Something massive that has changed since the last time I was in Korea (2005 – 2007) is that you have to get a “medical certificate” in order to get your Alien Registration Card (ARC). Also new is that you need your ARC in order to get a bank account. They’ve really got foreign teachers by the balls on this one, especially since some schools won’t pay you until you get a bank account. Yikes.
The “medical certificate” is just a form that the hospital gives you saying you are a-okay to be in the country. I suppose that they are checking for a few things, but the key things they look for is drugs (which are bad, mmmmkay?) and disease (also not cool) – especially sexually transmitted diseases (more not-coolness).
The amount of information I received from the school on how to get this done was hilariously weak. I was given a piece of paper that said this:
Where – Gang Nam Hospital in Young in
(Ask Lauren, Song TR. They know how to go there…)
Ready – 1. You must fast for 8hours
2. Photo (3.5* 4.0 size) 4
3. health diagnosis fee 61,000 Won
How – 1. When you arrive hospital, go to the hospital administration
Tell them “I want to issue medical certificate in English…”
They will help you.
You have to get 2sets.
I’m hoping that these stories will a) amuse people who know me – my pain and suffering seems to bring my friends and family joy (haha) and b) really help out people who are thinking about teaching in Korea. Nothing like reading about someone else’s pain and suffering to realise it’s not nearly as scary as you would think.
::END SIDE NOTE::
“Where – Gang Nam Hospital in Young in”
The “Lauren, Song Tr.” part of this sentence means that I should have spoken with fellow foreign teachers (Lauren and Song) to get more details on how to get to the hospital. Lauren isn’t even there anymore. Song Teacher was really helpful though, I definitely wouldn’t have made it there without her. It would have been so much easier if they had just included some instructions of how to get there.
Getting there wasn’t bad. I had to get up early on a Saturday (sob) to get there relatively early. It was one weird little bus for about 15 minutes and then a two minute walk. I still managed to get myself slightly turned around, but still made it there early. I was really happy I had looked up the name of Gangnam Hospital in Korean (강남병원, if you are interested) so I could show a Korean where I was trying to go. She was good enough to point me in the right direction.
“How – 1. When you arrive hospital”
Once I was going the right way, the hospital was dead easy to find. And as promised to me by Song Teacher, I just had to go in through the sliding glass doors, where there was a long information desk to my left. All I had to do next was “take a number” and wait. Unfortunately, this is what the number machine looked like:
Sorry it looks like I took the picture with a potato, but I was trying to take a sneaky picture in the hospital. That machine has three buttons, all in Korean. I HAD NO CLUE. Then this nice Korean lady (who basically spoke no English except one word – “long”) helped me. She pointed at buttons and spoke to me slowly in Korean. Poor lady. Speak as slowly as you want, I won’t get it. When she pointed at the third button though she said “long”, and I figured that was going to be for people who were going to be in the hospital a long time (although it seems REALLY weird to me that you would have to take a freaking number if you were so ill that you’d be in the hospital forever). In the end, she gave me a ticket produced from the same button she had pushed, the first one. Then that cute motherly Korean lady sat down and saved the seat beside her for me. What a star.
When it was my turn – and the wait was very short – I went up to a Korean girl who looked like I was going to ruin her morning by making her speak English and handed her my number. I then said the only thing I knew to say: “medical certificate”. Yah, she didn’t know what that was. I had to type it into the dictionary on her phone. I still don’t think she got it. But she called for someone else and they knew exactly what I was after as they spoke English. Sadly, she didn’t stick around.
I had to pay 80,000won (not 61,000) but fortunately they took debit card. Once I paid, she gave me a piece of paper with further instructions. Awesome. Except the instructions looked like this:
I understood that I needed to go to the second floor, but that was about it. Happily a woman on the lift spoke flawless English and once the doors opened on the correct floor, she helped me find the way to my next step – the x-ray room.
She also asked if I did private lessons. Worth knowing if you are teaching in Korea that it’s not really legal here. I’m not exactly sure what the rules are, but I don’t think you are supposed to give private lessons. What I told her is that I had only been in Korea one week, and I wasn’t looking to take on extra work. Which is also true.
::END SIDE NOTE::
I walked to the x-ray/MRI counter and they seemed to know what to do (thankfully!) and even spoke a little English (thankfully!) They ushered me behind a curtain and instructed me to take off everything I was wearing on my upper body and then put on a gown. I put on the gown North America style, open to the back, and they thought that was HILARIOUS. Like I was too retarded to dress myself. Which, at that point, I suppose I was. Then it was over to “hug” the x-ray machine, and they took a chest x-ray.
No one, not in the instructions nor when I asked the other foreign staff, told me what to expect in the way of “tests” for this medical certificate. I knew that they would be testing for drugs thanks to the forums, but the rest was a complete surprise. Like the chest x-ray. Like the freaking blood test (and I hate needles) coming up. Just thought y’all would like to know. And, of course, no one at the hospital could explain much to me about what was happening.
::END SIDE NOTE::
The x-ray people were able to tell me to move along further down the hall. I believe their exact words were “You go there. Wait.” Okey-dokey-smokey. So I head down the hall and there is another waiting room with another information desk. Happily, this time there was a sign that said “foreign patients” in front of one of the workers. So, being the only white person in there, I went straight up to her without a number. She took my receipt and some other information, then asked me to sit. Not even two minutes later, I was off to do the next test.
The nurse had me take off my coat and shoes to be weighed and have my height measured. Weighed slightly less than I thought (whoo-hoo) but strangely I’m also shorter than I thought. I always thought I was 171cm, turns out I’m 169.3cm. Whatevs. But then came one of those situations where not speaking the language can make the simplest tasks both harder and more hilarious.
I step off the scale. Nurse points at my shoes. I pick them up to take them back to the chairs to put them on. Nurse says “anniyo” (Korean for “no”) and takes my shoes and puts them on the floor again. I look at her quizzically. She points at my shoes and says something in Korean. I go to pick them up. “Anniyo, anniyo!” and she makes me leave them. Says something else in Korean. I tell her (in Korean) that I don’t understand Korean (clever that). She picks up my foot and puts it on my shoe. At this point an elderly woman patient is laughing at me. At this point I wish I could say “I’m not a retard. I know what you want me to do, but I want to sit down to put on my shoes.” At this point I give up and just put on my shoes standing there. Which is all that poor Korean nurse ever wanted. She was worried I’d put them on 5 feet away and walk off without finishing my tests, I guess.
After the Great Shoe Debacle of 2014, I had to have my blood pressure tested. Then my hearing. And then I was tested for colour blindness. And then they checked my eyesight. After that I got to wee in a cup and another nurse took some blood. She was incredibly gentle – I didn’t even feel the needle. Serious business. I want any future necessary needle action done by that chick. She was the nursebomb.
And that was that, I was all finished. Or at least, I should have been. On Monday there was a call to the school because there was “something wrong” with the urine tests. You know what you don’t want to hear when they are testing for drugs and sexually transmitted diseases? “There is something wrong with your urine test”. That. You don’t want to hear that. But fortunately for me, it was just that they (for some reason) didn’t get a clear reading because of protein something something and blood sugar something. I went back this morning bright and early to re-do the test and they came back normal. Whew!
My next adventure (which I should be undertaking tomorrow) will be to take my passport and medical certificate and apply in Suwon at the Immigration Centre for my Alien Registration Card. I’ve already been given bad instructions on how to get there and I think I may be missing a piece of information here – I may be going Friday after all. Ah, teaching in Korea. Where everything is made much harder than it needs to be.
The good news though is that I’m officially drug and disease free. And that’s a good thing.