Adventures in Korean Health Care: Mike’s Lasik Story

The lids of my right eye had been forcefully pulled apart by a circular metal device. While a voice near my ear whispered “relax, relax”, a microkeratome blade made its incision. I was able to see everything that was happening (“just relax”), and watched as a flap of my eye skin was peeled back like the filmy skin of a hard-boiled egg. Everything went completely out-of-focus. And then the lazers started. Relax, you say? Sure!

I’ve had terrible vision since I can remember. Glasses, contacts, waking up every morning blind… severe myopia has played a major role in my life and always been a part of who I am. When I first heard of LASIK technology, probably twenty years ago, it sounded like a dream from some futuristic fantasy world, too good to be true. “But one day”, I thought. “I am totally doing that.”

The day finally arrived. Bolstered by Jürgen’s entirely positive experience at the Good-Gang-An Hospital, I decided to get my eyes zapped. South Korea is a country with supremely advanced medical techonology, and the procedure is far cheaper than it would be back home. Plus, it was my 35th birthday — a better present than perfect sight could hardly be possible.

We chose the Sojunghan Nun Ophthalmology Clinic, largely because of their advertisement in Busan Haps, the city’s English-speaking magazine. After my initial visit, any concerns I’d been harboring had vanished. This was a super-modern, obviously affluent clinic with a ton of equipment and a large staff of friendly people. My eyes were measured, and the doctor explained the Wavefront-guided LASIK technique which would be used. “Keep your contacts out, and come back in a week”.

A week later, I was back. They gave me another round of tests, then sat me down in a cozy massage chair so that I might relax before the surgery. When it was time, three nurses came to fetch me, leading me through an air shower into the operation room where the doctor was waiting. I laid down on the bed and, ten minutes later, it was done. Besides the mental anguish of watching my eye skin be peeled back, there was no pain.

The doctor asked if I could see him, and I almost let out a sob of joy upon answering “Yes”. It was hazy, but I could see things far away, sharply. After another rest in the massage chair, this time with tea and cake, the clinic provided a private driver to take me home. The next morning, I returned to have the protective contact lenses removed, and confirmed that my new vision was 20/20. The doctor said it would probably improve even more over the next couple weeks.

The incredible service, cutting-edge technology and perfectly executed procedure cost a grand total of ?1,300,000 ($1170) for both eyes. About a fourth of the price I’d have paid in the states. The cost also includes all of my follow-up visits.

To say we’re head over heels with Korean healthcare is a huge understatement. Even more than the price, it’s the service and the attention to comfort that astound us. In hospitals in the US, Germany and Spain, we’re accustomed to being treated like nuisances, sometimes with an attitude that approaches contempt. None of that in South Korea; it’s as though they recognize how important comfort and ease of mind is to the recovery process. And that’s something we completely appreciate.

Link: Sojunghan Nun Ophthalmology Clinic | Location

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Korean Lasik Clinic

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Preemie Maboroshi

    Awesome video! The part that amazed me was where the flap of skin gets put back over the iris. It’s just so delicately done!But I think my favorite part is where one of the nurses (?) reaches out to Mike like a mother reaching out for a child, to lead him into the next room.My favorite photo is the “Air Shower” photo.

  2. Cuffy

    Wow!!!!!  You did it!!!!  I’m so excited!!!!  And yes, that is 1/4 of the price here.  Bitch. 🙂

  3. E.

    Cool. I would pay at least double that where I live, and would receive far less care aside from the actual procedure. Sigh.Your travels are fascinating, guys. 🙂

  4. Dani

    $1170 for both eyes??? Wow, that’s amazing! I am tempted to visit South Korea just for that 🙂 It would be life-changing for me if I didn’t wake up blind every morning until I manage to put in my contacts 😀 I had actually set up an appointment for eye laser surgery when we were still living in London (which would’ve cost around GBP 5,000) but then we decided to become nomads and put our savings in our travel fund instead. One day I’ll hopefully have my eyes ‘fixed’ – maybe in Busan 😉

  5. BTeacher

    How have your eyes been since getting the surgery? I am teaching in Busan and after reading your blog and watching the video I have been contemplating getting the same thing done. Thanks!

    1. Mike Powell

      One month after the surgery, my vision is 20/15 — and I could possibly even have 20/10. My vision is super-sharp, all discomfort is completely gone, and my eyes feel incredible! I can’t imagine that the surgery could have gone any better, and I can’t recommend it enough. You won’t find a better price, I think!

  6. Andrea

    Hi Mike – Thanks again for sharing this experience and for finding such a top notch LASIK clinic. It truly gave us the courage and inspiration to get LASIK done while in Korea. Like you, we had nothing but a great experience and are seeing like champs only mere days after the surgery. We would definitely second the recommendation of choosing to get your LASIK done at Sojunghan! We look forward to reading more of your adventures with our new 20/20 eyes! 🙂 

  7. Kelly

    Hi Mike, I am finally considering lasik, but am deciding between traditional Lasik or custom/wavefront Lasik.  Which did you have?  After reading several blogs and articles, it seems that many people who got traditional Lasik still have some trouble with night vision, but with wavefront Lasik, night vision has improved.  How is your night vision post surgery?Sincerely, Kelly

    1. Mike Powell

      Mine was Wavefront Lasik — it’s been well over two years now, and I haven’t had any problems at all. Night vision has been just fine, and my vision seems just as strong now as it was post-surgery.

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