Yesterday afternoon, I got off work early because the students have final exams (lucky me!), so Min Gi and I went to visit our friend Ha Young who has been in the hospital for about a month.
Now, I know you Americans back home are thinking he must be close to death's door, but the semi-socialized medical system in Korea actually makes this kind of lengthy hospital stay reasonably affordable, even for graduate students like my friend. His illness is not contagious, but he was rather seriously jaundiced the first time I visited him a few months ago. He was yellow--not like we stupidly refer to Asians as "yellow." I mean his skin and the whites of his eyes approximated the color of a lemon. It was a little shocking. I've been worried about him as he lost about 12 kgs (over 25 lbs) in the hospital and has been bored out of his mind.
He was moved to a hospital closer to my side of town, so I plan to visit him again soon.
Some things about Korean hospital culture are strange to me. People walk around the neighborhood in their hospital attire, dragging IVs behind them, often smoking or just taking in the freezing air. Things seem a lot less regulated than in US hospitals (which have an air of paranoid cover-your-ass lawsuit fear about them at times). He is sharing a room with about five other people, none of whom are seriously, seriously ill.
One thing really bothered me. Doctors don't seem to share basic medical information about illnesses with their patients as clearly as back home. I was familiar with Ha Young's condition and provided him with some information from websites and stuff that his docs hadn't alerted him to; stuff I thought would be basic, like how to prevent transmission to others. It seems that Korean doctors expect their patients to unquestioningly accept their word as they would a god's. This seems risky to me, but I do come from the land of second opinions.
Anyhow, while at the hospital, the older man in the bed across from Ha Young's took some opportunity to talk my ear off about Dokdo and ascertain my beliefs about this issue. I simply said I don't know. But then he went on about how America should do something about it, and I tuned out. He was speaking really fast in Korean about politics and it was almost impossible for me to follow it.
Sigh. I wish my speaking was half as good as my listening or reading comprehension... then I could have explained better to him about what I feel.