Have you ever visited a hospital or clinic in South Korea? Korean healthcare is one of the best in the world, but their system of medical care might be quite different from what you are used to in your home country. Nonetheless, if you are planning a trip to Korea, it is important to know how and where to access healthcare in case of emergency.
In my home country, Malaysia, you can access multiple services within the same hospital. When you feel unwell, you simply arrange an appointment with a general doctor at any medical centre. At your appointment, the doctor can refer you to specialist clinicians, if needed.
Healthcare in Korea
In Korea, you do not need the referral of a general doctor to see a specialist. In fact, depending on what your problem is, you can see a specialist at first instance. I.e. if you have a skin problem, you can head straight to a dermatology clinic.
Large hospitals, such as Severance and ASAN, include multiple departments for different fields of medicine, which seems to be the norm in most first world countries. However, unless you live nearby, you are more likely to seek healthcare from a local clinic or health centre.
While I was travelling in Busan I experienced an uncomfortable sensation in my ear and wanted to see the doctor. As the issue was related to my ear, it was essential that I visited an otolaryngology clinic, which specialise in ear, nose and throat ailments.
You may never have heard of otolaryngology before, so how are you supposed to find a clinic in South Korea? Don’t worry, there are actually clinics everywhere in Korea. Just typing otolaryngology on the map will see dozens pop up in the local area…talk about convenience!
For example, these ^ are all otolaryngology clinics around Gongdeok Station in Seoul!
I found a clinic close by that was even open on a Saturday — most hospitals are closed on Saturdays. This was extremely convenient, as my health problem came on suddenly whilst on vacation, and so I couldn’t easily book an appointment in advance.
No Reservation Needed
As it turned out, a reservation wasn’t necessary. In fact, many clinics in Korea now operate with a no-reservation policy. Therefore, you can just turn up during business hours and see someone the same day.
Fast and Efficient
When I arrived, I took a number from the machine and the receptionist told me that it would be approx. 1 hour wait to see a clinician. During this time, I ate lunch at a cafe nearby and returned in time for the appointment. I won’t go into the details of my treatment, other than that it was super fast and — because I have the Korean National Health Insurance — cheap too!