Thursday, October 18, 2012

Free Immunizations for Children and Babies in South Korea

It is now possible to get free children's immunizations at the pediatricans' clinics rather than going to the Gu office.  For those living in Seoul, Gyeonggi, and Incheon (the first list) the following immunizations are free.  For those living in other districts the same immunizations are not free but reasonably priced (the second list).  The prices and immunization list are for those under 12 years old.  You need national health insurance to get the free immunizations.
Free Shots:
B형 - Hep B
소아마피- Polio
수두 - Chicken pox
일본 뇌염- Japanese Encephalitis

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Using Soju as a Cleaner

You can use soju to clean the floors or greasy areas like the cupboards around your stove.  All you need is soju, a spray bottle, and a rag.  There are three methods for using soju on the floor:
1. Put soju into a clean spray bottle, spray the floor, then wipe it with a rag.
2. Pour about 2 TBSP of soju onto the floor and wipe it around. 
3. Pour some soju onto a rag and wipe the floor.

You don't need water.  The smell will quickly dissipate.

To save money on soju you can just collect unused/undrunken soju and pour it in a bottle rather than going out and spending money on a new bottle.  This is the method Korean restaurant ajummas use.  They are very resourceful people.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mosquito Season 2012

It has been a very dry summer and there haven't been many mosquitoes but the rains finally started and with them the mosquitoes. I saw the mosquito truck for the first time this year which is very late.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Rose Season in Seoul

May is the time of year when beautiful red, white, and pink roses bloom all around Seoul.  It is such a lovely sight to see.  The variety that grows here in Seoul seems to be a type of hanging/climbing rose.  Most of the rose bushes have been planted along lattice frames or walls so that there is a symphony of mostly red all around the neighborhoods and streets of this large and crowded city. 

The roses of Seoul have a special place in my heart as I moved here 5 years ago on May 22 and I distinctly remember how beautiful they were.  When I leave Korea I will miss this time of year.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What to expect when you are pregnant in South Korea: Going to the OBGYN

You might be surprised by a number of things when you go to an OBGYN in SK:
1. The amount of tests you will be offered.
2. The "wand" ultrasound which will be given up to about 10 weeks.  (It is not painful BTW). Here
3.  The fact that you can get an ultrasound + pictures for the low cost of 17,700 KRW (around $15.00 US) everytime you go to see the doctor and 3D ultrasounds + pictures for around 45,000 KRW (around $40.00 US).

These prices are for regular Korean OBGYN clinics.  If you go to English-speaking clinics or the large hospitals you will be paying much much more.  I go to MOTAE (02-888-0204) which is located on the corner of the Seoul National University Subway Station.  There is an excellent doctor there who is very helpful and who speaks near-perfect English - Dr. Kim (a man).

TESTS: (the weeks are approximate and costs as of 2012)
First visit - The wand ultrasound + urine pregnancy test + pap smear
8 weeks - STD Blood Test
12 weeks - Nuchal Scan + Blood test for down syndrome
15 weeks - Quad Test (Blood Test)
20 weeks - Level 2 Scan (Ultrasound) - 47,000 KRW

Note: If any of these scans or blood tests come back with positive results for a chromosonal defect you will be offered an  amniocentesis which is a long needle that will be inserted through your stomach to obtain amniotic fluid -  the cost ranges from around 600,000 KRW to 1,000,000 KRW depending on the clinic and doctor. You can refuse to take any of these tests.

24 weeks - Glucose Test (Blood and Urine Test) - 36,000 KRW
28 weeks - 3D scan (Ultrasound)  - 50,700 KRW
30 weeks - Regular checkup + sonogram - 17,700 KRW
32 weeks - Regular checkup + sonogram - 17,700 KRW
34 weeks - Regular checkup + sonogram + hemoglobin blood test + urine test - 35,000 KRW
36 weeks - Regular checkup + songram + non-stress test - 45,000 KRW
37 weeks - Regular checkup + songram + non-stress test - 45,000 KRW
38 weeks - Regular checkup + songram + non-stress test - 45,000 KRW

Delivery + 2 night stay - 240,000 KRW
Pediatric check-up + Baby's BCG shot - 100,000 KRW

Vitamin Information:
- up until 13 weeks you will be told to take a pre-natal vitamin with folic acid, after this time it is up to you whether or you want to continue or not.
- after 13 weeks you will be advised to take iron and Omega 3 supplements - you can buy these either at your clinic or at a pharmacy nearby.
- you can receive free supplements from your local bogeonso (gu office) (apparently you can also get free clothes, soaps, creams, ect. for your baby).

