Living in Korea

Having a Baby in Korea Part I

Planning to live long term in Korea? Thinking about starting a family? Or perhaps you’re trying to get pregnant in Korea and are wondering what to expect. Don’t worry. There are many social and financial benefits for pregnant women in Korea, even if you are a foreigner.

Before sharing my experience of being pregnant in Korea, let me tell you some interesting facts.

Taegyo (Korean Pre-natal Care)

Since ancient times, Korean people have considered the mentality and behaviour of a pregnant mother to significantly influence the wellbeing of her unborn child. This philosophy of prenatal care is called Tae-gyo, and includes active involvement from the father as well as the mother. Renowned Confucian scholar Lee Sajudang wrote Taegyoshingi in the 1800s, from which this method of care became popular. Tae-gyo advises pregnant women on how to stay healthy, both physically and emotionally. From healing foods to limitations and restrictions, Tae-gyo aims to protect both mother and child during pregnancy.

Some Taegyo practices include:

  • Listening to classical music
  • Reading books
  • Seeing positive things e.g. scenery, photos of healthy babies
  • Avoid negativity e.g. accidents, fights and murder scenes, sick or unhappy infants
  • Avoid medication (other than essential)
  • Traditional medicine e.g. ginseng, herbal remedies
  • Healthy food

My Personal Experience

I was overflowing with happiness when I discovered I was pregnant, but anxiety soon followed as to what being pregnant in Korea was going to be like. Having now experienced pregnancy and given birth to my wonderful son, I can say that the process is not as scary as I once thought.
Let’s explore some of the perks of being pregnant in Korea:

Free Gifts

Once you are pregnant, you can inform your local community healthcare centre (also known as ‘bo-geon-so’.) They will provide free supplements and vitamins such as folic acid and iron, that promote healthy pregnancy. You can also receive blood pressure checks and blood tests here. Additionally, you will also receive a pregnancy diary and a pink key chain you can place on your handbag to signify to others that you are pregnant, even when you are not showing. This is so you can use the designated seats on public transport for pregnant women. Depending on your financial status, you may qualify for subsidies on medical expenses.

‘Haeng-bok’ Card

Pregnant women with appropriate national health insurance are eligible for a Happiness (‘haeng-bok’) card. The Haeng-bok card is part of a government support program for vulnerable people, such as single parents, elderly, disabled and pregnant women. You will need to provide an authorised medical certificate in order to apply for this card. In my case, my family received 600,000 won from the government as support.

What’s more, the Haeng-bok card itself can be shown at pre- and post-natal tests and medical procedures to cover the cost, as well as delivery fees for certain products.

General Healthcare

Medical fees may vary depending on the location and services offered by your chosen hospital or clinic. It is important to decide in advance where you would like to give birth, but it is completely fine to change doctors, clinics etc. whenever you want. We first visited the main hospital in our area, but later settled on Yulsan Gynecology Clinic, by recommendation from a friend. I visited the clinic once a month and my doctor was able to provide me clear, detailed information in both Korean and English.

Moreover, this clinic provided photo shoot services covering the key milestones: during pregnancy and baby’s first birthday. This was done in partnership with Baby Pastel Studio and families are offered 3 photos free of charge! For additional services, payment is required.

I hope this post was helpful to any future mothers thinking of having a baby in Korea. I will continue to share my experience as a mother in subsequent articles. Thank you for reading!