Category: How To Living

Your Rights When Being Stopped By The Police

By , August 13, 2014 2:30 pm

What if this happened to you?

Police Officer: Hello, could you please stop? I need you ask you some questions.
Subject: (startled) What? Okay, what?
Police Officer: Please show me your ID. There’s a protest scheduled nearby, and you’re suspicious.
Subject: What? No, I’m late for work already, I can’t stop and answer questions.
Police Officer: In that case, please accompany me to the police station.
Subject: ?!?!?!!

In Korea, as anywhere, the police may have need to stop and question individuals. Their responsibilities – and your rights in the situation – are outlined in Article 3 of the Act on the Performance of Duties by Police Officers (경찰관직무집행법). As foreigners, we have the same rights and responsibilities under the law as Korean citizens, with one exception.  According to immigration law, foreigners must carry identification at all times and show it on demand.

In short: Police have the right to stop people (even for no apparent reason) and ask them questions. As foreigners, we must show identification when asked. However, when randomly stopped by police, like anyone we also have the right to refuse to answer questions, and the right to refuse going to the police station.  Please remember, even with this right, you don’t have to refuse. After all, the police officer does have the right to ask you and they might very well need your help.

In the case above, the subject would have the right to refuse, and could continue to work without penalty.  The police officer didn’t identify himself, the protest nearby is not a valid reason to arrest someone, and refusing to answer questions isn’t a reason to go to the police station.

Aside: If you see a crime being committed, according to Article 212 of the Criminal Procedure Act, anyone (not just a police officer) may perform a warrantless arrest. Even as a civilian, you may temporarily arrest such a person until police arrive. You must also inform the arrestee of their rights.

Translated by the Korea Legislation Research Institute:

Article 3 (Police Questioning)

(1) A police officer, by using reasonable judgement from a suspicious act or surrounding circumstances, may stop and ask a person questions when he has a considerable reason to suspect that the person has committed or is about to commit a crime, or when the person is believed to have knowledge of a crime already committed or to be committed.

(2) When it is deemed to be disadvantageous to the person or interfering with traffic flow, to ask questions at a certain place as referred to in paragraph (1), the police officer may demand him to accompany to the police station, area patrol unit, substation or branch office (hereinafter referred to as “police agency”, which includes a district marine police agency) in the vicinity to ask questions. In this case, such person may refuse the demand of accompanying the police officer.

(3) When directing questions to the person as referred to in paragraph (1), the police officer may investigate whether or not he carries any dangerous weapons with him.

(4) When a police officer asks questions or demands the person accompany him to the police agency under paragraph (1) or (2), he shall present to the person credentials indicating his identity, disclose the agency to which he belongs, his name, and explain the purpose and reason thereof, and when accompanied, disclose the destination to the person who he is accompanying.

(5) When accompanying the person to the police agency under paragraph (2), the police officer shall notify the person’s family or relatives, etc., of his identity, the destination to where the person is being accompanied, and the purpose and reason thereof, or offer the person an opportunity to make such contact immediately, and advise him that he has the right to receive an attorney’s assistance.

(6) When accompanied under paragraph (2), the police officer may not have such person stay in the police agency in excess of six hours.

(7) In the case as referred to in paragraphs (1) through (3), such person shall not have his body bound without recourse to the laws governing criminal procedure, and he shall not be compelled to answer any question against his will.

In short:

1) A police officer may stop, question, and ask for ID from a suspicious person whom the officer has reason to believe has either committed a crime, or is about to commit one, or has knowledge about the same.

2) Once stopped, a police officer may ask them to accompany them to the police station in two cases. Either it would be disadvantageous to the person, or interfere with traffic flow if they were questioned on the spot.

3) Once at the police station, the police officer must notify the person’s family about exactly where they’re being held, and for what reason. They must inform them of their right to an attorney.

4) And once held at a police station, such a person may not be detained for more than 6 hours.

5) All of these requests – stop, answer questions, go to a police station – can be refused without penalty, regardless of whether the stop was lawful or not. However, foreigners must carry their foreigners’ ID card and present it.

In fact, if the police do not inform the person of their right to refuse, that is a considerable breach of their rights.

And in the case of traffic stops, a vehicle may be stopped only to test for drunk driving, if there’s suspicion of driving without a license, or if there’s suspicion of driving under extreme exhaustion.

For more details, and example cases, please visit the K-Law Guru’s article on the subject.

Counseling Resources

By , August 7, 2014 4:41 pm

As many people already know, counseling resources can be hard to come by in Korea. Mental health issues, which have a large stigma attached to them in Western cultures, are even less discussed here than at home. But this is starting to change, slowly, and more counseling resources are becoming available to those who need them, both Korean and foreign. This is information that has been gleaned from our Facebook group members in the past few months in regards to English counseling available in Ulsan. If you are struggling with Depression, Anxiety or other health issues, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is available.

In Ulsan, there are a few psychiatrists around town. One is based at Ulsan University Hospital in Donggu, which has an English speaking receptionist to help foreign patients, as well.

Another is at Mother’s Hospital in Samsandong, behind Lotte/Bus Terminal (052-270-7090). Though the psychiatrist here (Dr. Kang) speaks English, the reception staff don’t, so you may want to either go in person, or have a Korean-speaking friend make an appointment for you.

