Donating Blood In Korea

So My Story

The reason I started writing this post was because I went into a center here in Daegu and was a bit shocked at how adamant they were about not letting me donate. Once I went on the internet to investigate a bit, I was shocked to find so many more experiences like my own – foreigners being turned away from donating simply because they are not Korean. An American Korean was able to donate JUST because she has Korean blood: “Initially when they found out that I was from the States and I was out of the country for a long time, they were a little reluctant. But because my blood is “Korean” and the fact that I was from the States and not U.K. (I’m thinking mad-cow disease?) and other southeast Asian countries, I was OK to give blood.” (source)

blood

What it feels like if foreigners try to give blood in Korea…

Korea’s blood center has it’s own mascot (헌혈 마스코트) named Nanumi, deriving its name from “Nanum”, which means “Share” in Korean. Unfortunately, I came out of the experience feeling like they didn’t want me to share at all.

I went to the Blood Donation Center in downtown Daegu, I was there with an off-duty police office friend of mine to help translate. She let them know I wanted to donate. When I was asked if I could understand Korean I said I could read it but not understand everything on the paper, thus I was there to ask for a form so I could study it and be prepared for when the time came to donate. The employee showed me then the requirements to donate, and I noted the fact that it says, “If NOT, you need to be accompanied by a Korean translator”. When I told her that my friend can act as a translator she still seemed hesitant even though it’s rather clear that I do not have to understand Korean as long as I have a translator. It took us being there for 45 minutes to convince her, while all the workers and patients stared at us, to convince her to finally allow me to donate. Mind you, this was after she said they worried about me fainting and not feeling well, to which I told them I was aware of the risks and have had various experiences donating blood. They even tried to get my friend to donate! They first said, fine we will let you donate with your friend. That’s when I started feeling a bit unnerved, as if taking my blood was a waste of time and they didn’t even want it. After much convincing on my friend’s part, she finally agreed. So hopefully I get to donate once I return from America. I need to donate, I’ve wasted 2 1/2 years here in Korea without doing it. Gotta reach my 25 gallon goal.

Blood stocks can be found here , and today’s quota as of 11 AM:

Blood quota Korea

Requirements for a foreigner to donate their blood in  Korea:

Requirements for a foreigner to donate their blood in  Korea

Rare Blood Types:

Back in 2010, there were 20,000 Rh negative blood donors registered with the Korean Red Cross’ blood information management system, but it still isn’t enough:

For most ethnicity  rhesus negative blood is in at least 10 percent of the population. For Americans and British, the percentage of the population with rhesus negative is at 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

But for those of Asian descent, rhesus negative blood is rare.

According to the Red Cross, for every 1,000 Koreans, there are only three who have rhesus negative blood types. (source)

Korea’s Red Cross requires the nation’s 15 blood banks to maintain specified stocks of O, A, B and AB blood – all common here. But the organization sets no minimum quota for Rh negative blood. (Source)

The Story of Jeon Yoo-woon

Jeon Yoo-won 전유운 2010

On March 16 2010, 19-year-old Jeon Yoo-woon (전유운) was diagnosed with lymphoma. The hospital where he was staying advised them not to count on Korea’s Red Cross to secure the stocks of Rh negative blood needed to keep him alive. In Korea, relatives and friends of a patient are responsible for finding blood donors.

More than 100 foreign nationals responded to John’s distress call. In the end, only five or six of them could actually donate their blood. Jeon was frustrated with foreign donors being dropped before they were even tested.His son died on the evening of April 20. Jeon’s father John has since fought for a change in the system.

Jeon’s story changed things. At least in theory it did. The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Red Cross responded, their goal was to create a database of rare blood types. And yet it was still had for foreigner’s to donate even when the patient was a foreigner. “With the expansion of our pool, we believe that there will be no need to seek the help of foreigners,” said an official, in regards to the new database.

Sarah Crouch, an English teacher in Jincheon with Rh negative blood, donates platelets at a blood center in Shinchon. (source)

Sarah Crouch, an expat who had tried to donate to Jeon and finally did after his father fought for her to donate, tried going again to help an expat. She still encountered some problems. “The head of the donation center that day said that there was a rule that only Koreans could donate. I knew that wasn’t true, because I had just helped edit the Korean/English blood procedure manual,” said Crouch (source).

