a wheelchair. Before, it never even crossed my mind, but now I know how difficult it is to manoeuvre around shops with tight isles, uneven pavements, opening doors etc.
        But yes, I’d like to know how disability friendly Korea is too, as I’d very much like to visit someday :)

    • As a Korean adoptee with a prosthetic leg who went on a trip this summer with other Korean adoptees (one being in a wheelchair), I found Korea very difficult for physically disabled people. Our friend with a wheelchair had a lot of obstacles. At least 90% of the buildings had stairs leading up to them and he was taken out of his wheelchair, placed in a seat, then had his wheelchair carried inside. The wheelchair could not go into restaurants or buildings that required shoes to be taken off. Not to mention the Seoul subway system has a maze of stairs and very few elevators. I’d suggest if you are in a wheelchair, make sure your upper body strength is prime and take a few strong able bodied people along with you!
      The reason that I was placed for adoption was because my parents knew I had limb abnormalities in the womb and at the time, 20 years ago, there were few good medical institutions that could provide prosthetics. Only 20 years ago! It’s interesting that the Korean social acceptance is very naive compared to its GDP.

      My family’s Korean friend who is about 50 told me she had a neighbor that she played with as a child in Busan. The neighbor, a young girl, used a wheelchair. But the little girl did not attend school or leave the apartment; Her parents kept her locked in their apartment. It was like this child was their “secret” that no one else knew. It seems like the parents were ashamed of their child’s disability and that others would judge them, which is so wrong.

    • Brittaney-Marie Austin

      I went to school in Busan for a semester and noticed very few areas where steps were taken to accommodate for people with physical disabilities. One thing I noticed was that the bathrooms by my classes (which were on the forth floor) had handicap stalls, but there were no elevators in the building. I brought this up to one of my teachers and they said the law said they had to have the stalls, but not the elevators. I see no sense >.<

  85. Although it’s not the same kind of disability, I’d love to know how it is for physically disabled people in Korea, wheelchair users etc.

    Thank you

  86. This is an amazing topic! Thank you for sharing it.
    In Croatia we have speacial programs or school for people like that. I know my cousin has problems reading. In my school there was also a guy who had problems reading and the teachers had full understanding.
    Also can you pls make a video about disabled people in Korea? How are they treated and is Korea making their everyday life activities easier? My brother is disabled, so I really want to hear more of this topic.
    Sorry for my bad english.

    • Oh you’re from Croatia too! Happy to find another Croatian kpop fan.:)
      Unfortunately treatment of people with disabilities and mental health issues is far cry from prefect in our country too. But at least it’s more recognized and talked about.

    • I like the mental illness topic. It’s a good glimpse of the disablity topic. I have an hearing impairment so I assumed disability thing would be the same as the mental illness thing. I did thought about teaching English in Korea but my hearing impairment would be a problem ( so I skip that and I had no interest in teaching much anymore.). I would’ve love a TL; DR on the disability subject.

      The US shows some progress with disablity issues and giving support for the students but still has long ways to go.

  87. Sarah

    What are your experiences with religion in Korea? Do you find people tend to shy away from it or embrace it?

  88. Emilie

    Martina, did you dye some of your hair blue? :O Spudgy wont like that!

  89. Those poor poor kids in high school, I can’t even imagine…

  90. Very interesting TL;DR, thanks for deciding to do it and sharing your experiences! I have been curious about this topic for a while. I really hope Korea can evolve and become more accepting of counselors and medication for mental illnesses etc. Depression, anxiety, and ADHD, to just name a few, are SO common and I hope Korea can learn to accept it and see it doesn’t make someone a “bad person” or “incapable” of living a life and working!

  91. I’m so happy that you made a video about this topic!!! I am very interested in coming to Korea to do counseling in English and Korean! Hoping to help in whatever way I can!

  92. I’ve come to the conclusion that SK is just a bit behind North America in social issues, which is perfectly fine. 20 years ago there was still the stigma on mental health and to be honest, there still is in some places and professions. For example the US military still put trips to the therapist and mental health drugs in service records, where they were considered as factors for advancement, as recently as 8 years ago. It just takes time and a push from the populace. Just like all other social change, the people coming into adulthood and into social and cultural power will make the changes that need to be made.

    • “I’ve come to the conclusion that SK is just a bit behind North America in social issues, which is perfectly fine.”

      Agree, but considering how fast they rose to being a developed country I think it’s understandable that social problems are playing catch up.

      • I agree, they’re coming to what we’re used to in NA much faster and easier than a lot of other places. It important that places keep their own heritage more than they comply with what some of us are used to.

