Thanks to Alison Cavatore at Global Living Magazine for publishing this piece on her worldwide expat resource site. In the article, I share my (two!) experiences of having surgery in South Korean hospitals. Enjoy!Don’t forget your chopsticks
An American expat goes under the knife in South Korea, after backing out eight years ago
By John Dunphy
The distance between one’s gallbladder and their right knee is not very far from a big picture perspective. But, the circumstances that brought me to a South Korean surgeon’s table in 2018 are perhaps wider than the years between it and my first attempt at going under the knife eight years ago in The Land of Morning Calm.
While both are typically laparoscopic procedures—gallbladder removal and meniscectomy, the procedure where a surgeon removes a torn portion of the horseshoe-shaped meniscus supporting the knee—are considered minimally invasive, any amount of “invasion” can be a harrowing experience. The anxiety only builds when such procedures are conducted in a foreign country, complete with their own sets of unforeseen cultural standards, a whole other suite of written and unwritten rules.
It was one of these unforeseen cultural standards that diverted my path in 2010 toward returning home to the United States early, instead of being cut completely open.
It’s also an important piece of information for anyone else who expects to stay overnight in a Korean hospital: Bring your own chopsticks. Or, forks, if chopsticks just aren’t your thing.
I did not know this when, on a chilly late March afternoon nearly a decade ago, I was admitted to Bumin Hospital in Busan for gallbladder surgery. But, not the laparoscopic procedure I would eventually have back in my home state of New Jersey. The old school kind. The kind that cuts you open.
I sat on my hospital bed in a room filled with Korean patients and me, the lone foreigner in the whole Korean world it felt like at the time. The translator spoke with the nurse amid blood being drawn, papers being signed and a television program being viewed at an uncomfortably-loud volume. In it, it appeared a shaman of some kind was circling a woman who kept moaning and shouting, as if an exorcism was taking place. The urge for my own soul to leave my body for a few weeks while all this was going on was rising fast.
Finally, the translator turned to me and spoke in English.
“Where are your chopsticks,” she asked.
It seemed like such a strange question that I thought I must have misheard her, or there had been some error in translation. But, no. I needed to provide my own cutlery, my own towels, my own water bottle (thankfully, the hospital provides the water). It was at that time as foreign an idea that I could imagine. It also gave me the opportunity to think twice.
My mind was made up as soon as I told the translator I could walk back to my apartment to collect the requested items: I was not getting surgery in South Korea. I was not even staying in South Korea. I was going home. A month later, as a fresh gallbladder attack doubled me over in the small hours, my father drove me to the local hospital in my suburban New Jersey neighborhood. Two days later, I had laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, which carried with it its own set of problems that resulted in a longer-than-usual procedure and subsequent recovery.
But, at least I had family and friends to help me, listen to me whine and take care of me. For that alone, I hope I could be forgiven my decision to back out of gallbladder surgery in South Korea in 2010. I lacked a strong social network, having arrived less than two months before. I had a thin grasp on reading the Korean language, and almost no idea how to speak it. I was adrift in a system where it remains standard procedure for the majority of basic necessities—such as helping with feeding, changing undergarments, wiping a prone patient’s backside—to be done by a family member. That family member, by the way, typically stays with the patient the entire time (which is typically significantly longer than any American hospital I have known) sleeping on a cot pulled out from under the patient’s bed. I knew then, and still know, that I made the right decision.
My Korean world was far different when I had meniscus surgery at Haeundae Paik Hospital in July. I returned to Busan in February 2013 and spent the next several years as first an English teacher, then the foreign editor for the city’s official English newspaper. I host a pair of weekly radio segments on the city’s English radio station, have performed in several theater productions, traveled around the country and several other countries. I learned more of the language (though, I hardly deserve the boilerplate “you speak Korean very well!” I get from some folks when I even just say “thank you” in the native tongue). I met a wonderful, beautiful woman, another expat who has called Busan home since around the time I decided gallbladder surgery here might not be the best idea. I have the support system in 2018 that was nonexistent for me in 2010, the support system that is essential for anyone about to have any surgical procedure done, especially in a foreign country. That is probably, for me, the most important part to have lined up before going under the knife in South Korea.
It’s also important to leave one’s idea of standard operating procedure in their own country at the door. In South Korea, I was originally told my meniscus surgery would include a five-to-seven day hospital stay, for a procedure that is usually outpatient in the United States. Is one better than the other? I think the sweet spot is somewhere between, which is why I was grateful to have a doctor who was flexible with this. I ended up staying in the hospital only two nights.
