[Seoul Survival Series] Annual Health check


Throngs of people full the waiting room. They are all here for the same thing. They all wear the same robe top and will all go through the same series of tests. It’s the annual health check in Korea.

Each year, anyone covered under the Korean healthcare system (which is pretty much everyone) must submit an entire morning to tests of all varieties. For many foreigners, this is required in order for you to get a job (don’t wanna go spreading all our AIDS around!). Here’s how it goes:

You enter the center and they have you fill out a bunch of forms. Same as any doctor. Then you wait for your name to be called so they can usher you to a locker room. In said locker room, you change into your half robe and slippers and slip back to the waiting room. I know what you’re thinking– I have to wear a hospital gown in front of a crowd of people?! No, not exactly. This is a robe as I said. And it’s really only embarrassing for big busted women like me because you constantly worry about flashing everyone your jugs. Even the large sized robe threatens to expose the ladies.

Then, instead of awaiting one doctor for a series of tests. You are moved station to station to perform various activities. First stop, the general doctor. He asks you about medical history and issues you are having. He then decides your fate, if there are any special stations you must visit.

Then you wait.

This time I was given a urine test to perform while I waited. It was not a cup though. It was a kind of strip. Maybe a pregnancy test? I dunno. But it was strange. The nurse just had me carry it back to her through the lobby.

After returning my pee stick I waited for my favorite part- height/weight and body circumference check. Yep, they measure your waist to determine your health. It gets more weight (pardon the pun) than your actual height/weight ratio. They also check your blood pressure and take your blood at this point which is why a group of girls outside the room are waiting for what clearly gave them nightmares last night. Now, I can understand being afraid of needles. But these are a Korean ladies, best known for their ability to whine. Dramatically, they whine to each other. As one girl goes in, she gets a round of sympathetic eyes and pats on the back along with “Fighting”. This is Korean for “be strong” or “you can do it”. Then her friends resume biting their nails feverishly while they wait their turn.

Next comes the eye test, followed by hearing. The real hearing test is hearing your name, Koreanized, when it’s your turn for each of these stations.

Then, you wait. And wait. And wait for the chest xray. It should also be noted that by this point in the process many Koreans take liberties to nap on the couch. Not lying down, in an upright position much like you can see on the subway. It’s amazing how they fall asleep in public places like this. They also leave their things to save a spot while they go into nearby exam rooms. Trusting, so trusting.

By this point, I’ve been waiting 30 minutes for the chest X-ray. Did they lose my name? Did I fail the hearing test I mentioned earlier? Or maybe they are too embarrassed to try my name so they send me further back in the line. Like I said, there are a LOT of people here. I’ll just wait it out before trying to communicate to someone in broken Korean that I’ve been waiting 30 minutes.

Finally I get in and realize I need to take off my bra for the X-ray. I made the nurse pretty uncomfortable when I just disrobed in front of her.

The rest is a bit of a blur. I am sent to the 9th floor on the secret elevator to get my lady parts checked out and then back to billing and I was done!

90 minutes total. Not bad.

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