Should you be afraid of MERS?


South Korea stares down the MERS virus, trying to contain its spread, updates from the Shangri-La Defense Conference, and China races to rescue those trapped on a cruise ship.

South Korean MERS Crisis

More than 30 confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, have been detected in South Korea causing great alarm. How did the disease arrive and should you really be alarmed? Host Steve Miller breaks it down.

Shangri-La Defense Conference Updates

The Shangri-La Defense Conference, which took place in Singapore last weekend. This week, a recap of some of the conference’s highlights, which have found their way into number discussions on Asia News Weekly and Asia Now.

Chinese Cruise Ship Disaster

Monday evening, the Eastern Star sank in China’s Yangtze River following a storm in the area. Some 450-plus were on board when disaster struck. This could be the worst accident in 70 years and strangely parallels South Korea’s Sewol tragedy last year.

India’s Heat Wave

More than 2200 people have died as the nation suffered from extreme temperatures in the mid 40-Centigrade range (about 115F).

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The Korean Gym



A while back I received a question asking how much Korean gym memberships cost. While it varies from city to city and the number of extra features they have, the one thing I was never able to do was take you inside a Korean gym. That’s because I really like running and try to do it outdoors as much as possible. Since returning from our vacation, the weather hasn’t really been all that nice and I’ve needed to stay indoors. So I joined a gym. This Korean gym is pretty standard and also like the one I first went to in 2008. There are several nicer in my area, but the main reason I chose to work out here was the number of treadmills and its proximity to bus stops.

VLOG: Getting Fit and Shout-Outs


Winter is coming here! That being said, I am no longer running outdoors. It is just too cold for me to do so and remain healthy. That’s right, I am a wuss when it comes to being outdoors and running. Hiking – no problem. Filming: no problem. But ask me to go for a run when it’s cooler than 10C, FORGEDDABOUTIT!

Currently, I am making use of the 7 Minute Workout and some burpees to stay fit. That’s my plan anyway. I am also turning to a few YouTubers who are inspiring me to keep up with my fitness goals. I really enjoy their videos and think you would as well.

First up is Sandra, who I met at the Tokyo Gathering. She’s an exchange student in Japan and chronicles her journey in weekly videos. She’s been on this amazing weight loss plan for 20 weeks and the results are amazing.

Up next is someone whom I have been watching for a long, long time. VanAwesome. He puts out some amazing videos and his ongoing project, dubbed The Handsoming, is brilliant. It’s a must-watch.

Seriously, what I really love about YouTube is how it is a huge network of people sharing their stories. By using it, we can help each other out when we need it. I’m trying my best to stay fit, but sometimes fail. That’s all right, I just get back up again.

What are your fitness goals?

How much does plastic surgery cost in South Korea?



South Korea loves plastic surgery. In fact, the nation ranks number one in the world for the number of plastic surgery procedures that are performed annually (when population is taken into account). In today’s VLOG, I show a common bus ad for a plastic surgery clinic. The ad is completely in Korean, so some of my translations may be a bit off, but I feel fairly confident in my translations. All prices are in Korean Won and referenced in 만원 (man won or 10,000 won) amounts. That’s how money is counted here. I do the conversion, but if you’re looking for dollar amounts, a general run of thumb is 1,000 won is about a dollar.

Here’s a quick run down of some of the procedures listed in the video: eyelid surgery, skin whitening, arm liposuction, and nose surgery.

VLOG: Korean Medicine in a Bag



Getting sick sucks no matter where you are in the world. Thankfully in Korea, they have a pretty robust health care system. In today’s video, I go over the costs of a week’s worth of cold medicine from the pharmacy.

How much are meds in your neck of the woods and if you’re outside of Korea, how do they distribute them? Are they in convenient dosage packs or does each medicine come in a separate container?

Death with dignity may come to South Korea

death with dignity

Photo by RCP Basheer.

I don’t have many fears. Tell me something outrageous and I’ll think it over for a few seconds and then respond, “Sure, why not?” However, there is one thing that scares the crap out of me: facing the end of my life stuck in a hospital bed, tubes running in and out of my body keeping me alive. To me that isn’t living. It’s why Jo and I have made our wishes known that we have no desire to be kept alive by artificial means. If we’re going to die, we want to meet it head on and face death with dignity.

In many countries it’s common to have an advance directive, or living will in place to make sure these wishes are carried out. However, it appears that the Korea may finally be enjoy this basic right. From Yonhap News:

A presidential bioethics committee on Wednesday called for a special bill that would allow patients in the final hours or days of their lives to determine whether to receive treatment that could prolong their lives. The move represents growing calls in South Korea for patients nearing the end of their lives to be well-informed of their exact conditions and to be able to decide whether to sustain their lives through equipment or treatments such as respirators, hemodialysis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and anti-cancer drugs.

According to the article, it wasn’t until 2009 that the nation had its first “death with dignity” case, and only then it was a 78-year-old woman in a vegetative state. Seoul National University Hospital and Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital have guidelines when life support can be removed from a brain-dead or terminally ill patient.

With Korea’s quickly aging population, this could be a financially draining issue for many families if not employed. It could also clog up hospitals and limit care to others. That this issue is being brought up now shows a shift from earlier studies, where end of life decisions were left until late. Hopefully the Ministry of Health will follow through on its pledge to submit legislation, as yet they have announced no timetable to do so.

The first step on the road to a cure for Down Syndrome?

down syndrome rob kay

Photo credit: Rob Kay (Creative Commons)

Today, I came across this story on the Science Blog: “Scientists at UMass Medical School are the first to establish that a naturally occurring X chromosome “off switch” can be rerouted to neutralize the extra chromosome responsible for trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome, a genetic disorder characterized by cognitive impairment.” You can read the entire article here.

Genetic disorders can take their toll on a family and I’m pleased to see that advancements are being made to identify and correct abnormalities, a goal of geneticists for some time. In general, I do support gene therapy in vitro when used to correct significant abnormalities. I am opposed to a eugenics as a means to create a “designed society.”

What are your thoughts on this finding? Is it a breakthrough in science or are humans attempting to play God?

PT In Korea

As I mentioned before, I hurt my knee while training. Tried as I might, I opted not to go to the doctor. But since it wasn’t getting any better on its own, I had no choice.

Korean Physical Therapy - steve miller - qiranger

Thankfully Korean has a robust medical system, one I was all too familiar with. In my old school building (Winnerstar Building, Dongtan, South Korea), there was an ortho doc (TOP Pain Clinic, 5th floor). I had the misfortune of having to use his services a few years ago for another knee injury, so I knew what I was in for this time.


As usual, I was able to walk right into the office and be seen immediately. After a few structural tests, the doctor ordered a series of x-rays and then followed up with me. Thankfully there was nothing really wrong with the knee, and I just needed to give it some rest. He ordered up some meds and physical therapy.

The cost for the visit, x-rays, and physical therapy: W4300. Meds were an additional W3800.

To help speed the process along, I am doing just what the doctor requested: rest (minimal walking) and PT. I completed my meds in about 4 days and following its course, I have felt pretty good. However, the purpose of this post is to focus on the PT and some differences I see between US and Korean Medicine. Coming from a background in massage, I find the Korean approach much more to my liking.

Rather than dosing up the body with meds for two weeks, Korean doctors usually prescribe 3-4 days of meds and prefer to use more natural methods to heal. Therapy begins with a heat pack for 20 minutes coupled with an anma massage bed. The pulsing points stimulate key meridian points on the back to facilitate healing. The next stage is a round of ultrasound therapy. The session completes with e-stim therapy around the injured area.

So far things are going great, and I look to be able to start running again. What’s your PT experience like?