Various medical institutions in Korea, including private hospitals, clinics, general hospitals, oriental hospitals, and district-operated community/public health centers, are available. By working at IBS full time, you will have medical coverage as part of the national four insurance programs (4대보험). The government sets insurance coverage amounts for every kind of treatment. Hospitals can charge up to a certain amount beyond that. The different between the insurance coverage and what the hospital asks for, is what you will pay. Some procedures, such as getting teeth implants, will not be covered by insurance.
Medical facilities are categorized into three types based on the number of medical departments and the size of medical facilities. While you can get procedures done at the hospital of your choosing, if you want to do a procedure at a large hospital without obtaining a referral letter, you cannot receive medical insurance coverage. It is significantly cheaper to go to a smaller hospital or clinic, get a referral letter, and then seek treatment at the large hospital for a more affordable price.
Hospitals in Korea are trying to be more careful with medical information as that information can be very personal to a number of people. Many hospitals and clinics will have signboards displaying the names of patients and who is next in line. Some of these will be automatically censored to protect the privacy of people waiting. For example, the name 홍길동 might be displayed as 홍*동 as a courtesy to 길동. These systems were built for names only three characters long, so the name Richard Andrew Moore might be displayed as R*chard Andrew Moore. Or if they put the order of your name to match your Alien Residency Card, it will be displayed as M*ore Richard Andrew.
These types of facilities include private hospitals and public health centers. First-tier medical facilities offer a limited number of medical departments. They provide comprehensive but more general medical services aimed at the treatment and prevention of early symptoms of diseases. Their prices will be the lowest.
Second-tier medical facilities offer specialists and more than four medical departments. They provide medical services for both inpatients and outpatients. In general, these types of facilities have between 30 and 500 beds. Emergency treatment is available.
General hospitals or hospitals affiliated with medical schools are categorized as third-tier medical facilities. These types of facilities offer specialists in a variety of different medical departments. They have more than 500 hospital beds and offer specialized medical services for emergencies.
As the number of international residents increases in Korea, larger hospitals have begun to open international clinics. The name in English and Korean will vary from hospital to hospital, but the general concept is you can see a doctor who speaks a high level of English or another language, or an interpreter will travel the hospital with you so you can meet with the specialist you need, even if they cannot speak your language.
The language aspect in these international clinics exempts them from national pricing restrictions, so they can charge higher prices. Additionally, many hospitals expect these patients to come without national insurance. Depending on the health issue, your Korean ability, and your what you are comfortable with, you might want to go to a hospital with a friend who speaks Korean so your treatment prices are lower. And while many hospital administrative staff outside of large hospitals have limited English ability, many doctors have trained overseas and can use English to talk with you.
As the lists of hospitals in the cities where IBS operates are rather lengthy for this page, for a list of hospitals, please download the book Living in Korea at the bottom of this page, and then go to the Appendix section.
In any and all emergency situations, call 119, no area code is required. When you call, your location will automatically be identified. If you do not speak Korean, the emergency operator will connect an interpreter from the Korea National Tourism Organization (KNTO) so no language barrier exists.
The content on this page has been taken from the 2019 edition of Living in Korea. The book was created in support of our international researchers and has been completely rewritten. The book is available as a 6 MB download here and in paperback form in IBS Centers.