While it’s important for patients to be flexible with their ideas of what a proper hospital experience entails, it’s equally important to be an active member of the process. Some larger hospitals have full time translators on staff, many won’t. Whether you have a hospital translator, a Korean-speaking friend or an outside translator on hire, ask questions. Ask enough questions that you need to in order to be as knowledgeable as you would be in your native language. If something seems confusing or does not make sense, it might just be a cultural difference. Or, not. Ask questions.
The proof is in the final product. Weeks after having the surgery, my stitches long since removed, I can truthfully say I am glad to have had the procedure. Not only am I walking with considerably less pain (which is getting lesser by the day), I did not have to take out a second mortgage to have the procedure done. Indeed, my surgery, hospital stay and subsequent take home medicines cost me about as much (520,000 won, or about $460) as the MRI at another hospital that was the deciding factor in having the procedure (about 500,000 won). All of this from South Korea’s National Insurance.
Ultimately, surgery for an expat in South Korea will be a personal decision. It will also be a decision that hopefully is not made in urgency but with careful planning and consideration. For me, it was an experience that was beneficial and relatively pain-free (considering the circumstances, of course), provided I made sure I was flexible, patient and remembered that the world is a very big place.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.
Typhoon Soulik Updates
- Soulik is forecast to maintain its intensity through its close encounter with the Rykyu Islands, where it could deliver a punishing combination of strong winds, heavy rains, and storm surge flooding to Kagoshima Prefecture. It is then forecast to weaken to a Category 2 storm as it nears its second landfall in southwest South Korea.
- By August 23, the storm should be delivering a windswept rainstorm to Seoul.+
- Typhoon Soulik has an unusually large eye that is 86 miles (75 nautical miles, according to JTWC) across. Typically, such intense storms have eyes that are closer to 20 to 40 miles across, which is where the minimum central pressure is located. In contrast to the violent motions of air within the areas of showers and thunderstorms surrounding the eye, the air within the eye sinks, scouring out any cloudiness.
It’s a pretty great time to be in South Korea if you are a craft beer drinker.
The craft beer industry is blowing up all around the world. While it’s still pretty young in South Korea (especially here in Busan), that newness and freshness are really exciting. Especially for those of us who have been here for at least a few years and remember the times when there weren’t more than a few options beyond the bland, light American-style lagers that have dominated much of the beer-drinking world here.
It’s also great to have the input of Jiyoung Moon, my Korean editor and co-writer for this piece. With Dynamic Busan, what’s starts is her Korean story, which is then translated by our capable translator Sangmin Kim. Then, it comes to me. Besides cleaning up the text to better read like native English-written text, I consult with Jiyoung on what else should be added and what can be taken away. It has been a pretty (sorry) dynamic team effort.
The story can be found below and at the Dynamic Busan website. If you’re ever in Busan, South Korea, definitely consider grabbing a pint!BETTER BEERS ARE HERE IN BUSAN
While the craft beer industry is booming worldwide, it has seen particularly solid growth here in Korea. This is partly because it is just so different from what has been available for as long as any beer could be bought here.
The government, for its part, is helping keep up the momentum. Busan last year designated craft beer as a local business it wants to see succeed and supported craft beer-related brand design, advertisement, promotions and more as a result. Korean craft beer is not only gaining traction here, it’s getting recognized beyond the country. Rate Beer, a well-known beer evaluator from the United States, highlighted four Busan-based craft beers during “The Best Beer in Korea” in 2016. They recognize greatness. Beer enthusiasts traveling from across Korea to Busan for its brews recognize greatness. Now, it’s your turn. Are you up to the challenge?
Busan Craft Beer Festival
Head to BEXCO in Centum City Sept. 5 through 9 for the inaugural Busan Craft Beer Festival. More than 50 businesses including Busan brewers, other domestic breweries, importers, food trucks and more are expected to participate in this festival. People will be able to taste 100 different kinds of craft beer during the festival and enjoy various music performances. Beer brewing lectures are also expected to be conducted. A busanbeerfestival.com website is expected to launch soon.
*Galmegi Brewing Company
Minsik Seo, Jiwon Jeong, Steven Allsopp and Ryan Blocker are making magic happen at Galmegi Brewing Company.
The galmegi (seagull) is not only the symbol of Busan. It has become the symbol of the emerging craft beer market here, as well. Busan craft beer began with Galmegi Brewing Company. In 2013, Galmegi opened Busan’s first western-style brew pub, located within shouting distance from Gwangalli Beach. Their beers that first year were contract brewed, which is when a business works with an outside brewery to make their beers, often using their own recipes. But, with immediate success brought rapid growth. The brewery opened a short walk away in 2014.
