Birth Control Pills in Korea

This one goes out to all the ladies, living in South Korea or considering the move. When I returned to Korea I stocked up on my brand of birth control pills from back home and figured I’d deal with the situation of how to acquire more when that time came. Well that time was last week, so allow me to set some concerns to rest for those of you who aren’t sure what it’s like to get birth control pills here.

Worries over the pill in Korea began in 2012 when President Pak Geun-Hye’s conservative government announced that the Korean Food & Drug Administration would make moves to reclassify contraceptives including birth control pills and the morning-after pill. This reclassification would result in making birth control pills prescription only (after being over-the-counter for over 40 years) and allowing the morning-after pill to switch from prescription to over-the-counter. The change enraged many Korean women’s rights groups and many women in general across the country. Doctors and pharmacists disagreed with the reclassification and said the change seemed backwards seeing as the pill has been widely available around the world for over 50 years and its effects were well-documented and proven safe.

pharmacy2

pharmacy1

Typical Korean pharmacy.

 

 

 

 

 

Two months later, the government reconsidered their stance as it was pre-election time and they were pissing off a lot of people. They decided to put the reclassification procedure on hold for 3 years to “further monitor” the effects of each contraceptive and better-educate Korean women on whatever it is the government feels they don’t know enough about already.

So we are safe until at least the end of 2015, when many hope the issue will be put on a shelf to be forgotten for good. Many women, Korean and otherwise, use the birth control pill to regulate their cycles, control and reduce menstrual pain and to help with acne problems. They also use the pill to control when their cycle begins, to make school trips or sporting events less uncomfortable.

Moving forward, many foreigners who come to Korea worry that they won’t be able to get their brand of preferred pill. In my case, I recently had to change my pill so that the estrogen levels were a good match to what was going on with my 30 year-old hormones. Women of different ages need different dosages to match their hormonal levels. Often times it’s a game of “try this kind for 3 months and see how you feel.” This is why, when we find a brand that suits us, it means a lot to be able to get that same kind wherever we are. It’s more than brand loyalty – it’s hormonal synchronicity.

I brought a Korean friend to help with translation but it was actually a very simple transaction. I brought in my North American birth control box and pointed to the medicinal ingredients on the back. We asked the pharmacist for something with similar levels of levonorgestrel and ethinyl estradiol. He disappeared for a minute and came back with a little green box and showed me the ingredients on the back. Same exact levels as my Minovral, only this one was a Korean brand.

birth control

Done and done. Also, very cheap! Only 5,500 won, equal to about $5.50 CAD. So for those heading over here soon or are already here, save one box and take it with you to the pharmacy the next time you need to stock up. No prescription or added fees required until 2016 (at least) and as long as you choose a relatively big pharmacy, they will probably have what you need with a lot less stress than you thought.

28 thoughts on “Birth Control Pills in Korea

  1. Hi there!
    I would suggest visiting a doctor to discuss with a professional which kind she should try. From there, she should be able to head to a nearby pharmacy and pick some up. If her Korean is good, perhaps she could talk to the pharmacist herself but if not, she needs to find a doctor she can communicate with. I hope this helps.

  2. Hello!
    So my situation is a little more difficult.
    My girlfriend is from China but works in South Korea and I really think she needs birth control because her period DESTROYS her every month. She’s never used birth control before; but I’ve heard it can really help with period pains.
    SO-
    my question is, how can she go about obtaining birth control that suits her?

  3. I’ve never had to say the word as I brought my old pill pack into the pharmacy but according to google translate, it’s “피임약” which is said like “piim yak.” Piim is birth control and yak is medicine/pill. Hope that helps!

  4. What’s the word for birth control in Korean? How would I ask for it? How many can I get at one time?

  5. Just go to a pharmacy with your box of Western bc pills and ask for one with the same levels of hormones. Just show the box and the pharmacist will know what to do.

  6. OK so do I need a prescription or not to get birth control pills in South Korea?

  7. I live here in south korea and you still need a prescription to buy a plan b pills or morning after pill. The birth control pills can purchase over the counter.

  8. Hi Bim,
    I didn’t come across any injection birth control information in my research but imagine if it is here, it would be done at a hospital. If you go to pharmacist in Itaewon you’ll find many who are fluent in English. You can ask them if you don’t have a Korean friend who can help you out. Thanks for reading!

  9. Hi I would like to ask if where I can find or get a shot of injectable birth control in korea. do i have to go in a hospital for this?

  10. @ Kim: As far as I know, you need to visit a doctor and get a prescription for plan B.

  11. No, you don’t need a prescription in Korea as of 2015. I recommend bringing in the packaging of the pill you used back home and show the pharmacist in Korea. They will match the medical ingredients on your packaging to what they have here. Thanks for the great question!

  12. In my country we need medical prescription to buy every-day contraceptive pills in pharmacy.
    Do I need it in Korea?
    Thanks a lot

  13. @Angie, the words on the back are the days of the week. I don’t have Korean on this keyboard, but you can look up the days of the week on the web and you’ll see which days are which. As I know, all the pills are the same dosage though, so I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter where you start. But still, if you’d rather go by the days of the week, then choose any “Monday” or “Wednesday” you want and start the pack from there. Hope this helps!

  14. Thanks a lot for the advice. I had no problem picking one up. I got the extract same one as you. But its all in Korean , which one do I take first? Can you help explain?

  15. Thanks a lot for the advice. I had no problem picking one up. I got the extract same one as you. But its all in Korean , which one do I take first? Can you help explain?

  16. Hello. Just to let ladies from the US know: This pack is similar to Ortho-Tri-Cyclen Lo, instead of 28 days this one is 21, which I found out is better for me. The 28 day wasn’t in sync with my cycle (after talking to my sis a PA). I just bought two packs 6,500₩ each ~$6.40 US.

  17. As of now, April 2014, can I walk into a pharmacy and obtain birth control over the counter? Is there a list somewhere of the available formulas and brands of birth control?

  18. I’m not sure about the patch. You’d have to visit a doctor though and get a perscription for that one, if they did have it.

  19. Thank you so much for posting this! My birth control recently ran out and I was wondering if birth control was still accessible with the proposed laws changing. Thank you for your helpful info.

  20. Dear Ka AS,
    The morning after pill is still a prescription drug for now in Korea. You will need a doctor’s note but the every day birth control pills are over-the-counter.

  21. Hi Horacio,
    Thanks for reading :) and no, I don’t mind at all. What is your facebook group name? I’d love to check it out! Take care^^

  22. Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Cheers

  23. So, the day after pill can be bought over the counter or do I need to go to the doctor?

  24. Ah! This was soooo extremely helpful! You answered all my questions! I will be moving to Korea for 1 year in a couple months and don’t want to have to give up my bc brand because it is the only one that controls my acne! So it is excellent to hear that it is an easy transaction and does not require prescriptions like here in Canada. Plus 5$ for one pack is 1/5 the price I pay here in Canada!
    Thanks a bunch!

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