There is also a doctor who speaks English at this address  (한양신경신과 (Hanyang Singyeong Singwa) Office:052-224-9649 Location: 울산광역시 중구 성남동 95-3 2층 (Ulsan, Junggu, Seongnamdong (Shinae)).

And this website, though no one was clear whether this doctor spoke English or not –

There are also a few religious leaders around, both native speakers and English-speaking Koreans who maybe helpful. There are several churches and the local Islamic center pinned on the Interactive Map.

Finally, there is this service available from Seoul – Counseling Korea, which offers Skype, phone, and email counseling.

There may be more English speaking psychiatrists in town, so please, share them with us if you know. You can annonomously add information to our Where to Find section if you prefer.

One tip I read online is that if you pay for the psychiatrist through your health insurance, the information may be available to your employer, which may bring about problems with your employment situation due to the stigmas around mental health here. If you want to be assured of confidentiality, you can pay out of pocket instead of through the insurance plan.

How to Beat the Heat and Humidity

By , July 21, 2014 6:33 pm

Summer in Ulsan can be hard to handle, as the temperatures rise above 30*C (that’s 86*Fahrenheit for those that are metrically challenged) and humidity soars into the 70%-90% range. Hear are some methods for dealing with the heat for those of you who may not come from similar climates.

1. Koreans swear by eating hot soup on the 3 hottest days of the summer. These days are pre-determined according to the Lunar Calendar (July 18, 28 and Aug 7, 2014), and are not necessarily the hottest in terms of temperature. Nicknamed the “dog days”, some folks still eat dog soup (boshintang), but more and more are moving over to Samgyetang (삼계탕), or chicken soup. Eating hot soup (and you can also spice it up – it’s served with a side of pepper paste and such to mix in if you want) will make you sweat, and when the sweat evaporates from your skin, you’ll feel cooler. samgyetang

2. Another popular summer dish is Naengmyeon (냉면), an icy buckwheat noodle soup where the noodles are served in a cold, vinegary broth filled with crushed ice, and topped by chopped vegetables. It can be an acquired taste, but ask some Koreans to tell you where there is a good naengmyeon restaurant, as quality makes all the difference with this dish.


3. Patbingsu (팟빙수) is a summer favourite in Korea, to the extent that new Bingsu-only cafes are popping up all over the place. The original dish (Patbingsu means red beans with ice) has evolved from being a bowl of crushed ice topped with sweetened red bean sauce, to include other toppings, like ddeok (rice cake) ice cream and fruit salad. In the past few years, cafes started to offer different Bingsu flavours, such as Nok-cha (green tea) bingsu, oreo bingsu, and mango bingsu, to name a few. Be forewarned, this is meant to be a shared treat, so bring at least one friend with you.


4. Hit the water! Here in Ulsan, we’re lucky to be right on the coast, and we have several beaches within an hour’s drive (closer if you live in Donggu or down near Jinha). If you live in the west end of town, and Donggu is a bit of a trek, check out the swimming hole at the Seonbawi Bridge in Guyeongli – right at the end of the Taehwa River walking/biking path. It’s shallow and rocky (swim shoes are a good idea), but the water is cool. Added bonus, Seonbawi (Standing Rock) is one of Ulsan’s 12 Scenic Sites, so you can knock that off your Ulsan Bucket List while you cool off. Just make sure you stay within the swimming areas wherever you go.

Why I avoid Haeundae Beach in the summer...

Why I avoid Haeundae Beach in the summer…

5. Put up window shades. If your apartment gets stifling hot during the day, and you either don’t have or don’t want to use air conditioning (or you want to keep your electricity bills within reason), try adding a blind to your windows. White on the outside helps reflect the sun, and it can make a surprising difference on how hot it gets inside.

6. Cold showers and fans. Again, if you’re air-con free for whatever reason, this is a great way to cool your whole body. Take a cool shower (or spritz yourself with water kept in the fridge), and sit or lie in front of the fan to dry off. Repeat as necessary. If you’re worried about Fan Death, most Korean made fans have built in timers, so you don’t have to worry about falling asleep and being assassinated by an appliance.


7. If you are using an air conditioner, make sure your windows and doors are closed to maximize its effectiveness and minimize your bill size.

8. The extra humidity in the air can cause some wet, sticky, embarrassing problems for some folks. If you’re finding you need to wring out your clothes part way through the day, try buying some athletic gear that is made from “technical fibers” that wick sweat and moisture to the outside of the clothes, allowing it to evaporate quickly. Cotton tends to hold moisture, so while it can feel cooler when you first put it on, if you sweat, it’ll stay damp for ages (which is why it’s not a great fabric for winter wear). Also, choose colours that are lighter, as they reflect the heat better than dark tones, and loose fitting clothes that allow air to move against the skin.

We've all been there...

We’ve all been there…

9. Make sure you drink plenty of (non-alcoholic/non-caffeinated) liquids throughout the day. Being dehydrated raises your body temperature, so drinking lots of water to replace the stuff lost to perspiration is really important, moreso if you’re active. If you’re exercising in this heat, now’s the time to consider sports drinks to keep well hydrated.

Not good for rehydration purposes. Drink water first, then move on to beer.

At night, it’s a different story.

