As I emerge from Hansung University station, I’m greeted by a mass of people, the smell of beer, and a DJ pumping dance tunes across a square. It’s the World Beer Festival hosted in Seoul. Like an excited eighteen-year-old, I smile from ear to ear.
My Korean friend Buyeon emerges from the throng. We hug. I hear my name shouted out. It’s Harry, the Meetup host. He remembered me from my last visit with his group at the Latin American Festival. After greetings, he announces that we’ll wait for other joiners before we disappear into the crowd in search of beer and food. That evening, I meet local Koreans, expat teachers, a retired international footballer. We take photos with celebrity Bulgarian chef, Mikhal, and dance with the live DJ. If I hadn’t stumbled across Harry’s Meetup invitation the night before, I wouldn’t have known about this marvelous event.
With celebrity chef Mikhal
As an expat deprived of my long standing network of friends and family, it’s very easy to feel isolated. Meetups cater to several needs, the need to belong to a group and receive support, indulging adventure and trying new experiences, as well as meeting people with similar interests.
I discovered Meetup.com through a friend. He casually mentioned ‘Meetups’ and curious, I went online to discover that this network offered. I joined particular groups that were located in or near to my current city, Seoul, and began receiving invitations to attend planned events. Over the last fourteen months, I have attended all kinds of Meetups which I’ll present shortly.
Attending meetups has been one of the best ways I have found to network, make friends, and meet people who have similar interests to me. Many Meetups are attended by international traveler-types as well as locals who like meeting international travellers. As an expat, it’s challenging always feeling like an outsider or guest in Korea, but when I’m with world travelers, these people ‘feel like’ home.
Through Meetups, I’ve met outstanding people. These include Traditional Korean medicine doctor, Yoon who I continue to visit for natural beauty treatments (see my article about Dr. Yoon’s natural fillers and acne scar treatments here). I’ve also met CC and Mr. Kim, two remarkable (and fit) Korean men who encourage hikers to push through the physical and mental challenges of hiking. I met Ernesto who reintroduced me to the Latin dance scene and reignited my passion for traveling around Korea itself. Recently, I met Marco, Andii, and many Spanish speaking friends through Hola Cafe Meetup. I attend Hola Cafe regularly, and these friends are becoming my new family.
I receive multiple invitations to events every week, but I only attend whatever I feel like doing. I hit the ‘attend’ button and show up the day of. There are many interesting Meetup groups, but here are my favourites.
All kinds of festivals regularly take place all over the country, and particularly in my current home, Seoul. I joined Harry’s The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Group, and together, we attended the Latin American Festival in May 2017. Once confirmed attendees arrived and we all introduced ourselves, we roamed around the festival, trying sangria, Spanish vino and all kinds of foods, mainly from Latin America. Harry’s events often attend festivals. It’s a brilliant way to enjoy a festival and meet fun new friends too. See The Seoul Expat Global Meetup Grouphere.
There are many language exchange groups. The events seem to be concentrated in Gangnam and Hongdae, and take place at designated cafes. These seem to entail Koreans teaching expats local Hangul, and expats teaching Koreans English language, and this is done mostly through conversation. I don’t attend these Korean/English language exchanges, but I’ve heard that these events are sometimes used to find people to date.
I regularly attend Mangwon Spanish Language & Culture Meetup, hosted by Marco on Saturday afternoons at Hola Café. Marco offers Spanish and English language classes throughout the week, but Saturday from 5pm is allocated for a large mixed group of Spanish speaking people to share their cultures together. I’ve met people from Mexico, America, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, and a large number of international Koreans who have lived in Spanish speaking countries. Every week, I encounter people from previous events, and there are constantly new faces to meet. Find Marco’s Spanish Language Meetup here.
Photo courtesy of Andii MtzReyna
With new friend, Andii
I like to hike with Climbing In Korea (CIK) Meetup Group. It’s run by Mr. Kim, and he is very organized leader. I try to attend the hikes identified as ‘easy’ because many hikers are really fit in this group, and hikes at intermediate level entail rock climbing and considerable stamina. The group also organize trips to see other locations throughout Korea. I enjoyed a CIK weekend camping trip to Pyeongchang where we were introduced to preparations for the upcoming 2018 Olympics. I reviewed the event here. To find CIK meetup group, click here.
Discover Seoul/ new experiences/ dinners
Johncito of Seoul Village organizes events including hanbok dress-up, visiting palaces, touring central Seoul, particularly Myeongdong, visiting Kwangjang market, and enjoying walks along the Cheongyecheon stream. I’ve attended several events by Johncito, including language instruction (Korean and Spanish) within a café setting, walking and talking (in Spanish) at Namdaemun market, enjoying traditional Korean lunch at Kwangjang market, and dinners at Buddhist, Thai and other restaurants. Johncito is lots of fun to hang out with, and he also mentors expats who want to start their own meetups! To find Seoul Village, click here.
Latin dance classes
I just attended my first Latin dance class with dance instructor, Mr. Kang. I simply had a blast learning Salsa, Bachata and Cha cha. I have every intention to return as soon as possible! Mr. Kang is professional and patient, and plans to teach us Tango too! To find Let’s Learn Latin Dance with Mr. Kang via Seoul Village, click here.
Mr. Kang photography
Mr. Kang photography
Photography groups are useful for people looking to meet and share skills with other photographers, and other people related to the industry. I just attended an event with Seoul Model/ Photographer/ MUA/Stylist/ Community. We were a team of approximately seven models and six photographers, hosted by Don and Izzy. We used the Seoullo overground pass, and surrounding area near Seoul station to look for ideal backdrops and places to shoot.
Buyeon_Kim photography: model So Jin
Buyeon_Kim photography: with Tom Dahl-Hansen
Buyeon_Kim photography: with Izzy and Adrian
Buyeon_Kim photography: with model Andii
Izzy specializes in fashion photography (see Izzy’s site here). Don, in addition to portrait photography, creates videos and documents his photography in articles published onhis website. I’ve included Don’s video below.
Izzy and Don are two very professional and fun guys to work with. See Seoul Model/ Photographer/ MUA/ Stylist/ Community page here.
Literature and writing clubs
I recently attended Christine’s Meetup, Seoul Writers’ Collective. The workshops focus on developing writing skills for writers working on prose (books, articles etc.) and poetry, and developing critical thinking skills. I attended an event at Dan & Chung Café, Itaewon, where after introductions, attendees were presented with a poem that we broke down and discussed. The process was fascinating. As a blog writer, the development of discussing chosen words and punctuation helped me consider aspects of my own writing that I had previously overlooked. I definitely intend to return and hope to bring friends with me! Find Christine’s writing group here.
There are plenty of other Meetup groups which I haven’t attended. These include weekend drinking parties in Hongdae for those interested in drinking or dating, as well as art, and many others. Additionally, if you see that no Meetups are offered for your particular interest, you can create and host your own one!
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“Er… I think you need to practice your winks, Tash. You seriously wink like a Quebecois farmer! Haha!”
This moment between photographer and friend Danniel Oickle and I several years back had us rolling in stitches. We were doing a 1950s/60s period photoshoot in his retro studio basement in Ottawa Canada, and in three hours, we created around four-hundred photos. That evening, we didn’t produce a single ‘sexy wink’ shot. Some of our images were later used in Danniel’s Ottawa photography exhibit, The Corruption of Flesh and were seen by thousands of visitors at SAW Gallery, Ottawa in 2011.
Why write this article?
