Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Health (page 1 of 3)

Korean Health Care

As it turns out, after visiting the doctor again today (the third time in less than a week) I am not only suffering from Acute Bronchitis (I’ve never coughed as much in my life as I have this past week; I’ve never coughed so hard that it made my back hurt) but also Chronic Sinusitis.

I only had about two hours to get ready for school (prepare some notes for my lecture) after I had taken my wife Aon and our son, Jeremy Aaron to Incheon International Airport, but with an hour to spare, I thought it would be a good idea to stop in at my doctor’s office and let him know I was still ill.

In Korea, you can walk into any clinic, hand over National Health Insurance card, and wait to see the doctor. Waiting rooms are usually packed after lunch, so when I got to the clinic I have been going to for the past couple of years, I thought it was going to be a long wait. It wasn’t.

I told the doctor I was still suffering from a very bad cough and that for three days I had either a migraine or some sinus-type headache. I was making good time when I saw that I had 45 minutes to get to school for my 2:30 class.

The doctor shook his head and told me he thought there was a more serious problem and wanted me to have some X-rays taken.

Three X-rays later, the doctor told me that I was also suffering from Chronic Sinusitis and that he would put me on four weeks of meds.

And the cost of all this?

Doctor’s visit and X-rays:  9,000 won (about $8.00)

Pharmacy:  13,000 won (about $11.00)

I got to school with 10 minutes to spare.

And now that I’ve got your attention, please head on over to Lulu and check out some of the books I have written, especially my Korean War novel War Remains as well as my short collection of fiction, Damaged Goods.

The shape of things to come…again

After a four-month hiatus, I’ve returned to my local gym and not a moment too soon. Talk about being out of shape–well, I do a lot of walking here, a couple of miles a day–but back on the running machine and step master again I had to start out slow (with plenty of stretching before and after) to avoid injury. And Yoga–lots of Yoga has helped a lot.

Last year at this time I was running 10 kilometers in an hour. Today I got back up to 4 kilometers or 2.4 miles in 30 minutes. That’s still pretty good for a 52-year-old but I do want to get back up to 10 kilometers again.

I also need to get my weight back down again. Put on a few extra pounds this year, but as was the case the other times I worked out, in a few weeks I was able to lose all the weight I put on.

Sardines? Who would have thought?

After reading this article via Yahoo, I’m sold on this healthy little fish.

Packed in like sardines is going to take on an entirely different meaning.

I’m off to Home plus now (a hyper market in Daejeon) to see if there are any cans of this healthy fish on the shelf!

Wonder how they might taste on pizza.

Want to prevent H1NI? Wear Red Underwear

Back in 1993, I knew this one Korean woman quite well who had just gotten a job. One night, not long after she had just started working, she stopped over my apartment with a small gift for me: red underwear.

“What’s with the red underwear?” I asked her.

Actually, they were red long johns, but underwear just the same. I had this thing about underwear in Korea, ever since that December Sunday in 1990 when I was trying to buy underwear at the Lotte Super Store (Lotte is a very department store in Korea) and found out that in Korea, at least back then, underwear for men were also called panties. Now, my Korean lady friend Suk-won was giving me a present of red long johns.

“In Korea, it is customary for people to buy their parents or their boyfriends and girlfriends red underwear when they get their first paycheck,” Suk-won told me.

“Why red?”

She couldn’t tell me exactly why it had to be red and how the custom got started.

Now it seems that in Korea, that old-fashioned red thermal underwear is back in vogue this year as winter sets in. And not only are these long johns keeping people warm, the “the traditional body-hugging winter wear is becoming a popular choice again as consumers want both good luck and protection from the fast-spreading H1N1 flu” according to an article in one of the English-language newspapers in Korea.

”Red is a color of good luck and success,” said Kim Eun-hyuk, a merchandiser at Lotte Department Store, “So shoppers seem to be choosing the color over other options to chase away the flu and bring in money during tough economic times like now.”