10. Use a homemade cold compress to cool your sheets for a better night’s sleep. Fill a cotton sock with rice, and tie it off. Then freeze the sock for two hours. Then you can either rub it over your sheets to cool the bed, or put it on the back of your neck to cool your body. The rice will hold the cold for a long time, and won’t get everything all wet. It’s like the opposite of a hot water bottle for the winter.

Hopefully some of these hints will help you feel a little more comfortable. Here’s a picture sending cool thoughts your way:




What you should know about BAPS (Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary)

By , July 17, 2014 6:53 pm

This article was written by Leo, one of the two people who run the Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary. It’s pretty much the only no-kill dog shelter in the Busan-Ulsan area. The article was written in response to some negative comments, and posted on their Facebook page. With Leo’s permission, I’m sharing it here, because I think it’s important stuff to think about – not just for this particular shelter, but for any service run by volunteers with the intention of helping others.

(By Leo Mendoza)

1. BAPS has no full time employees.

I (Leo) have two full time jobs (university teaching and dog kenneling), a part time job (radio production) and multiple free-lance jobs. Jin has two full time jobs (school teaching and dog kenneling). The other person involved regularly is the worker who comes to clean and feed the dogs Tuesday and Thursday, and she receives a small cash stipend from BAPS to cover her transportation and time. She also has a full time job.

2. BAPS has no government or corporate support.

Despite our best efforts, over the past 6 years it has been impossible to find support from anyone other than individuals who donate graciously to BAPS.

3. BAPS costs 2,500,000 per month to run.

Our main expenses are rent, dog food, and regular monthly dog medical supplies. Over the years we have worked hard to be able to buy the food and medicine at great bulk discounts. If we were paying retail prices, the monthly cost would be close to 4 million. BAPS donations are always used towards dogs. All associated costs (transportation, snacks, drinks, management, etc) are paid out of pocket by Leo and Jin.

4. BAPS collects an average of 1,000,000 per month. (now)


From 2008 to 2010 income from other sources was zero.

From 2010 to 2011 income was around 400,000 per month.

From 2011 to 2013 income was around 900,000 per month.

2014 has seen income at a little less than 1,000,000 per month.


The rest of the money needed to pay for the operating of BAPS has come out of Leo and Jin’s pocket. We don’t say this to show off, but to simply lay it down as it is, for all to see.

One of the many spaniels abandoned when it got "too big", rescued by BAPS

One of the many spaniels abandoned when it got “too big”, rescued by BAPS (from the BAPS site)

5. Medical emergencies, spay, neuter, are additional.

Thanks to the support of friendly vets, we pay great discount prices for medical care. Still, even with that help, the medical costs are significant. We spend an average of 5,000,000 a year in emergency medical care plus spay/neuter and heartworm treatments. The great bulk of this money comes from fundraisers organized by volunteers.

6. We know BAPS looks like crap by western standards, but…

We provide a far superior service to our dogs than do just about all the other shelters in Korea. Remember, the government does not support ANY shelters (just pounds).

These are some of the things we have that you will probably not find in other shelters in Korea:

-We vaccinate ALL dogs against every danger found here.

-We provide Heartgard and Frontline to all dogs

-We have a proven history of regular adoption. About 400 so far.

-We have NEVER had a dog get pregnant at BAPS

-We test EVERY dog for safe antibodies levels

-We are 100% No Kill

You’ll just have to take our word for it, but these things are rare in Korea. And they have been damn hard to achieve. Much sweat, sacrifice, and suffering has been spent to get to this level.

7. BAPS does not own our location.

It is a former pig farm, and looks like crap. But BAPS is thoroughly disinfected regularly, and our dogs almost never get skin infections, and we have NEVER had a viral or bacterial outbreak.  Of course, we would love to move to a better facility, buy we can’t afford the cost of purchasing land and building a proper shelter. When to comes to renting,  the fact is that NO on wants to rent to us. Dogs are loud and smelly, and bring property values down. Hence the pig farm.

8. BAPS will never grow beyond what it is.

This is a hard conclusion we’ve reached after all these years. Every step of running BAPS is a losing fight.

The government will not support dogs in this country. They even refuse to recognize dog shelters as legal charities, and won’t let us register as a charitable organization.

We will never have sustainable donations, because the great majority of people who donate to us are foreigners in Korea, and by definition leave the country after a couple years. No one who’s left has ever donated regularly after departing.

Because it takes time and money to make money, BAPS is incapable of raising money to sustain itself, much less to raise money enough to pay a full time worker, or upgrade facilities. It just isn’t going to happen.

9. Despite all this, the dogs are happy.

Yes, our dogs have to spend months confined in the cages.Yes, our dogs go the entire week without having human contact.

But there’s one key fact: OUR DOGS ARE ALIVE.

These dogs would have all been killed 10 days after arriving to the pound had we not pulled them from there. So what if they have to stay a few months in the cages? When they come out they are happy. They get all the food they need, they are protected from the weather, they have enough space to walk around, and they are socialized with people.

I can cite many, many emails, messages, calls, etc. that Jin and I have received from the families who have adopted a BAPS dog and taken them all over the world. Our dogs are happy and loving parts of these families.

We know that the dogs at BAPS will eventually find their home. It may not be this week, or this month, or perhaps even this year. But they will all live.

10. We won’t quit.

BAPS is a life draining prison for us. It has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy a couple of times. It has drained away all possibility of vacations, hobbies, or even a weekend away. The stress it causes even sent me to the hospital once.

