Korean Health Care

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・APA ・3 Sources

Cultural heritage provides rich information regarding cultural practices, beliefs, and customs of different communities, enabling us to learn the history of cultural groups. One such cultural group, which is rooted in the society’s traditions and culture is Korea – unlike many communities in Western that recognize individualism, Koreans attach great importance to family, society, and community (Stuart, Cherry & Stuart, 2011). This essay explores the Korean culture on healthcare, identifies a common healthcare problem to Koreans as well as the sensitive approaches to solving the problem.

Cultural Overview

Koreans are mostly Christians or Buddhists who rely on temples or churches for educational and social purposes. Other than being religious, most Koreans consider family as an essential unit in the society – Koreans lead a family life, which is headed by the father who is responsible for the family’s shelter, health, and food, among other necessities. Also, men predominate over women and men are given priorities in matters of health care - there is more emphasis on diseases that attack men frequently and less attention to illnesses that attack women. Kinship and family have a lot of significance due to the belief of blood ties, which brings together even the distant relatives.

There is a high level of sincerity and adherence to protocols in Korean culture during meals, prayers, meetings, and when seeking treatment. Traditional Koreans are more into the cultural beliefs compared to the Westernized Koreans. However, the cultural practices and beliefs still have a lot of influence in both groups. According to Shin, Shin & Blanchette (2001) Koreans prefer oriental medicine and Hanbang, also called Hanyak as the favorite health care method. Hanbang involves the use of diagnostic methods such as patient observation, checking the history of illness, taking patients’ pulse and listening to their voices.

Generally, Koreans embrace four key treatment methods including cupping, herbs, moxibustion, and acupuncture. The great cultural diversity and high dependence on the cultural treatment methods mentioned above especially among the traditional Koreans call for an active cultural assessment model. The most appropriate model is one which emphasizes on the approach to the patients, has respect for authority, and ensures financial relief (Galanti, 2015). Korean-Americans, especially the older patients face challenges in communicating effectively with practitioners due to the poor conceptualization of their illness and poor language skills thus the need for an approach that takes care of the patients’ personal needs. Also, Koreans have respect for authority, and thus a model, which recognizes Koreans, is appropriate. Moreover, the model should be stress-free to the caregivers so that the family members do not feel guilty due to financial limitations.

Patient Scenario

The major health care problems or issues common to the Koreans include the language problem and the struggle between the traditional Korean practitioners and the Western Korean practitioners where either practitioner discourages patients from consulting the other. The problem above is primarily caused by the Korean community that relies on the cultural practices including the traditional methods of treatment, which have a lot of influence in health care. Other than depending on the cultural treatment methods mentioned above, Koreans have a strong orientation to the family, and thus most Koreans prefer or believe the views of their friends or families’ regarding their illnesses, instead of the physicians’ views. Consequently, the majority of Koreans may not get the appropriate medication due to cultural beliefs. For instance, the oriental medicines used by the traditional Koreans are only sold by the Korean peddlers in the US. However, the issue is a problem since such traditional medications only relieve symptoms and do not treat the conditions (Shin, Shin & Blanchette, 2001).

Transcultural Knowledge Applied

The misunderstanding between the practitioners and language problems result in low-quality health care to Koreans. One of the approaches is the adoption of inpatient care, especially to the Korean-Americans who experience challenges with the English language. There should be adequate Korean-language speaking practitioners in the hospitals to offer health care services to Korean-Americans. The other approach is the adoption of nursing home care. In Korean culture, the majority prefers to take care of friends and family members in their homes, and thus nursing homes are scarce (Shin, Shin & Blanchette, 2001). In most cases, there are only private facilities, which are also expensive. An expansion of the nursing home facilities in Korea is likely to expose Koreans to different modern treatment methods such as those used by the Western-Korean practitioners. Such exposure reduces or eliminates the cases of conflicts between traditional Korean and Western Korean practitioners who instead embrace better methods of health care through teamwork or consultations.

A culturally competent nurse has a key role to play in implementing the above mentioned culturally sensitive approaches. For instance, he/she recognizes the individual differences due to cultural practices and handles Korean patients with respect. According to Galanti (2015), culturally competent nurses must be flexible depending on the situation or location in which he/she offers medical treatments. Most importantly, a culturally competent nurse must stay committed to transforming the Korean society by promoting the best treatment methods.


Koreans have a rich cultural background, which influences their way of living including health care. Other than being religious, Koreans have a strong belief in family and follow protocols in everyday activities. Due to the cultural diversity in the Korean culture, the most appropriate assessment model is one that takes into consideration the Korean values such as respect and approach to patients. The health beliefs such as the use of oriental medicines influence Korean health care, which faces language problems and misunderstanding between the traditional and Western Korean practitioners. Such health care problem requires culturally sensitive approaches such as the adoption of inpatient care and nursing home care, which calls for a culturally competent nurse to stay committed, flexible and respectful to the Korean culture.


Galanti, G.-A. (2015). Caring for patients from different cultures. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Shin, K. R., Shin, C., & Blanchette, P. L. (2001). Health and health care of Korean-American elders.

Stuart, B., Cherry, C., & Stuart, J. (2011). Pocket guide to culturally sensitive health care. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis, DavisPlus.

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