In this past month Long John underwear sales have soared by 40% largely due to the influenza A virus. According to experts (which ones, the paper did not say) wearing thermal underwear raises the body temperature by an average of three to four degrees Celsius, which works as a good protection against the flu.

As for why underwear is a traditional gift when someone gets a new job, I asked my students, but they could not come up with a valid reason. One suggestion was that back in the 1950s and 1960s when times were rough in Korea, red clothing; at least dyed clothing was more expensive than traditional white and brown clothing.

Another possibility is when sons and daughters moved to Seoul and found work, they were worried about their moms and dads in the country so they sent them underwear when they got their first paychecks. As one of my students suggested, underwear was given because it would protect their parents’ bodies on cold winter nights.

How to Get Rid of Man Boobs

How to Get Rid of Man Boobs.


That’s right, Man Boobs–nature’s way of telling a man that gravity works–at least when it comes to one’s pectorals.

If you are inflicted with man boobs, you know that it isn’t any laughing matter. Before you fret and run out to see if there is such a thing as a Manssiere or The Bro, read this article for some tips and how you can get rid of man boobs.

Swine Flu Paranoia in Korea: Alert Status

It was just a matter of time in South Korea when the Swine Flu paranoia reached a new high prompting authorities to raise the alert status to a “red level” the highest level.


There’s been at least one or two articles a day in the Korea Times—the newspaper that I read daily—about Swine Flu whether it is a person succumbing to the flu or worries that the flu will spread when the weather turns colder (it got really cold here yesterday, down to the lower 20’s, but the temperature was back up in the low 60’s today).


There have been 42 deaths attributed to H1N1, but of these, only one person, a 42-year-old-man died without suffering any other serious ailments.


Some reports say that over 8,800 people a day or being diagnosed with the flu—up from 4,400 the previous week; however, the paranoia has caused some misdiagnoses. One of the office staff at my school was misdiagnosed with H1N1 and sent home for a week.


People are scared to go anywhere. According to an article in the Korea Times yesterday, “airlines, rail, hotels and amusement parks are just some of the businesses hammered by the growing number of people canceling their visits” and even the fear of contracting the flu is “resulting in empty tables at neighborhood restaurants and pubs.”


This morning when I went to school, only one of the office staff was there (there are usually five) as well as the student who is in charge of the copy center. Nonetheless, I had six out of seven students in my adult conversation class.


Much of the paranoia and excessive fear can be attributed to the media that has been reporting, not to mention painting a dismal picture of the spread of H1N1 in Korea. It has got a lot of people nervous and even someone with the symptoms of a common cold has them running to the doctor. Almost everyone you see on the streets is wearing a mask over their mouths and noses; Walt Disney and Hello Kitty masks are a big hit with the youngsters and even some of my university students.


I wonder what it is like in other countries and what people are doing to cope with it as well as what they might think of the H1N1 paranoia here in Korea. Supposedly, it has become much more serious in Asia than in other countries.


Captain Carl’s Swine Flu Tip of the Day

Wash handsEver since the swine flu paranoia gripped Korea, I’ve been seeing all these posters and stickers in public restrooms showing people how to wash their hands. It’s a good idea to educate the public on hygiene, even though it’s the kind of hygiene that you’d think people should have been practicing in the first place.

Not to make light of these public service posters, but with all these steps for how to wash your hands, sounds more like a doctor scrubbing up for surgery and not someone to wash up for dinner.

But hey, let’s get some professional advice, in this case Captain Carl (the late, comedic great Phil Hartman) and Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) on how to wash your hands from this 1981 HBO special.


If you follow this advice, you won’t be a Mr. Bungle.

Losing weight while working out


Okay, so Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” has nothing to do with working out or losing weight other than the line repeated over and over, “and I’ll sweat, sweat, sweat, sweat, sweat…” which brings me to today’s fitness question: is it possible to lose weight while working out by sweating? For example, is it possible to lose, say two kilograms after a 60 minute, 9.6 kilometer run plus a 90-minute workout?