But we do this because we look around and see that NO ONE else is doing it. Thousands of dogs die at the pounds in Busan, and no one else is doing anything. We feel it is our moral duty to give a chance to live to the dogs we can.

We know what your western standards are. We’d love to implement them. But we don’t have the money or the free time to do them.  So, here’s a final thought:

When you feel you have the next great ideas for improving BAPS, don’t just say “Leo, you should do X in order for BAPS to grow!” Please consider that your idea costs money I don’t have, and time I don’t have.

If you really want to help, say” Leo, I will do X in order for BAPS to grow!”

Volunteers on the weekend Dog Walk

Volunteers on the weekend Dog Walk – Sundays at 11am. See their Facebook page for details. (from BAPS site)

THAT’S the kind of action we need. That’s how we got our playgrounds built, the Ulsan fundraiser, and other recent projects that people have enacted.

Whatever happens, we are committed to saving dogs in our local community. This is what we do. We don’t apologize to anyone for BAPS not being up to western standards. This is the best that can be done with zero resources. We do this for the dogs. We do not do it for anything else. The dogs.

(If you are considering adopting a dog, please read this post.)

What to do with a Stray Animal

By , July 11, 2014 5:38 pm

Regularly we get posts on the Ulsan Online Facebook group from kind-hearted people who have found a stray cat or dog (or sometimes even rabbit) on the streets, and want to help the creature out. Here is a post from BAPS explaining the best procedure you can follow should you find yourself in that situation. BAPS deals with dogs, but the advice is similar for other animals.

From the Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary (BAPS):

Busan Abandoned Pet Sanctuary usually gets 10-20 messages per month from people who want us to take in dogs they find. We’d love to take them all, but it is simply impossible for us. Our funding and infrastructure support maximum 30 dogs on site, and we have to keep those numbers if we want to survive financially.

So, the first thing you should NOT think when you want to rescue a dog is “I can send it to BAPS”. We do not take dogs from people, for a variety of complex reasons related to medical quarantine. (We take dogs from a pound that provides quarantine observation/treatment for dogs pre-selected)

What about other shelters? Well, basically, there are no other shelters in the area that take in dogs and do not euthanize them. This is the sad reality. The only option is for you to follow the procedures below in order to give the dog a chance.

You see a stray dog on the street, here’s the questions you need to ask yourself:

1- Are you able to keep the dog in your house for 2-6 months (or permanently)? If not, do you have a person who could do it?

2- Are you able to afford minimum 100,000won up to 300,000won for basic medical treatment/assessment assuming the dog is not critically ill?

If you answer “no” to either of those questions, we recommend you do not pick up the dog until you have secured both those options.

If you answered yes, go on…

3- Do you have a pet in your house?

If you answered “yes”, do NOT take the dog home. It could present a serious health risk to your pet.

If you touch the dog, thoroughly disinfect yourself and your clothing. Secure a home for the dog, and go on…

If you’ve solved questions 1-3, these are the steps you need to take:

1. Go to a vet with the dog, check for a microchip, and ask for the following procedures:

a) Distemper and Parvovirus ANTIBODIES test. (Note: this is not a negative/positive test). The test should be assessed in a scale of 1-6. If the result is 4 or below for either level, ask the vet to give booster shots.

NOTE that if the result is under 4, the dog could already be infected with either of these deadly diseases. It will take up to 3 weeks for incubation, and if one develops, death is nearly certain, and you will spend up to 600,000 won  trying to treat it.

b) Heartworm test (positive/negative)

c) Age assessment

d) Skeletal assessment

e) General health checkup.

The vet assessment may reveal a multitude of potential mild to serious issues, some which could cost hundreds of thousands to treat. We recommend that after the assessment you consider your finances, and then make a responsible decision about if you will continue to be responsible for the dog,or ask the vet to call the pound.

If you decide to continue, go on…

2. You should know that the vast majority of stray dogs in Korea will not have someone looking for them, so don’t get your hopes up that the owner will be found. However, you should create a flyer in Korea that gives a general description of the dog (size, color, breed, temperament), and a Korean speaker’s phone number. Do NOT include a picture of the dog, or identifying mark information. This is to prevent dog meat traders from posing as the owner. If someone does come forward, ask for photographic proof of ownership.

Post the flyer at local vets, pet shops, police stations,and community bulletin boards.

2. For finding a permanent adopter, take many high quality pictures of the dog, from different angles, and create a profile for the dog on

3. Be patient. It can take months to find an adopter…

Picking up a dog off the street is a much more complicated issue than people think at first. We have seen countless heartbreak and frustration from people who get into a situation they are not able to deal with.

Of course we also have seen many dogs go on to beautiful long lives, and give years of love and joy to their new family.

We ask that everyone who takes a dog do so responsibly, and we are here to provide advice and any assistance within our means.

Going to the Doctor

By , June 20, 2014 5:07 pm

Going to the doctor can be a worrying trip no matter where you are, but when you’re in a foreign culture, where everyone speaks a different language, it can be even more frightening. Here are a few of the hospitals that have better service for English speakers, and some tips on how the medical culture may be different from your home country.

For women’s health or pregnancy, try Boram Hospital or Frau Medi  in Samsandong, Ulsan University Hospital or Rosimedi in Donggu, or Miz Hospital in Samhodong (near Mugeodong).These hospitals rate well with foreigners in terms of doctors who speak English, and some have more modernized practices regarding labour and delivery (please see the linked article above for more detail). It can be difficult to find a female obstetrician-gynocologist, though, if that’s your preference.

doctor with baby

For general health issues, Ulsan University Hospital in Donggu is an excellent facility. They have a special receptionist for helping foreigners, and most of the doctors speak English well. They also have a wide range of specialists, and a 24-hour emergency room.

Good Morning Hospital in Daldong,   and Ulsan Hospital in Sinjeongdong both do the “health check” required by immigration for certain visas, and are good hospitals for general complaints. Good Samjeong Hospital near Mugeodong, and Dong Gang Hospital in Taehwadong also have good service, and both have 24-hour emergency rooms, should you need care in the wee-hours of the night. These above-mentioned facilities are some of the larger, more well-known hospitals in the city.

Overall, the medical culture here can be a bit different from what you may be used to at home. For instance, the nurse’s job is only to assist the doctor with medical treatment, and they do not help patients care for themselves. Many Koreans will stay in the hospital with their sick family member to help feed and bathe them, or help them get to the bathroom. If you need to be in the hospital for a longer procedure, be sure to have friends who can come visit you (there are no set visiting hours, which is great) and perhaps bring you food. Hospital food is notoriously bad anywhere, but endless seaweed soup or bland rice porridge can be trying even for those who love the stuff (Ulsan University allows foreign patients to order from the Hyundai Hotel restaurant next door, but the meals are restaurant prices, which can become expensive if you’re in hospital for more than a day or so).

Sure, it looks good now.

Sure, it looks good now.

Also, a doctor here is not used to being questioned. Generally, if they prescribe a treatment or medication, they expect the patient to follow their orders. They rarely explain the procedure being done, or the drugs being administered. This can be particularly difficult for pregnant foreigners who would prefer a natural or alternative birthing style. Most births here are done with epidurals, or are caesarian sections. Being able to move around to find a comfortable position is not practiced, and the doctors may not allow this in their delivery room. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask what’s going on, or ask for certain treatments/medications if you’ve done some background research. A friend of mine was prescribed a drug that was particularly harsh on their system, and when they did some internet research, found a new drug for the same ailment that had fewer side-effects. When they mentioned this to their doctor, the doctor was happy to change the prescription, and my friend is now doing much better.

It's amazing how many different ailments require a shot in the "hip"...

It’s amazing how many different ailments require a shot in the “hip”…

In my experience, while the doctors I’ve encountered have tended to speak English well (though some are very shy about using it), many of the receptionists and nurses have low-to-no English, which can make a visit to the doctor a challenge. It can be helpful to either have a Korean friend translate (either in person or over the phone), or, if you don’t want to share your health concerns, use Google translate to write down key words, like the painful body part, or the symptoms you’re experiencing. This can help the staff to direct you to the proper department for help.

Some problems require a different kind of Doctor.

Some problems require a different kind of Doctor.

Usually, you check in with the reception desk (take a numbered ticket) and explain what you need. You’re then shown to (or told where to find) the doctor. If unclear, have the reception staff write it down, so that you can ask others when you’re wandering lost through the corridors. The doctor will do the examination, possibly start a treatment, and discuss with you what needs to be done next. This could be lab work, like blood or urine tests, booking a follow-up appointment, or writing out a prescription for medication. Then you move on to the lab if necessary, and finally head back to the reception desk (take another numbered ticket) to pay your bill. Your prescription will be printed out at that point, and the receptionist will likely tell you where the nearest pharmacy is (if it’s not in the building, there is one very close by, usually next door). If you’re there for a very specialized reason, you may want to get the prescription filled at the closest pharmacy, as they will have the meds you need. For instance, the pharmacy under an eye clinic will have lots of eye-specific meds that the pharmacy under an orthopedic surgery may not have.

Generally speaking, the level of care here is quite good, and many doctors’ offices have high tech diagnostics tools, like sonograms in an ob-gyn office, or fiber-optic cameras to go into your sinuses in an Ear/Nose/Throat clinic. As with any country, you can hear some horror stories, and Korean’s don’t really do medical malpractice, so unfortunately there are a handful of really terrible doctors out there. But just like at home, if you’re not comfortable with the person you see, find someone else. Younger doctors tend to be a lot more “westernized” in terms of patient care (explanations, receiving questions), and have often studied abroad, meaning their English may be stronger than some of the older guys around, but this isn’t a rule. Don’t be afraid to be your own advocate, or to bring in a friend to help you translate, if you have questions about a treatment or medication.

This might be a little young...

This might be a little young…

And don’t forget to check out the Where to Find section of the UlsanOnline Survival Guide, for doctors and dentists  recommended by fellow ex-pats. All hospitals mentioned in this article are (or will shortly be) pinned on the Interactive Map.

Giving Birth in Ulsan

By , May 8, 2014 8:47 pm

With much thanks to Adele Vitale for this article!

Having a baby can be wonderful, scary, exciting, frustrating, thrilling, exhausting, exhilarating, and intense, all at the same time. Whether a pregnancy was planned or not, expectant parents may find themselves confused, worried and generally overwhelmed, especially if they live in a foreign country, the language of which they do not necessarily speak.

