LASIK/LASEK in Korea: A post for fellow expats

Do it.

Now that’s sorted…

1) Go to a “normal” clinic.  There are hospitals that cater to foreigners (i.e. Dream Eye Center, which charges around ₩1,900,000), and they will cost you roughly ₩700,000 more, or more.  I went to Bright St. Mary’s Eye Center, and the entire process cost me a cool ₩1,200,000 (which at the time was roughly equal to $1,000).  In Korea, more expensive does not always mean better, it just means they have a web designer who is proficient in English. (*edit: I had someone email me about being charged 1.8. When I made my appointment, I had a coT call and say I was coming because of the special listed on their website [www.oklasik.com]. So try that to avoid surcharges.)

2) You’ll save at least 2-grand versus if you did it in the States, where the minimum is around $3k and it increases with the strength of your prescription.  (One friend paid about $3500. Another, $6,000-7000.  She had really bad eyes.)

3) You’re charged a flat-rate.  In the U.S., as I just said, cost of surgery increases with strength of prescription.  In Korea, everyone is charged the same.  My friend had an astigmatism and really crappy eyes and still got the same price as me with averagely-bad eyes and no other problems.

4) If you’re worried about the quality of it, don’t be.  Korea is a developed country.  Most doctors study at a U.S./U.K. university for their doctorate anyways, if you’re worried about them knowing English medical terms.  Also, the most important thing to look for in a doctor is experience.  And trust me, that waiting room is swarming with people every time I go.  It’s Korea.  There are tons of people.  The doctors have experience.

5) LASEK vs. LASIK

  • LASIK
    • Pros: no pain, no recovery process, perfect sight right after the surgery
    • Cons: greater risks for problems post-surgery, if you have head-trauma later in life (i.e. contact sports, car accident, fight with your brother) it can cause permanently scarred vision because the laser goes through all layers of your eyes so the scars don’t completely heal (<<that being my non-medical understanding)
  • LASEK
    • Pros: very limited number of post-surgery risks and lower percentages in the risks it does have compared to LASIK, no risk of head trauma damaging your eyesight because the doctor physically cuts a layer of your eye before the laser is used–therefore it heals completely a.k.a. much more stable!
    • Cons: lots and lots and lots of pain (post-surgery; don’t worry, they numb your eyes for the cutting part!), slow recovery process

My story:

I got LASEK, which I would recommend to everyone, even if you qualify for LASIK–which I did not.  Because I like fighting with my brother, duh.

The actual surgery was beautiful.  They numbed my eyes, then you lay down and stare at a dot and the doctor cuts your eye off.  You can’t feel a thing, but it was a bit unnerving to see the scalpel out of the corner of my eye and watch as he lifted a layer of skin right off of my eye.  Yeesh.  And then when the laser did the zapping it smelled like burnt popcorn.  Double-yeesh.

When I got up from the table, I could see pretty clearly!!  False alarm.  Over the next couple hours my vision got more doubled and cloudy-like.  I made it home before the anesthetic wore off, and went straight to bed.

The first day post-surgery was pretty brutal.  You essentially lay in bed with your eyes streaming tears because they hurt so bad–I had to drink lots of water ’cause I got dehydrated pretty easily.  I also used all of my limited-supply of painkillers and kicked myself for not picking up massive amounts from the drugstore beforehand.  My plan to drink all the wine I had on hand was killed when I remembered you’re not supposed to drink for a month post-surgery.

The second day was just as bad as the first, because even though my eyes hurt less, I was out of pain meds so it was pretty equivalent to the first day with the pills.

The third day the pain was super annoying.  And painful.

The pain.  There’s a couple different kinds of pain going on here.  The first one is your whole eye feels sore, like a sore muscle.  A painfully sore muscle.  The second type of pain is–you know that feeling when you have something stuck in your eye?  It’s like that, but instead of a speck of dust or an eyelash, imagine having several different pieces of dirt all up in your eye and you can’t do anything about getting them out.  They’re just there and they hurt and you’re crying but your tears don’t flush the dirt out they just sit in there and torture you and you kind of want to scratch your eyes out but you just spent ₩1.2 million on them and that would be stupid.

The fourth day I was basically functional.  The pain lessened gradually over the next week, but I was back at work by Day 5.  I could have managed Day 4, but luckily I got stomach-sick from some food and called in a sick day.  My eyes were all puffy for a week or two afterwards, too, and you’re not allowed to wear eye makeup for a month or so afterwards.  I like mascara.  I didn’t like that rule.

But I love my new eyes!

I still wake up in the morning and smack myself, thinking, “Oh crap!  I forgot to take out my contacts last night AGAIN!  Oh wait… :D”

So that’s how that goes.

To go where I went:

http://www.oklasik.com
02-2202-1515
Gangnam, exit 1–walk straight and at the first corner, turn Right. It’s not the building right on the corner with the clothes in the front, it’s the one right next to it.  With 20 floors or something ridiculous.  The lobby just has a desk and elevators in it.  Go up to floor 18.  Ta-da!

I had my co-teacher make my appointment, but they have a few receptionists who were very proficient with English, if you call on the right day you might be able to get by.  The nurses who did my examinations had very limited English, but my eyes have been very stable for a very long time, so I wasn’t worried about them needing to explain anything and sure ’nuff, “Your glasses are right. Your eyes are the same.” Sweet.  All the docs can speak English and were very good at answering all my questions. (Doctors have to study medicine in English, so really any doctor you go to in Korea should have some level of English.  Theoretically.  The higher their level of doctor, the higher their level of English, in my experience.)

I think that’s it!  If you have anymore questions just throw them my way!  Good luck!

Oh yeah, and now my vision is better than 20/20. AhSSAH 🙂

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69 responses

  1. Hey! I’ve been here since August 2010 as well, teaching English in Seoul. I really want to get eye surgery (esp. since I’m allergic to contacts and blind as a bat!) Had a quick question, though – once your co-teacher made the appointment, were you able to go to it on your by yourself and understand what they were saying? I heard this eye center has a special for 1.3 million won during the month of June… ?

    • yup i was good to go. i took a friend with me to the actual surgery, who helped explain things as far as the medication and stuff i needed to buy, but the docs all speak english and usually at least one staff member/receptionist

  2. Hey! I’m seriously considering Lasek and after reading your post I’m psyched! A friend went to a caters-for-waygooks doctor and paid 1.8K so anything below that is a bonus. I was just wondering if I could say that you referred me? I may be able to wrangle a discount and you may be entitled to a gift.

    Please let me know! Sorry if this seems a little callous, but although it will save me money in the long run it is still an expensive procedure and I’ll take any discount I can get.

    Anna

    • um, not callous at all! i was referred by a friend and i asked for a discount twice 😉 they didn’t give me one, but after my surgery, the nurse who helped me–who was fairly fluent in English–gave me her business card and said if I referred anybody to her, then we could get discounts.
      I’ll email you the info!

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  12. Do you think you could have functioned at work on the third day post op? I have an appt. in Gangnam for the end of August but my job is stingy on giving time off.

  13. Thank you so much for this! I had no idea that in Korea they will charge you the same amount no matter the prescription! Does everyone in Korea get lasik? Health care prices in the US are so ridiculous!

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  59. hi

    I wonder how is your eyes now?

    i ahve – 6 each eyes now.

    i was all ready to go for it but read lasikcomplications page on fb and i stopped myself.

    now asking people about their experience to finally go for it or NOT.

    please share your experience and results now.

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