I've been sick for the past 3 weeks. I woke up one morning and started coughing a really deep dry cough that made my head ache and lungs burn. After a week of that, I went to the pharmacy, told the pharmacist I was coughing and got a box of $2 medicine. There's only enough medicine in the box for about 2 and 1/2 days, so pretty soon I was back saying "Do, chuseyo" which means "More, please." Now I was no longer waking up in the middle of the night coughing, but I was now waking up in the middle of the night clearing all the snot from my nose so that I could breathe. By this time, my throat, already sore from doing so much talking in the classroom, was swollen to the point that it hurt to swallow, yet alone talk above a normal speaking voice in a nonraspy way. I was still having horrible headaches and sleeping for 10 hours a night, so I finally decided to take advantage of the fact that I have healthcare and go see the doctor.
During prep period the other day, I left school at 2:10 to go to the doctor's office on the 3rd floor of a building on the other side of the block. I walk in to the reception area where there's only one other guy waiting and hand my healthcare book to the staff. They type some things in the computer, ask "A-e-my Wu-lp-uh?" then lead me over to an area of the waiting room where they take my temperature and blood pressure. I sit down to wait for the doctor and start to take out an essay to mark while I wait. I don't even have time to get the essay book and a pen out of my bag before the nurse is motioning for me to come into the doctor's office.
The doctor, who speaks very good English, looks at my throat (as the nurse pulls my head back), listens to me breathe, asks me some questions, types some things into his computer, and then says "I think you have acute bronchitis. I will give you some medicine." The nurse shows me back out to the reception area. Two minutes later, she gives me a computer printout of my prescription and says, "Doctor is 3000 won."
I go down to the pharmacy on the first floor of the same building and give them the prescription. Five minutes later, they give me a 3 day supply of various colored and sized drugs, all nicely packaged into individual servings, all for the low price of 4900 won. I walked back to school and came off the elevator at 2:40.
As an American used to a very slow and very expensive healthcare system, it is amazing that I can go to both the doctor and the pharmacy and be finished in only 30 minutes and only have to pay the equivalent of $8. That is the good thing about getting sick in Korea, the bad thing is that I got sick from being in Korea during the annual Yellow Dust season where the air is filled with yellow dust pollution that gets blown across the sea from the Gobi Desert in China.