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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Healing Place: The Kim Ki-ho Clinic

Heo Jun 
Considered the Father of Korean traditional medicine,
Heo Jun is still highly regarded throughout East Asia
 China and Vietnam, to Japan.  He is famous for making treatment 
accessible and understandable to common people.

Expats coming to Korea often revel in its cultural gifts ranging from kimchi to bibimbap, from its temples to old Korean villages, from traditional garb to its rich holidays, such as Chuseok. Yet when something ails us, or we encounter back pain, we usually overlook the benefits of Korean traditional medicine. Typically, we turn to what's familiar: the western medicine experience that is too often both impersonal and over-reliant on prescription drugs. Dr. Kim Ki-ho's clinic, nestled between the Suseong Office and Manchon subway stops on the Green Line, offers a refreshing healing alternative.

Over the last several decades chiropractic has acquired legitimacy and prominence in the U.S. It's no wonder. Eighty percent of Americans are affected by lower back or neck pain. Even though patients consistently express more satisfaction with chiropractic care than other forms of treatment, these positive reports often fly beneath the radar.

I know Dr. Kim as Peter. I first discovered his huge smile and welcoming personality last spring having been referred to his practice by a colleague. I quickly benefitted from his expertise in chiropractic, acupuncture, and muscle relaxation. The latter, provided by a staff member, became the highlight of my visits. As she massaged my back, I mistook the office's treatment room for a highway stop in heaven.

Dr. Kim, who also goes by "Peter," helping a patient with
lower back pain

For more esoteric treatments, Peter is also expertly trained in body mapping, magnetic pen treatment, sound therapy, spinal adjustments and detoxification programs. Based on his training in traditional medicine, Peter believes that each patient has a unique body type. His treatments provide improved circulation, increased energy and pain cessation.

Natural herbal ingredients marked in Chinese characters

Both Peter and his capable assistant, Stella, speak English and are extremely warm and helpful. As with other medical services provided here in Korea, I was pleasantly surprised by the reasonable fees for treatment. Being an American, I am, of course, used to exorbitant prices for both medical care and prescription drugs. How refreshing it was to be seen as a whole person and, at the same time, avoid what often proves to be unnecessary medication.

Dr. Kim in his office explaining the 
meridians on a human sculpture

If wellness, pain reduction or healing are conditions you seek, I encourage you to consider Peter and his clinic. Traditional Korean medicine, like an old Korean village, can be a place of comfort and soothing hospitality. Dr. Kim's clinic is that, and much, much more.

Kim Kee Ho Traditional Korean Clinic
Daegu City, Suseong-gu, Beomeo 4 District 197-2
Tel: 053-746-0074

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Su Yeung Jang: Swimming Pool

Her diagnosis threw a wet woolen blanket over my spirit. "That will be it for running. You'll probably be able to continue with biking and walking. But, I'm afraid running is out," she said. The next time I saw my doctor she was draining two huge syringes worth of Coor's-like liquid from my right knee. This was indeed looking serious.

Yep, this was looking serious. Sucking
what looked like Coors Lite from my knee

To be sure, running has been much more than a sideline interest in my life. I started running as an 8-year old Cub Scout in New York City, winning silver and bronze medals which I still have stashed away somewhere at home. Just last November here in Korea, I ran my best 10-K in years. I envisioned myself as one of those ageless wonders, running forever, pocketing awards in my age group, until I moseyed-off into that last glorious sunset.

Coors imaging notwithstanding, I am not one to sulk in my own beer. Good thing. A 500-mike walk across northern Spain, known as the Camino de Santiago, is in my not-too-distant future. I don't have much time to turn this lemon of a predicament into a lubricating lemonade. Speaking of solutions, and back to my doctor, I had three rounds of what must be the world's most viscous solution injected into my knee. That concoction, brand named, Euflexxa, is part of my recovery strategy for being able to walk that pilgrimage from the village of St. Jean Pied De Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees, 800 kilometers southwesterly to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela.

But biking and walking alone won't get me there. Swimming, that other low-impact exercise, is well known as an almost magical physical therapy. I'm exhaling now. I hate swimming indoors: the roof, the vibrating sounds, the moist changing rooms, the slippery floors. Nothing could be further afield from the things that sustained me as a runner: the one-on-one communing with nature, the sound of my running shoes meeting the pavement, the ability to run anywhere in the world at almost any time.

The public Korean swimming pool I go to is about a 2-mile bike ride from our apartment. I am the only male expat sharing the lanes of this high-school affiliated facility. Of course, I had to undergo initiation rites of passage. During each of my first several visits there, the attendant came up to me and admonished me for not showering before entering the pool. (I had.) Guys in the locker room sent grimacing daggers my way for dripping water on the floor. Small prices to pay for the much needed benefits that swimming affords.

The Gyeungsan public swimming pool

The venue occupies an industrial-like site in a tired, but dignified, old part of Gyeungsan, a rapidly growing suburb of Korea's 4th largest city, Daegu. As is the Korean custom, shoes are removed upon entering. I place 1500 won (about $1.30) in a vending machine, get a ticket and exchange it for a locker key on a rubber elastic cord. Minutes later, I am in another world--a soothing aquatic space. The lanes are filled with mostly Korean ajamas (married women) and grandmothers who, by turn, either completely ignore me like some annoying floating flotsam, or smile and say,"good morning" in Korean. Essentially, it's quite like any pool anywhere in the world.

At the entrance, you place you shoes in a wallside cubbie.
Swimming, as advertised, has proven to be the best thing going for my knee. My old running tactics of setting goals and punching my stop-watch function, apply nicely in these watery lanes. The before and after ritual of biking along the working class streets of my district, provides some solace too. I realize before long, this will all be a memory--flashbacks that will carry me from town to town across the Spanish countryside as I walk the Camino.

Accessories to my aspiration:
walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago