With the Korean government’s new pandemic strategy aimed at targeting the omicron variant, we are going to see the introduction of more self testing kits. In fact, since last week those under 65 are required to present a positive rapid test before they can receive a PCR test. With this new policy and the increasing spread of the virus, most of us will have to take an at home test at some point. While performing a medical procedure on yourself may seem daunting at first, don’t worry, this at home test is super simple and I’m here to guide you through it.
Where to Get A Self Testing Kit
You have quite a few options when it comes to buying a rapid test in Korea. You can buy one at your local pharmacy, at the convenience store, or online.
Almost all pharmacies in Korea carry self-testing kits. Prices for testing kits at pharmacies are normally anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 won depending on the brand, location, and supply. Rapid tests sold at pharmacies normally come in packs of two.
Here at our office, we had to take a self test shortly after this policy was announced. So, there was a supply shortage. Although it took some staff members multiple visits to a few different pharmacies, everyone was able to find a test kit in the end. However, with the shortage, only premium tests remained on the shelves. A few people had to pay more than 20,000 won for their rapid tests.
Within the next few days, rapid tests will become widely available at major convenience stores. In fact, just this morning I saw them being sold at my local CU.
A box of single tests was placed on the counter, each one wrapped in clear packaging. Although I am unsure of average pricing as the availability of testing kits at convenience stores is still new, the ones I saw were being sold for 6,000 won each.
*As of 2/21 online sales have been restricted*
You can also buy your rapid testing kits online. They are available at all major online retailers including Naver shopping, Coupang, Gmarket, etc. The term you should search when looking for rapid self test kits is ‘코로나 자기 검사’
Additionally, you can opt to buy the tests in bulk or individually and will have more choice when it comes to brands than you would buying kits in person. However, the Korean government recently announced restrictions on the purchase of testing kits in order to ease the shortages. You are only able to purchase up to 5 tests at a time.
Although instructions may vary slightly depending on the brand all rapid antigen tests follow the same general procedures. Not all Korean test kits come with English instructions, so let’s run through the basics.
Self Testing Kit Contents
Most test kits will come with the following:
- A long Q-tip
- A test tube
- Rapid test
Step 1: Get your sample
The first thing you should do is take out your Q-Tip. Then, place it inside your nostril. You should insert approximately 1.5 cm inside your nose. If you have inserted it at the proper depth, it will be a bit uncomfortable and may trigger some tearing.
Once it is in your nose at the proper depth, move the Q-tip slowly in a circular motion for 10 rotations. Then, repeat in your other nostril.
Step 2: Test tube
Once you have your booger encrusted Q-tip, you can insert it into your test tube. Your test tube should have a small amount of liquid already inside it. Stir your sample into the liquid for about 10 rotations.
Then, you should place the lid back on the test tube. While covering the dropper, turn the tube upside-down and back again slowly 10 times.
Step 3: Rapid Test
Now that your sample is completely prepared, you can actually perform the rapid test.
While holding the test tube at a 45-degree angle, place 4 drops of your sample on the circular part of the rapid test.
It should not take that much pressure on the tube for the sample to come out. The first time I did my own rapid test, I was a bit overzealous. I squeezed too hard and my snot-filled sample ruptured, spilling all over me. It was super gross, so be careful.
After waiting 15 minutes, the results of your test should be displayed.
How to Read Your Self Testing Kit Results
On self testing kits, you will see two different points where the results can be displayed. The first indicator is marked with a C. This is where the control test results will be displayed. The second is T which is where the covid test results will be displayed.
There are two different ways that errors can be displayed.
- Single line at T
- No line
If you see either of these results, your test kit is defective and you should take another test.
Negative Self Testing Results
After waiting 15 minutes, if only a single line is displayed at C your test results are negative.
However, please note that tests are not one-hundred percent accurate. And so, if you are displaying symptoms associated with the virus, it is recommended that you take a second test to make sure.
Positive Self Testing Results
Positive results are displayed with a line at both C and T.
If you receive a positive rapid test result, the next step is to go to your local public health center to receive a PCR test.
What to Do If Your Results Are Positive
The following information is based on a phone call with the KCDC.
As of writing this article (Feb 2022), there is no special infrastructure in place to support foreigners who test positive using self testing kits. And so, you will have to do your best to navigate the system using Korean. After testing positive using a self test, you are required to report to your local testing site and receive a PCR test. Following your PCR test, you will have to quarantine until you receive your results and are instructed on what to do by KCDC staff.
If you need assistance you can call 1339. However, the line only operates from 9:00-18:00 Mon-Fri and English speaking assistance is limited.
Take Your Positive Test With You
The first thing you need to do after testing positive is to preserve your self test by placing it in a zip-lock bag so that you can hand it over to medical staff.
Then, with your test in hand, you will need to go to your district’s public health center or the nearest testing location. Please note, if you go to a public health center that does not align with your registered address, you may not be able to receive a PCR test.
How to Find a Testing Center
Unfortunately, testing center information is currently only available in Korean. However, if you take a look at your address you can find your district (구). You can enter your district in the search box to find the testing centers nearest to your registered address.
- You can find a complete list of testing centers by Clicking Here
- If you have a car and would like to receive a PCR test at a drive through clinic, Click Here
- To see a map of testing centers, Click Here
Additionally, you can go into naver maps and search your district, followed by 보건소 (EX: 성북구 보건소) to find your designated public health center. The public health center designated for your district isn’t always the one closest to your home. So, please be sure to go to the correct location.
How to Get to a Testing Site
The Korean CDC recommends that people walk, drive their own vehicles, or arrive at test sites via quarantine taxi. However, it is legal and you are permitted to take public transportation to and from testing sites as of February 2022.
How to reserve a quarantine taxi
Some city governments provide quarentine taxis free of charge. You can call your local public health center to ask if they provide this service. However, Seoul does not provide quarentine taxis to testing centers. Quarantine taxis are private businesses, as such, there is no centralized list of quarantine taxi services and the KCDC has no control over pricing. However, it is common to pay around 40,000 won to use quarantine taxi services.
You can find quarantine taxis by searching ‘방역택시’ on Naver.
Here is one service we found that offers English services:
Phone Number: 010 – 7171-4552
We wish you the best and hope you have a speedy recovery!
To learn all about how to get vaccinated in Korea, Click Here!