I have never really taken modeling seriously. Modeling has been a hobby for over ten years, and I do it because I enjoy the experience and love the results. I’m no professional model, but having worked in the fashion and beauty industry and knowing a thing or two about photography, it’s my hope that aspiring models may benefit from my experience.
Meeting my first fashion photographer
I met my first photographer, Combie McNeil, while I was doing esthetics and make-up artistry courses in Ottawa Canada. While the students were introduced to working with television and photography make-up, the academy invited Crombie to discuss intricacies of photography, and he explained how make-up application affects photographs. Make-up artists and photographer usually work together for TV and photoshoot purposes to get the best possible result on camera.
After Crombie’s presentation, he took photos of the students, which gave us a chance to observe how our own make-up applications appeared on printed paper. We could see how we needed more contour here, or blend eye-shadow more there.
Crombie invited me to take more photographs with him as a model. Thereafter, we did about four photoshoots together. My first was horribly awkward and I had no idea what I was doing. He patiently told me how to position my body, where to focus my gaze and how to place my hands.
First photoshoot Crombie McNeill Photography
First photoshoot Crombie McNeill Photography
The second shoot was much easier because I felt more comfortable and had an idea of what to expect. As a result, I could pose more naturally and even initiate poses without receiving instructions every time. Crombie and I didn’t stay in touch, but I was grateful for the experience because I developed the confidence to model in the future.
Since that initial introduction to modeling, meeting photographers has been fairly easy. I met several amateur photographers who were building portrait portfolios who needed volunteer models. I met Dann (from Daniel Oickle photography) through my work. I met photography student Samantha (Samantha Garafalo photography) at my university. She needed a model for her final exam project. I met Aaron (Mad_Zoge photography) in a coffee shop after striking up a conversation about his camera in Itaewon Seoul, and I met Don (don.macdonell photography) through expat social networks in Korea. Photographer Izzy (easy_izzy_photography) is a friend of Don’s and so when Don organized a photoshoot, he invited Izzy to join us.
Networking and locating photographers
Although in my case I largely made personal connections with most of the photographers before working with them, actively seeking photographers is probably easiest to achieve through social networking. Portrait photographers who are building portfolios need to find photography subjects so they place adds on Facebook group pages and organize Meetup events to get photographers and models together. Often, photographers have photographer friends, so this gives models the opportunity to meet and work with more photographers with different creative styles. This was the case when I met Izzy through Don.
Figuring out the deal
Before doing a photo-shoot with Dann, he asked me to sign a contract acknowledging that any photos that he took legally belonged to him. This made our understanding very clear, and defined for me what typically tends to be the arrangement between amateur models and photographers who are not making money from a photo-shoot.
Modeling for amateur photographers usually entails an exchange of services, where the photographer retains all rights to the photographs, meaning that the photographer can sell the images for a profit. The model often receives a copy of the photographs, and if s/he wishes to share the images, the model expected to credit (identify) the photographer. A model often selects their favourite images to build a modeling portfolio.
Some photographers prefer studio photography while others like outdoor destinations. I personally prefer outdoor locations as I find that studio bright lights can tire my eyes after hours being under the spotlight. Outdoor shoots also include circulating fresh air which gives me more energy to perform for the camera. Outdoor shoots also offer variety because photographers often want to change from one location to another, looking for different backdrops, and occasionally, shelter from the rain.
But studio photography gives the photographer a lot more control over lighting settings and it can be much more convenient since both the model and photographer don’t have to contend with bad weather and models don’t have to go far to change an outfit.
Samantha Laura Garofalo photography
Samantha Laura Garofalo photography
Samantha Laura Garofalo photography
Before going on location, discuss where you and the photographer have in mind to shoot. I have done shoots on roof-top car parks, inside fancy restaurants, on castle grounds and in parks, beside interesting architectural structures and within university and home studios. I really like street art so that’s what I hope to incorporate into my next shoot.
I have several guidelines I loosely follow before a shoot. I often plan for a good sleep routine in the days leading up to my shoot, and prefer to schedule my shoot for later in the afternoon to ensure I get eight hours sleep. Sleeping well is a famous routine models famously stick it. You don’t have to be a genius to be aware that good sleep patterns create healthier, happier human beings and side effects are often glowing complexions.
I also avoid changing my skin care routine. Beginning an experimental skin care treatment just before my shoot risks pimples on the day of shooting. It’s simply not worth the risk. I may paint my nails the night prior, and also plan outfits beforehand, including shoes and accessories. I like to bring scarves, gloves, fans, umbrellas, hats and so on because props help me with movement and variety of poses during shooting, especially when I hit moments when I can’t think of any interesting pose to do.
On my last shoot, my hair was a disaster due to the intense humidity from Korean summers, and I was grateful for some of the black and white finishes which drew less attention to my crazy hair. Ideally, I prefer to have my hair cut about three weeks before a shoot, so that the style is refined, and I’ve learned how to manage it. Also, my hair would have had a chance to grow and doesn’t look shorter than I tend to prefer.
I happen to be a trained make-up artist, so that makes make-up preparation much easier. Although I take about seven minutes to do my daily make-up routine, I tend to take more care with things like symmetry and precision for photoshoot make-up, and as a result, I end up taking about twenty to thirty minutes. For someone who doesn’t have too much experience with make-up application, and plans to do their own make-up, I suggest the following.
Consult your photographer and decide on a particular theme (urban chic, classic, and so on) which can help you decide on how present your make-up. Consider your outfits before deciding what color lipstick and eye shadow to use. Your make-up may need to be suitable for several outfit changes. Brown tones work with almost every outfit. I sometimes consult make-up tutorials available on YouTube for new ideas. I recently bought a new palette of eye shadows, and having this available meant that I had a great deal of flexibility with choosing colors.
In the same way that actors wear plenty of make-up for the theater stage so the audience can perceive facial expressions from afar, likewise, make-up for the camera serves to enhance facial features so the camera can pick up details. With photography makeup, more is better. You need to wear more contour and blush, and need richer lipstick colors. Peach tones work really well for photography.
Mad Zoge photography
Mad Zoge photography
Mad Zoge photography
Bringing friends along for shoots makes the whole experience a lot more fun, and sometimes, you can even convince your friends to participate!
Parks or gardens provide neutral backdrops that are often easy to work with, particularly for models doing a first time photo-shoot who prefer to get away from crowds and onlookers. On this occasion, we actually had a group conference of around fifty Korean men and women suited up pile into the gardens and stare at us. They were also there to take a group photo! It was actually quite funny.
Mad Zoge photography
Mad Zoge photography
Day of shoot
I like to do an aerobics morning workout before showering and dressing for my shoot. The endorphins and energy it produces helps to put me in a good mood, feel empowered and confident.
I also like to go for a coffee with my photographer just before starting the shoot to get to know each other and enjoy a little banter first. This will give me a chance to discuss previous modeling experience and expectations of the shoot.
On a recent shoot, I didn’t clarify what I had been looking for, and to my surprise, many of the shots turned out very artistic, moody and mostly profile and mid-body shots. I had expected lots of frontal face and full body shots, however that was something I failed to communicate. Photographers and models can’t read each other’s mind, so it’s pretty important to discuss ideas prior to the shoot.
One of the more challenging things for me has been creative posing. Figuring out what to do next, where to look, and what to do with my hands and feet.
Sometimes the photographer had something very specific in mind and gave lots of direction over body placement, facial expression and so on. But many times, I have been left to own devices and created my own movement or poses.
