Hi, Dr P,
I've visited a small psychiatrist in my neighborhood, in Seoul twice this year. Prior to this, I had never visited a psychiatrist before. The first time I was prescribed Alprazolam, and the second time I was prescribed Alprazolam and Paxil.
I will be starting a new job next year, and one of the questions that I have to answer as part of the visa application is, "Have you ever received treatment for mental, neurotic or emotional disorders?"
I'd prefer to check the "No" box, but I am a little concerned that whoever processes my information at the Seoul Immigration Department may have access to a record of my visit to the psychiatrist here in Seoul.
Do you know if Immigration officials are able to check this information? As the medication is strictly PRN, and I have used it very seldom, I'd rather not disclose this information. But I don't want to have any problems with my visa application, either. Can you advise on the best way to handle this situation?
Many foreigners used to ask me about the similar issue because it is a very sensitive topic. But the most important thing is whether you are in the right condition to work than whether you have or have not had treatment in the psychiatric clinic. If there is no problem in your functioning and adaptation for your job, you don't need to declare your history of treatment in psychiatric clinic.
Actually, the history of the psychiatric treatment is a matter of individual privacy and nobody can be forced to report it, including immigration officials. But you should keep in your mind that if you have a psychiatric treatment on Korean national insurance, there is some risk that your diagnostic information could be saved on record. Of course, the confidentiality will be kept in the majority cases, but psychotic illness such as schizophrenia may be an issue, especially if you are in a teaching position.
But it does not matter for you to check the ‘NO' box if you do not have such a severe mental illness and have just visited a psychiatrist only a few times.
Dear Dr. P,
I taught English in Taiwan and had to break my contract because of culture shock. I'm hoping to try again but this time to South Korea. Can you please give me any information on the subject to aid me in my future travels, so I don't have to break contracts and can enjoy Asia for a longer period of time without feeling overwhelmed.
It is common for people to have a tendency to make the same mistake. Because of this, I believe that if you don't delve into why you were unable to adapt in Taiwan, there is a good possibility that you might also fail to adapt in Korea.
You said particularly that you wanted to enjoy a life in Korea. I think that you might have to try to change that perception to start. Living abroad, away from home, is quite stressful. Culture shock and cultural understanding are barriers that are very hard to overcome. On that note, rather than expecting your trip to Korea to be an "enjoyable experience," consider that it will be a time of "stress and hardships."
To find out information about Korea, you can search throughout the Internet, where there are tons of sites on the subject. But most importantly you will be able to get the kind of information you want from other people. If you have a friend who is already working in Korea, try to find out what it's really like in Korea from them.
Whatever the work is, how it turns out depends on the person, so I believe that when you do come to Korea, you will have to take particular care in your personal relationships. If you think too much about your comfort and your benefits, then trouble and problems are bound to follow.
I think that it is incredibly important to try to see a situation from the other person's point of view. Koreans, particularly, take importance in personal relationships, and if you take the stance of understanding and try to help others, the Koreans here will surely do the same for you.
I wish you the best of luck for the future.
Park Jin-seng is a psychiatrist who runs a clinic for foreigners in Seoul and operates personal therapist forums on www.lifeinkorea.com. Please submit questions for Park to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the hotline at 02-563-0678.