Their hard work has paid off. Besides the brewery in the Gwangan area, there are five Galmegi franchises, in Nampo, Seomyeon, Haeundae, the Kyungsung University/Pukyong National University area and in the Pusan National University area. Galmegi Brewing Company’s beer is also available in a number of tap houses in Seoul. Galmegi has an assortment of beer styles that range from light to dark, slightly sweet to unapologetically bitter. India Pale Ales, ambers and stouts can be found on regular rotation. But, more unique, seasonal choices are available, as well, including a ginger-infused beer, a boozy triple IPA and a refreshing beer brewed with Korean yuja fruit.
-Location: 58, Gwangnam-ro, Suyeong-gu
-How to get there: Geumnyeonsan Station (Metro line 2), exit 5. Walk down the cobblestone road toward the beach. Cross the street at the next main intersection and turn right. Walk until you see the brewery on the left.
*Gorilla Brewing Company
Most breweries offer samplers of their selections.
Gorilla Brewing Company has been busy. Opening in a small space in Millak-dong (neighbor-hood) in January 2016, the owners of this British-style craft beer brewery quickly realized expansion would be necessary. The following year, Gorilla moved to Gwangan, in a larger two-story location a short walk down the road from Galmegi’s brewery. Gorilla Brewing harvests its hops, the flower that is a key component in beer making, from a farm in Gyeongsangbuk-do (province), which allows them to maintain a fresh taste that is very local. About 10 different beers are brewed by Gorilla, including their enormously-popular Gorilla IPA, Busan Pale Ale and more. Special beers have included Tiramisu Extra Stout and the FM Coffee Stout, brewed utilizing coffee beans from the popular FM Coffee shop in Jeonpo-dong. Their brew pub also has a number of other Korea-based brews on constant rotation, allowing visitors a condensed opportunity to taste what all the fuss over Korean craft beer is about.
Saturday visitors to Gorilla Brewing Company can check out live music every Saturday night, as well as free yoga classes at noon.
-Location: 125, Gwangnam-ro, Suyeong-gu
-How to get there: Geumnyeonsan Station (Metro line 2), exit 1. Walk straight toward the beach. Turn left at the next intersection and walk straight for about five minutes. Gorilla Brewing is on the left.
*Wild Wave Brewing Co.
What began as a sour beer project in Gwangan has headed east to Songjeong Beach. While Wild Wave Brewing Co.’s Surleim sour beer is still one of its most popular brews (and available in bottles), they have expanded their choices beyond sour into other realms of deliciousness. The brewery’s regular rotation includes Surfing High, a highly drinkable kolsch-style brew, the full-bodied and flavorful Bella IPA and Hazelnut Ale, an Irish red ale made with maple syrup and hazelnuts. Enter their Songjeong brewery and the impressive array of oak casks immediately catches the eye. Wild yeasts and lactic bacteria from the air in these casks result in the sour, tropical flavors that have made Wild Wave famous. Order from their favorable menu of various pub grub, order a couple pints and prepare to have a fantastic afternoon that is only a short walk away from Songjeong Beach.
-Location: 106-1, Songjeongjungang-ro 5beon-gil, Haeundae-gu
-How to get there: Songjeong Station (Donghae line), exit 1. Cross the street and turn right down the alley near the bus stop.
A visit to F1963 in Mangmi-dong can fill up an entire afternoon. There are regular art exhibits, a bookstore, even a coffee shop. There’s also delicious Czech-style beer. Launched in 2017, Praha 993’s origins begin in its founders Czech Republic homeland. Its beers range from pilsners (which originated in the Czech Republic) and stouts to India Pale Ales and seasonal specialties like pumpkin ale that are brewed on-site. These pair well with an assortment of both Czech-inspired and pub-familiar meals including fish and chips and Koleno, savory slow-roasted pork knee that is a quintessential Czech feast. The number 993 in their name comes from the year beer is believed to have been produced for the first time in the Czech Republic. Beer drinkers can experience more than 1,000 years of beer history at not only their flagship location, but also in their Seomyeon branch and at other fine pubs across the city.
-Location: 20, Gurak-ro 123beon-gil, Suyeong-gu
-How to get there: Suyeong Station (Metro lines 2 or 3), exit 5. Take bus 54 and get off at the Sanjeong Apartment stop. Walk uphill toward F1963.
Hurshimchung Brau has brewed their beer in a fun German-style beer house in Nongshim Hotel since 2004. Hurshimchung Brau uses imported German malt for its beers, which include familiar German styles like pilsner, weizen and dunkel.
Enjoy an array of German/Korean beer hall food fusion favorites such as Haxen, a German-style jokbal (braised pig’s feet), deep-fried octopus and more. Their great hall holds regular live performances and offers a view of the brewery. Hurshimchung Brau also holds a popular Oktoberfest outdoor event every year that features unlimited servings of their sensational suds.