Easy Izzy Photography
Easy Izzy Photography
Easy Izzy Photography
As the model, I cannot see through a camera lens, and thus often rely on feedback from the photographer to know what body movements to do. Models should not be shy to ask for direction. This aspect of the photo-shoot gets much easier with experience. After getting over the initial anxiety of learning how to pose, I began to actually enjoy it and this switched happened, in my case, within the first two photo-shoots.
My PROS AND CONS to getting involved in modeling shoots
I enjoy the experience of going out and participating in these events. They can be a lot of fun.
Supportive friends and others will give you lots of accolades and it can be really confidence-boosting on a very superficial level.
If modeling is something you want to pursue professionally, unless you get ‘spotted’, you will have to put yourself out there and therefore need to build a portfolio showcasing different sides to your look, your creativity, and your potential to sell products.
Photo-shoots can be tiring. They may last hours, and as center of attention, you would be expected to be professional and ‘produce the goods’, namely, be able to perform for the camera. It helps to have an exhibitionist personality type that likes to receive attention. If this is not your cup of tea, then modeling may prove uncomfortable and stressful.
Buyeon Kim Photography
Buyeon Kim Photography
Buyeon Kim Photography
I think that high expectations and self-criticism are two of the hardest things about modeling, and living in world surrounded by media that demands perfection can make marketing yourself emotionally challenging. Modeling exposes you to your own and everyone else’s critique. Sometimes, we are our own worse critiques, and photos often pick up on our insecurities and these might leave you feeling down.
Benefits to investing in modeling experiences
Oftentimes, the fun experienced during the photo-shoot itself and the accolades received from others make photo-shoots worthwhile, even for someone who is not pursuing modeling as a career. Helping amateur photographers build their portfolios can be as serious or as fun and ridiculous as you dictate.
Modeling has helped me develop in surprising ways. Organizing and performing in shoots pulls together various skills, including learning how to network, and creating grit. Learning to pose has trained me to ‘be photogenic.’ Working with photographers has also helped develop my confidence, by learning to build rapport quickly, and brought out my social skills. Overall, I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to dabble in this fascinating industry.
Most people are interested in health, beauty, or both. I’m always interested in discussing what I should eat, digestion issues and so on. But, I’m definitely set on maintaining a youthful, glowing face. It’s no secret that the two go hand in hand, and there’s no better person to discuss these topics with than a Korean traditional medicine doctor who specializes in dermatology and women’s health.
This article is a follow-up to an article I published in May 2017. I’ve always been interested in understanding how western and traditional Asian treatments differ, and I’m also very curious about traditional clinics which utilize modern skin treatments. To discover more, I revisited Dr. Yoon at his clinic located in Insa Dong, Seoul, along with my friend Lydia.
I received two treatments by Dr. Yoon free of charge. In exchange for my consultation and treatments, I would write about Dr. Yoon’s service and my treatment results. As someone who considers carefully what beauty treatments are worthwhile, I was very curious to see what Dr. Yoon deemed safe to bring into his regular practice.
Rejuvenating, Acne Scaring Treatment
A month before this visit, Dr. Yoon informed me that I had lots of tiny acne scaring. Now, I thought that I simply had large pores, but since I had gone through both teenage and adult acne, this news shouldn’t have caught me by surprise. We decided there and then that my next treatment would include some kind of acne resurfacing treatment that would diminish the scaring to give me more even, less porous looking skin.
When I asked Dr. Yoon which treatment he intended to use on my face, as a former esthetician with ongoing interest in innovative skin care treatments, I understood perfectly what he had in mind when he introduced me to the AMTS. I learned about this treatment two years earlier in Victoria Canada through a skin specialist.
The AMTS CRP – CELL machine works by injecting five pins simultaneously into the skin, puncturing the dermis (all skin layers) through to the blood supply beneath. The treatment works by creating new scars where the skin is punctured which replaces older acne scars. The result is that older, pock-marked or damaged skin tissue which may appear as “large pores,” become refined and smooth after several treatments.
First, I was asked to wash my face using a facewash provided. Next, I lay down, and a comforting warm pillow was placed on my stomach. This may have been to help relax me. Dr. Yoon then applied a face peel gommage which removed dead skin cells from the skin’s surface and after removing the gommage, applied a think layer of anesthetic gel to numb the skin surface. He added a sheet of transparent cellophane cling film over top, presumably to enhance the potency of the numbing agent.
After fifteen minutes, the anesthetic gel was removed and Dr. Yoon began the AMTS treatment. It felt a little like a staple gun would, i’d imagine. The hand piece was pressed against my face, particularly the areas which have lots of acne scaring, which in my case was my forehead and chin. The treatment was a little painful around the cheekbones and forehead as these areas don’t have much cushioning.
As the punctures penetrated to my blood supply, blood appeared on my face. The treatment was over in probably seven minutes. Blood was left on my face to act as a serum to nourish the skin, and a mask sheet of moisturizing essence was applied over top. Then Dr. Yoon painted a cooling face mask over top of the essence sheet, and I was left to relax for about twenty minutes to absorb these topical ingredients.
Time: approximately 1.5 hours
I’d recommend this treatment for people who can tolerate a little pain.
Patients have to use sunblock for a few weeks after the treatment to ensure that fresh regrowth skin cells are not prematurely damaged by UV rays.
You will be provided with a topical cream to apply. Don’t apply too much on your forehead or too close to your eyes otherwise it may seep into your eyes and bother you. That happened to me.
My skin is sensitive, and after the treatment, some areas on my face were red and sore, and I had bruises on my skin, particularly the less fleshy areas like my forehead and cheekbones. I actually avoided putting any make-up on the day after, and just to be extra safe, avoided the sunshine hours. Two days later, my daily routine returned to normal and I was using my make-up (with SPF UV protection) along with the topical cream provided.
I visited Dr. Yoon one week after the rejuvenation treatment. The aftercare treatment was to promote healthy cell production.
The procedure included applying several products to my face, including cooling creams, a gauze and then a mask. The treatment usually includes a herbal treatment, but this step was skipped in my case due to time constraints. The treatment was done by Dr. Yoon’s nurse, so unfortunately, due to communication barriers, I could not ask questions about the exact products applied to my skin.
Anti Aging Naturopathic Fillers for Frown Lines
Fillers essentially fill in creases including forehead frown as well as smile lines. Fillers are sometimes used an an alternative to botox in so much as they reduce sharp lines in the skin and plump out the skin. But botox, a paralysing agent used to prevent the muscles from contracting, is considered a toxin. As a result, some people avoid botox and similar brands because, when digested into the body, they are considered unhealthy.
The clinic I currently attend for laser hair removal treatments specializes in skin treatments, and this clinic (You&I) offers filler treatments. However, when attempting to research what exactly fillers are made from, I have found little information available in English within Korea. Thus, I really liked the idea of receiving fillers based on natural ingredients at Dr. Yoon’s clinic.
Different options were available with Dr. Yoon. Lydia asked for a filler treatment that was essentially vegan, and contained no animal byproduct. I had the treatment that did include animal byproduct.
Dr. Yoon asked me to frown to locate exactly where the creases lie. He then injected into the appropriate areas between my brows. About five minutes and 5 injections later, the procedure was over. It was my second treatment, and the procedure went very smoothly. Lydia was more sensitive to the injection needle. She had recently undergone lots of facial acupuncture, and is prone to headaches, so Dr. Yoon abandoned treatment partway through as she found it stressful.
Rejuvenation treatment and aftercare results
My face has lost some of the more prominent pores particularly in the area around my chin where I tend to get hormonal breakouts monthly.
