Seoul at a Glance
Healthcare and Hospitals in Seoul
Medical facilities are categorized into three types according to standard and size.
- First-tier facilities include private hospitals and public health centers. They are usually limited in their number of medical departments and offer services to treat early symptoms of illness.
- Second-tier facilities offer services by medical specialists in more than four departments. They usually offer between 30 and 500 beds for the treatment of in-patients and out-patients alike. Emergency medical services are available as well.
- Third-tier facilities include general hospitals and hospitals belonging to medical schools. They offer services by medical specialists, medical care in different departments and over 500 hospital beds. Specialized emergency services are also available.
Before you enter a hospital for medical care, you should make sure to go to a first-tier or second-tier facility for help or to get a referral. Third-tier hospitals will, of course, also accept you as a patient if you do not bring a referral. However, it is possible that your health insurance will not cover the costs and you will be stuck with high medical fees.
Medical Referral and Payment
In most cases you have to pay your medical costs upfront before you can make a claim with your insurance company. You can make a payment at the administrational office of your hospital or medical center. While most of them accept credit cards, some of them may not, so make sure to bring enough cash.
In case of an emergency, you can dial 1339 to reach the hotline of the Emergency Medical Information Center. They have trained medical personnel on call 24-7 who can give basic medical instructions over the phone or call an ambulance if necessary. The hotline is available in English, Chinese and Japanese.
As we have mentioned above, there are a vast number of medical institutions which offer top-notch care and services. Specialized services in fields such as ophthalmology, dentistry, plastic surgery or infertility treatment are available as well. Many hospitals and medical centers now also have international staff that cater to the expat community. These include:
- Asan Medical Center
- Cha General Hospital - Foreign Clinic
- Hangang Sacred Heart Hospital
- International Healthcare Center
- International Health Service – SMC
- Seoul St. Mary's Hospital
- Seoul National University Hospital - International Healthcare Service
For more expat-friendly hospitals as well as contact information for the clinics mentioned above, please refer to Allianz Worldwide Care.
Vaccinations and Safety
You may be happy to learn that it is not necessary to get specific vaccinations for your time in Seoul. However, it cannot hurt to stop by your family doctor and refresh some of those standard vaccinations such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio and hepatitis A and B. Keep in mind that if you spend a lot of time outside of the big city, other vaccinations will indeed make sense. Unfortunately, the risk of catching typhoid and Japanese encephalitis is still high in rural areas.
It is currently relatively safe to travel to South Korea. Despite its close proximity to the North Korean border, the conflict between the two countries has had little effect on expats living in Seoul. However, it is, of course, always possible for political tensions to reemerge.
Seoul is a very safe city, and violent crimes are rare. As in every major metropolis around the world, however, you should use your common sense to avoid obvious dangers.