Friday, February 27, 2015

You're Not Going to be a Doctor in Korea. Stop Fucking Asking.

Dear Korean,

I will soon be taking my IB’s and start to search for colleges and universities, but I was really hoping to work as a doctor in Korea. My plan was to go to King’s College or Imperial College in the UK, and then as I get my degrees and stuff, apply as a doctor in Korea. I am not really good in korean, but I am willing to try my best to learn it as soon as possible. Do you think my goal will succeed ? In Korean hospitals, do they accept foreigners as doctors? What if I will not be able to master my korean? That will be a problem right? 

Valentina


TK cannot believe that he is writing a post about this question. But he must, because this question comes in with shocking frequency. Apparently, there is a sizable population of people around the world who really want to be a doctor in Korea. If only Korean hospitals accepted foreigners! Then these people can just pursue the dream, the dream! Of being a doctor in Korea!

(source)

Here is the simple answer: if you have to ask this question, you are not going to be a doctor in Korea. How does TK know this? Simple. In any given country, around 95 percent of the students will not be able to become doctors no matter how hard they try, because the material is too difficult, the requisite test scores are too high and the smarter students will crush them. Are you a top five percent student in your country? If you are, can you do the same in a completely different language? (And yes, if you want to be a doctor in Korea but can't master your Korean, it will be a fucking problem.)

A quick perspective on how hard it is to get into a medical school in Korea. Seoul National University is widely considered the best university in Korea. In 2014, to make it into most majors offered by SNU, the student had to score between 370 and 380 out of 400 in the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT). But to get into SNU as a medicine major? The student had to score 400 out of 400. Seriously. You could not get a single question wrong in an exam with nearly 200 questions that takes more than seven hours.

It gets better: getting admitted as a medicine major at colleges that are decidedly less prestigious than SNU requires a higher CSAT score than getting into most majors in SNU. Again, you only needed to score around 370-380 to get into most majors of Korea's best university. But to get into Chungbuk National University as a medicine major? Needed 390. Jeonnam National University medicine major? 387. Chosun University medicine? 386. Have you ever heard of those colleges? Don't lie, because you have not.

And this is even before getting into the fact that Korea's CSAT is probably a harder exam than anything that a typical non-Korean 17-year-old has ever seen in her life. Don't believe me? Here is a scale model of the 2010 CSAT that TK translated into English. Remember, if you want to be a doctor in Korea, you cannot get a single question wrong. And you would be taking this exam in Korean.

(A step back: in Korea, each major of a college administers the admission for itself. For medicine majors, each school uses a different proportion of CSAT--that is to say, in addition to CSAT scores, some colleges give their own exams and/or conduct an interview.)

Sure, there will always be special cases. Some of you guys will be hyper-geniuses who pick up foreign languages and medical school-level knowledge like we mortals eat a muffin. Some of you will have a family history that puts you close to Korea, such that you can compete on equal footing with other Korean students--like, for example, Dr. John Linton at the Yonsei Severance Hospital, who was born in Korea because his great grandfather Eugene Bell came to Korea as a missionary in 1895. (To be sure, Dr. Linton is a Korean citizen. But he was not one when he became a doctor, as he naturalized just three years ago.)

These folks can be a doctor in Korea although they are not Koreans. But they don't need to ask an anonymous Internet stranger to figure out how to become a doctor in Korea. You, on the other hand, sent TK an email with this question because you can't speak Korean well enough to figure out this information on your own. So I can say this with confidence: you're not going to be a doctor in Korea. Stop clogging my inbox with your stupidity.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

40 comments:

  1. Why in god's name do they want to be a doctor in Korea in the first place? Can't they be a doctor in their own countries? Are they thinking about doing some kind of Doctors Without Borders, except in a developed, ~exotic~ nation? The mind boggles.

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  3. No one is saying that you will be on the front line of accident and emergency but working in korea is possible.
    Those who study medicine are in fact increasingly working on a more international scale. International opportunities are available for medical students as well as the more experienced.
    A 4th year medical student from my university has recently gone to present her findings at a conference is Seoul. With many UK universities having links with universities in Korea uk students in all subjects can go on exchange or visiting programmes.
    Many countries including Korea also offer electives for international medical students including Yonsei and Seoul National University Hospital.
    Korea is famous in several areas of medicine including cardiac medicine and plastic surgery and it is quite possible that opportunities will arise after graduation that doctors may go and train or conduct a kind of knowledge exchange whilst also working to further new techniques and treatments.
    Medical research is also an area of possibility. Gastric cancer for example is more common in Japan and Korea and thus these countries are often at the forefront of treatment and research so it makes sense that if you are interested in the pathology and risk factors or are developing treatments specific to gastric cancer you would work in Korea running clinical trials and innovating new treatments.
    Of course you need to know local language to actually interact with patients but increasingly medicine is very much English based.

    Farfetched yes,but not impossible and definitely not ridicule worthy .

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    1. an insightful and helpful response indeed!

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  4. Poor Valentina, but I think you need to explain that you need a Korean medical degree to work as a doctor in Korea. That's not obvious. After all, there are lots of people who train as doctors in one country and work in another. The question was about getting her degree in London and then working in Korea, so without that information, the point about how difficult it is to get into medical school is a bit moot.

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  5. I think....Valentina's question and desire to be doctor in Korea is motivated by a love of Korean medical dramas: "I too want to save lives and have romantic flings with the brilliant and handsome and mysterious but troubled head of surgery Oh Jae-Soo! I WILL tame him where no other woman could!"

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  6. This was an absolutely awful answer.

    Why do you even talk about the 수능? The 수능 (CSAT) is only taken by Korean high school students, not international students. In fact, international students don't even need to have Korean language skills upon arriving in SK since most major universities offer Korean language programs.

    Furthermore, the questioner made it clear that she wanted to earn her degrees in the UK, which would be wise considering that Imperial College School of Medicine far outranks any med school in SK.

    And lastly, there are, in fact, plenty of internationally-trained doctors working in South Korea.

    So the one thing that the questioner really needed to hear was, "You'll have to master the Korean language, which will be difficult. Here are some suggestions of how to get started..." But did you tell her that? No, you gave her completely irrelevant information and then ridiculed her.

    You ought to be ashamed.

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    1. The 수능 (CSAT) is only taken by Korean high school students, not international students.

      Not true. Most colleges in Korea do not have a separate admission track for international students--only around 20 do. If you want to enter a college that does not have an international track, the international student has to take 수능. And to the extent the questioner is asking for international admission, one Google search would have given the answer. The fact that she is even asking me disqualifies her, and she deserves the ridicule.

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    3. Agreed, and it's evident from his reply to you that TK still doesn't understand that he has answered the wrong question. Perhaps I can boil it down:

      Having become a doctor in the West, can someone go to Korea and be (or retrain as) a doctor in Korea?
      and/or
      Can someone who is a doctor in the West be a doctor (who talks crapppy Korean) in Korea?

      Of course if the answer to the first question is 'no', then the second question is moot. I wonder however if there are no western-trained doctors working as doctors in Korea, speaking either crappy or good Korean. I think a search of publicly available hospital rosters would turn up a few Western names, first and last. But personally, I wouldn't dare go to any country and practice a high-level profession, especially one involving substantial and even lethal miscommunication-risk, without superlative second-language skills.

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    4. I understood the question just fine. My answer was: "if you have to ask this question, you are not going to be a doctor in Korea." I wrote it in bold letters, just in case you might miss it.

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  7. FYI, the test you posted is of Math Type A, not Type B. (the test that natural science high school students have to take)

    Since a perfect score on the Math Type A gets weighted to about 3rd class on Math Type B, an applicant who can't breeze past the test provided should not even think about applying for a top 40 mechanical engineering program, much less medical school.

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  8. I can't believe people are actually discussing this seriously in the comments. If one wants to practice medicine in a country and do not have access on how to do it other than ask a guy on the internet (whose blog is not even medicine exclusive) then would you want to be treated by that person? Being an MD is a big deal -at least in my eyes- and despite the fact that not all of them are good guys I expect these people to have basic info on whether the diploma you have from your own country will be valid in another one? Or whether it would be a problem if you don't speak the language of the country you wish to practise medicine? (Seriously??? Do you even need to ask??) Probably there are exchange programmes and similar work opportunities in certain specific fields of medicine etc. but I'm sure everyone will agree that the way to find out about these are not to ask someone on line whose blog is not even focused on medical profession.

    Having wrote the above I do agree that the ridicule seemed to be a bit heavy for the offense even if there are a lot of people who ask similar questions no one can expect unlimited patience from anyone. Then again, this is not my blog and I have to accept the fact that blog owner is free to reply in any way she/he likes. I wrote this thinking it will give TK an idea how regular readers feel about the whole thing.

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  9. TK is angry probably because of the perceived prestige of medical schools in Korea. Millions of average, hopeful parents try to push their children into medical schools and given the hyper-competitiveness of the Korean CSAT it is absurd that a foreigner with no mastery of the Korean language should try to get in there, to the point that it is annoying.

    However, seeing that getting in a Korean med school was not what the questioner had in mind, that rant about CSAT and all seems pretty uncalled for. Besides, it is more or less hard to become a doctor in pretty much any country in the world. If Valentina can, as easy as she makes it sound, "go to King's College or Imperial" and become a licensed doctor in UK, it is not unreasonable to assume that she's got the skills to get in a med school in Korea had she been born in Korea, albeit hypothetically. True, if Valentina was more serious, she should have googled it herself, but people with foreign doctor licenses (not all countries' are recognized, but I'll bet British license is) can apply to the national medical license exam that all Korean med school graduates sit in, after passing a preliminary exam first.

    It is a lot to go through, and another option is to just go to a Korean MD awarding graduate school (as opposed to med colleges); the number of med grad schools are declining, but it is a way if one is so set to be a doctor in Korea and nowhere else. But I cannot help but wonder why the hell a foreigner wants to become a doctor here, considering that Korean doctors are subject to a very harsh workload even by Korean standards - and they do not make that much either. I definitely do see a niche where a foreign plastic surgeon or something fits in; but the time and effort for that is probably better spent elsewhere.

    So, in short: just concentrate on becoming a doctor in your home country, you will have plenty of time to change your mind.

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  10. She got me at "do you think my goal will succeed?" She should learn English first if she wants to go to a med school in England. She does deserve ridicule. Good laugh for the day.

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    1. his/her/my "goal will succeed" may be an acceptable stylistic regionalism.

      p. 177: "...there is no guarantee that his goal will succeed."

      -- Artificial Intelligence and Literary Creativity: Inside the Mind of Brutus ...
      By Selmer Bringsjord, David Ferrucci

      It's not something I'd use myself, but it didn't register at all until you mentioned it.

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    2. a bit overdramatic, true, but its a perfectly fine thing to say
      perhaps next time you should polish your english skills before trying to mock someone else.

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  11. To be fair, she didn't ask you whether she could STUDY in S.Korea, which is what you devote most of your answer to. Make sure of our own understanding before calling strangers stupid, perhaps? :p

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  12. "remember you can't miss even one question"?? WTF the Korean should come back here and meet some of the Korean doctors who are currently practicing medicine. They sure as hell missed more than one question..what a croc.

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    1. "remember you can't miss even one question" of the MODEL exam. Please read first, then comment.

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  13. "You could not get a single question wrong in an exam with nearly 200 questions that takes more than seven hours." which is what you are essentially emphasizing to this young person who would like to go to medical school in Korea.. Also the Korean, should change his name to , The Korean Nationalist, as there are many Koreans over here who don't agree with him. Also The Korean nationalist should admit that the Korean medical system is racist at heart ( sorry not racis,t it depends on your "family background") In America there are many doctors from India, Pakistan, Europe, and Southeast Asia, but not in Korea because evidently an American medical license doesn't qualify one to work here. You have to speak Korean, and more less be Korean, sorry but John Linton is pretty much a token. (if the Korean nationalist wants to emphasize that he has studied very hard,harder than the vast majority of feel good Americans, then by all means, he deserves respect. However not being completely honest with a young person who wants to go to medical school and continually defending things that harm Korea, then that's BS.)

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  14. I agree with your point. Many peoples will confuse with this issue and you have made it very easy to understand the pros and cons.
    Dental Cleaning

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  15. When I see questions like this one from Valentina, my first thought is that (s)he's a troll. My second thought is that if this is a real question, some privileged people believe that while not being able to do X in their country is unsuitable, it's fine in a foreign land. e.g. If Valentina couldn't speak English, would she be able to become a doctor in the U.K.? No. But it seems reasonable to her to ask if she could treat the average Korean patient -- who speaks Korean -- when she can't really speak Korean.


    I don't understand why it sounds so ludicrous to some people that in order to practice as a physician in Korea, one of the qualifications is that you can speak the language. And not just conversational Korean, but Korean medical terms. HOW OUTRAGEOUS!

    What if this was the question: "I"m going to med school in Korea and want to become a doctor in the United States. I'm learning English right now, but in American hospitals, do they accept foreigners as doctors? What if I will not be able to master my English? That will be a problem right?" Yes it will be a problem, because most Americans speak English and only Engllish.

    As to jangsu's implication that the U.S. seemingly hands out licenses to everyone who has a medical degree in their home country, you know that's not true. It gives licenses to qualified physicians that meet U.S. standards (from the American Medical Association: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/about-ama/our-people/member-groups-sections/international-medical-graduates/practicing-medicine.page?). And, yes, they need to speak English.

    I have a relative who is a nurse in the U.S. She was a licensed registered nurse in Korea. When she immigrated to the U.S., that degree didn't automatically transfer over to the U.S. Some of you may think that your local Korean grocery owner or dry cleaner was always that. But if you were to know their histories, you would learn that some of them had white collar careers back in Korea, but they didn't have the English language skills to transfer that skill into the same field in the U.S. marketplace. Would you hire an attorney who couldn't speak fluent English to fight for you in a U.S. court? I wouldn't.




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  16. Wow, it's so difficult to go into a medical college in korea, that's crazy ! In France, you just need to graduate high school to enter a medic' university. Well, the first year is so difficult, most of the students drop out in the end, but at least you're evaluated for one whole year and you can try your best to study and pass. From what I read here, in Korea, you're screwed if f you got an amazing level but was died sick on the day of the exam (I bet it must be the end of the world for students if it actually happen...)

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    1. The US brings in/ attracts doctors from around the world. I don't know how you would interpret that as 'the us is handing out licenses to people' What I was implying is that the US has a more open system and makes it possible for Indians, Chinese people, Israelis, Saudi's, and Indonesians to all practice medicine and attend conferences and seminars and share medical knowledge. There is a reason that there aren't many/any foreign doctors here and that's because the path to practicing medicine here is, for intents and purposes, closed off to the rest of the world. Closing off your medical community to the rest of the world hurts the knowledge level for practicing physicians over here in Korea. It's not just a language thing. The French medical system, although they love their French, is not closed off to the rest of the world and they have plenty of doctors with dark skin, light skin and all types of people. I even hear they have really black people working in France as doctors. Golly gee imagine that. (hint it's not just because of the language)

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  18. ETA: Added content.

    jangsu: The U.S. may have a more open system, as you say, which makes it possible for all those folks you mentioned to become doctors in America ... IF those doctors speak English. We all understand your not-so-subtle implications: Korea only wants Korean doctors and won't give foreign doctors the opportunity to practice medicine in Korea. But ask yourself this: How many of those foreigners took the time to become fluent enough in Korean that, if needed, they could pass a medical exam in Korean? Or tell a surgical team – in Korean – what the procedure was. You talk about “here” as if you're in Korea, so I will ask you: Would you want a German doctor treating you who can't speak English or Korean and who can't communicate to you what your diagnosis is? (This is assuming you don't speak German.)

    Let's flip this around a bit. There are so many westerners going to Asia to teach English. The vast majority of these people aren't trained educators and can only speak one language: English. So, when they arrive in Korea or Japan or Taiwan, they have no working knowledge of the language of their host country. Their students are expected to adapt to them. They may work with bilingual native instructors who can interpret for them. And yet, they are able to make a nice little salary in Asia not because they're all great teachers, but because they can speak English moderately well. Let's say a college graduate from China wanted to come to the U.S. to teach Mandarin -- but she couldn't speak much English. How many U.S. schools do you think would offer her a job? Close to none. Why? Because no matter how excellent her teaching skills might be, she'd be more trouble than it's worth to the school.

    Now, getting back to your complaint. Maybe Korea hasn't opened its doors to foreign doctors more because as good as they might be, having them on their staff might be more trouble than they're worth.

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  19. Nearly all countries demand a doctor which HAS mastered their language because the second most important thing after the knowledge is to be able to communicate with your patient and if you cant then whats the point of working as a doctor ...
    I AM SO GOING TO MASTER KOREAN OMFG

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    1. Yep, master Korean, and hear what all the Koreans have to say about you--good AND bad. Then dive into their educational system, which is bordering on student slavery, and let's see if it'll change your mind, shall we? You still have plenty of time to think (rationally).
      -from a concerned student taking her last semester of master's in Korea

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  20. TK first I wanna say you're the best. Second, I totally agree with you on what you're saying. I also want to go abroad to work (I'm graduating college soon so first I'm going to go and teach english then I'm going to come back to the US go to Medical School and then if I still want to move then I'm going to do so) but I know if I want to go to work in another country I have to know the language at a sufficient level (If that country isn't an english speaking one) so when I communicate with someone, the chances of there being a miscommunication between myself and another person is seriously diminished. Asking someone who has no control over the admissions processes nor has a majority of the information that one would need for admission to said school/hospital is pointless. If that person is really burning to go over seas and work as a doctor, wouldn't it be more prudent to just do a Google search or open your damn yahoo and shoot someone, a recruiter, or a professional at a few of the hospitals in SK, an email asking them any and all questions you may have. Before anyone tries to jump down my throat, I also want to work in the medical field in SK (and it's not cause Ive seen like a lot of K dramas and want to tame a man, no it's cause I freakin' want to. And when I get tired of SK then I'll go somewhere else.) but instead of emailing a random person on the internet, when I get ready to start there, way before Im ready to move there, I'm gonna email someone at the hospital that I want to work and see what it is i have to do before I come to where ever it is i wanna go, and then damn it before I go I'm going to have a really good working knowledge of hangul (or whatever other fracking language that country speaks).

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  21. I an unsure as to how my response will be received, but I'll preface it by including some background on my own experience. I will break this up by replying to my own posts, since this is long and each reply is limited to 4096 characters.

    I am a Korean, born in Busan, raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I am also currently a medical student (MD, not DO, in the United States - the distinction is not necessary except to indicate the limitations of my own experience - and before anyone gives me any crap about studying, the semester's almost over and I only have two exams left), and all of my education is American. That said, I speak/read/write Korean fluently (though mostly it's 경상도 사투리, and at the conversational, not technical, level) - enough to score at the linguist level when I was tested while in the Marine reserves (during my undergraduate years).

    These are my thoughts, as no one else who posted appears to have direct experience *in* medical education/medicine. I did go through the post and the comments, but as I'm only human I apologize in advance if I missed something which weakens or nullifies any assertion/point that I make. I admit in advance that I have no idea how the education system in the ROK works, other than through anecdotes my parents told me about their education (the details of which are probably no longer applicable at this time; both of my parents were college graduates in the ROK; my mother was a pharmacist there before my parents moved to the US, with me in tow, in the mid-1980s). If I had any nascent ideas about even practicing medicine for a day in the ROK, I would have my parents refer me to my uncle (father's older brother), who is an Ob/Gyn (or possibly a neonatal specialist; my parents' explanation of my uncle's specialty was never crystal clear to me, though that could be just as likely due to my nonexistent grasp of technical/higher-order Korean) in Ulsan - even then, I would suspect that he would tell me to do some of my own research since many specifics regarding medical training have probably changed since his time (he was a resident when he helped my mother give birth to me in 1983).

    The process of becoming a physician in the United States is generally a mystery to everyone who is not a doctor, directly related to one, or working towards medical school admission, as there are many aspects of medical education (including getting admitted) that are misunderstood, poorly understood, or simply not known to those outside of that particular loop. All that most people know is that "it's hard/difficult," and/or that "it takes a long time," and for most intents and purposes that is enough. I am going to take a not-so great leap of faith and assume that the same is the case for other countries, including the ROK. Given the fact that the Korean is *not* a Korean doctor (and I do not know whether or not he is directly related to one) I would consider him a poor source of information regarding this particular aspect of Korean society, even though people seem to like asking him about literally *all* things that appear to be associated with Korea/Korean people.