The tone of my skin seems to have changed a little. I tend to get red patches on my face, particularly around my nose and cheek area, but the treatment seems to have ‘evened’ my skin tone somewhat. Since my treatment, I have not felt obligated (as I usually do) to wear face foundation.
Firstly, I only had one treatment. My results were subtle, and to be honest, to see a real difference in notable removal of acne scar tissue and evening of skin tone, you need to have several treatments. Most clients book multiple treatments which work out cheaper as a package.
Also, the treatment itself may be considered expensive, however, Dr. Yoon explained that of all the laser skin resurfacing treatments currently available, the prices for his treatment are pretty standard. Each treatment is usually approximately 250,000 won ($250). He is currently offering this treatment at a reduced price for clientele who mention this article.
Finally, non-Koreans (or foreigners) are not as accustomed to needles as local Koreans. Acupuncture treatments are common here, but inserting something into the skin may be daunting to westerners. The rejuvenation treatment works by inserting several needles at once into the facial tissue, drawing blood. This treatment is not for the squeamish, however, Dr. Yoon knew exactly what he was doing. While it was a little painful, and my face was blotchy, bruised and sensitive for a few days afterwards, I definitely feel that the results made the treatment worthwhile.
Naturopathic Filler results
The treatment was very effective. The lines created from repeated muscle contraction between my brows are completely filled out. I’m very pleased with the overall result.
Filler treatments lasts up to a month before the body absorbs the filler ingredients.
You have the option to chose from fillers that contain animal product (deer antler) or vegan (only plant base). I used the non vegan filler which is popular among the Korean clients.
The fillers used at Dr. Yoon’s clinic give a youthful ‘glow’ to the skin as the product is absorbed into the blood stream.
Naturopathic fillers are made from natural ingredients. Unlike fillers received at western style clinics, naturopathic fillers are not dangerous once absorbed into the body.
Initially, because the lines between my brows are fairly deep, Dr. Yoon injected a substantial amount of filler, meaning that for the first few days, the injected area was raised, forming a slight bump under the skin. Several days later, as the filler began to disperse and be absorbed by my body, the bump disappeared.
The filler possibly affects the tear making glands, as I’ve noticed that my tears stung my eyes a little for a few days after the treatment.
Naturopathic fillers last up to four weeks. Fillers administered at western clinics linger in the area for three to four months. Thus, if you wish to consistently retain the effect of naturopathic fillers, you may find yourself getting retouch treatments fairly regularly. Dr. Yoon charges 55,000 won for the first treatment, and a touch up within three weeks is approximately 33,000 won for clients who mention this article. Consultations are free.
Would I repeat these treatments?
Yes, although I have grown used to having ‘porus’ looking skin, Korean obsession with flawless skin has increased my expectations for acquiring the skin I’ve always wanted. I credit Korean skincare products with eliminating the adult acne I suffered from since the age of thirteen, so I feel that Koreans are definitely doing something right.
If I continue to have more treatments, my t-zone area (forehead, nose and chin) would be considerably smoother, and my face tone would have significantly reduced red patches.
Yes, I would have this treatment again. I have already had it done twice. It essentially makes me look younger. For people worried about smile lines or vertical forehead lines, filler also works for these areas.
9 am I wake up, put on Ricki Martin’s “Maria”, start dancing around my tiny apartment, and drink water while catching up on instant messages and emails.
9:30 am Yoga time. I start every morning with an Ekhart Yoga video, followed by meditation practice. During Heart Meditation, I think about my nephew Reggie, which puts a huge smile on my face. My day starts with an glowing sense of happiness.
10:00 am I look at an email response from a recent blog upload. A woman raved that I’m a home wrecker, someone akin to a woman that destroyed her marriage and family.
Backstory. I recently wrote an article detailing how one of my work colleagues used our workplace as his hunting ground to seduce and emotionally manipulate three women. Unawares, I fell prey to his charms and believed he loved me. Ultimately, I underwent indescribable emotional betrayal, had trouble sleeping, cried nightly, developed chest pains, and considered leaving my job. Today, several women at my work suspect he may be a narcissistic psychopath. Meanwhile, because I mentioned he was a married while he preyed on me, I’ve received lots of hate mail from female readers after publishing my account of what happened. This week, I’ve been called scum, lacking courage for not telling his wife, a cheater, racist, closet narcissist, and several other passionately rendered insults.
10:30 am After reflecting on the message, I wrote in my gratitude diary. I gave thanks for my health, my ability to make new friends and the useful devices that benefit my life daily. Following Tim Ferriss’ TedTalk, Why You Should Define Your Fears Instead of Your Goals I also wrote about two of my fears, how I can prevent them coming to fruitation, and how I could repair the situation if need be.
11:00 am Shower and breakfast. Plenty of various Korean face products, and a bowl of cereal with sliced banana and pumpkins seeds.
12:30 pm I tear out the door headed to KHAP sexual heath, a Korean service that provides STI checks based on donations to foreigners. I haven’t had an STI check in a while. Time for a visit.
1:30 pm I get to their location by Gireum station (line 4) a tad late, and expect them to turn me away. Instead, I’m handed forms to fill out, and a cup to pee in. What a relief! My blood is extracted, and a finger pricked. 45 minutes after arrival, the doctor declares no HIV. The remaining results for syphilis, gonorrhea and urethritis will be emailed to me 5 days later. Nothing goes on record. Everything is kept very confidential.
2:30 pm I’m on my way to Hongdae. I want to check out the Hongik Children’s Park to see the artsy crafts created by startups students at Hongik University. I also want to write about the market. While on the train, I feel so dizzy that just as I’m arriving at my destination, I sink down to the floor. I was on the verge of fainting. I decide to skip my afternoon in Hongdae, and head right home. The blood extraction at KHAP, the crazy July humidity, my lack of lunch, and the Seoul trains packed with commuters probably caused me to feel weak.
4:00 pm Heading up the escalator to my local exit, I’m doubling over, and feel faint again. I rest on some steps for five minutes, drink water and fan myself. I resume taking the escalator and finally exit the subway after at least 1.5 hours of traveling.
4:15 pm I head to my favourite local casual restaurant, Tomato Kimbap, where I know all the staff. I chat with them in broken English-Korean, and sit down. They bring me some Mul Nengmyun. I add vinegar and mustard, take a pic and begin slurping away.
5:00 pm I head over to see Ms Kitty. My friend and work colleague Riley is in Taiwan. She left me in charge of her cat which I’ve been visiting daily. She needs lots of attention and love, and gets very angry if I don’t visit her frequently enough.
Backstory. I walked in the other day to a creamy poo and wee on the floor, to my horror. Since I don’t own pets and have never had children, the dilemma of how to attack a cream poo situation was super perplexing, especially since I had limited scoop/spray stuff at my disposal. To relieve your suspense, I confess that a day later, after letting the poo harden and shrink and the wee evaporate, I dealt with the situation using very long gloves. Yuk.
Back to the story. I hang out with Ms Kitty for about an hour or two, pretty much having a siesta with Ms. Kitty’s head in my outstretched hand. She has grown so comfortable with me over the past week!
6:30 pm I replenish her water and food, say goodbye and wander home. I pot around, looking at social media, reading travel blogs and information about Instagram. As I do this, I enjoy a prepackaged Starbucks coffee served in a glass with a screw cap and a snack on a wafer chocolate. I write down some ideas for future blogs. I begin writing this blog.
8:45 pm I go to my local grocery store, E-Mart. The place is packed on a Saturday night at 9pm. I try samples from salesclerks all over the store. A slice of watermelon, a piece of sausage, a drink of chicken soup with actual chicken inside it, and fat free yogurt beverage. I load up on western food. Bagels, cheese, pasta, ground beef, wholemeal bread, and a twix chocolate bar. I bought all my fruit and veg at the local market the day prior. I admire the bathroom ware, and pay at the cash register. As I walk home, it rains. It’s rainy season here in Korea during July. It rains all month long, but the rain does little to relieve the god awful humidity.
9:45 pm Home, and air con immediately goes on. I put away my shopping and make a bagel sandwich with cream cheese and a fried egg. The egg goes inside the sliced bagel. I have some ripe, juicy and earthy tomatoes on the side, which I eat like apples.
10:45 pm My friend Miranda messages from Canada. She commends me for the controversial blog I recently published. We decide to Skype later. After deliberating between Indian and Japanese incense, I chose the Japanese and light it. I really love incense. Smells really help me create an environment that feels like a temporary home here in Korea.
11:15 pm Miranda calls. She gives me a tour around her apartment in Ontario. I admire her interior decoration, particularly her taste in ancient Greek vase ware and her own replicas of ancient ancient Greek black figure images. I want to return to Athens. We talk about my recent blog post and the reactions I’m receiving. She advises me to ignore the haters. For some readers, drawing attention to psychopathic behaviour could potentially help them. She says, focus on the good reactions I’ve received, and don’t give any energy to these haters. Writers can never please everyone. I thank her for listening to me, and for her words.
1 am Before going to bed, I read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”In this post apocalyptic novel, humans have resorted to cannibalism to survive. Yesterday in the story, the father and son nearly walked into a hunter trap. They accidentally discovered a mass of humans kept like livestock in the basement of a house. I’ve watched the movie a few years ago. The more I read this, the better this story gets. I love it.
2 am The “gift of sleep”, the ancient Greek perspective. Happy to still be alive to enjoy another night of rest.
Although i’m no major foodie, there’s something that British women love, and that is breakfast. To complicate matters, I also lived in Canada, and thus I’ve also developed a taste for North American style breakfasts and bunches too.
Several weeks ago, my friends Buyeon and Anita decided that they’d take me to a cute restaurant on an early Sunday afternoon. It was buried beside many other competing restaurants scooped up behind the main Itaewon drag by the Hamilton hotel in Seoul. Taking a right beside the Hamilton, and then following the restaurant camino de deliciousness, we curved left with the alley, followed straight, and then, as we soon hit a narrow alley running perpendicular to us, we took an immediate right. There on the corner, with a halo on top, was Gobble n’ Go. We stepped inside.
After some indecision due to the temptations of sitting by pleasant air conditioning, we settled by the large front window, and because the day was hot, the attentive server quickly came over and suggested that we move into the air conditioned area of the restaurant further back. Perplexed by our determination to have a view and ‘endure’ the sun shine, he kindly lowered the blind for us a little to cut out some heat.
The quaint restaurant had light coloured, pretty furniture that reminded me of French decor. The servers seemed happy, and the place served mostly Koreans with a scattering of foreigners, all around the ages of 25 to 45. Gobble n’ Go had a clean, fresh feel to it, and I was delighted to see a water dispenser available for thirsty clients to refill their own glasses, since perhaps clients arrive hungover from the previous night’s shenanigans.
Even the toilet was cute! The style of the paintwork and the bathroom accessories were artsy. While the toilet itself was easy to spot, when I went to wash and dry my hands, my eyes had to search the interesting coloured walls to identify the soap and paper towel dispenser!
I ordered the Basil Chicken & Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict. There were two English muffins served with poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce, and each muffin had different toppings. One benedict contained smoked salmon and avocado, while the other contained basil pesto chicken, mushroom and Swiss cheese. These were accompanied by a delightful, small hash brown, and slice of crispy bacon, one juicy tomato slice and an amazing sliver of fried banana. Price: 16,000 won
On our second visit, I once again ordered the same thing! Anita ordered the Ham Cheese French Toast, which was served with scrambled egg, sausage and bacon, as well as dipping syrup for the sausages and French toast. My friend described it as a nice mix of salty and sweet. Price: 16,000 won
Buyeon tends to go for lunch rather than breakfast or bunch meal options. She chose the Big Boy Chili Smoky Hotdog. It included a grilled sausage with bacon, Mexican beef chili, Swiss and nacho cheese, a nice portion of fries and a salad. She seemed to enjoy it. Price: 15,000 won.
Gobble n’ Go also serves lunch dishes including burgers, philly steaks, omelettes, pancakes and salads. These options include fish & chips, Spanish garlic prawns, tomato/olive oil/rose and cream asparagus pasta dishes, as well as burger steaks.
Prices vary between 15,000 and 18,000 won.
Drink options include coffee, soda, sangria, beer and mojitos. Prices vary between 4,000 to 9,000 won.
Approximate address: 118-12 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
There’s something I’ve avoided writing about for a long time, but I knew this post would come. I need to write about this. Not only because I need to understand what happened better, but also my story may resonate for other women, and I want them to realise that they are not alone. Perhaps together, we can make sense of all of this.
*Disclaimer: I have changed the names of all persons involved.
About a year ago, I moved to Seoul, S. Korea, and had just begun to work for a private school that seemed like the ideal English teacher’s job. I quickly began to respect and adore the directors, and the staff seemed lovely. However, most of the staff were caught up in relationships and I soon found that I was pretty lonely. I was located fairly far away from any previous friends I had made during my last work contract in Korea. Actually, I didn’t realize just how lonely I was at the time, but looking back, I can see it plainly.
Out of no-where, Juan, my married work colleague, trusted personal friend to my two school directors, and teacher trainer/ middle manager suddenly took an interest in me about three weeks into arriving. It began like this.
In late May, 2016, Juan’s mother was visiting for his wedding. He had married his Korean wife Anita a year prior, but they were marrying again so family and friends could witness the ceremony, as I understood it.
One evening after work, we all went out for Mexican dinner. Anita joined us, and that’s when I met her for the first time. She seemed nice enough, but her English was poor so I imagined that Juan and Anita had a difficult time communicating. I got on famously with Juan’s mother, and the next evening, a Friday, we all went out again to celebrate Juan’s fabulous mother, this time without Anita. Juan’s mother brought a lot of energy to our group and it was easy to see how much Juan adored her.
After dinner, we went to Noribang, Korean Karaoke. Juan and our other colleague, Mikele, the school manager at that time, kept filling my glass with soju, a local Korean liquor. I drank much more than I would usually, and soon, the directors left. That left myself, Juan, his mum, Mikele, and colleagues, Tim and Rose.
I flicked through the Karaoke song listing when suddenly Juan bounded over to me in the far corner and buried his nose in my arm, sniffing for my perfume. He turned and said to me, “ummmmmm, you smell so good.” I was pretty inebriated by this time, and before I knew it, I was sitting on the opposite edge of the sofa, when Juan sat beside me and put his arm around my waist. I was talking across Tim to Juan’s mum at the time, and soon, Juan’s hands slipped from my waist to my bum and legs. That was the first indication I received that Juan liked me. His wedding was only two days away.
After this occasion, Juan began to enter my thoughts more and more. Ironically, I was soposed to cover his classes while he went on a honeymoon, accompanied by his mother since she was visiting from the states. I felt conflicted when Juan returned a week later because he had just renewed his wedding vows before all my work colleagues. I didn’t attend the ceremony even though I had been invited. I felt confused.
