Updated 8th January 17:

So I was still sick and my mother-in-law suggested heading to a clinic ahead. 

So yea, privacy apparently is not such a big deal here

This is highly recommended instead of the hospital. It is significantly cheaper. A consultation without insurance sets to back only about 10K won.

Koreans have a thing for injections which is both amusing and a little disturbing. 

Also, the nurse insisted on injecting in my ass for some reason. 

After that, we got a prescription for more meds and headed over to the pharmacy. I still wasn’t feeling well after two days so we returned, and the doctor legit asked me how many days of medication I wanted. Again, slightly amusing and disturbing at the same time. 

In the end I did get better though so yea… always head over to a clinic first if you can.
Updated on 15th Dec 16: Added a bit more advice under ‘Recommendations’ at the bottom. Also, if you like the cat drawing, you can get it on a shirt or sweater here.

So about a week ago, I scalded my hand pretty badly. In this post I’ll give a quick recap, and at the bottom, recommendations on what you should do if you’re stuck in a similar situation and can’t speak Korean.

My wife’s truly an artist
Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal. Back in Singapore, you’d head to a clinic to have it looked at, and if needed they’d refer you to a hospital.

For that first visit, you’re looking at paying around $50-$100, and that’s on the upper end of the scale. It’d probably have set me back by $15-$25.
But when you’re in Korea and especially if you don’t know the language, it can be a major pain in the rectum. Right smack in the rectum.

For example, let me introduce you to this crappy HOLYCRAP 240k won bandage (and some antibiotics) courtesy of a visit to the ER…

Nicer-looking. Still not helpful.
And they ended up recommending that I visit one of two other ‘burn specialist’ hospitals that were each more than an hour away by car:

They look colourful though, so there’s that
Fortunately we heard about a nearby skin clinic and gave it a shot.

Welcome! Also, prepare to empty your wallet!
The place itself was OK, though I found it weird how this was the proper place to go to for medical care for burns, instead of a hospital.

They fixed me up pretty nicely, and the doctor was critical of the hospital bandage that I got.

At this point my hand was starting to feel like a teenage girl at H&M
This time the doctor actually inspected it closely and they applied an ointment-soaked piece of gauze before wrapping it up. It only cost 27k won!

Not too bad… until they said I had to keep getting it replaced daily until it got better.

The Korean healthcare system if you’re uninsured

  1. So yea, not having travel insurance can be a very expensive mistake. So always get travel insurance. 
  2. If you’re not sure about the type of clinic to go to, or need a free translation service, call 1330. It’s a super-convenient service provided by the tourism authorities here in Busan. It’s also great for basically any tourism-related questions you may have. Check out this site for more details: http://www.bto.or.kr/eng/06_visitor/a01_a.php
  3. Unless you need immediate treatment, head first to the Information Counter to find someone who speaks English, and make sure that they can provide the treatment that you need. Confirm this before agreeing to see a doctor, or you might get charged an arm and a leg only for the doctor to tell you (like in my case) ‘Yea, you should go to one of these two other hospitals instead.’

There’s plenty of resources for tourists in Busan, so while medical care might be a tad pricey if you’re not covered, if you know exactly where to go (and don’t have an over-anxious mother-in-law!) you won’t end up paying too much.