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  22. Second "reply" which is an extension of my original reply:



    The fallacy that the original questioner makes in asking The Korean her (if Valentina is the questioner's true name I am going to assume she identifies as female) question is inferring that medical education and practice in the ROK is necessarily "Korean" or has some "Korean" aspects that require insight from individuals who are intimately associated/familiar with (modern) Korean culture and cannot be gleaned from any other source. [b]Modern medical education and practice anywhere in the world is first and foremost medical education and practice.[/b] National/cultural idiosyncrasies are mostly relevant only for the purposes of: credentialing/licensure (for instance, the process of earning the MD degree differs from country to country, with some places starting the process at what we consider the undergraduate level); testing (the MCAT, for instance, is not the CSAT); emphases (if any) on professionalism and conformity to local cultural norms, and to the extent that accurate and timely communication (and therefore a superior grasp of the dominant language, though some would debate this contention regarding English in the United States) is essential to medical education and practice in every country. [b]These things are basic background information, i.e. one's own damn homework.[/b] I leave out country-specific health statistics, international health differences, and the like, because, though relevant to medical practice, it is not relevant to medical education/training.

    Having said all this, as the onus for learning about these country-specific details/requirements related to medical education/training is on oneself, it is hardly The Korean's responsibility to answer these kinds of questions. It is unjust, and as the tone of his post indicates, frustrating. Most of all, unfair to oneself, as The Korean himself has no qualifications (he's not an admissions counselor, nor is he a medical student, nor a doctor, in Korea or anywhere else) to be able to answer this sort of question. Asking these kinds of questions to anyone other than a reliable source (no offense TK, but I do not consider you a reliable source regarding medical education/cross-training in the ROK) is doing oneself a disservice.

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  23. I wouldn't really trust TK on this. I'm in a Korean med school (Inje University, which is middle-tier when it comes to its medicinal department, and rather low-tier with its other majors), and there's a Nigerian student here who's doing well enough. He did not take the CSAT, nor was he extremely fluent in Korean when he was first accepted. He joined us during our third year in pre-med.

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  24. valentina's answer was based on localised view and national pride - assuming she is Korean. Having just stayed at Seoul National Hospital, having a Western trained docor would be a boon to the overall picture. Why? Most of the Medical students and/or new doctors were in awe of the consultant and are usually gibbering wrecks in his presence something i found amusing and irritating.

    The most germane aspect however would be the ability to speak to the patients in their mother tongue. This is probably the biggest obstacle if you are a graduate of Imperial and/or any tip 5 UK Medical school.

    I'd imagine it is a folly however for a foreigner to want to be a doctor in Korea. Aside from having an over supply of Doctors, petty prejudice would be your daily diet.

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  25. the real irony is that the british healtcare system not only is considered to be superior to the korean one but amongst the elite of the world, so i would say anyone capable o graduating from "the King’s College or Imperial College in the UK" should be considered OVERQUALIFIED to labor in korea. The inhability to do so, would reflect a weaknes not on such an individuals medical capacity, but on koreas healtcare system since attracting higly qualified profesionals is of vital importance in order to achieve excellence status.
    On a different note, im from mexico and learned english,ive seen schoolmates learn german and english while studying to become doctors and over here we have to work 24 hour shifts every three days plus our class schedule , plus exams (once i had to take two exams on the same day after not sleeping for 24 hours) to get our degree, then we have to take the enarm exam for adquiring our medical residency wich lasts for 3 days.Then we start our medical residency, in wich ive seen people work for a full week without getting to go home to rest, so stop being condescending, being a dr is incredibly hard in any country, and if shes able to become one in the uk, wich healtcare system is considered superior to the korean healtcare system, then she shouldnt be mocked for hoping to work in korea, anyone smart enough to become a dr is smart enough to learn korean in 1 year.

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  26. My ex is a doctor from Korea. He went to Med school in Korea and then moved to the US, like a lot of his peers, because being a doctor in korea is so shit. Why would you want to try and be a doctor there when all the doctors in Korea want to leave?

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    1. Verify it you fucking racist white cunt. Or you're just talking out of your whore asshole.

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  27. Why is the faggot who wrote this so angry?

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  28. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0YmCowjBXA
    It's completely possible, don't let this angry guy put you off. Do your own research and call up places in Korea yourself.

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