On arrival you will have to undergo a medical checkup. As part of your E2 Visa application (the docs you submit after you signed the contract), you complete an E2 Medical Self Assessment form. The medical checkup will basically check that you are healthy, have no medical conditions which can be transmitted to others and that your system’s free of drugs.
What do you need to watch out for?
- Taking chronic medication: Korea frowns upon illness. Yes, this sounds absolutely crazy, but, rumour has it that in Korea you are seen as weak for having certain medical conditions which requires chronic medication. I have heard of people being rejected because of taking Epilim (epilepsy meds). It seems that the most logical explanation out there is that Epilim is sometimes used to treat depression or bipolar disorder. Korean society is not accepting of any psychiatric disorders, and will reject the use of any anti-depressants, anxiety medication and other similar meds. In the job interview the representative from the school got very awkward when she asked us if we have any psychiatric illnesses. She actually blushed. I think it would have been easier for her to ask us about our sex lives. I kid you not.
- Over the counter meds: We know already (thank you, Breaking Bad), that over the counter meds are widely used to concoct certain drugs. In RSA Tik (Meth) and Cocaine are heavily laced with over the counter meds. This, unfortunately, can cause false positive results on drug tests. Yes, it happens very rarely, but do you want to risk it at all? My best advice is for you to stay clear of any medication for at least a week before flying, until the day of the medical test. Seemingly harmless pills can cause the end of your Korean teaching career, so don’t risk it.
- DRUGS. Any drugs. Just don’t do it.
- Cough syrup, fever medication, mouthwash etc. These (in most cases) contain alcohol, some contain codeine. Codeine shows up on drug tests as an opioid. The same as heroin. Seems really harmless, but do you want to smell of alcohol when the doctor checks your throat? No you don’t. Do you want to test positive for heroin use after taking a bit of cough syrup? No you don’t.
- Go to the dentist. You do not know when and if you will be having time in Korea to go for a dental check, or whether you will be in a town with an English speaking dentist. Just go for a dental hygiene check up, and sort out cavities and other small problems.
- Medication to pack: Pack yourself some general over the counter medication for colds, flu, headaches, runny tummy or constipation, multivitamins, anti histamines and anything else you use on a regular basis. You will be able to find similar over the counter meds in Korea, but prepare yourself for the first month. Just don’t use any of these before your medical check (which usually happens within the first week).
The best advice I can give on this topic is that you should eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies, take your multivitamins and quit any use of medication and drug/illegal substances for at least one month prior to your departure.