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South Korea

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South Korea has fantastic and varied medical services. Contraceptives can be purchased at pharmacies over-the-counter though you need a doctor's prescription for emergency contraception. While many facilities offer STD tests, it is important to exercise caution and choose anonymous testing centers. If you are a foreigner and test positive for HIV/AIDS or syphilis, you will most likely be deported from South Korea. While abortion is illegal, there are accounts of women secretly obtaining abortions. If you are pregnant and have the means to travel, it is advisable to seek abortions elsewhere, such as in mainland China or Hong Kong.

For women seeking counseling or shelter, there are many resources available in Seoul (see below for details). Also, with its large expat community, Seoul and South Korea in general has many resources available to English speakers and foreigners.

Contraception (Birth Control)

General Note: There are many types of contraceptives, also known as "birth control," including IUDs, oral contraceptives, patches, shots, and condoms, etc. If you would like to view a full list, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas

Contraceptives are completely legal in South Korea and can be purchased in a pharmacy. You can buy many birth control brands, like Mercilon, without a prescription at pharmacies (if you ask the pharmacist for it). However, some contraceptive brands may require a prescription. For example, a female backpacker said that South Korean pharmacists told her that she needed a prescription for Yasmin.

In 2012, President Pak Geun-Hye and his conservative government announced that the Korean Food & Drug Administration was considering reclassification of birth control pills, which would make the pills prescription-only. This caused public outrage and wide online discuss of the issue. Three months later, the proposal was dropped. It was decided to put the reclassification on hold for three years -- and, to this day, it seems to remain on hold. As reported in Korea Bang, "Asides from the 'woman’s right to choose' argument, one of the reasons Korean women get upset over the issue is perhaps cultural: unmarried Korean women rarely visit a gynaecologist. Even when seriously ill, a visit to a gynaecology clinic would be reluctant for fear of the disapproving stares around them. That’s not to mention the social pressure on Korean women to remain sexually naïve."[1]

In 2015, it was estimated that 78% of South Koreans use any form contraception.[2] However, only 2.8% of Korean women use the birth control pill.[3] Many men and women also underwent the forced sterilization programs of the 1970s and 1980s.[4] Condoms also appear to be more popular than oral contraceptives.

What to Get & Where to Get It

In Korean, birth control pills are 피임약 (pronounced "pi-im yak"). The most popular brand in Korea is Mercilon (머시론).

Product name


Prescribing information

How to buy?



2nd generation





Ethinyl estradiol 0.03mg

Levonorgestrel 0.15mg

Take one hormone-containing tablet daily for 21 consecutive days. Then discontinue the tablet for 7 consecutive days. Withdrawal bleeding usually occurs within 2 to 3 days following discontinuation.

Over the counter



Ethinyl estradiol 0.02mg

Levonorgestrel 0.1mg



Ethinyl estradiol 0.03/0.04/0.03mg

Levonorgestrel 0.05/0.075/0.125mg

3rd generation





Ethinyl estradiol 0.03mg

Gestodene 0.075mg




(Dear me)



Ethinyl estradiol 0.02mg

Gestodene 0.075mg



Ethinyl estradiol 0.02mg

Desogestrel 0.15mg

4th generation



Ethinyl estradiol 0.03mg

Drospirenone 3mg

Only prescription.



Ethinyl estradiol 0.02mg

Drospirenone 3mg

It contains 28 tablets. You should take one light pink pill daily for 24 consecutive days, followed by one white inert pill daily on Days 25 through 28.



Estradiol valerate 3/2/1mg

Dienogest 2/3mg

It contains 28 tablets. Tablets must be taken in the order directed on the wallet pack every day at about the same time. One tablet is to be taken daily for 28 consecutive days. Each subsequent pack is started the day after the last tablet of the previous wallet


It appears that you can get the Nuvaring in South Korea, but we don't have much information on this (anyone?).

You can purchase condoms in convenience stores, pharmacies, Olive Young, Watson's, and sometimes in subway vending machines.

As for IUDs in South Korea, one poster on Reddit wrote: "IUDs are great, but the general consensus over here, unlike in the US, is that they're bad for unmarried women, so she may have trouble getting a doctor to consider it here. I had a hospital gynecologist here who tried very hard to convince me to have mine taken out.[6]


Birth control pills are 6-8,000 won for one month’s supply.

Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill)

Important Notes: Emergency contraception may prevent pregnancy for three days (72 hours) and sometimes five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. Take EC as soon as possible after unprotected sex. If you don't have access to dedicated EC, oral contraceptives can be used as replacement EC, but remember the following: 1) Only some contraceptives work as EC 2) Different contraceptives require different dosages and time schedules to work as EC 3) You must only use the first 21 pills in 28-day packs and 4) They may be less effective than dedicated EC. For general information on emergency contraceptives, click here and here.