Soon thereafter, after another heavy drinking session with colleagues, and numbers dwindling to Juan and I, we slept together. He told me that he loved me, which really caught me by surprise as we hadn’t known each other long.
As time went on, he began paying me many compliments, and flirting began to occur between us. He would often pass me closely in the school hallways, or would talk to me in either my class or his, and he’d find some way to innocently caress me in the interim. But I had reservations because he was married.
I explained to him that I too had been in a similar situation to him, married but unhappy with my relationship, and that I also had cheated. But, I said to him that I really regretted staying in my marriage that long and dragging out our misery. That if he wasn’t happy, he should end their relationship. I was assuming that Juan started an affair because he wanted out of his marriage, just like I had done. He made me feel important and special to him, and I thought that he recognized my value. Meanwhile, he nodded and listened, but actually, nothing changed.
He continued to pay me lots of attention, which I began to crave, but since he was married, everything seemed to be on his terms. He decided when he wanted to have sex, and I acquiesced. I tried to initiate a kiss on one occasion, which took him by surprise and he refused, explaining that he needed ‘liquid courage’ or alcohol to be intimate. He began to be in total control of our romance, and the expectation that I’d be entirely passive and receptive to his affections began to be very taxing on my emotions.
Meanwhile, I began to ask myself questions like, what does his wife have that I don’t? Is she more attractive than me? How could he possibly not want to be with me? Soon, he was asking me whether I loved him, eliciting proclamations of love. I convinced myself that he would leave his wife for me, and it was only a matter of time.
During intimate moments, he’d tell me again that he loved me. He entrenched himself deeper into my thoughts and my expectations increased for a monogamous relationship after his ‘soon-to-be-disolved marriage.’ He was on my mind every day, and I even told my family and close friends about him.
Actually, friends and family were becoming very worried for me, telling me that Juan’s loyalty toward his wife was foremost, and that I was in grave danger of getting hurt. I retorted defensively, explaining that they didn’t understand the full situation or the complexity of the relationship, and they hadn’t met him, so how could they really understand.
In fact, I begun to tire of listening to my friends and family expressing their concern for me. But meanwhile, I was also concerned about whether Juan took my needs seriously. Everything seemed to be entirely focused on him, and what he needed, and when timing was convenient for him. His pushing me away and pulling me back wore me down, and I began having trouble sleeping.
After about six months, around November 2016, a major turning point occurred. Two teachers left my school, and two new female replacements arrived, Kelsey, and Arianne. Kelsey was in a relationship, which she often talked about, but Arianne was single. Juan took an immediate interest in her, and I began to see this quite plainly, particularly after Arianne mentioned that Juan and Mikele took her and our other colleague, Jennifer, out drinking, and I had been excluded from the event.
I began realizing that Juan was manipulating circumstances so he and Mikele could strategically be around the new staff member. I allowed myself to feel rejected, unimportant and came to the realization that the impediment to Juan and I’s not getting together was not in fact his marriage. He just wanted to play the field, using the female staff at the school as his harem. I felt sick and used. In fact, the situation was so upsetting that I began to develop chest pains. I began to worry that my lack of sleep, and the chest pains might put me at risk for panic attacks, and I was shocked that my body was responding this way just because I felt wretched and heartbroken.
But Juan was still interested in me. He continued visiting me in my class room and visiting Arianne in her one. He appeared to have his two favourite toys at his disposal every day between the hours of 2 to 9pm. He’d come in early to visit Arianne to ‘train’ her on how to perform her duties well as a new teacher. Then, he’d wonder into my classroom. Since my class is on the mezzanine level, he’d pass my class to visit her on the top level, and of course, I’d hear him walk upstairs.
Arianne mentioned that Juan told her that she looks like his ex girlfriend. She was beaming, and so was he, just like new lovers. I could see the whole pattern that had happened six months earlier between Juan and I, like deja vu, but Juan wasn’t hiding it from me. He would roar with laughter as he flirted with Arianne from the top floor.
The situation began to eat me up inside because I felt betrayed. The irony was that he continued to flirt with me at the same time, and even tried to ‘train’ us both together during a science afterschool training session, perhaps to see how we would react. I began to wonder if seducing the newest teachers, the vulnerable ones arriving into Korea with little to no friends, was a pattern for him. I began to feel a mixture of emotions, including deep sadness and intense anger.
He popped into my room on one occasion, presumably to see if I was still sweet with him after returning from Arianne’s room, and I spared no thoughts. I told him that I thought he abused his position of trust as the right-hand man of the directors, and used his unofficial status as middle manager as leverage to impress the new employees and that he had manipulated me. He listened, but refused to discuss the matter.
At the time, I felt as though Juan was driving me crazy. Later, I realized that he was playing mind games. Friends have termed this unhealthy type of relationship behaviour as “gas lighting“, a term that I only learned last week.
After about a month, I decided to tell Arianne everything. I knew that since I still cared for and even loved Juan, this behaviour was torturing me daily, and also, she needed to know that Juan was far from sincere. She couldn’t allow herself to be taken in by him, as I had done. I now distrusted him.
Arianne and I sat in Daechi Dong cafe, and there, I explained how the romance began, his control over all aspects of our romance, my increasingly deep feelings for him, and my frustration.
With tears in my eyes, I explained how his sudden interest in her was heart breaking to witness, and that I could see a repeating pattern in his behaviour, namely, the targeting of vulnerable, new, single teachers at the school who would look up to him. I asked her to avoid developing any feelings for him, that we were puppets in his game to be used at his beckoning. She hugged me, and promised to stay well clear. She was incredibly supportive.
The following week, we tried to stop his behaviour. At that time, he was running between our classrooms, flirting and whispering sweet words to both of us while my face got sterner and sterner. He continued to smile. I was flabbergasted that he could think that we wouldn’t notice, or that our self esteem was so low that we wouldn’t mind casanova Juan doing his thing daily.
So, when he once again targeted Arianne to ‘train’ her, I joined them in her room, and brought some papers to mark, on the guise of just hanging out. I noticed he seemed on edge having me in the room, especially since he did not invite me, but nonetheless, teachers often join each other casually in their respective classrooms, and this usually poses no problem whatsoever.
After nipping back to my classroom and returning, Juan directly asked me to leave. I was taken aback, and when I seemed reluctant to leave Arianne alone with him, he raised his voice and commanded me to leave, shouting at me. Both Arianne and I were startled because neither of us had seen Jose angry or aggressive before, and we were astonished at how quickly his ire escalated. In fact, we were both a little scared. I felt that if I didn’t obey him, he’d become nasty, and at the same time, I was worried about leaving Arianne alone with him, especially with him in that state of mind.
Later, Arianne told me that Juan had asked her while I nipped down to my classroom why I was in her classroom, and she had replied to him that she simply wanted me in there. That December was probably the most agonizing month for me.
In January, Arianne, Kelsey and I went to Kyoto, Japan together. While there, I began to recover. I realized that space and distance can be such a healer, especially as I was not seeing Juan every day anymore. I badly needed to be away from him. I had considered leaving the school several times by now. In Japan, I realized that my self esteem could actually recover very quickly, as indeed it did.
At a restaurant near Shichijo station, I also confided in Kelsey, telling her about what was happening back at the school between Juan, Arianne and me. She was very surprised as she was very fond of Juan at the time. Later, when returning to this topic, she explained that Juan’s devious actions, his controlling nature and need for significance through simultaneously using multiple women suggest he has psychopathic tendencies, and if not, he is an outright psychopath. This hadn’t occurred to me before, but his emotionless reaction when I had told him my guttural hurt feelings back in December suggested to me that his brain was not wired for empathy the same way mine is, or most of the other humans I’ve met.