  93. My first semester in Korea, I told my teacher about how depressed I was feeling and about all the problems I was having here in Korea and what I was dealing with back in Canada. His response? Keep fighting! -__-

  94. AfizaFarhanaPija

    As share input information, in public school in Malaysia, we have our own counseling rooms with professional counselor…also for who worked in government sectors (but pretty much citizen doesn’t know the benefit of it). But, mostly Malaysians (usually Muslims) used religions teachers’ room to share their problems. So, this religions room tries to help people to solve their
    problems like counselors.

  95. PunkyPrincess92

    *shocked* that poor girl!! wow…. really can’t understand how people can be so cruel!!

    this was a very interesting tl:dr!!!

  96. You do have this show called Hello Counselor. But it’s not really counseling. They talk to the person for a bit but in the end mostly nothing is helped/solved. It’s just looking which person has the biggest problem. People can vote and the one with the biggest problem gets 1000bucks at the end. I don’t think that’s what counseling is supposed to be:S

    • I’ve watched a few episodes, and I think that they do give some of them a real solution. It’s just up to the people to actually take it to heart and implement it. I was horrified to see some severely overweight children being openly laughed at and made fun of though – maybe it’s a cultural thing? They did talk to them seriously about their possible health problems later on, but still…. that just destroys their self-esteem.

      • Yeah sometimes they do give them an actual solution. But I’ve seen bad cases which really needed help, just being laughed at :S And I’ve heard too many times when a girl isn’t “pretty” enough and bashed on by her parents that they give PS as the solution ><

      • Yeah, there’s this Korean show I found on Youtube called Ulzzang Transformation. While the girls are giving the person a makeover, it seems that they’re making fun of them, but looks are something very valued in Korea. It’s not that they’re trying to be rude; it’s just that they’re trying to help. Looks in North America are valued, but it’s not to the same degree. Like we don’t talk about looks whenever we see our friends. So, yes, it is a cultural thing.

    • bigbangfosho

      That show…I think their intention is good, but they don’t actually solve the problem. I don’t think judging whether or not the situation is an issue is a good solution. I don’t think anyone’s problems should be put to test by voting from the public.

      • their intention is NOT good. a show where people show their vulnerable side, idols talking to them, voting for the winner and guests winning money at the end…their intentions are definitely not good.

        • Wasn’t the person Hoya helped (revealing his own past problem in the process) mad because Hoya helped his speech impediment and he never won? He just wanted the money :/

      • It’s kind of both. More bad than good. A know that on some episodes the guests(not so much the MCs) do try to offer some thoughtful advice but outside of that it’s really just talking about it.

    • There was a good episode I thought (ep.113). About the mother and daughter who were born with blue eyes got to talk about the struggles they went through and hopefully made people change the way they thought about them. I got sad for the little girl because the mom said kids were calling her a monster :(

      • omg i watched it!!!!!!

      • Yeah I’ve seen that one too! I was so touched! same goes for the korean guy born with blonde hair. His story made me really sad… No one wanted to hire him because he had blonde hair…

        • I saw that too! The one where SJ and EXO were guests. That was a good story :) It’s sucks that no one hired him, even though a lot of idols dye their hair blonde… Even some non idols dye their hair blonde. It reminded me of B1A4 Hello Baby where the little girl that was their “baby” was scared of Baro and did not like him because he had blonde hair that time.

      • That reminds me of Gu Family Book where the PD just decided to go with a simple eye colour change and NO MAKEUP whatsoever to portray the hero’s change into the Gumiho. So different from how the show started. I know it’s because of the dreadful live shooting system, but couldn’t they take at least a makeup break!?

    • In my totally NOT professional opinion, you are pointing out the biggest issue in SK wrt mental health: many don’t even recognize that it is a serious problem. It seems there’s less stigma about seeing mental health professionals in SK, but it’s not because they are more enlightened. It’s because they think it’s a fodder for morning time shows, or even butt of a joke.

    • Yeah, it’s a really odd show. At first, I was surprised seeing Koreans talk about intimate details of their lives and then when I saw the questionable solutions. What I didn’t like was seeing serious issues being brought up and everyone’s contemplative for 5 minutes and lecturing e/o about how they should change, but I got this sense it was just for show and they didn’t really care after the cameras are off.

    • Well the show itself isn’t even counseling. It really is just a program where ordinary people come to share their problems and the audience votes which seems to be the biggest issue. Most of the time, the problems are related to communication issues and the program helps give the guest an opportunity to clear it up.

    • but that’s just a show, people go there to expose their problems, they aren’t looking for an actual counselor (I repeat, it’s a freaking tv show)

      • have you watched the episode? They mention that they’ve heard about shows which are about counseling and they thought that it would make counseling more evident. but they dont.

    • The point of the show is not counseling though. The concept of the show came from radio shows where people send in letters with their daily lives (and a song they want to listen to) and DJs talk about it and give a little bit of advice/cheer and stuff at the end of each “story.” The producers of the show just brought this format to the television.

  97. Definitely serious business.
    The story of the “not touching” person. I have guitar lessons with a guy who has the same thing. It took like a year for him to get used to the constant touching (repositioning fingers etc.)
    So I do hope, as someone who knows a bit of autism & mental stuff, that there is a change. Oh and the Medical Record stuff… what the actual f?

  98. Sonia

    What’s poverty like in South Korea? Is homelessness a big problem in the cities, since the key money is so expensive? Is it possible to get by or support a family on minimum wage? Is there the infrastructure in place to help people, either from charities or government? How ostracized are the poor from the rest of society? Did you ever have any students whose families were in poverty?

    • In SK, homeless people are sheltered by non-governmental charity organizations, mostly funded by private donations. These shelters are usually located outside of city, so it’s hard for the residents to make “impromptu trips”(=escape) to cities. So you don’t see as many homeless people in SK than NYC, LA or SF. Often these shelters have little farms and work shops attached. It seemed clean and have bright atmosphere. But no system is perfect.

      Cheap monthly rent without huge key money can be found in Seoul. Especially if one is willing to compromise quality, comport and/or fashionableness. Runaway kids(one more aspect of poverty) sometimes make a “family” of their own renting a basement apartment, cramming more than 10 kids to a room. Sometimes you can meet bunch of teenagers near in front of a convenience store, asking patrons to buy alcohol or cigarettes for them.

      There’s practically no governmental social security in SK. Success of their kids are: hence all the pressure to study to become government employee(only people in SK with reasonable pension plan), doctors or lawyers. If you become poor in your middle age, it’s almost impossible to recover. (Suicide rate is highest among middle aged college educated men in their 40s, who became poor recently, for this very reason.)

      I don’t think poors are too terribly ostracized, what with sense of community still alive, especially in small mid sized cities. Maybe partially because of that governmental social welfare is far behind compared other developed countries. Anyway with so many people going up economic ladder, it sucks to be poor. When I was attending middle school in SK, there were not many kids from poor family. When family fortune changed, they moved to another school due to shame. I guess that’s a way to achieve “social harmony”.

    • To add to that, you will find homeless people, however, near/inside train/subway stations at late nights as you might have seen in Korean dramas. As a Korean living in downtown Toronto (and from Seoul), there is a significantly low number of homeless people sleeping in the open in Seoul than Toronto.

      There are also shanty towns in several districts in Seoul where people from extreme poverty live. Usually, they are left out beside busy condominium areas so that you can actually see the rich vs. poor.

      Other than that, most of things related to poverty are not much different form what it would be in other countries. They run food drive, free clinics, employment services, youth shelters, and etc.

  99. Talking about this subject reminds me of the drama good doctor, it’s a really good drama the main character has autism and is working at a hospital ahhh it hard to watch some parts cause they just don’t completely understand him

  100. As far as employers looking into their potential employees health history I think that’s bs. In my opinion that’s nobody else’s business and should be between them and their doctor. They should be more open and welcoming to people receiving help. Probably a lot of people don’t get the help that they could desperately need in fear the it will cause them not to get a job.

    • I heard SK is more lacks about patient confidentiality laws compared to other countries. And I agree with you about that discouraging people from getting the help they need. Considering how high the suicide rate is in SK it’s severely dangerous. I understand why an employer wouldn’t want someone who is potentially unstable to work for them, but wouldn’t it be better to have someone whose stability is nearly guaranteed by medical professionals without your knowledge then have someone who is trying to hide their instability without your knowledge? And the fact that it’s legal for a potential employer to look up your medical history means it’s almost guaranteed that you’re hiring people who are trying to hide the fact that they have serious problems.

  101. any thoughts on the new korean drama airing Good Doctor – with a leading character with autism? That’s definitely a push in recognizing mental illness, even if it’s in pop culture. Not sure how accurate the show is but love to hear people’s thoughts.

    • In Happy Together the cast of Good Doctor; more specifically Joo Won talked about how his mother and himself did in depth research on behavior and interaction with others as a savant autistic. He also met a savant and hunv out with that person to learn more. Joo Won said he learned that the stereotype is wrong and a lot of autistic people are quite average people. I loved that.

