Now, this post isn’t going to be nearly as informed as my last post. I really haven’t interacted too much with severe sickness here in Korean. I guess this post will be divided into three parts: contagious diseases, mental illness and other.

Contagious Diseases:

Like many high-population Asian countries, people in Korea wear masks when they are sick. Which is fairly considerate. When they cough or sneeze they don’t spread germs that will infect others. But I wonder if it helps fuel a germophobic culture. When I was training, fear of swine flu was “all the rage”. I was originally supposed to arrive in Korea in the summer but was pushed back until December because 1) The international job market was weak so people were choosing to stay in their positions and 2) There was such a major fear of swine flu that whole schools were closed down for weeks because none of the students were coming. That said… many students do not cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.

Mental Illness:

I haven’t seen too much of this in Korea, although I did see a young man with a clear mental illness on the subway and Koreans basically ignored him. Several of the lessons in CDI have mental illness related topics and I expected my students to have some preconceived notions about mental illnesses (not because they’re Korean, but because most people do). And they did but they were also pretty willing to talk about the topic and very open-minded about it. They really seemed to understand that mental illness is just like any disease, but it just affects the mind.


So I thought this story was interesting. It happened to one of my co-workers while he was in a subway station in Seoul. I’ll post what he wrote in his own (not censored) words:

“I heard a girl scream for help and when I ran over saw a crowd of people watching an old man having a seizure foaming from the mouth and twitching and stuff.. there was like 50 people just watching it was sad cuz some people were laughing, anyways by the time I got there his face started turning real purple cuz he couldnt breathe, so I ran in there and turned him to his side to get his tongue and spit out of his mouth.. then one dude was like wtf you doing you should just leave him alone but I told him to fuck off.. after putting to his side I could see he split open his head in the back from falling, but it was not too serious he got all the crap in his mouth out and he was able to breathe through his nose cuz but he had lock jaw.. but after he was able to breathe his face came to normal color.. finally the subway workers and the police came like 20 mins later… but shit was nutz I just remembered those things they taught you in elementary.. never thought I would puti it to use…”

What a crazy thing to see waiting for the subway. This isn’t so much Korean culture as just bystander culture as I’m sure people in other countries would have reacted similarly. But I do think it’s interesting a country so cautious about contagious diseases doesn’t (at least appear) to push for more education on other diseases and physical ailments. Also, random thought I just had: Suwon has a ton of exercise equipment in their parks that I often see people using. While it’s great to get people outside doing stuff, many people have pointed out that the exercises they have you doing probably don’t exercise much since the machines don’t offer a lot of resistance to make you work hard. I think they’re just “feel good” exercise machines.