Since Jeon’s death, the expat community has set up a group to encourage blood donations in Korea. The group called Blood Connections, and has been established by Marie Frenette, a Canadian who lives in Seoul. “I realized I shouldn’t just be happy that I could help this boy, I should be scared. If I walked out on the street and got hit by a car I could be in real danger (because of my blood type),” she said. “I don’t think anyone has thought okay these one million foreigners are here, what services might they need which we don’t have in Korea (source). Jeon’s father has been a liaison between the group and the Korean Red Cross.

That scares me too. With a rare blood type here in Korea…the risks are a bit greater for me.

Documents & Links in English: 

Donation interview in Korea

Korean Red Cross –  (02) 3705-3668 or at international@redcross.or.kr

Direct phone number is 02) 3705-8492.

It’s such an easy way to help out if you qualify and aren’t afraid of needles. Donate blood if you can, so many people may need your specific blood type.

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Les Miserables ROK Air Force Parody Les Militaribles / 공군 레미제라블 ‘레밀리터리블’

Les Miserables ROK Air Force Parody Les Militaribles / 공군 레미제라블 '레밀리터리블'

This is a bit overdue. but I had to share because I was humming along to Les Mis today and remembered the video. Les Miserables was pretty big hit here in Korea, as it was in the rest of the world. People were buzzing about Ann Hathaway and how undeniably amazing she was. Daegu had the show actually playing at the Keimyung theater, with a Korean cast singing in Korean.

Then this video comes along.

The opera-style video “Les Militarables” — made by 80 South Korean airmen with a budget of $900 — has garnered almost 4 million views since it was posted to YouTube on Feb. 5 [source].  The viral video’s hit is partly due to the boost it received by a tweet from Russell Crowe. It was a joint project between the Musical Video project of ROKAF (Republic of Korea Airf Force) Media Contents Team and the Air Force Military Band.

In the role of Valjean is a Korean airman, “Airman 24601,” with an overbearing superior named Javert. When his girlfriend, Cosette, comes to visit him at his base, Javert gives them only one hour of alone time. What made me laugh about this was the opening scene and seeing the snow. The original “Look Down” becomes “Dig Down” as the conscripts chant: “Dig down, dig down, and clear the snow below… There is no end to this accursed snow.”You would have to live in Korea and/or have Korean friends to fully understand. My Korean male friends have told me just how much they hate snow, simply because when they do their mandatory 2 years of service, they are often left with the job of shoveling snow.

korean military shoveling snow

Source

“We made the video to lift the spirit of servicemen who had to work so hard to clear snow during the unusually heavy winter this year,” Major Cheon Myeong-nyeong told the South China Morning Post. [source]

First Lieut. Chung Da-hoon, who directed the video and was a film student before being called up for service, said inspiration for the parody came when he and a fellow conscript began singing a song from Les Mis after seeing the movie, and thought of connecting the daunting task of snow removal and the musical in a video, the Huffington Post reported. Chung said the planning, writing, singing lessons and rehearsal took a month. The actual filming was done in three days, the Wall Street Journal reported. [source]

The Spain Culture Function! 스페인문화원 송년행사

On December 19th, Jiseon invited me to the the Spanish Cultural Center at the Inter-burgo Hotel. Various universities came with their Spanish departments to celebrate the Spanish culture. It was fun seeing the food – especially the paella (a dish from Spain). We sipped wine, spoke Spanish and had a blast watching Marcos introduce the piñata culture to the Koreans. 

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Jiseon (right) along with my new friend Lim. We get together on Mondays in downtown Daegu and chat in Spanish! It’s nice speaking my native tongue over tea and scones ^_^ 

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Marcos (who use to teach Spanish at Keimyung University) and Liliana (who teaches Spanish at Yeongnam University) 

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The Spanish professor from Daegu Catholic University.