Now before you go running to Google to find the answers, let me share with you my weight loss today. When I went to gym and weighed myself before my workout I weighed in at 77.5 kilograms. I then ran 9.6 kilometers in 60 minutes followed by 45 minutes of sit-ups, push-ups and some yoga and then 30 minutes of weight training (today it was arms and chest using 15 kilogram dumbbells). When I weighed myself again, at the end of the workout, I was 75.25 kilograms.

Besides having an awesome workout today, are there any fitness gurus out there who want to field this one?

If not,  I hope you will enjoy the video. It is a classic!

What’s wrong with this picture?


What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll get to that later.

In the meantime…

Almost every day since Swine Flu paranoia has gripped South Korea there’s been at least one article in the Korea Times that’s Swine Flu-related.

Just today there was one about an entertainer who got the flu while performing in Japan and had to be hospitalized. Enough is enough, right?

I am happy to see people washing their hands more, but I was a little curious about what I saw at the food court at Home plus. There was a plastic bottle of some kind of green disinfectant (the bottle looked like the kind that Windex would come in) that customers would spray on their hands after eating. Hmm…I am not so sure about that—spraying it on your hands after eating. Anyway, after I watched a few people spray this lime green disinfectant or whatever it was on their hands, there was a communal towel for everyone to use to dry off the excess disinfectant from their hands. Hopefully, the disinfectant got all the nasty germs off their hands and the towel wipe was just going through the motions.

The weird thing about this was when I watched two workers put some metal cups (that people use for drinking water) into this cabinet. The workers were wearing plastic gloves—okay, that’s good—but when they finished filling up the cabinet with the cups, they took off their gloves and, you guessed it, sprayed their hands with the disinfectant. They didn’t use the communal towel, but instead waved their hands in the air to dry them.

In the bathroom I spotted a cartoon sticker telling people how to wash their hands—basically how much lather one should work up and how many revolutions and twists one should make wringing their hands to work up that lather.

Now if only Home plus would fix the hand dryer in the bathroom. Then again, some people here are in such a hurry that they have no time to dry their hands, so they walk out of the bathroom shaking their hands to dry them. It’s the old drip-dry method I guess.

But the piece de resistance of this post and the subject of the title is this photo that appeared in the Korea Times the other day about a patient getting a flu shot.

Take a look at this photo. Okay, so the camera angle is weird, making the nurse on the right to have some over-sized mutant-shaped hand and the other nurse appears to have her eyes closed, but take another look. What’s missing? Okay, let me be more specific. What are the two nurses, not wearing?

Look again.

Gloves. They are not wearing gloves.


Wonder if all this Swine Flu paranoia is making people a little too paranoid and careless.

DMZ Water: What’s in a name?

Laos 269Well, if you happen to enjoy drinking a bottle of DMZ water, it’s history.

I spotted this latest entry on the bottle water market in Korea and thought, “I’m surprised someone hasn’t come up this before.” Sure, drinking mineral water from Cheju Island might sound a bit more romantic and exotic, or mysterious like Icis from Lotte but both pale in comparison when they go up against mineral water from the DMZ.

To be sure, the name alone conjures up all kinds of historical connotations and images: the Korean War, infiltration tunnels, landmines, concertina wire, firefights, and the 1976 Axe Murder Incident.

At the same time, I have always thought the term DMZ was a bit a misnomer—demilitarized zone? You’ve got to be kidding, right? It’s all about the military, at least in how fortified each side has made the border. Nothing really demilitarized about it.

I haven’t come across any articles about mineral water being drawn from anywhere along the DMZ so it’s hard to ascertain if this water is indeed from the world’s most heavily fortified border or just the name. Of course DMZ rice, grown by South Korean farmers just south of the JSA (Joint Security Area), is supposed to be some of the best rice, if not the most expensive rice grown in Korea. Guess with landmines all around the fields that’s going to raise the price a couple hundred Won.

As for the water, it is only 750 Won (.50) for a small bottle.

And how does it taste?

Like any old mineral water.

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