-Location: 23, Geumganggongwon-ro 20beon-gil, Dongnae-gu
-How to get there: Oncheonjang Station (Metro line 1), exit 1. Walk straight to public parking lot for two minutes. Cross the main road, then follow Geumgang gongwon-ro for three minutes. Cross the street at the intersection and Nongshim Hotel is on the right.
A former home and commercial milk storage building has been converted into Finger Craft, which refers to wanting to be the number one place for beer. Besides their warm and inviting flagship location along the Oncheoncheon Stream, Finger Craft has two other locations near City Hall and in Choryang. Six different contract-brewed craft beers are available utilizing their own recipes including Osige Ale, a beer created with coffee supplied by the popular Momos Coffee, also in the Oncheonjang area, the hearty Black Finger, the citrus-infused Mosaic Finger and more.
-Location: 7, Oncheoncheon-ro, Dongnae-gu
-How to get there: Oncheonjang Station (Metro line 1), exit 2. Walk toward Myeongnyun Station five minutes. Their Captain Hook-style signboard will be seen on the left.
-Information: @fingercraft on Instagram
*Owl & Pussycat Taproom
“Good people drink good beer.” It is sound advice that adorns the wall of Owl & Pussycat Taproom in Gwangan.
This craft pub and bottle shop offers both an impressive selection of bottled beers from around the world as well as both local and international drafts. All of this with a breathtaking view of Gwangalli Beach. Owl & Pussycat Taproom features nearly a dozen different kinds of tasty contract-brewed beers created from their own recipes, including the aromatic Suri Saison, the coffee-infused Gwangan Brews, an India Pale Ale and more. Snacks that always pair well with beer such as pizza, sausages and fried chicken are also available.
-Location: 2F, 38-1, Namcheonbada-ro, Suyeong-gu
-How to get there: Geumnyeonsan Station (Metro line 2), exit 3. Walk toward the beach. It is located in the same building as Ediya Coffee.
Tetrapod offers customers house-branded contract-brewed beers and other beers from around Korea. From its stylish interior to curated design focus, those especially interested in design and branding will find something to enjoy. Their design aesthetic even garnered an iF product design award from International Forum Design of Germany. Familiar favorites like IPAs, pale ales and stouts are available.
-Location: 2F, 77, Jungang-daero 680beonga-gil, Busanjin-gu
-How to get there: Seomyeon Station (Metro lines 1 and 2), exit 6. Turn right after passing Electronic Land. Walk one more block and enter the alley on the left. Walk straight a little further, then walk toward the building with a brick wall on the left.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.
Much respected BMW is currently facing a big image problem as its 520d models keep catching fire in Korea. In 2018 alone until Aug 4, total of 32 BMW cars got fire on the road. More frustrating is that these engine fires take place only in Korea, not in other nations. After reports of some parking lots banning 520d models and an internet mockery of BMW as Burn My Wagon, BMW Korea finally made an apology on Aug 6, explaining that a leakage of coolant from the EGR cooler is the root cause of the problem, and that this is not a unique problem in Korea. Korean version of NHTSA is not buying BMW's root cause analysis, and urged BMW to come up with more detailed reports. It is estimated that 8.5% of the 106,317 BMW cars ordered for recall have potential to burst into flames. While BMW owners are lining up to file a lawsuit, BMW sales in Korea has dropped 43.9% in 4 months from 7,052 units in March to 3,959 vehicles in July.
I was at BMW headquarter in Munich, Germany, last week. With over 30 years in Korean auto industry, I thought about dashing into the head office for a meeting with high level engineering team to address the urgent issues from Korean consumers, especially on why fire in Korea only. My wife stopped me as she has more urgent issue to address at a Louis Vuitton store in downtown Munich.
Over the past 5 years I've been asked over and over about helping people to decide their tattoos. Many people have wanted to get tattoos in Korean (in 한글) and have asked me for translations or advice. I wanted to answer some of those questions by making this video.
Actually, it might be a good idea to *not* get a tattoo in Korean if you're not committed to the idea. This is for several reasons, which I explain in the video, including them still not having the best image (although this is changing), being difficult to get, and the high chance that it won't look good or won't make sense. But if you still want to, I also outline a few tips for how to make sure your tattoo is as good as possible.
To finish this video I went on the streets and interviewed some Koreans to ask them what they think about tattoos. The question that I asked Koreans living in Seoul is this: “외국인이 한국어로 된 타투를 하면 어떨까요?” (“What do you think if a foreigner gets a Korean tattoo?”).
The post Should You Get a Korean Tattoo? + Interview with Koreans appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.
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