As February and March passed, his behaviour calmed down, and still, I continued to care for him. Despite everything, my heart was still entangled and my brain, confused. We continued as friends. But in mid March, Juan attended our colleague’s birthday party and he brought his wife, Anita with him.
I found the situation of hanging out together extremely uncomfortable, and encountering Juan at the doorway as we entered, I said to him, how could you put me in this position! My directors were there, and I didn’t know how to excuse myself from the event as I had only just arrived.
I distracted myself by talking to my director, showing him photos on my tablet of my family back in England, and he kindly looked at everything I showed him. But a few drinks later, after my directors had left, I was in the host’s bedroom, and suddenly, the door slammed shut. Someone had just walked out, and I found myself alone with Juan. He wanted to kiss me, and I replied, no, you’re married. Meanwhile, our colleague Tim, who had been sitting on the other side of the bedroom door, slammed it open with the same energy that Juan had closed it moments earlier. We sheepishly walked out, while Juan’s wife, who had been sitting only about five feet away, watched on.
Later, I began to wonder whether Juan has a need for danger, and that despite recently returning from a honeymoon at the Maldives, he had no loyalty toward his wife. I began to realize that I had been comparing myself to Anita and Arianne, asking myself, what do they have that I don’t? But indeed, none of that really mattered. Juan didn’t actually seem to care about any of us.
I’m now writing in mid July, and I’ve come a very long way from all of these events. I no longer love Juan. I began learning how to regain self confidence, despite continuing to work in the same school as Juan. I sought out mentors like Tony Robbins who discusses managing our emotions that control our actions. I also began actively following entrepreneurs, Clark Kegley, and Evan Carmichael, who review influential books and successful people in order to understand and try strategies to develop my strengths. I began changing my morning routine (Hal Elron), and most recently, began to focus on eating more healthily.
I additionally threw myself into writing blogs regularly, and I even wrote about the strategies I was using to recover (see “Learning to invest in myself,” parts one, two, and three). I also started keeping a gratitude diary, and begun to journal (Clark Kegley on journaling) to identify monthly goals toward self improvement, as well as asking myself important questions to identify what makes me happy, and how I can continually challenge myself to become the person I want to be. I was enthralled to discover Gary Chapman’sFive Love Languagesand learn which type of love expression is foremost to me. I also was fascinated with Tony Robbins’Six Human Needs, and discovered that ‘significance’ had long played a very important part of my basic needs, but that learning and teaching have recently stepped into my primary focus.
Today, I continue to seek out advice daily, listening to recordings, particularly by Tony Robbins and Dale Carnegie, about taking responsibility for my mental state and happiness, and learning how to genuinely give others the appreciation that each of us crave.
My experience with Juan forced me to learn about myself, begin changing my habits and routines. This experience helped me identify an incredible sense of significance derived through my writing, sharing both my travel experiences and my personal struggles. I’ve also learned how important it is to surround myself with caring, loyal friends, and to develop the strength to walk away from people who don’t have your best interests at heart. Finally, I’m grateful that today, I am more self aware, and am in a position to help others who have experienced some form of psychological abuse.
I want to thank my sister Vivien and my friend Riley who both listened to me without judgement at my deepest moments of despair, as well as my friends Beth, Sue, Buyeon, CeCe, and Miranda who tried to stir me in a healthier direction. I also thank God for guiding and supporting me at my worst moments, and for my later recovery.
Lastly, I want to thank myself, for finally deciding to stand up to Juan by reporting his misconduct to my school director, and seeking out healthy support that I needed in order to once again be my gregarious, fun-loving self, but this time, a Natasha with a lot more self awareness, kindness, and readiness to help others.
Always wondered about Asian traditional medicine, but never had the courage to walk into a clinic and try it? I’ve been curious about traditional medicine for years! I randomly met a Korean traditional doctor at a social Meetup event in April. My Meetup friends besieged Dr. Yoon with questions about broken capillaries, rosacea, diet, and metabolism issues so, noting our curiosity, he took us to his Insa Dong clinic located nearby to show us his practice and answer our questions.
Two months later, I returned to Dr. Yoon, and he began the process of educating me about my body, explaining what natural Korean treatments could do to optimize health, and treatments to preserve youthful beauty. I wanted to talk about my stomach digestion, energy levels, large pores and acne prone skin, as well as alternatives to Botox. Dr. Yoon then performed three treatments on me, including acupuncture, a stomach warming treatment and natural filler for forehead frown lines between my eyebrows. I hope that by sharing alternative treatments, we can challenge assumptions that wellness and care stem only from western medical practices.
My first experience with Korean Traditional Medicine
The truth is, I knew very little about Asian traditional medicine. Whenever I’m sick, ironically, I avoid the doctor like a plague! I hate medical clinics and hospitals, the sterile walls and being around ill people. I only go if I have to.
While studying at UVic for my Applied Linguistics Diploma, professor Sandra Kirkham introduced the concept of two very different approaches to medicine. The western approach, which usually entails treating symptoms and prescribing drugs which generate lots of money for private manufacturers. These may produced negative side-effects discovered only years after the drug has been sanctioned by local health authorities. Other times, ‘miracle’ drugs, like the one that apparently clears up HIV, are promoted and even limited to wealthy clients due to high prices dictated by unscrupulous patent holders and manufactures.
One thing that really impacted me in Dr. Kirkham’s Culture and Communication Linguistics class was an introduction of an old video about traditional Chinese medicine. The documentary followed a US doctor who wanted to find out the secrets of traditional medicine, and whether it really worked.
He attended traditional hospitals and observed doctors. These doctors prescribed numerous herbs and roots to target malfunctioning organs causing manifestations of illness. The doctor also looked at acupuncture treatments which assisted the ‘chi’ or life force to flow through a patient’s body. By disrupting the body’s ‘meridians’, traditional doctors addressed energy blockages which caused symptoms called ‘illnesses.’
The doctor witnessed tailor made massages, which moved around the inner parts of the body to work on illnesses including cancer. The footage also looked at regular practice of Tai Chi by many in China, and how movement and maintenance of the flow of energy is considered an integral part of general health maintenance. I realised that western health approaches treat symptoms, but Chinese traditional medicine seeks to heal the cause of the problem.
Years earlier, my interest in traditional medicine had first been kindled when I learned that my friend Van, living in Vancouver Canada, had received several traditional treatments with Asian doctors, including acupuncture and diet prescriptions to improve her health and deal with unbearable allergies.
Additionally, while travelling in Saigon two years ago, I meet Johnny, a Canadian cancer survivor. He revealed very interesting opinions on western medicine. He explained that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but rejected western treatments that involved running radiation through his body using a pill. He was told that he would not be able to stand within ten feet of a pregnant woman while on this treatment.
Johnny explained that his aunty was diagnosed with cancer at the same time that he was. While his aunty followed the hospital chemotherapy treatments, he rejected them all, and put himself on a very organic, healthy lifestyle.
Five months later, he was alive, and his body had eliminated the cancer, while his aunty had passed away. He bitterly expressed anger at the western medical system, and said that he believed that doctors know far more about how to eliminate cancer than they let on. That western medicine is big business, and that at the expense of many lives, specialists sustain their expensive drugs, rather than admit that wholesome food and self awareness about lifestyle can in some cases eradicate even serious conditions. But, the promotion of diet and lifestyle is not profitable for drug manufactures.
