Saturday, July 4, 2009

Korean Traditional Medicine market

Thursday, after work, my boyfriend decided he wanted to fill a prescription for some traditional oriental medicine that he had had written up for him a while back. The best place in Seoul to find traditional Korean medicine is at 경동시장 (kyungdong market) near Jegi-dong station. As it turns out, it was only about a 5 minute drive or so from my job in Wangsimni. This market sells many assorted things, but its specialty is traditional medicine.

The first problem he realized he had, was that his prescription was written completely in Chinese. He had it written for him at a branch of a famous Beijing clinic located in Bangkok, Thailand. So... the average Korean wouldn't probably be able to decipher the prescription.

We walked around for a while, too scared to ask anyone anything. Finally he found one shop, a 한약방 (literally "Korean medicine room", basically a pharmacy), that he thought looked promising. I'm not sure how he knew it would be the right shop to go to, but it just so happened that the pharmacist/doctor type person that worked there was originally from China (but his Korean was amazing), so he could read the prescription.


The Chinese doctor was very nice, and they discussed the various components of the prescription. Traditional medicine generally contains various materials that are combined into one drink that you should take once or twice a day. The ingredients are extracted using a big steam machine that I don't really know how it works. After they discussed the prescription for a while, the doctor/pharmacist suggested that he quickly check him out for free in the back room of the pharmacy where a little office/exam room was set up.

Though this man was not a 한의원 (han-ui-won) or a licensed traditional Korean doctor, he was obviously well trained, probably in China. For this reason he probably can not have a real doctor's office of his own. The entire check up consisted of only listening to the pulse for a few minutes on each hand and looking at the tongue.

They agreed on the prescription. He got everything that had been prescribed to him, minus one thing that was too expensive. It wound up costing 80,000 for a month's supply of medicine (if you take two per day). The medicine was packaged into little plastic bags that he drinks every day.

Next, my boyfriend thought it would be funny if the doctor gave ME an examination. I didn't really like the idea, but I went along with it, just for the story's sake. He listened to my pulse for a few minutes and looked at my tongue too. He proclaimed that I have a weak heart and that I am easily surprised. It's quite possible he's right. Who knows.

So embarrassed....

Anyway, the market is pretty interesting, it's worth checking out. It's actually huge, I only saw a small part of it. Not only does it have traditional medicine, but it also has very cheap food prices. We got 4 zucchinis for 1,000 won (0.78 USD). Now we have so much zucchini we've been trying to throw zucchini into everything for the past week. Anyway, to get there, take line 1 to Jegi-dong station.

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