Sick in South Korea

I had the sniffles a couple of weeks ago.  It probably has something to do with the fact that I am surrounded by children and all of their germs.  If I was sick in America, I would just go to a pharmacy.  If you get sick in Korea and can’t read Korean, good luck trying to buy medicine.

This time I didn’t go to a clinic or a hospital since I just had a minor cold, but the last time I went to a clinic, it only cost me four dollars for the doctor to give me a check-up and to write a prescription.  I got a five day supply of medicine, which included cough syrup and decongestants, and it was only two dollars.  Thank you Korean health insurance.


Just look for the sign that says 약 (yahk).  The word means medicine which means the place is a pharmacy.  I’ve been to maybe four pharmacies in Cheonan, and there has always been at least one person there that speaks English.

A lot of doctors have studied English at some point in their lives, but it is still helpful to know some Korean words.  You don’t want any language confusion when you need to buy medicine.  I just went in and said these words.

감기 (kahm-gi): common cold

아파요 (ah-pah-yo): sick or more specifically hurt, if you point to your head and say “아파요” they will understand that your head hurts


a box of pseudoephedrine

I have seen my co-workers drink vitamin C and other immune system boosting drinks even when they are not sick.  Koreans constantly tell me “please take care of your health”, “be careful to not catch a cold”, or “here is a vitamin C drink for you”.  I guess teachers need to especially watch their health since they have a class of 35 children all sneezing and coughing.

vitamin C drink

vitamin C drink

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