Giving Blood in Korea

I’ve wanted to give blood for a while now, but I finally managed to do it.

The basic requirements for a foreigner are:

  • you must have lived in Korea for at least one year
  • if you visited another country for 90 days or more, you have to wait a year from your return
  • if you traveled overseas within the last month, you must also wait a month
  • you must speak Korean OR they will assign you an interpreter in advance (you can’t take your Korean-speaking friend along to translate for you)
  • you need a form of ID, which can be your ARC (alien registration card) or passport

There are other requirements you must meet, such as age, weight, medications you can’t give blood while taking, and countries where you’re ineligible if you’ve spent time in, and those can be found here. (Most Europeans can’t give blood, unfortunately.)

Since I don’t speak Korean, I emailed them ( and asked for more information. They hooked me up with an interpreter and from then on, he was my contact person.

We set up a date and time, and since he was an office worker and I work late until the evening, we decided on a Saturday outside Hoegi Station, about a 40-minute train ride away from my home station of Uijeongbu.

I’ll admit that at first, I couldn’t find the location. I tend to think horizontally, having lived in a short city (Washington, DC) for 8 years, rather than vertically. Thus, I walked around the building the center was in before finding the entrance and heading upstairs to the fifth floor.

When you arrive, you scan your palm’s temperature and use hand sanitizer. They have a set of lockers you can use to put your stuff in. After filling out a brief questionnaire on a computer (they have an English option), you wait for the first nurse to call you back.

The first nurse has you insert your arm into a blood pressure cuff machine. My first read was too high but I told the interpreter it was because I was nervous. Even though I had gotten this far into my blood-giving journey, I could still be turned away!

She then asked me a series of questions that I had already answered in the questionnaire. She pricked my ring finger and asked if I knew what blood type I was, and dropped two drops of blood onto a piece of paper. Then she added a solution to each drop and swirled it around, making it change color. She verified that I am type A.

I tried testing my blood pressure again, and this time my nerves had gone down so I was at an acceptable level. It turns out that my mom also has “white coat syndrome”!

We were sent back to the waiting room and this is when another girl had a very bad reaction to giving blood. She was bleeding rather profusely after giving blood, turning her bright white hoodie deep red along her elbow. She didn’t look too good, either, but the nurses were very affectionate in helping her clean up and making sure she was okay to go home. Things like this can happen, and I was happy to see that the nurses were cool, calm, and collected in this kind of scenario.

Then it was my turn. I went back into a room full of awkwardly tilted chairs and climbed on up. I pulled up my sleeve and the nurse found my vein, swiped me with an alcohol pad, and inserted the needle with no pain at all. While I was giving blood, they gave me a few forms to read about aftercare (what to do if you get dizzy, to drink lots of water, etc.) and gave me a piece of paper from which I could choose my reward for giving blood. There were a couple of options, like a convenience store coupon, but I opted for the McDonald’s McChicken set, a coupon worth around 8,000 won ($5.97 USD). Because it was my first time giving blood in Korea, they also gave me this really cute Rubik’s cube with illustrations of cheerful drops of blood.

a cheerful drop of blood holding a wand with a heart on it and a balloon heart half-filled with red blood

The donation itself took around ten minutes, and then they had me wait in the waiting room for another ten. They gave me crackers and had Pocari Sweat and orange juice to drink. I think that was the first time I’ve ever drank Pocari Sweat, as I usually just buy Gatorade.

After the ten minutes was up, we were free to leave, so we walked back to the subway station a mere five minutes away, and bid our goodbyes. Over all, I had a really good experience and would urge other expats to consider donating blood if it’s possible for them to do so. Also, I owe a really big shout-out to Kaniel, my interpreter, for taking time out of his busy schedule to assist me in donating blood. I am so thankful for your help!

Kaniel, dressed in a smart suit and tie, and me, laying down on a chair while giving blood

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