Laws & Social Stigmas

Morning after pills (사후 피임약) are only available with a prescription. As explained by the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception, "EC currently still requires a prescription. Although in August 2012 the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) decided to repeal an earlier initiative that would have approved EC for over-the-counter use, due to intense debate within the country among various stakeholders, the KFDA abandoned the reclassification initiative."[7]

What to Get & Where to Get It

Note: The longest-lasting EC is currently ellaOne. It lasts up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. Check to see if your country carries ellaOne. If your country doesn't carry ellaOne, copper IUDs may also prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. If none of these options are available, and it's been over 3 days since you had unprotected sex, you can still take EC, which may work up to 5 days. Note that EC pills are not 100% effective and should be taken as soon as possible.

To get an EC prescription, you will need to go to a doctor. It is recommended to visit a women's clinic for the prescription rather than a hospital. You will find it especially difficult to secure an EC prescription at a Christian hospital. When you are seeking EC, it is customary that the doctor will ask some questions about your cycle, last period, etc. After they have written a prescription, you can bring it to a pharmacy ("yak-guk" in Korean).

For dedicated EC that is anti-progestin, there's ellaOne (take 1 pill within 120 hours after unprotected sex). For dedicated EC that is progestin only, there's After1, Norlevo One and Postinor 1 (take 1 pill within 120 hours after unprotected sex). There's also Levonia, Levonormin, MS Pill and Sexcon One&One (take 2 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex). If you absolutely cannot secure emergency contraceptives, you can use some oral contraceptives as EC instead. In Korea, there's Minivlar or Sexcon (take 4 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex and take 4 more pills 12 hours later) or Alesse (take 5 pills within 120 hours after unprotected sex and take 5 more pills 12 hours later).[8]


The morning after pill should only cost between 10,000 and 20,000 won. The doctor's visit might cost around 10,000 won.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs)

Important Notes - Learn about PEP and PrEP: If you think that you've been recently exposed to HIV (i.e. within 72 hours), seek out PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). It's a month-long treatment to prevent HIV infection after exposure, and it may be available in your city. Take PEP as soon as possible. For more information, click here. If you are at risk of HIV exposure, seek out PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). It's a daily oral pill that can prevent HIV infection before exposure. To learn more about PrEP, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas

The South Korean government does not allow foreigners with HIV/AIDS or syphilis to enter the country. If you come as a tourist to South Korea, you will not be tested for HIV/AIDS. But, if you are a foreign teacher, you will typically be required to take an HIV test before working in Korea. If foreigners are found to be HIV+ or have syphilis, they will most likely be deported. As for locals with HIV/AIDS, there seems to be no special treatment centers in South Korea. There also no known distributors or trials for PrEP. The word for AIDS in Korean is 에이즈, or "eijeu." If you test positive for HIV or syphilis, and if you are a teacher, contact Legal Office For Foreign Teachers (LOFT) to discuss your options.

In Korean society, STI/STD tests do not appear to be common. Many people hold the perception that they are "clean" though they may have never been tested. While STD rates are lower, particularly for HIV/AIDS, than in many other countries, South Korea is certainly not STD-free, and people should always practice safe sex.

Testing Facilities

Please visit the city pages, like the Seoul and Busan pages, for local recommendations.

Remember: Anonymous testing is especially important in South Korea where foreigners can be deported for positive results.



Medications & Vaccines

Laws & Social Stigmas

What to Get & Where to Get It

For nearly all medications in Korea, you need a prescription from a doctor. For yeast infection medication, you can ask for the "Canesten" at the pharmacy (though I believe you need a prescription first), which is similar to Monistat or Lotrimin. Pharmacies should have both the cream and suppository types of Canesten. The word for suppository in Korean is "좌약" (prounounced as "jwa yak"). For UTIs, you will also need to see a doctor for treatment. Be sure to specify that you believe it is a UTI, otherwise the doctors may assume that you have an STI (due to the burning sensation). For herpes (수포진, or "supojin" in Korean), Valtrex is not readily available (as of 2012), but there is a generic version in Korea. Regarding HPV vaccines, the government approved Gardasil for females (ages 9-26) and males (9-15) in 2007. Since 2016, it has been a part of the National Immunization Program, and all children under 12 in South Korea receive the vaccination free of charge. Regarding HIV medication, the Korean government seems to bar foreigners with HIV/AIDS from entering the country. It also requires that all foreign teachers take HIV tests. If foreigners are found to be HIV+, they will most likely be deported. As for locals with HIV/AIDS, there seem to be no special treatment centers in South Korea. There also no known distributors or trials for PrEP. The word for AIDS in Korean is 에이즈, or "eijeu."



Note: In addition to pads and tampons, you can also use menstrual cups and menstrual underwear for your period. To learn more about menstrual cups, click here. To learn more about menstrual underwear, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas

While tampons are available, they are not sold everywhere, as most South Korean women only use them for swimming.

