CONTRIBUTED BY JESSICA KOK
I did it! Four months later, I still can’t quite believe it. I wore glasses or contacts for 27 years. That’s a mighty long time. The last time I purchased contacts, they just weren’t quite right. There was something off about them that neither I nor the doctor could figure out. I wore gas permeable contacts, so my contact purchases came around only once every few years. I told myself that I wouldn’t buy another pair. The next time I needed new contacts, I would have LASIK instead. A year later, that pair of contacts totally failed. Gulp.
By this time, we were living in Korea. A month of wearing glasses had me scouring the internet, confirming the rumors of the price being about half of what I would have paid in the US. I picked three places (Glory Eye Center, Dream Eye Center, and St. Mary’s) where a lot of foreigners seemed to go and decided to get prices from each.
My first stop was Glory Eye Center in Gangnam. They are part of the Seoul Eye Group and also have a clinic in Myeongdong (Myeongdong Eye Center). Had I known this at the time, I would have gone to the Myeongdong location since it’s closer to where I live. Oh well. I went in on a Saturday morning, my husband and three kiddos tagging along. It couldn’t take that long … right? And I was just there to do a quick check and get a price. I thought we’d find something to do in Gangnam afterward.
I had an appointment and one of the people who works there came to meet us at the subway. He was very nice, spoke English pretty well, and introduced himself to my son as “James Bond.” 🙂 The clinic is just a minute walk from the Gangnam Station.
My first impression of it was how shiny and busy it was. Everything in there was clean and perfect and there were people everywhere. They clearly do a lot of business. To be honest, that in itself was a huge relief.
It turned out that there was really nothing quick about getting my eyes checked. I’ve never seen such a lineup of machines. There was a long row of tables and they moved me from one machine to the next. They were thorough, to say the least. After the eye exam, Dr. Gu laid out my options and the prices. He said he could do it right then. Whoa. My husband and I talked about it and I knew that if I ever walked out of those doors, I’d never come back and I’d have to wear glasses forever. I freely admit that I’m a total chicken. The price was right in line with what I knew others had paid, so I said, “ok.” I paid my money and they gave me a bag full of drops. There was an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, and artificial tears. If you don’t think you can put drops in your eyes, don’t worry. You’ll be an expert in a matter of hours.
Surgery was on the next floor up. I figured I’d go up by myself and my husband would watch my very patient children. They’d actually been kept quite entertained all this time by the computers and by making themselves cup after cup of hot chocolate. The person who took me to the next floor said that my husband could come up with me. He declined, saying that he couldn’t leave the kids. She said the older kids could stay there and our 18 month old could come up. In the end, I ended up having surgery while my husband stood next to me, shooting photos and video with one hand and holding our daughter in the other. My other two kids were down a floor drinking gallons of hot chocolate. I can’t quite imagine this is how it would have happened in the US!
From the time I got in the elevator to the time I came back down after surgery, only about 15 minutes had passed. The first machine made the cuts for the flap in each eye and the second did the correction. There wasn’t any pain, but there was a lot pressure. Honestly the worst part was just the surgical draping that they stuck around my face. At least I was able to focus on my annoyance with that instead of what was happening to my eyes. At one point, I almost panicked, thinking, “I PAID someone to do this?????” Side note: if anyone ever says, “look blinking green light,” to me again, they risk getting punched. Hearing that 164,395,238 times took it’s toll.
When it was all over, I couldn’t see any better. I had heard reports of people being to see right away and drive the next day. That wasn’t me. My eyes were tired and I was generally exhausted. I had a brief moment of regret when I had to get on the subway to go home. My eyes wanted to be closed, so my 9-year-old son guided me through the craziness that is Gangnam Station. Thankfully, he’s pretty competent!
When we got home, I took a nap. I couldn’t believe how tired I was. I woke up a few hours later and when I opened my eyes, I could see! I cried. I was a total emotional mess. That moment was one of the most joyful moments of my life. After 27 years of being bound to contacts or glasses, I was FREE!
My vision wasn’t totally perfect and, to be honest, 4 months later it still isn’t. Day by day it got better. I sometimes still have a little trouble in low light or in florescent lighting or when I haven’t put drops in for a while. Technically, I have 20/20 vision. The doctor says my vision should get better and better over the next 8 months. A little time with Google told me that vision after LASIK stabilizes over about 12 months.
I went back for eye checks the day after surgery, then at 1 week, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. At the last check, they sent me on my way saying that I was done, but to come back if I was having any problems.
I took this photo after my checkup the day after surgery as I came out of the building. I saw it as clearly as my camera recorded it. Incredible!!
The whole process, from the time I walked in to the time I walked out, took about 4 hours.
Someone from Japan got surgery right after I did. Apparently the cost of traveling to Korea (with her husband and child) + surgery is quite a bit less than it would be to have it done in Japan. I know that I was certainly happy with the price! I paid about 1/3 of what my sister paid in the US.
Seoul Eye Group takes credit cards, cash, or they have some sort of payment installment plan. I didn’t get the details on it, but apparently it’s available.
I hadn’t gotten a prescription filled in Korea before. If you get a prescription, you need to have it filled where they tell you to go. I thought I could take it and get it filled closer to my apartment. Not so. I checked several pharmacies around where we live before realizing that the system here is different.
I didn’t feel comfortable driving for about a week.
I had to really limit my computer time for a few weeks because it really dried out my eyes. I think I forget to blink. ??
If you have surgery on Saturday, you’ll need to come back on Sunday. They are technically closed, but a doctor comes in just to do checks for patients from Saturday. Instead of going through the main doors, go through the door around the left corner of the building.
Cost: My surgery was 1.3 million won, but it will vary depending on the surgery you choose. The drops were 40,000 won. When you go back for eye checks, they will give you additional prescriptions for drops. You can fill them at the pharmacy on the 10th floor of the same building.
Phone Number: 18.104.22.16890
Address: 822-4 Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu Seoul (Click to view map HERE)
Directions: Subway line 2 (green line), Gangnam Station, Exit 12
When you come out of the exit, walk about 50 meters. You’ll see a sign for the Seoul Eye Group on the Gangnam Jeil Building on your left. Go to the second floor. There is parking information on their website. They will validate parking.
You can take the 740 bus across the street from the War Memorial and get off at Gangnam Station. Seoul Eye Group is across the street from the bus stop.
Monday – Thursday 9:30-6:30