Additionally, any expat living in Korea in places other than Seoul knows all too well how great the divide is between the capital and the rest of the country when it comes to availability of products and services catering to the expat community. Not surprisingly, the same applies when it comes to perinatal services. Expectant parents living in and around Seoul have access to birthing centers with plenty of options for natural childbirth, homebirthing midwives, doulas, good prenatal care, and childbirth education classes in English. In cities like Ulsan, however, choices become much more limited.

The hospitals most foreigners choose for giving birth here are Boram Women’s Hospital, located in Samsan-dong, and Ulsan University Hospital in Dong-gu. Frau Medi in Samsan-dong, Rosemedi in Dong-gu, and Miz Hospital in Mugeodong have also seen a number of foreign moms, and have doctors and nursing staff who speak English to various degrees. Boram also has two interpreters/translators who assist foreign parents at doctor appointments and even during labour and birth.

All of these hospitals offer private labour, delivery & recovery rooms, called “Family Rooms”. This means that women will be able to labour and birth in the same room, accompanied by one or even two family members. Bathrooms, birth balls, and CD players may be available; a large TV usually is. A short while after giving birth, the new family is moved to the recovery rooms, where they will remain for the rest of their stay in the hospital (usually 48-72 hours for a vaginal delivery and 5 to 7 days for a Cesarean section). Some hospitals allow rooming in with the baby, while others do not and have all babies stay in the nursery. Moms are then called to breastfeed through the internal telephones in the room; most hospitals will have a certified lactation consultant on staff to assist with latching and positioning. All options are worth checking with doctors during prenatal appointments, and most hospitals will offer a tour of their facilities.

Prenatal appointments in Korea may differ from the way they are carried out back home. At every appointment the doctor performs an ultrasound, first to confirm the pregnancy (as early as 5 weeks), then to check on the baby’s development. 3D ultrasounds have become standard practice, with surprisingly detailed images. Appointments are usually very brief and cost an average of 45,000 won (plus the cost of tests) with National Health Insurance, or about twice as much without. At Boram hospital, the most popular choice for foreign parents wishing for a natural birth, a normal drug-free birth without insurance costs around 4500 USD (including two nights and three days in a single room), while a Cesarean birth costs around 6500 USD (including six nights and seven days in a single room). Ulsan University Hospital is more suitable for high-risk pregnancies and emergency deliveries, as their facilities include both an intensive care unit (ICU) and a neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU).

Once the pregnancy is confirmed (usually when a heartbeat is detected, around 6 to 8 weeks), moms covered by NHI through their employer or husband can apply for the GoEun Mom Card, covering 500,000 won worth of prenatal visits and/or birth services. In order to apply, they will need to bring the doctor’s statement and their ARC to a Kookmin or Shinhan bank. The Expat Parents Korea Facebook group contains plenty of information on government support and insurance issues for foreigners.

Most doctors experienced in dealing with foreign clients will be familiar with birth plans and willing to discuss the various options. Most hospitals will have certain aspects they are not willing to compromise on; for example, partners are practically never allowed in the OR in case of C-section, even when planned, and moms are required to lie down on their backs to give birth (although they can usually labour in other positions). Episiotomies are routinely performed, although parents can opt out. VBACs are also still a rarity here and repeat C-sections are usually performed. Last but not least, after birth, mom and baby are routinely separated for thirty minutes at least, so that tests can be performed. During this time, certain medications (including the Hepatitis B vaccination and Vitamin K injection) will be routinely administered, so parents choosing to opt out should state so in their birth plan.

Parents looking for an entirely natural birthing experience with a midwife and/or a water birth can either travel to Seoul and the surrounding area, where birthing centers offering such services are available, or hire a midwife (and possibly rent a pool) for a homebirth. Only two midwives currently travel for home births: Rosa Kim and Danica Bang. Their services cost around 4 million KRW and are covered by some international insurance companies. The doctors at Mediflower Birthing Center in Seoul are also willing to travel for homebirths, and their fees average 7 million won (also covered by international insurance).

As concerns labour support, a company was recently launched offering doula services. It is called ParentLink Korea  and it is the local branch of an international franchise with locations in the US, Singapore, Seoul, and our very own Ulsan. Certified birth doula and childbirth educator Adele Vitale offers support to expectant parents before, during, and after labour, as well as childbirth preparation classes in English, including the Hypnobirthing® course. The classes are specifically catered to foreign parents having a baby in Korea and are therefore instrumental in preparing both moms and their partners to the reality of giving birth in a Korean hospital.

In the immediate postpartum period, traditional “helpers” (도우미, doh-woo-mee) are available for part- or full-time work. These are usually Korean women in their fifties or even sixties, trained in assisting moms during their recovery, doing housework, and taking care of the baby. They rarely, if ever, speak English, so cultural differences may make the experience not always enjoyable for foreign moms; however, this is an option worth considering when the new mom cannot be assisted by her own family or friends.

All in all, having a baby in Ulsan is probably not harder than anywhere else and good doctors are available, but parents hoping for a natural delivery would be well advised to attend childbirth preparation classes to make sure they are prepared, and therefore able, to make informed choices. Also, research has shown that having a doula reduces the risk for all interventions, including C-sections, shortens the length of labour, and overall improves the birth experience for both parents, so this is definitely an option worth checking out, especially when having a baby in a foreign country.