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Marcos explaining the history of the piñata. Piñatas are most commonly associated with Mexico, but their origins are considered to be in China. The idea of breaking a container filled with treats came to Europe in the 14th century, where the name, from the Italian “pignatta” was introduced. Marcos said originally they had 7 points -representing the 7 deadly sins. The candy inside represents goodness so thus you would break through the “sin” to get to the good. 

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Liliana made some Aztecan style food, it was great! Buñuelos are first known to have been consumed among Spain’s Morisco population. It typically consist of a simple, wheat-based yeast dough, often flavored with anise, that is thinly rolled, cut or shaped into individual pieces, then fried and finished off with a sweet topping. Buñuelos may be filled with a variety of things, sweet or savoury. They can be round in ball shapes or disc shaped. They taste like Funnel Cake! 

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With Dave and Jiseon. Hehe, Dave was saying all night “No hablo español” and then there would be confused faces as he would begin to speak Korean and the Koreans had to revert back to Korean. 

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I got to dance salsa! Haha, I’m sure I embarrassed Dave and begged him to even though no one was dancing. I was determined to get one song out of the night. Can’t go to a spanish party and NOT dance! 

A Weekend in Seoul

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Meeting up with a College Friend

Alicia is a friend of mine from my Rutgers days. She happened to be going to a Museum Conference in Seoul because she is working in a museum in Laos. I know … that is pretty cool. The girl can speak Mandarin and is learning to speak Lao. PLUS just because she likes, by which I mean adores, Korean dramas, she has picked up a lot of Korean. Oh and studied Japanese for two years.  Why can’t this inspire me to learn more?!?

Jongmyo Shrine 

We headed to Jongmyo Shrine (종묘) with her group to explore the Confucian shrine dedicated to the memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. A ceremony is held every May and the descendants of the royal family, who live like common people now, still come and represent the royal family in this traditional ceremony that has been happening since the 14th century. According to UNESCO, the shrine is the oldest royal Confucian shrine preserved.

From Wiki: When it was built in 1394 by order of King Taejo, it was thought to be one of the longest buildings in Asia, if not the longest. The main hall, known as Jeongjeon, had seven rooms. Each room was reserved for a king and his queen. The complex was expanded by King Sejong who ordered the construction of Yeongnyeongjeon (Hall of Eternal Comfort). This practice of expansion continued, with the growth of the complex moving from west to east, because of the need to house more memorial tablets during the reigns of later kings until there were a total of nineteen rooms. However, during the Seven-Year War, Japanese invaders burned down the original shrine and a new complex was constructed in 1601 CE which has survived to this day. The original tablets were saved in the invasion by hiding them in the house of a commoner and also survive to this day.

Namsan Tower

We headed to the most romantic spot in Korea. Alicia I’m sure didn’t believe me when I told her how “couple-y” it was. But once there, seeing the sunset with the platform scattered with sooo many couples putting heart lockets on the wall… well she realized it was true. But it is such a beautiful place! 

The N Seoul Tower, officially the CJ Seoul Tower and commonly known as the Namsan Tower and Seoul Tower, is a communication and observation tower on Namsan Mountain in central Seoul, South Korea.

Dinner and Movie

Alicia and I gorged on Korean BBQ at Myeong-dong, a popular shopping area in Seoul. Like I said, she really loves Korean dramas and movies. So she was dying to see “Dodookdeul” aka “The Thieves”.  It was so good! Of course I didn’t understand everything, but I translated some Korean, and she translated some Chinese, so between the two of us, it worked out great! If you have a chance, go see this movie! It has been internationally released too.  Think Ocean’s 11:

Splashy action in overseas locations is mixed with double-dealings and multiple betrayals as a gang of South Korean thieves team up with a Hong Kong crew to steal a diamond necklace from a heavily-guarded casino safe in Macau. [wiki]

Wicked

Sunday Dave and I went to see Wicked! Alicia had to fly out early so unfortunately couldn’t join us. It was Dave’s first time and my like third ::blush::, and it was still amazing. “Defying Gravity” is still one of my favorite songs to watch.  Check it:

Steve McCurry Exhibit

We then headed to the Seoul Arts Center to see a Steve Curry Exhibit. He is the photographer behind my favorite National Geographic’s photo:

Here are some of my favorite pics from the gallery: