Korea is an advanced country when it comes to medicine, and there are plenty of 병원 (byeong-won, or hospital) and 약국 (yak-guk, or pharmacy) around. Find your way to a pharmacyfor a wide selection of over-the-counter fixes, and be prepared to explain what ails you. A lot of things will be available for you to grab and pay, but the medicine is kept – literally – behind the counter. In most cases, the cure is a small box and a few thousand won. The pharmacist may understand you between your English and pantomiming, but here's the Korean just in case. See if you notice a pattern.
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USEFUL PHRASES 머리가 아파요 (meo-ri-ga a-pa-yo): I have a headache 배가 아파요 (bae-ga a-pa-yo): I have a stomachache. 목이 아파요 (mok-ee a-pa-yo): I have a sore throat (or a sore neck) 귀가 아파요 (gwi-ga a-pa-yo): I have an earache.
In each case above, the word 아파요 (a-pa-yo) literally means ‘pain’ or ‘hurt’, while the first word is the Korean word for a given body part. You can also communicate the disease, if you’re inclined. See if you notice the pattern:
생리통예요 (saeng-ri-tong ye-yo): I have menstrual cramps. 소화불량예요 (so-hwa-bul-ryang ye-yo): I have indigestion. 설사예요 (seol-sa-ye-yo): I have diarrhea. 식중독예요 (shik-jung-dok-ye-yo): I have food poisoning. 구토예요 (gu-to): I am vomiting.
Since you’re likely to have at least one of these complaints during your time in Korea, here’s a few more ways to say it:
감기에 걸렸어요 (gam-gi-eh geol-lyeoss-eo-yo): I have a cold. 코가막혔어요. (ko-gha mak-hyeoss-eo-yo): I have a stuffy nose. 자꾸 콧물이 나요 (ja-ggu kon-mul-ee na-yo): I have a runny nose.
Sore throat? Look for 쌍화탕 (ssang-hwa-tang): a dark glass bottle with a gold label and red lettering in the hotbox of any convenience store. Costing 1,000 won, it tastes something like syrupy black licorice badly mated with something woody, but it works.
In case of emergencies and more severe illness, the best thing you can do is make sure you have international health insurance. Have fun living abroad and be safe!
INFORMATION ON MEDICATION YOU ARE GIVEN If you would like information on the pharmaceuticals you are given, here is the link to a website which allows you to research the pills and read the name of the pharmaceuticals in English letters: druginfo.co.kr
Here are some pointers for researching your medication using the site: 1. The 2 boxes at the top are for keying in the Korean words given on the front and back of the prescription; 2. Next shows the image that corresponds to the one given on the pill; 3. Below is the type of pill, eg tablet, capsule etc.; 4. Next is the shape of pill, eg round, oval etc.; 5. Colour selection. You can search using one or more criteria. It is usually possible to get an answer by using 1) and 3) only.