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)


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

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.


Psy’s New Vid is a Smart Move

Psy Gentleman Single

For many who don’t understand Korean, or Korean culture, Psy’s fame seems like a fluke in the overall madness of Youtube stardom. I loved the Gangnam song because of the obvious catchiness, as well as the actual message behind the song. Again, he was clever enough to mock the glitzy lifestyle of those living in the Gangnam district – the Beverly Hills of South Korea. But most of the world didn’t care and ‘Gangnam Style’ was just known as the crazy horse dance.

Psy’s Gentleman M/V

Well that was Stupid..

So I listened to the song first, and I was like…”whaa??”.  Not impressed, seemed a bit too electronic for me. The lyrics were nothing special, especially if you think about how ‘Gangnam Style’ was filled with satire. They aren’t anything to even think about,

I don’t know if you know why it needs to be smooth
I don’t know if you know why it needs to be sexy
I don’t know if you know darling, hurry and come be crazy
I don’t know if you know, it’s crazy, crazy, hurry up

Well that was Smart…

But soon as I watched the music video, I thought “Genius”. And here is why:

  • He continues to take his fame lightly, which means I think, he understands that his fame was a Youtube glitch. He can’t come off as too serious, or else we would just scoff at him trying to actually be serious about it. (Even though he deserves it, he’s been in the industry for years, and when you watch documentaries on him, you see how serious he is about his music).
  • You can’t go wrong with the “Billy Madison” style humor. So many people appreciate it, and again, it helps with the transition into continuing to be liked world-wide. His music is suppose to be fun. He is serious about entertaining people.
  • He is a genius in all of this (or at least his management team) because he is playing on K-Pop’s feeling and bringing back an oldie but goodie dance. Psy teased about his new dance, “I can’t tell you about the dance but all Koreans know this dance.” [source]. So Ga-In from Brown Eyed Girls made an appearance in the vid and most importantly the new dance is a comeback of the dance in Brown Eyed Girl’s Abracadabra video. It’s simple, everyone can do it and most of all it doesn’t label Psy as being just cheesy.
  • He is promoting and expanding the knowledge of K-Pop. Hyuna, the girl in ‘Gangnam Style’, is actually a pretty well-known star in her own right. But now, the world knows her as that pretty girl in Psy’s video, and those who are interested enough can actuall find her music and become a fan. (She’s Matt’s favorite actually – check out his favorite vid here which is her duet and then her other song called BubblePop). So in this Psy video, it introduces the world to Brown Eyed Girls. Check it:
Brown Eyed Girls - Abracadabra animated gif

The dance in Psy’s Gentleman vid is a copy of Brown Eyed Girl’s Abracadabra

Living Here During the North Korean Threats

When North Korea Strikes

Initial Reaction

So America and the rest of the world are freaking about Korea. Is South Korea freaking out? Not at all. In these dangerous times, North Korea held a nuclear test on February 12th. At this time, “Innisfree” and “Jessica” ranked as the top search words of Naver instead of the nuclear test or North Korea [source]. One, is a natural makeup company that was having sales that day, and the other is one of the members of Girls Generation, a K-Pop group. The article continues to talk about 20-year-old’s and their lack of awareness or concern for national security.

So as things built up, no one reacted. Not my teachers, students, or friends. This is their lives, my teacher recalled her childhood filled with threats and even events as recent as November 2010, when North Korea shelled a South Korean border island, Yeonpyeong, killing four South Koreans, including two civilians.

My Two Cents on It

Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten more and more concerned, mostly because friends and family from home are constantly messaging me and asking if I am okay, thus freaking me out more. Life here is as normal as ever, though I am sure the South Korean military and intelligence are doing all they can to help us.  Personally, I don’t think war will break out.  North Korea has too much to lose and not enough to fully make a dent either with South Korea or with America, because they are both invested in this. Needless to say, I have taken all the steps necessary to make sure I can be as prepared as possibly in case the situation changes.

I know, silly video, but I can’t let myself over worry about the situation. We are already seeing some foreign teachers leaving South Korea even though America is telling us, as of April 4th,  not to:

The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that despite current political tensions with North Korea there is no specific information to suggest there are imminent threats to U.S. citizens or facilities in the Republic of Korea (ROK).  The Embassy has not changed its security posture and we have not recommended that U.S. citizens who reside in, or plan to visit, the Republic of Korea take special security precautions at this time.  The U.S. Embassy takes as its highest priority the welfare of American citizens in Korea.  Should the security situation change, the Embassy will issue updated information.


A History of Attacks from North Korea

History of North Korean Attacks on South Korea

History of North Korean Attacks on South Korea [source]

The 2012 South Korea Presidential Election

2012 Korean Presidential Election Candidates
The 18th Republic of Korea presidential election will be held in South Korea tomorrow,  on the 19th of December. It will be the sixth presidential election since democratization and the establishment of the Sixth Republic, and will be held under a first-past-the-post system, meaning that there will be a single round of voting and the candidate receiving the highest number of votes will be elected.
Though there are right winged and left winged parties  it is not as clear cut as America. Many have told me that both are pretty conservative, they are not as polarized as our Democratic or Republican parties. However,
In the United States, there are some clear structural barriers to suddenly making oneself felt in party politics, especially for third-party candidates. There is a need for a lot of money. That is a high bar in politics and it keeps out third-party candidates.
In the United States as well there is now a very low level of trust in the parties, but the United States’ lack of faith in existing parties has not translated into support for an independent candidate, at least when it comes to the current presidential election. 
In Korea, there are parties with long-term institutions, but those parties are less about ideals; instead the party coalesces around an individual and his vision. So it is possible to break away from parties and also to start them, or rename them, more easily. 
So if one person says, “I am going to break away and form my own party,” it is possible to do so because loyalty is as much to people as it is to party. It is a significant difference in political culture between the United States and Korea. [Groove Korea]
So people become loyal to individuals and not parties. In learning about all of this and the government history of Korea, I am reminded of just how young Korea really is. In Korea, there was a monarchic dynasty until 1910 and Korea was run under Japanese colonialism until 1945. Then new democratic institutions were, in some ways, imposed upon South Korea by the United States and the UN. So really, the loyalty to individuals makes sense as parties keep shifting, changing, and even merging. The Saenuri 새누리당 (idealogy: conservatism) is the oldest, founded in 1997. The  Democratic United Party 민주통합당 (ideology: liberalism/progressive) has been around since 2011. 

 A close race

It’s a close race between the two main candidates. Here are two videos showing the main concerns and  will be the economy that takes center stage as polls show growing opposition to the business elite.


UPDATE: Park Geun Hye is the first female president of South Korea

My thoughts on this. Well being from Daegu, I knew most people would vote for her. It’s the most conservative city in Korea. That being said, I was already weary of that considering that she is not only a dictator’s daughter but she has:
Park Geun-hye’s family legacy has overshadowed her political career. In September, she issued a public apology for human rights abuses committed under her father.
However, she also described his 1961 coup as necessary, which alienated some younger voters who were wary of Ms Park’s unwillingness to fully renounce her father. [BBC]
 On top of that, though she is female, my opinion is that she is more of an opening for future women to rise high in the political sphere. I don’t think she will be making much headway for women in Korea for the next 5 years. Moon Jae In had better and more favorable policies to women than Park. Many of Park’s critics point out that by not marrying or having children, she may not have the empathy or the willingness to meet the needs of Korean mother’s and wives today. [Source from Asia Society]

SC20121219-223323     SC20121219-222410

I find it amusing they use caricatures of the opponents. It’s so….cute lol


Korea Election 2012 statistics