The worst thing that can happen to you while on a vacation is to get sick. This is especially true when you are in Jeju-do, South Korea’s largest and most beautiful island. This is one of those vacation spots where you wouldn’t like to spend another minute inside your hotel room because there are just so many places to see and things to do outside. Well, the local government doesn’t want you inside your hotel room sick in bed either, and so it put up foreigner-friendly hospitals to guarantee that you maintain good health in Jeju-do.
What does it mean for a hospital to be foreigner-friendly? In Korea, not many people can speak good English and most of the signposts are written in Korean. Imagine getting sick and being unable to enjoy your vacation in this island-paradise that you check yourself in the hospital only to find out you can’t find your way around it because everything is in Korean and no one speaks English. How frustrating can that be?
In 2008, the Jeju Provincial Government granted permits to a few medical centers as foreigner-only establishments. The idea is not to shoo away locals but to provide special attention to foreign patients who otherwise would find it extremely difficult to find help. These medical centers, clinics or hospitals have signs written in English, Chinese and Japanese, and equipped with multi-lingual staffers and interpreters. One of these centers is Jeju National University Hospital.
Located near the Ara Primary School, Jeju National University Hospital has employed the services of doctors, nurses and admin personnel who can speak English relatively well. The physicians can talk to you and explain your sickness in very good English, but some of the personnel may not be as good. This means that although this hospital has done great lengths to make itself foreigner-friendly, it is still best to tag along a Korean friend or companion to translate. Even Koreans who speak high-level English may find Western names unfamiliar (as much as you find Korean names dizzying, believe it or not). Although there may still be challenges, you would definitely appreciate the fact that efforts have been focused to hire foreigner-friendly staff to make sure Jeju-do health care is effective for you.
You can reach Jeju National University Hospital by taking buses 37 and 502 from Jeju City. It is a short taxi ride from Shi-cheong. Other foreigner-friendly hospitals in the island are Halla Hospital in Shin Jeju, Seogwipo Medical Center (10 minutes away by foot from downtown Seogwipo), Hanmaeum General Hospital and Hankook Hospital, as well as two dental clinics, Boston Dental Clinic and Yein Dentist. All are equipped with English, Chinese, and Japanese staffers and signs.
The volcanic island of Jeju-do in southern Korea is a place you definitely would not want to get sick in. There are amazing land formations and tourist attractions to enjoy. While other countries in the world desire to be hosts of at least one UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, Jeju-do alone has three: Manjanggul Lava-tube (7-km long cave that is home to the world’s largest lava column), Seongsan Ilchubong volcano (also known as “Sunrise Peak” for its picturesque sunrise view) and Mount Halla (South Korea’s highest peak). For these three sites alone you should make sure to check your health in Jeju-do.