As an expat living in S. Korea, I’ve was recently presented with the opportunity to learn about alternate, traditional medical approaches. A few months ago, I attended a meetup event to enjoy vegetarian food organized by event host, Johncito, from Seoul Village meetups. The restaurant was located opposite Jogye-sa temple, and catered to non-meat eating Buddhist monks who popped across the street to eat the excellent quality wholesome food provided at this restuarant.
Dr. Yoon also attended this expat meetup event. Over a delicious dinner, Dr. Yoon explained to me that as a person with a slight figure, I most certainly have a fast metabolism, and that I should avoid ‘hot’ foods, including turmeric and cinnamon. Soon, not only was I curious to learn more, but everyone else at the meetup was too. So Dr. Yoon offered to show us his clinic located around the corner, where he would give us a little tour. Host Johncito was happy to alter our evening plans to accommodate his curious meetup guests, and within minutes, we were poking around in Dr. Yoon’s clinic.
Everyone threw random questions as him. Can acupuncture help with this? Can it help with that? How can this be treated? One woman made an appointment for the following Monday, eager to discuss her rosacea skin condition and begin treatment as soon as possible. It occurred to me that westerners, or non-Asians, often have very limited knowledge about Asian medicine, and what treatments are available. After a discussion with Dr. Yoon, we agreed that I’d return to experience and write about traditional treatments.
On June 17th, I visited Dr. Yoon to learn more. I was curious about what clinics like his offer, what kind of approaches are used and what exactly can be treated. We only had about an hour together, but in that time, we decided on three treatments for me. These were based on my personal concerns and his evaluation of my current health.
Digestion was a concern for me. I recently (and very reluctantly) went to MizMedi hospital where, after some bloodwork tests to test my liver function, the doctor revealed that I had dangerously low protein. These results explained my severe tiredness of late, and she had advised me to immediately begin incorporating small meat portions with almost every meal.
Having recently been reminded of my poor nutrition, I wanted Dr. Yoon to focus on my core, my stomach, and upper and lower intestine. He explained to me clearly exactly where all these organs were in my body and that the upper intestine absorbs water while the lower absorbs the nutrients from my food. I quickly began to realise that all those instant noodles dinners were starving my body of nutrients, and the very next day, I did a massive shopping which entailed lots of veggies, starches and meat.
We also discussed my ability to retain water in the body, how much I sweat, my weight and other factors. Dr. Yoon explained that the stomach is a major source of energy in the body. He explained that in traditional medicine, the body is divided into ying and yang, cool and heat, and he concluded that although my upper body had a lot of heat, but that my stomach was a little cool. He then applied a device to my stomach that slowly began to warm it up. He explained that to give my whole body more energy, that my stomach and intestines needed more warmth.
Meanwhile, we also began discussing my kidneys. I explained to Dr. Yoon that the doctor at MizMedi was worried about my alcohol intake. In short, my MizMedi doctor had noticed from my liver function blood test that I had high levels of alkaline phosphate and when she asked how much alcohol my body processed regularly, I confessed that since arriving in Korea, I had been binge-drinking, on a bi-weekly or monthly basis with my work colleagues.
So while my stomach was receiving warmth to create body energy, Dr. Yoon began working on my liver through acupuncture. This was my first experience receiving acupuncture, and I noticed that he targeted particular points along my body, including my feet, legs, hands and arms. Sometimes, the pin tip would hurt a little, and I learned that what Dr. Yoon was doing was temporarily closing meridians in certain places so that the efficiency of energy flowing through the rest of those connected channels would be improved. Something was definitely happening within me because after a while, my arm containing two pins began to feel physically heavy.
I took the opportunity to point out to Dr. Yoon a cluster of spider veins on one leg that are threatening to become varicose, and asked whether he had any treatments that help with that. Dr. Yoon then gave me a basic lesson about how arteries are connected to the heart, while veins are connected to the liver. He continued that, outside of cosmetic surgery to remove unsightly veins, the root cause of my veins is once again, my unhappy liver. I essentially need to take better care of it.
On a completely different note, I noticed something very unusual after these two treatments, and I cannot pin-point which of these treatments was responsible. When I initially arrived at the clinic, I had been feeling very anxious and upset about something that happened earlier in the day, but after these two treatments, my hormones completely changed. I felt relaxed and the change was so marked that I was surprised at how quickly this changed happened.
While lying down and receiving belly warmth and treatment for my liver, I asked Dr. Yoon about treatments for acne. I have some hormonal outbreaks on my chin area, and wondered if traditional medicine offers healthy remedies for this kind of monthly lady problem. He suggested we do an acne treatment, but because I was wearing make-up and planned to rendezvous with friends downtown directly afterwards, we decided to reserve that treatment for a future date.
Instead, I asked whether he had any anti aging treatments for frown lines developing between my eyebrows. He replied yes, so we moved to a different treatment room where I was asked to lay down. I saw a little purple bag and naturally gave it a squeeze. I realized it had warm liquid inside it, and before long, Dr. Yoon had wiped between my brows, had inserted a needle into the purple bag, and began injecting the filler between my brows.
I may have received small five injections which were a little painful. Dr. Yoon explained that not only would this filler plump out the skin, reducing or eliminating the lines for four weeks (depending on the quantity used), but also that the substance was nutritious herbal medicine which brightens the skin. Essentially, herbal fillers are absorbed into the cellular tissue and are a far healthier alternative to western plastic fillers that last much longer.
I was delighted to hear this because for the last six months, I’ve been considering getting botox treatments from my local laser surgery clinic, but as a former esthetician with a background in administering anti aging treatments, I’m acutely aware that botox (and similar stiffening treatments) are poisons which your body eventually digests into the blood stream, and while effective, these are not particularly healthy for humans. I had heard of fillers before, but as a non-Korean speaker, I had not successfully found a filler treatment yet. This filler, to my surprise, is natural and even healthy for the skin.
The next day, I noticed that the area was a little bruised from the injections, and several days after the treatment, it is still a little sore. But, I noticed that I can still frown. The muscles are not frozen. The area however, is plumped out, and the lines previously there are gone!
Other treatments available
There were many other traditional treatments offered at the clinic. As a gynecologist, as well as dermatologist and traditional medicine doctor, Dr. Yoon addresses problems related to the vagina using traditional methods. I observed a herbal vapour treatment used to treat Puritis Verginitis. The clinic also treats women for menstrual cramps.
Vagina health treatments
I am personally interested in his treatments for acne scaring, and intend to begin said treatments on my next visit. Dr. Yoon explained that although acne treatments require a few visits, they are very successful. I have many large pores on my T-Zone that are in fact tiny scars. The treatment sounds like the equivalent of facial resurfacing or laser treatments, but done in a holistic manner. I intend to write about this treatment in my follow-up blog. Please subscribe to get notifications of future articles.
My treatments were provided free of charge by Dr. Yoon for the purpose of experiencing first-hand traditional Korean medicine at work, and producing an article based on my experience. All opinions are my own.
Free Naturopathic diagnosis and treatment on the first appointment
Naturopathic filler treatment (between eyebrows): 55,000 won
Naturopathic filler treatment retouch (within three weeks): 33,000 won
*Please mention Travelandtash to receive Dr. Yoon’s promotional prices when booking an appointment
I will visit Dr. Yoon again very soon. Please help me ask the right questions at my next appointment by letting me know what kind of treatmentsyou’d most be interested in. Please like, share and leave a comment below.