What to Get & Where to Get It

Pads are available at convenience stores, often sold in “bulky” sizes. Tampons with and without applicators are available but the brand selection is pretty limited. There are no known sellers of menstrual cups (DivaCup, Mooncup, LadyCup), so it is recommended to buy them online.


Gynecological Exams

Laws & Social Stigmas

What to Get & Where to Get It

  • Medi-Flower OB/GYN Clinic - Recommended. Located next to the Seoul National University of Education Metro stop. The female Korean doctor speaks English.



Laws & Social Stigmas

What to Get & Where to Get It

Check out this fantastic list of Hospitals and Birthing Centers in Korea, updated in 2016, and Doulas, Prenatal, Postpartum, and Breastfeeding Support in Korea, compiled in 2013. And here's a list of International Clinics and Hospitals in Seoul.



Important Note: There are two main types of abortions: medical (also known as the "abortion pill") and surgical (also known as "in-clinic"). For medical abortions, you take a pill to induce abortion. For surgical abortions, a procedure is performed to induce abortion. For general information about medical and surgical abortions, click here.

Laws & Social Stigmas

Abortion is illegal in South Korea, except in special cases. While the original law in 1953 restricted all abortion, this was changed in 1973 under the Maternal and Child Health Law. With these changes, an abortion could be performed by a physician if 1) the pregnant woman or her spouse suffer from a hereditary mental/physical disease specified by Presidential Decree 2) the pregnant woman or her spouse suffer from a communicable disease specified by Presidential Decree 3) the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest 4) the continuation of the pregnancy threatens the woman's life. In all other cases, abortion is illegal and a woman who induces her own abortion may be subject to imprisonment for one year or a fine. Medical personnel who illegally induce an abortion may face up to two years of imprisonment.

However, Misoprostol (the abortion pill) seems to be available as Misel. It's not clear if you need to buy it online or if you can get it in select hospitals. To get abortion pill online, contact Women on Web for instructions. To try to find the pill or other services in Seoul, check out the next section below.

If you're interested in obtaining an abortion in an East Asian country with more lenient abortion laws, you may want to check out Japan, China, Hong Kong, or Vietnam.

If you would like to read personal accounts of getting an abortion in Korea, check out these links:

What to Get & Where to Get It

  • Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea (PPFK): Youngdeungpo-gu dangsan-dong, 6ga 121-146 Seoul 150-808. Tel: +82(2) 467 8201, (2)2634 8211 . Fax: +82(2) 467 1394
  • Hosan Hospital: To read a testimonial, please read this blog, which details the experience in two posts. Tel.: 546-3674, Address: 617-5 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
  • Mirae Wha Heenang (Future and Hope) Clinic. Tel.: 3446-0011. 532-7 Shinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.


Advocacy & Counseling

Laws & Social Stigmas

What to Get & Where to Get It

  • Center for Health and Social Change (건강과대안) : Provides a well-organized, feminist perspective contraceptive encyclopedia. TEL (02)747-6887 | FAX(02)3672-6887
  • Emergency Support Centers for Migrant Women (이주여성긴급지원센터): Provides 24/7 emergency support and shelter services for all foreign women, regardless of nationality, who have been victims of family violence, sexual assault and prostitution. Counseling services in 11 languages (Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, English, Tagalog, Russian, Thai, Mongolian, Cambodian, Uzebek, and Japanese). Telephone: 1577-1366 (no area code required when dialed from ANY type of phone within South Korea), Address: 3rd Floor, Central Place, Seosomunno, Jung-Gu, Seoul, Email: or
  • Emergency Call Line (Hotline) for Women(여성긴급전화): Tel 1577-1366 (available in English), Operating hours: 9p.m. - 9a.m.
  • Seoul Shelter for Women: Shelter for homeless and intellectually disabled women in Seoul. Under the management of Sister Veronica Kim.
  • Korea Legal Aid Corporation (대한법률 구조공단): Offers free legal advice regarding civil, family and sexual harassment. Tel 02-3482-0132 (may not have English speaker available).
  • Ajou University Sexual Violence Counseling Center: Tel 031-219-1745 (may not have English speaker available). Website in Korean only. Email:
  • Hanyang University Gender Inequality Center: Tel 02-2220-1444, 1783 (may not have English speaker available). Website supposedly has information in English, Chinese but looks to be only Korean on quick glance. Consulting can be done by phone and in person.
  • Kookmin University Sexual Violence Counseling Center: Tel 02-910-4231~2 (may not have English speaker available). Website is in Korean only. Email: Consulting can be done by phone, e-mail and in person.
  • Seoul National University Center for Sexual Assault Prevention: Tel 02-880-5073 (may not have English speaker available). Website is in Korean only. Email: , online counseling in English is possible. Consulting can be done by phone, in person and e-mail.
  • Yonsei University Sexual Violence Counseling Center: Tel 02-2123-2118 (may not have English speaker available). Website is in Korean only. Email: Consulting can be done by phone, in person and e-mail.

Note: Thanks to Korea4Expats[9] for providing much of this information!


List of Additional Resources