How-To: Ulsan buses

By , March 10, 2014 12:11 pm

Hi there! You’ve made it to Ulsan – congratulations! After getting unpacked you’re going to want to explore and the bus system here is great for that! And even if you’re not a Newbie, understanding how the buses work could save you a lot in taxi fares! So, here are some answers to the questions most frequently asked:

Where can I take a bus from?

Any bus stop.

How do I know which bus to take?

Check out the link on the Ulsan Online home page. Just type your destination and you’ll get a list of buses going that way. You can also type in the bus numbers and see the route they follow. There are also numerous apps available (though non are in English yet). I prefer 울산버스정보.

How much is the bus?

Here in Korea, there is a flat fare for a city bus, meaning that whether you are going just one stop or twenty, it will still only cost you 1,200 won cash and 1,140 won with a travel card. (More on those later.)

How do I pay the fare?

Unlike in Japan, it is very simple here. Cash goes into a big plastic box as you get on. Any change comes out a coin slot next to this. Try to have the correct fare or as close to as you can as the drivers don’t take 5,000 won! If you’re using a travel card, hold it over the dark blue/orange box near the driver. If you need to transfer buses, a travel card is crucial here as it allows you to make a free transfer to two other bus within 40 minutes. This is great if you want to do a whirlwind shop at Home Plus and don’t want to pay again to get home! To do this, hold your card over the box at the back doors of the bus as you get off and then again when you get on your next bus. Note: This only works when taking a different number bus and is effective for 40 minutes after the time you swiped your card each time.

What’s this travel card, then?

Travel cards here are awesome. Seriously.


Not only does having a travel card allow you to use public transport cheaper than cash, they can also be used nation wide. And not just for buses – they can be used for the subway as well. No more fumbling for change and panicking about where you put your ticket!

Many taxis also accept travel cards – no more worrying about saving 10,000 won to get home on a Saturday night. Have another beer and let your travel card take care of you! Note: Do check that the taxi has a “Card” sticker in the window.

And that’s not all! You can also use the credit on your travel card to buy things from convenience stores and Lotteria!

So, where can I get one of these travel cards?

Larger bus stops have a kiosk where you can purchase a card. You can also top up the credit here. Some convenience stores also allow top up – especially if they are near a bus stop. Just look for a MyBee or CashBee sticker in the window.

Anything else I should know?

Well, the buses also have free WiFi, air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter! You can get just about anywhere in and around Ulsan. But do be prepared to experience some hair-raising rides – some of the drivers are insane!!

I hope that helps you feel more confident about using the buses here. Have fun and be safe!

New Address System in Effect

By , January 18, 2014 1:07 pm

As of January 1, 2014, Korea has officially moved away from the old, very confusing addresses, which were based on things like land lots, and what order buildings were constructed in on a block, to a new, streamlined system based on street name and building number.

This is meant to help with general navigation, as the only people who understood the old system seemed to have been postal workers and pizza delivery guys. If you’re not sure what this means, check out the little blue plaque on the front of your building.

building numbers


대로 (Dae-ro) means “Big Road” or boulevard.

로 (Ro) means “Road” or “Street”.

길 (Gil) is a side-street.

The basic naming system is as follows: Dae-ro and Ro have individual names, such as DaeHak Ro (대학로) or University Street, the main street through Mugeodong. The side streets have names based on the main road they feed off, numbered in order. This is still a bit random seeming, but how they decide the system isn’t really important. If your street is off Sinjeong-ro, then it’s likely a Sinjeong-ro #-gil, or beon-gil.

They explain it with pictures on this site, which is all in English, which is very kind of them to do. In fact the whole address change site is very helpful, if you need more detailed information. There’s supposed to be a map that can help you translate your old address to your new one, though it was having difficulty loading when I gave it a go.

Your postal code will remain the same.

Korea’s Tourism Site also has some basic information on the topic.


My LASIK Adventure

By , November 25, 2013 5:05 pm

Many expats choose to have laser eye surgery while they’re in Korea, as it is much cheaper than in many of our home countries. As such, I thought I’d share my recent experiences for anyone considering the operation.

My background research mostly consisted of talking to numerous friends who have had undergone the procedure, of whom all but one had a thoroughly positive experience, and even the one bad experience ended up all right in the end. This anecdotal evidence was good enough for me, so I called a Korean friend, and went with her to the clinic she’d had her surgery in about 10 years ago. We called beforehand, but they said for the initial evaluation, no appointment was necessary, so we headed into the Shinsegae LASIK Clinic on a Tuesday morning, around 11am. The clinic is located next door to the KEB in Samsandong, across the main road from the Lotte Hotel. The LASIK center is on the 8th floor.

That day, the friendly staff led me through a series of eye tests on a variety of machines, including a test for glaucoma, to measure everything from my cornea thickness to my ability to see. Then I had a consultation with a staff member, who explained that I was a good candidate for the surgery, and outlined the risks involved. I needed my friend to interpret for me, as my Korean is not up to this level of conversation, and the 8th floor staff have limited English.