500,000 KRW KB Mom Card (고운맘카드):
- If you have health insurance in SK and are pregnant you can apply for the 500,000KRW KB Card which is basically free money that can be used at your OBGYN.
- To apply you must get a letter from your clinic indicating that you are pregnant.
- Take this letter + your alien registration to any KB bank.
- Once there a clerk will help you fill out the application form and give you a card that looks exactly like a bank or credit card.  You must make an account with the bank first.  I believe you must put 5,000KRW into your account, or else it costs 5,000KRW to set it up (one of those).
- You then use it at your clinic like you would a credit card.
- You then can use it everytime you go to the clinic for an amount up to 60,000KRW a day.
- The card becomes valid the day after you register for it.
- The 500,000KRW amount comes into effect April 01, 2012.
- The balance of your remaining credit can be found at the bottom of the clinic receipt under 잔액.

Finding Out Your Baby's Sex
- It's illegal for doctors in Korea to tell you the sex of your baby before 20 weeks.
- Nevertheless they will probably give you a hint such as "Your baby is handsome" or they will let you see the ultrasound and you can figure it out for yourself

Monday, March 26, 2012

South Korean Vaccination Schedule and Free Vaccinations from the Gu Office

Part of this information is from a friend of mine living in SK and the rest is from my vaccination booklet (which will be given to you on your baby's first visit to the doctor):

Vaccination Schedule:
Week 1: Hep B
0~4 weeks: BCG
1 month: Hep B
2 months: DTaP, Polio, Hib, PCV (Pneumococcal), Rotavirus
4 months: DTaP, Polio, Hib, PCV (Pneumococcal), Rotavirus
6 months: Hep B, DTaP, Polio, Hib, PCV (Pneumococcal), Rotavirus
after 6 months: influenza, once a year
12~15 months: chickenpox, MMR, Hib, PCV (Pneumococcal)
12~23 months: Japanese encephalitis, Hep A
15~18 months: DTap
4~6 years: DTap, Polio, MMR
6 years: Japanese Encephalitis
11~12 years: Td (dyptheria & tetanus); HPV
12 years: Japanese encephalitis

Free Vaccinations Offered by Your Local Gu Office (available to any child with South Korean National Health Insurance)

B형 - Hep B
소아마피- Polio
수두 - Chicken pox
일본 뇌염- Japanese Encephalitis

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 29, 2012 - Planting Has Started

I was out hanging the laundry today when I heard a rustling of plastic come from the locally-owned gardners' plots.  To my surprise I saw that an ajumma had started planting what looked like lettuce?  Maybe not as lettuce seems delicate anyway the 2012 gardening has started!  Seems a bit early to me but the weather is calling for a high of 10 this Thursday and a high of 12 next Tuesday.  Happy planting everyone!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Samsung Books: Excellent Korean and English Resources for Toddlers

I've been very impressed with Samsungbooks English and Korean educational books and toys for my toddler.  The prices are very reasonable - for example their sticker books go for around 4,800 KRW and are very well made and kid-friendly. 

I have not actually bought any of the resources online but you can check em out Here.   I've been able to find samsungbook products at the local Bandi and Luni's bookstore.  On the website you can find the resources in the pictures I have attached under Infant.

My son loves playing with the ABCs, sticker books, and blocks because they are challenging for him.  He hasn't gotten tired of any of them yet and he's been playing with them for quite some time.  Even though most of the resources are in Korean doesn't mean you can't use them in English.  Whenever we do a Korean sticker book together I just use English cause well I don't want my son to speak Korean like me@@ kkkkk  There are English sticker books availabe as well  - we've been using this series.