      • The only difference between people without autism and people with, is the social ability. There are also some strange dietary limitations as well, but other than that, they’re normal.

        And also EXTREMELY intelligent.

        My cousin is autistic. He doesn’t communicate too well, but he’s very sweet, and really smart. I watched him play a game of Solitaire on his computer once. He beat it in less than a minute. I would love to hand him my Rubik’s Cube and see how fast he can figure it out.

    • I don’t think autism is a mental illness. People with autism are born with a brain that functions differently, while mental illness develops gradually and may disappear with good treatment. One can never stop being autistic.

      • Ummm.

        Though the signs of it start later in life, I’ve never met a person with Schizophrenia that stopped being schizophrenic. Same with medical depression, though the methods of reducing the symptoms are much more potent than those of Schizophrenia. In both these cases, “the brain functions differently.”

        Autism is a mental illnesses, if in a different class than other mental illnesses.

        • Miranda Jones

          Actually, people with autism are considered to fall under a different category than mental illness. Tests show that the brains of people with autism have different neurological connections than those of people without. It is akin to having a different set of mental ‘limbs.’to work with. As high functioning autistic people, such as Temple Grandin, have explained to us, the brain of someone with autism literally interprets data of their senses in a different way than ours. They think in pictures instead of words/sounds.

        • Actually studies have shown that people suffering from anxiety disorders have functional and structural changes in their amygdalas, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that illnesses like depression and schizophrenia have genetic causes. I also know that studies have shown that children exposed to trauma while their brains are developing can carry those physical brain changes with them throughout their lives. All mental disorders have a biological basis, even if they are brought on by external events, because the brain is an organ just like any other and can have problems, and all people with conditions affecting the brain have to cope differently than those who do not.

          I only mention this because it’s very important to me that mental illness is not stigmatized or portrayed to be a “lesser” medical condition than any other.

        • I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to express myself clearly, I’m not a native English speaker. I meant that mental illness is more episodic. Since I have clinical depression I speak from experience. I have prolonged episodes of being extremely depressed. However, those episodes are not permanent and after they end I can function normally and almost like I don’t even have depression. Sure, one cannot ever be completely cured of a very serious depression or schizophrenia, and it may seem you’re
          okay for a while, but it eventually returns. Now autism, you can somewhat prevent symptoms of depression, but you can never stop being autistic.And one is born autistic.While some people with genetic potential for mental illness never really develop it. But, I’m no expert. So If I’m wrong I apologize.
          (Again sorry if my English sucks)

  102. That’s a great topic. Where I live (one of many former Soviet republics), mental health problems are still considered taboo or in some cases even nonsense. As in, how can you have depression, what’s wrong with you, you’re just imagining, etc. Case in point – my one relative who is suffering from a severe depression is just being ostracized by her own family… Which is incomprehensible to me.

    • Wow, that song sounds a lot like Lady Gaga’s Telephone, haha.

      I think the medical model is one way to think about mental illness, and it’s a very good model because it doesn’t blame suffering people for their suffering and tries to gather evidence for which interventions work, what the success rate is, what the drawbacks are…. I think other models can also help, though, too – like religious or spiritual models – as long as there’s empathy and as long as people understand the limitations. But that doesn’t sound like that’s the case in SKorea, either.

  103. From what i’ve seen from shows like Hello Counsellor people do obviously have many problems and they want addressed, however from some of the small scale problems that i’ve seen on this show like – i’m getting teased at school – could easily be solved by a school counsellor honestly, instead of having to go on a TV show. I think its on its way if i’m honest.

  104. Thanks so much. This is really interesting to me since I myself have suffered from severe depression and had to withdraw from uni for a while. Probably if I was in Korea I would have committed suicide…. wow, that’s not a happy thought. It’s my dream to go to Korea and Japan and help the mental health system… but the citizens themselves are the ones who have to ask for change. :-/

    • Same here…. I had to quit uni too for a while… I wanna move to Korea too, so I’m hoping things will get better in the future… It’s not like my country is paradise for people with mental issues, it’s just a tiny bit better I guess…
      Anyway, I don’t get all this racism…. We’re in the 21st century, and people still think that being depressed means you’ ve lost it and you wanna jump out the window all the time. Seeriously…. :/

      P.S. Martina I saw what you did there with your hair!! LOVING IT!! Spudgy blueeeeeee……. ^_^

  105. AfizaFarhanaPija


    • AfizaFarhanaPija

      Actually, I’m not shock with this topic since Korea had high rate suicide. U-Kiss Kiseop was the ones of it who suffers from mental depression, nearly almost committed suicide.

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