I was sick all weekend, but hooray for Korean medicine!

The familiar ubiquitous medicine sign.

I was going to put this article in my series of Korean products to export to the U.S., but I decided against it, because in the U.S. we already have medicine, and it’s usually better (in my opinion).  It would therefore not be any kind of export of a product at all.

What I mean to talk about is the system of how you get medicine in Korea, and how it is different in the U.S.

In the U.S., if you have no health insurance (like over 45 million Americans) then getting even the most simple of medicines will cost you an arm and a leg, as you will have to pay through the nose for a doctor to first prescribe the medicine for you, then take it to a pharmacy where they will charge you a ridiculous amount for the medicine itself.  If you have insurance then sometimes these costs will be taken care of.  If you don’t want to bother going to the doctor for your medicine, you can take your chances with all those over the counter medicines, such as tylenol, nyquil, and whatever else there is.  It’s definitely a cheaper alternative, but you’re kind of playing with fire by going this route.

How is this different from Korea?  Do you go to the doctor every single time you get sick?

No, I don’t.  I think that since I grew up in America, I’ve been conditioned not to seek a doctor’s help unless it is absolutely necessary.  Like if I’ve been cut and the bleeding still hasn’t stopped two days later, or if I’ve had a cold longer than two weeks.  Perhaps I am extreme, but that’s the way I’ve been raised.  With health care so expensive in the U.S., I think most Americans are the same way.  We avoid the doctor unless it’s something seriously serious.  Sometimes Americans are surprised by how Koreans will go visit the doctor and get an IV pack for a simple case of the sniffles.

But like I said before, I don’t go to the doctor, even in Korea.  In the four years I have been here, I’ve only been to the doctor once.  It was for a severe foot injury that I got playing volleyball.

So how did you get your medicine to take care of your cold this weekend?

Simple.  I went to the pharmacy and explained to the pharmacist what the symptoms of my illness were.  Runny nose, unstoppable sneezing.  Being super tired from all the sneezing…  And then the pharmacist gave me some medicine.  I went home, took it, and fell asleep because it knocked me out.  When I awoke a few hours later, I felt much better.  I’m still not totally better though.  I’m still sick, but I’ll be fine after today I think.

So you see, I don’t know what it is about the U.S., but pharmacists never do that for you.  They will only give you medicine if you have a prescription.  In Korea, there are certainly some medicines that require a prescription, but most things you would think to get medicine for don’t require prescriptions.  So, I solved a medical problem in Korea for about $8.  The same problem in the U.S. probably would have cost me $200.  The medical system in the U.S. is so messed up, that pharmacists and doctors must be in collusion with each other to keep each other employed.  I don’t really know for sure, but I wish pharmacists in the U.S. would also sell you medicine if you tell them your symptoms.  It cuts the middle man out.  And that’s good.

Well, happy cough and sneeze to you.  See you when I get better I guess.


8 Responses to “I was sick all weekend, but hooray for Korean medicine!”

  1. Usually during the weekend, most of shops and stores are closed in korea. But korean pharmacies take turns being closed during the weekend. So even if we are sick on the weekend, we can find at least one pharmacy near out neighborhood. I think this is also one of the convenient things.
    Always take care Mr.Seoul Searcher. 🙂

  2. In the case of USA, its is best described as what happens when medical service/products is left in the hands of businessmen. When a service or products does that follow the usual supply and demand curve, that service or products cannot fall into the hands of businessmen.

  3. I was sick this weekend also, but I think it’s because I had to work at 5am and we were -5°C (we are not used to such a cold weather…) I didn’t sleep well all week and stuff, so by friday I was in zombie-mode all day 😐 and I had to to see the doctor at the office so I could get a prescription because a few months ago a Law was approved and we can not go to a pharmacy and just buy whatever we (want) need… if you don’t have a prescription they won’t sell you the medicine… sometimes I think it’s kind of annoying but I prefer that since I’ve seen people buying medicine for their kids just because “someone” told them it was good… :s

  4. edit: When a service or products does not

  5. Yes, my friend went to the pharmacy and she explained her symptoms, so the pharmacist recommended one medicine. It was not a medicine that she usually took, but she bought it and it works better than what she usually took. Sometimes, pharmacist is better than doctor. I mean sometimes.

  6. Hwang Sun Ju Says:

    Um… I didn’t know well this system, but I know that a little. However somtimes, pharmacist is better than hopital. But I think Korean system is a little bad.

  7. I didn’t know medicine system of U.S. Many people of U.S. suffered from this system. Our system has a little problem, but I am somewhat content about that.

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