These sticker books are pure quality.  Children can learn shapes, colors, words, numbers all at the same time.

J's absolute favorite.  We play a game where he takes one of the small letters above and finds the same larger letter on our floor mat. 

This game is a bit challenging for J but he can do it with a bit of help.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Preparing for a Child’s Hospital Stay in South Korea

The South Korean Health System:
The system is private meaning it is not free.  Korean National Health Insurance makes hospital stays reasonable – for example a 3 day stay due to pneumonia (including food + room + medicine + check-ups) costs around 180,000 KRW ($160.00 USD), and a 7 day stay for children’s heart surgery will cost around 3,000,000 KRW ($2,600.00 USD). 
If you have children and are staying in Korea for a number of years you should consider getting private insurance as well. We pay 130,000 KRW ($110.00 USD) a month for an all-in-one private health and life insurance and get 100% coverage.  We use무배당 하이라이프 퍼팩트패 키지 .
Check out this Seoul Global Help Center Link for a detailed explanation of Korean National Health Care Insurance. 
Medi-givers NOT Caregivers:
In South Korean hospitals nurses’only roles are to pass out meds and give needles. They do not help patients go to the bathroom, eat, clean up, get dressed, take meds, or anything like that.  That means you’ve got to be with your child 24-7 and if you are going in by yourself, then you’d best ask someone to come by and help you out. 
My Hospital Story: Last time we were at the ‘Pil my son coughed so hard he puked all over the place and myself.  I buzzed the nurse, she came and said OK but never came back.  So I cleaned everything up while trying to take care of my sick young son.  30 minutes later the cleaning lady came and washed the floor, 45 minutes later a lady came to change my bedding.  The same thing happened to my MIL the next day. 
What is it like?
For me going to the hospital with my child is no longer a big deal (done it 4 times, plus 1 for MIL, plus 2 for myself@@).  There’s always lots to entertain my son with and I don’t have to cook meals or clean the house^^. All the kids in the ward run around, play games, eat snacks, and watch TV.  It’s really fun for them.

There's always lots for kids to do on the children's ward.
 It can be very tiring for the caregiver though and it’s a good idea to get someone to watch your child while you go out and get some exercise or fresh air. It’s also best to have someone come by everyday and collect your dirty laundry and bring fresh towels, snacks, ect.

Collectivist vs. Individualistic
I was reflecting on how different Korean culture is from Canadian.  In Canada, kids stay in the hospital by themselves and the parents drop by during visiting hours.  This situation would be absolutely unacceptable in Korea where co-sleeping goes on for years and years.
 Koreans have a particular dislike for loneliness, aloneness.  They are a very ‘together’ (collectivist) people.  So when you go to the hospital expect to see fathers sleeping on cots, mothers, children, grandparents all surrounding/ sitting on/ a child’s bed with snacks and food containers everywhere.  There are no visitor’s hours and family and friends can come and go as they please. 
The Deal with Rooms:
Once you get to the hospital you will have a choice of a 1,2,4, or 6 person room(s). Most people want to stay in the 6 person room since it is the cheapest option so sometimes there will be none available.  If that happens you have to stay in the 4 person room until a 6 person is available.  Once when we went in for our son’s heart surgery they told us there were no 4 or 6 person rooms available!  Luckily that got worked out.
Cost per day in KRW (approximately)

*6 Bedroom Rules:
The prime spot is next to the window, as it’s the farthest from all the noise and has lots of extra space due to the window sills, the next best spot is next to the bathrooms, and the worst is in the middle.  Newcomers are always placed in the middle, and when a spot opens up on either side, they go there.  After you are placed in the #2 or #1 spot you can get comfy as you won’t be moved anymore.  Of course if you want to stay in the middle that’s OK too.