After I decided that I did want to proceed, I was taken to another floor where I met with the doctor who would perform the procedure, for both a consultation and further tests. Dr. Kim’s English was excellent, and he again explained the risks involved in the procedure thoroughly. The most common side effect is dry eyes, followed by seeing halos around lights at night. There is also an increased sensitivity to light, which can make night driving uncomfortable for some patients. Not all surgeries correct vision 100%, mistakes can happen, and ultimately, you’re having lasers burn bits of your eyeball, so you need to consider it seriously.


The Process. source:

It turned out during the further tests that I had a small hole by my retina, which put me at risk for it (the retina) becoming detached during the surgery. I had to go in the day before (as I had to teach that afternoon, and couldn’t do the procedure then) my surgery to have a small procedure to “fix” the hole. I’ve also been warned that if I feel something floating in my eye at any point in the future, I should make haste to the eye clinic. Yikes.

That was the end of my first day. I booked my appointment for that Friday afternoon, and for the small procedure on the Thursday morning beforehand.

Thursday, I had a quick check up to measure the hole exactly, and then was strapped into a machine that pulsed a green light into my eye. It lasted only about 5 -7 minutes, but it was terribly uncomfortable. The green light hurt – almost like my eye was being squeezed – and made me tear up uncontrollably. I won’t lie – it wasn’t fun. But it was over soon, and the hole was fixed.

Friday I was pretty nervous. I kept imagining the surgery would feel like the procedure on Thursday, and freaked myself out a bit. I went to the clinic and underwent a few quick eye tests to confirm my vision strength. Then it was time to review the risks again, in detail, and sign the waiver (it basically said that this was an elective surgery, that I was making the choice, and that I understood the risks involved). As my friend had informed them I’d be coming alone, the staff had prepared a printed English version of both, which I thought was really kind of them. I’ve often had to sign Korean forms with just a vague understanding of what I’m putting my name to, which always makes me feel uncomfortable. I appreciated the extra effort they’d gone to, to make sure I knew what I was getting into. While the 8th floor staff didn’t speak much English, they were very helpful and kind, and they worked hard to make themselves understood.

After signing the consent form, I was led up to the 9th floor, and put in a little bedroom. I saw the doctor again for another examination, and he again explained the risks. Finally, it was show-time. I was given eye drops to numb them, and led into the operating theatre, which consisted of two big machines. I lay down on the first bed, where they would cut my corneas. This was the only part of the surgery which hurt, and it wasn’t the cornea cutting that was the problem. They have to clamp open your eyes, of course, which is vaguely uncomfortable, not only because it feels like that scene in A Clockwork Orange. But then they stabilize your eyeball by pressing this cup-like thing down hard on your face. It’s not so much painful as it is very uncomfortable. Thankfully, it lasts less than a minute per eye. You stare up at a circle of lights as they push this cup down, and before you know it, they’re all done.

Not me, also not Dr. Kim. source:

Not me, also not Dr. Kim. But it is LASIK source:

The next part is the actual vision correction. I was led to the second machine, and again lay down, this time staring at a green blinking light. Again my eyelids were clamped apart, and then the green light went from a dot to a big, blurry blotch – the doctor had peeled back my cornea. As I stared straight up at the light, I smelled a slight burning smell, and then the doctor replaced my cornea with what seemed to be a tiny, soft brush (though I felt nothing). This was repeated for my other eye. The whole thing seemed to take about 2 minutes.

The doctor did a quick check up, and found a bit of debris in one cornea, so I lay back down on the table, and had the eye flushed with water. On the second check, it was all clear.

The nurse then took me to the little bedroom, where I lay down in a lovely warm bed, and closed my eyes for 15 minutes. When she returned, she gave me a list of dos and don’ts (she’d taken the time to translate it all for me, which again, I thought was really kind of her): don’t rub or touch your eyes, do apply drops regularly, don’t wear makeup for a week or two, don’t do exercise or running for a week, etc. I had one more checkup from the doctor, who explained the eyedrop meds I’ll be taking for the next two weeks, and told me to spend the rest of the day with my eyes closed. Apparently, too much blinking can cause a wrinkle in the cornea, which is obviously not a good thing.

The clinic gave me a pair of googles to wear that day, and at night for the next two weeks, and my prescription for antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and artificial tears. I had a follow-up appointment booked for the next morning at 9am, and was sent home. It’s really hard to sit around with your eyes closed, and not fall asleep, so I napped most of the afternoon, and then listened to a bunch of TED Talks that evening.


Sexy and comfortable. Source:

In the morning, I had a couple of vision tests, and then the doctor took a look at my eyes. My right eye now has perfect vision, but my left is a little bit blurry (way better than it was before, though). He felt confident that the left eye will clear up a bit more over the week, but if not, my vision now is still 1.00 (20/20), which is amazing.

I’m thrilled with my results, and I would highly recommend the process to anyone considering it. There are absolutely risks involved, and you should weigh them carefully. The clinic will review the risks with you, thoroughly. If they don’t, you may want to consider visiting a different doctor. I would be highly skeptical of anyone who guarantees your results, or promises you perfect vision. You also may want to research the LASEK process, which is slightly different, and the better option for some people.

The Shinsegae Clinic is located in Samsandong, next door to the KEB, across from the Lotte Hotel. The LASIK/LASEK clinic is on the 8th floor. They are open 9am-7pm on weekdays, 9am – 5pm on Saturdays, and 9am-12pm on Sundays and holidays.  Phone: 080-274-0001 – Minimal English spoken, you may want to have a Korean friend help you.