MAY 20, 2008


For some, access to the pill is essential
Following is an occasional series on health care issues for expats. — Ed.
By Jill Thomas

Expat living is a page dedicated
to the issues that affect expats' daily lives. It is your page, where you can share stories about your life in Korea. Send story ideas to Matthew Lamers at mattlamers@heraldm.com

How not to solve a serious problem
SUWON — According to recent data, approximately half of the crimes committed in or on the subway are those of a sexual nature. Separating the sexes seems like a viable option — maybe even the best option. Remove women from the presence of men in order for them to be able to ride in peace. This way they will not have to worry about being touched or grabbed inappropriately while commuting to or from work, while shopping or running errands. It’s really the only way. Better still, why don’t we institute regulations that state that women will only be allowed to ride the subway during certain hours in order for the subway platforms to be free of sexual harassment as well? There could also be rules stating what women are allowed to wear while actually on the subway, so as to ensure that they are in no way providing any sort of inappropriate distractions, sexual or otherwise. And really, why stop at the subway? Lets make sure that this sexual harassment problem is kept at a minimum at all times by regulating what

Not being able to get your favorite foods is one thing — we can, after all, live without marmite and muesli — but contraception is an altogether trickier matter. Many of us come to Korea having already been on a particular brand of the pill for a certain amount of time, so having access to a regular supply is an issue. “I was taking the pill when I first got here, but I only had three months’ supply and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of going to a doctor to get a prescription,” said Hannah, a Canadian national, who has been in Korea for over a year. “So now I rely on abstinence.” However, preventing pregnancies is not the only reason women

choose to go on the pill. “Adolescent girls and young women are often prescribed oral contraceptive pills for irregular menstrual periods, polycystic ovary syndrome, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis and premature menopause,” said Dr. Seo Yeon-dong, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the Women’s Health Center in the East-West Neo Medical Center, Kyung Hee University. Dysmenorrhea is severe uterine pain experienced during menstruation. Endometriosis is a painful condition that occurs when the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus becomes implanted outside, most commonly on the fallopian tubes, ovaries or pelvic tissue. Oral contraceptives can also improve severe acne. Some people, in short, need pills. As it turns out, several of the more common brands are available over the counter at local

pharmacies. Severance Pharmacy in Hannam-dong, Seoul, stocks Minulet, Mercilon, Myvlar and Minivar for between 5,000 won ($4.80) and 7,000 won. “Customers already know which brand they want when they come in,” said pharmacist Kim Haeng-ok. She added that the store normally sells around 30 packets a month, with customers usually buying just one pack. But tempting as it may be to skip the tedium of seeing a doctor, Dr. Seo warns that there are risks. “Although oral contraceptives are relatively safe, certain conditions such as age — being over 35 — and smoking can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. To prevent women with contraindications from taking oral pills, I recommend face-toface counseling before use.” Some brands are also only available with a prescription, including Yasmin and Diane, both

commonly used for treatment of androgen-dependent diseases in women such as acne and hirsutism (excessive hairiness). Morning-after pills — specifically Norlevo, Postinor and Levonia, which all contain the hormone levonorgestrel — also require prescriptions. “Ordinary over-the-counter birth control pills are categorized as regular birth control pills and pills that need prescriptions are considered professional medicine,” said Kim Inbeom, an official at the Korea Food and Drug Administration’s medicine safety policy division. The Korean government considers certain factors before making the distinction, he added. “Those include whether there is excessive content of a specific type found in the medicine, whether it contains a new type of content and whether it is being used in other countries.