The prime spot - a window position in a 6 person room.
What It’s Like To Be the Only Foreigner:
It’s not a big deal really, the basic questions are: 1. Where are you from? 2. Is your husband Korean? 3. Does your child speak both English and Korean? 4. How old is your child? 5. What is wrong with your child?  6. How long have you been in Korea?
The most surprising thing is that everyone remembers me but I don’t remember them at all.  On our last stay a woman called out my son’s name and said hello but I had no idea who she was.  Then she went on to explain that she remembered me from a year and a half ago. …..I have absolutely no recollection of her.  The same thing happened at the local doctor’s office.  A woman approached me and told me she and her daughter were in the bed next to us the last time we stayed at the hospital.  This embarrassed me a little because I wonder if she was the one who I asked to turn her music down…..  A lot of the nurses mentioned to me how last time I was here my Korean wasn’t so great but now a couple of months later it’s so much better. 
The moral of the story is that as a foreigner you stand out like a sore thumb so try to be on your best behavior. 
What the Hospital Provides:
The children’s ward usually has the following: TV room, play room, library, showers, Internet kiosks, and drink machines.  There is a kitchen area to wash dishes, get drinking water, microwave food, and throw away garbage.  Dish soap and rags are not provided.  Wheel chairs and strollers with special attachments for IVs are also provided but can be scarce.  If you have a light and portable stroller you may want to bring it if you child will not be needing an IV.
****It will make your life so much better if you bring a WiBro connector so you can connect to the Internet on your own devices – we use the Olleh Egg Here.

Each room will have showers, fridges, a TV, and a bathroom or two. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and hand soap will be provided.
Your space will have a bed, cabinet with a lock, and a few coat hangers (see picture above).  Cots are found under every hospital bed so parents or friends can sleep in your allotted space.  Sheets, pillow cases, and one blanket are provided.   
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided by the hospital if you ask for it.  Be sure to ask the nurse responsible for you to order meals as soon as you arrive.  If you have to cancel lunch or the meals all together you also do this by telling the nurse in charge of you.

The cost of one meal is 4,000 to 6,000 ($3-5 USD) and if you are with a child you can just share one meal rather than ordering two.  There are usually 2 options given and you must write down which one you prefer.  If you can’t do it on your own, ask a neighbor not a nurse.  There are usually restaurants in the basements of hospitals.

A typical hospital meal.  One is usually enough for both child and parent.
Hospital gowns will be provided for your children but they are usually in rough shape.  I always bring pants for my son as the hospital ones are too light and big.
What To Bring for Yourself and Child:
Absolutely Necessary
Need but can live without
Do not bring
·         Carrier
·         Coffee, yogurts, snacks (You can buy this in the basement where there will be marts and 7-11s but it may be impossible to buy something, better safe than sorry).
·         Anything clunky, large and unweilding such as suitcases.  We always  bring all of our stuff in a Bumbo bag because it's big but can be folded up easily and doesn't take up much space.
·         Ipad, Computer, or Iphone with children’s games and movies
·         WiFi/ WiBro connector
·         Books and toys (There are children’s libraries and toys in the big hospitals).
·        Expensive/nice clothing
·         Water bottle, plastic cups.  (Drinking water is provided).
·         Tissue and soaps (Toilet paper and hand soap are provided by the hospital).
·         Smelly foods (^^)
·         Diapers, underwear, wipes, socks, pants, and  comfy shoes for your child.  Plastic bib.
·         Stuffed toys, extra blankets and pillows for your child.

·         Towels, face cloths, shampoo, conditioner, bags for dirty clothes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, moisturizer, ect.
·         Stroller – parents prop the front part up on the IV stand and push them around – not sure if this is safe or not.  The hospital will provide special IV strollers.

·         Comfy clothes for yourself and a few pair of very comfy sandals/Crocs.  Hospitals are usually hot so bring lighter clothing. 

·         Blankets and pillows for hubby or whomever is staying with you.

No worries, every room has a fridge so you can store your breast milk easily, bed areas have electrical outlets, kitchens provide areas to clean pumps, and have sanitization machines.  I was told that I could not breastfeed my son after his heart surgery but I did anyway.  The nurses did not say anything to me about it.
Korea and Safety
I'll never understand why Koreans are so blasé about safety, especially the safety of children.  This is a picture of a open window on the 7th floor of the children's ward.  A small child could easy fall through  it.  I think I remember something on the news about a child falling from a hospital window a few months back.  Unfortunately my Korean is not good enough to fully understand what happened.  Shocking though, very shocking!

