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My Healthcare Experience in South Korea as a Foreigner
Lee Suk Pei, NGO협동과정 석사과정  |  tribune1968@cnumedia.com
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승인 2018.05.11  17:26:44
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▲ Lee Suk Pei, Master’s Student, Global NGO Master's Program

    On orientation day, international students were first urged to fill in forms for medical insurance; it somehow suggested the importance of having medical insurance especially for foreign students. At another time, a mandatory health check is required to clear one of communicable disease for dorm admission, the health check was done very quickly and professionally. Knowing my health and healthcare are being taken care of in a foreign land made me feel safe and secure.
    However, I later managed to observe some difficulties faced by foreign students in getting adequate healthcare services. The first would be the language barrier between medical personnel and foreign students. A senior colleague once shared she had a serious gastroenteritis attack and she was brought to the hospital for treatment by a professor. She could not speak Korean well and hence the professor helped to explain the sickness and settle the registration procedures on her behalf. While another instance is that another colleague of mine often has some minor illnesses so she needs to get medicine from the pharmacy. Other than not knowing where the pharmacies are, language once again became a barrier to communicate to the pharmacist about the symptoms and the name of the illnesses. As a result, my colleague would wait until both of us met together and asked for my help with my very limited Korean spoken language to get the medicine.
    The second difficulty facing foreign students in getting adequate healthcare is the lack of access to knowledge of utilising the medical insurance. In the instance where my senior colleague was brought to the hospital, despite the fact that my senior insisted that she could get well just with some medicine, a thorough examination was conducted in order to establish her health record. Nevertheless, the bill came at a whopping KRW 700,000. Luckily, the professor helped to pay upfront and my colleague paid back later by instalment.
    All these experiences above show that while South Korea has good healthcare standards as shown in the thoroughness undertaken in completing the health check for my colleague as well as the availability of the medical facilities and technology, the language barrier and the lack of access to healthcare-related information in English are definitely hindrance factors for foreign students to be treated timely and accurately. Furthermore, information on how to claim and how to utilise the insurance are not communicated to the students, which resulted in students becoming fearful of getting the required treatment because of the exorbitant price that it may involve. It would hence be suggested that if medical personnel at hospitals could communicate better in English and if information regarding the student insurance and availability of healthcare facilities around campus could be provided, that would help very much in ensuring students obtain the optimal level of healthcare while studying in South Korea.

By Lee Suk Pei, Master’s Student, Global NGO Master's Program -NGO Studies

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