Most of the medicines that come into the country are used in other nations so we compare them to make our decision.” The KFDA was, however, unable to comment specifically on why some pills need prescriptions and others do not. Another option, if you cannot find the brand you want here, is to stockpile before you leave home or have them sent over. Dr. Seo said this is okay, but added, “Contraindications may arise some time after clinical screenings. Oral pill users should have a medical and gynecological checkup at regular intervals.” For more information on the East-West Neo Medical Center, visit neo.khmc.or.kr or call (02) 440-7304. The hospital offers full international health care services with English-speaking specialists and staff. (jillianong@heraldm.com)

Stephanie Morris on Women’s Issues
the victim feeling as though it is somehow their fault that it happened and this keeps many cases from even being reported in the first place. Many things factor into this line of thinking, not the least of which, in my opinion, is the fact that often when a harassment, assault or rape case is reported, one of the first questions the police will often ask is what the victim was wearing at the time of the incident. As though this is relevant to why it happened. As though the victim was somehow asking for it. Newspaper reports say the women-only subway cars idea has been “put on the shelf” for the time being. It seems that certain women’s groups have put forth the opinion that the absence of women from the subway cars will simply treat the symptom, not the problem itself. They say that this issue must be addressed through education and an overhaul in attitude from the perpetrators themselves. They say this will not end if we simply separate

Sexual harassment can be a confusing, intimidating, even fearful experience. It can leave the victim feeling as though it is somehow their fault that it happened and this keeps many cases from even being reported in the first place.
women wear while going about their daily lives, what streets they are able to peruse, what times of the day they should be able to take care of their business and what time they should be home by. God forbid the people actually committing the sexual harassment be held accountable for their actions, clearly they are victims themselves, helpless to the temptations a pretty girl presents, unable to stop themselves from treating her like an object for them to disregard as a person with feelings. How about telling them to stop gesturing rudely, making comments, and grabbing the bottom of someone’s wife, girlfriend, sister, or mother? Nah. Let’s just remove the women. There. Problem solved. The issue of sexual harassment is news to few. It can range from a backhanded compliment that was taken too far or the wrong way, to inappropriate comments and behavior, to touching, grabbing, or even full-blown assault. In Canada, sexual harassment is a matter that is treated with relative seriousness, particularly in the workplace, where lawsuits or the threat thereof keep it, for the most part, a fairly safe environment. In North America at least, the idea of holding those who perpetrate this problem accountable, is one that has only been put into practice within the last few decades. This idea is newer still to Korea and to Korean women, for whom the proposed new laws are trying to protect. Sexual harassment can be a confusing, intimidating, even fearful experience. It can leave the aggressors and the victims. Women might find themselves in a difficult place when considering the concept of women-only subway cars. When I read this, my first instinct is to object to this and assent to the notion of separation in the spirit of immediate gratification and a desire to secure a safer environment for women to ride in. But as you delve further into the issue, the knowledge that this plan was one riddled with imperfections (for example, how to protect the women who do not ride in the women only cars) and would do nothing to hold accountable or change the thinking of those who make this a problem to begin with. And I still find myself divided, in agreement with the groups who propose education and prosecution as solutions and having a desire to see women granted a temporary reprieve from the unwanted attentions that make them feel objectified, small and inconsequential. I am however, not divided when it comes to knowing that sexual harassment will not go away on its own. And it would be in everyone’s best interest for the city of Seoul and surrounding areas to take a stance of intolerance towards this issue; in whatever way it chooses to go about doing so. These are the mothers, wives, girlfriends, sisters, nieces and daughters of Korea. They deserve more respect than this. The aggression needs to stop. Period. Stephanie can be reached through her blog at stephanieinsuwon.blogspot.com — Ed.

PHOTO CHALLENGE — Open to any entry — An ajumma working at her market stall in April in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, 296 Simon Bond (369photography.co.uk) kilometers south of Seoul.

In focus: Tips for beginners (2)
Following is the second half of the column photography tips for beginners. — Ed.
By David Smeaton

I’m another first time DSLR user. What are some useful tips I can use to get started? — Josephine, Ilsan. This tip is simple, but many people don’t follow it — hold your camera in both hands. The most important thing in photography is a steady shot. Blurry photos are unusable. If you hold the camera in one hand, then chances are your shot will be much less professional. When possible, use a wall or tree to

ing them look horrible. Most cameras have a built in flash, which you can adjust to make it brighter or darker. If you buy a flash unit, learn how to bounce the flash off the roof or wall to give more suitable ambient light. Flashes are very useful, if used well. Finally, buy a tripod. Tripods give you much more freedom when it comes to shooting in low light, landscapes or in situations where hand held is too difficult. A sturdy tripod will definitely be a good investment. Try and get a tripod with strong legs (a rickety tripod that sways in the wind is useless), a solid head unit, padded legs (for comfort when you’re carrying it) and is as light as possible. Carbon fibre tripods

Improving policy for migrant laborers
By Lee Seok-jun

Photography is a great hobby but sometimes the learning curve can be frustrating.
lean against and give yourself extra stability. Use a tripod if you can, but if not, always consider how to make your shot as stable as possible. This is especially important when you start working with low light scenes. The next tip is another problem most photographers still have — making their shots level. Make use of buildings to provide straight lines that you can use as a horizontal or vertical guide line. The horizon, roads or other elements also make for good guides. Keep your shots straight and they will instantly look much better. Another tip is about flashes. Learn how to use a flash. The most important rule for flashes is that they are useless beyond about six meters. Direct flash that is too close is also bad, because it will blow out your subjects, makare the best, although, they are also the most expensive. Most importantly, don’t give up. Photography is a great hobby but sometimes the learning curve can be frustrating. Photography requires a lot of patience (to get the shot and to learn the skills). Make use of friends, clubs, magazines and other resources to get as much information about photography as you can. Then use that information to improve your own photography. Happy shooting. Send David a message at davidsmeaton@gmail.com or visit his website at www.davidsmeaton.com. If you want to be a part of the weekly Photo Challenge, join the “Seoul Photo Club” group at flickr (flickr.com/groups/seoulphotoclub). — Ed.

Globalization and expansion of cross-border trade has increased mobility for international labor. The drive for a better life has motivated workers to move to more advanced countries where jobs and higher pay are available. Nowadays, almost 175 million people worldwide are thought to be living outside their countries of origin. The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has continued to recommend that migrant workers, including undocumented workers and their families, ought to be protected from any infringement upon their human rights and guaranteed the rights to work, social security, family care, education, health, and culture. Moreover, social protection benefits ought to be achieved in order to address the unfavorable treatment of migrant workers — including the pension scheme. Given that in 2003, the UN committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that the Korean government ensure equal access to education and social welfare for all children of foreigners — as well as those undocumented migrant workers — the children of migrant workers ought to be entitled to the right to be cared for by their parents as well as the right to be educated, regardless of the origin or status of their parents. As demands from employers to accept lowskilled migrant workers has increased, the Korean government introduced the Industrial Trainee System in 1993. Under the ITS system, migrant workers were regarded as trainees rather than workers, which forced them to confront various human rights violations. In this regard, the Foreign Workforce Policy Committee under the prime minister announced the “proposal on improvement of the Employment Permit System for migrant workers” in 2006. However the NHRCK considered these proposals problematic, so it made a recommendation about the designation of agencies and their work scope with respect to human rights issues arising from the implementation of the Employment Permit System. In one sense, destination countries seem to

heavily rely on migrant labor and make use of flexible labor as a transnational workforce. But they often have turned their backs on migrant labor and done little in order to establish a safety net to address widespread abuses against migrant workers. Moreover, labor recruitment systems and punitive immigration laws leave many workers highly indebted, out of legal status, and afraid to report abuses. Many international migrant workers want to earn enough to provide their children or siblings with a decent education. Aiding their families is one of the top reasons why migrant workers choose to work abroad. For years they sacrifice their own time and resources while separated from their families. International treaties, like the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and several ILO conventions, already set up the outlines of an international regulatory framework. But countries that host migrant workers have been particularly slow to ratify these conventions in the name of protecting the domestic labor market. The commission’s latest recommendation asks that the Korean government devise policy for foreigners who are permitted to stay in Korea for humanitarian reasons that would cover their medical care and basic social welfare benefits. The government should also produce a solution to provide provisional support to them until the appropriate institutions are fully established. The NHRCK was established in 2001, offering investigation and remedy services for Korean citizens and foreigners residing in Korea against human rights violations and discrimination. The commission provides policy recommendations and remedial action against human rights infringements, collaborates with international human rights organizations and implements educational programs to improve the human rights culture. The author is director of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea’s Migration & Human Rights Team. — Ed.