View from the 7th floor of the children's ward@@ 

Raising Children in South Korea: Ideals Governing Childraising

Before I came to Korea I believed that Asians in general were very strict parents. I think most Westerners stereotype Asian parents as super pushy demanding hardcore dictators whose only goal in life is to get their children into the best universities so they can become doctors or lawyers.  You can see this stereotype on a recent Glee Season 3 Episode 3 where Mike Chang receives an A- or Asian F and his father goes ballistic.

While there is truth to the stereotype - Korean parents spend loads of money on their children's education and try their darndest to get them into the best universities around the world - it does not mean that they are very strict when it comes to childraising.  In fact, the opposite is true and it causes a lot of problems in our home and in other homes where Western and Eastern "deep culture" (Hanley, 1999) ideals of childraising are converging.

To illustrate my point I'll share a couple of my own experiences with you:

Gomo #1

A couple of months ago our family went to visit our ‘Gomo’ (my husband’s paternal aunt) for the first time in a satelite city near Seoul.  While there my child was acting like a typical toddler.  He was swinging a broom around lots of glass, playing with glass figurines, throwing his pens everywhere, screaming at the top of his lungs.  I kept on telling him ‘no’ but all the adults there, excluding my husband, kept on stopping me and encouraged my son to do whatever he liked.  There came a point when he purposefully peed on me and I lost it and put him in time out and very sternly talked to him.
Well, my Gomo was so upset with me.  She gave me the look of death, picked up my son, and took him out of the house.  Then she came back with him to get something, I tried to get J, but she wouldn’t let me touch him.  Remember – I had just met her that day.
I felt really embarrassed at that time, like I had committed a serious crime.  I wondered what they thought of me and I also felt angry that Gomo just took my son and wouldn’t let me touch him. I wondered if my mother-in-law would chew me out later or if my husband would give me what for, for losing face or something.
In the end, everything was fine.  No one chewed me out, Gomo gave me back J eventually with a smile on her face.
Gomo #2
In the summer we went to visit another Gomo in Jellonam-do.  Now for the past 2 years my son has been taking a nap at 1pm but as soon as he got to Gomo's house he knew he wouldn't have to listen to me anymore so everytime I took him for his nap he would scream and cry his lungs out. 
 Of course Gomo came into the bedroom and gave me a slap like I was an evil mother and took my son out of the room.  Gomo's husband gave me what for "He's just a baby.  He should do what he wants.  He doesn't want to sleep so let him play."
Well the results were that three days late my little son was a monster.  He started crying all the time, hitting people, and in general was miserable.  I could tell he was so tired but there was nothing I could do about it. 
Sleep Training
If any of you have ever tried to sleep train your child then you can feel my pain.  I've been co-sleeping with J for about two years but am getting real tired of it.  I have tried on several occasions to get him to sleep by himself which always results in his crying and a rescue from daddy or grandmother@@ 

So there are two things here: 1. Children should be treated gently and be allowed to do whatever they want. 2. Elders can do whatever they want and feel they have the say in how a child is raised, even if they are not related to you or don’t know you.  
I don't disagree with the way Koreans raise their children.  It is a very gentle, loving approach to childrearing.  I always feel good when J is at a Korean home or around Koreans because I know that no one will scold him or give him a dirty look for acting like a child.
BUT I have been raised in the West where there are very strict rules regarding children and I find that I cannot accept the Korean way totally.  I like J to have a routine, I like him to be respectful, I don't think he should do whatever he wants, and I believe he should sit in time out if he is out of control. 
What is going on is that I am experiencing an aspect of the "deep culture" of Korea - something that most outsiders are not aware of.   Hanley uses the illustration of an iceberg to show the difference between surface culture and deep culture.  He (1999) states" ..the journey toward cultural competence is both lifelong and painful" (p. 9).  I agree that it can be painful but very interesting as well. 

Hanley, J. (1999). Beyond the tip of the iceberg: Five stages toward cultural competence.  Reaching Today's Youth, National Education Service, 9 - 12.