So My Story
The reason I started writing this post was because I went into a center here in Daegu and was a bit shocked at how adamant they were about not letting me donate. Once I went on the internet to investigate a bit, I was shocked to find so many more experiences like my own – foreigners being turned away from donating simply because they are not Korean. An American Korean was able to donate JUST because she has Korean blood: “Initially when they found out that I was from the States and I was out of the country for a long time, they were a little reluctant. But because my blood is “Korean” and the fact that I was from the States and not U.K. (I’m thinking mad-cow disease?) and other southeast Asian countries, I was OK to give blood.” (source)
What it feels like if foreigners try to give blood in Korea…
Korea’s blood center has it’s own mascot (헌혈 마스코트) named Nanumi, deriving its name from “Nanum”, which means “Share” in Korean. Unfortunately, I came out of the experience feeling like they didn’t want me to share at all.
I went to the Blood Donation Center in downtown Daegu, I was there with an off-duty police office friend of mine to help translate. She let them know I wanted to donate. When I was asked if I could understand Korean I said I could read it but not understand everything on the paper, thus I was there to ask for a form so I could study it and be prepared for when the time came to donate. The employee showed me then the requirements to donate, and I noted the fact that it says, “If NOT, you need to be accompanied by a Korean translator”. When I told her that my friend can act as a translator she still seemed hesitant even though it’s rather clear that I do not have to understand Korean as long as I have a translator. It took us being there for 45 minutes to convince her, while all the workers and patients stared at us, to convince her to finally allow me to donate. Mind you, this was after she said they worried about me fainting and not feeling well, to which I told them I was aware of the risks and have had various experiences donating blood. They even tried to get my friend to donate! They first said, fine we will let you donate with your friend. That’s when I started feeling a bit unnerved, as if taking my blood was a waste of time and they didn’t even want it. After much convincing on my friend’s part, she finally agreed. So hopefully I get to donate once I return from America. I need to donate, I’ve wasted 2 1/2 years here in Korea without doing it. Gotta reach my 25 gallon goal.
Blood stocks can be found here , and today’s quota as of 11 AM:
Requirements for a foreigner to donate their blood in Korea:
Rare Blood Types:
Back in 2010, there were 20,000 Rh negative blood donors registered with the Korean Red Cross’ blood information management system, but it still isn’t enough:
For most ethnicity rhesus negative blood is in at least 10 percent of the population. For Americans and British, the percentage of the population with rhesus negative is at 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
But for those of Asian descent, rhesus negative blood is rare.
According to the Red Cross, for every 1,000 Koreans, there are only three who have rhesus negative blood types. (source)
Korea’s Red Cross requires the nation’s 15 blood banks to maintain specified stocks of O, A, B and AB blood – all common here. But the organization sets no minimum quota for Rh negative blood. (Source)
The Story of Jeon Yoo-woon
On March 16 2010, 19-year-old Jeon Yoo-woon (전유운) was diagnosed with lymphoma. The hospital where he was staying advised them not to count on Korea’s Red Cross to secure the stocks of Rh negative blood needed to keep him alive. In Korea, relatives and friends of a patient are responsible for finding blood donors.
More than 100 foreign nationals responded to John’s distress call. In the end, only five or six of them could actually donate their blood. Jeon was frustrated with foreign donors being dropped before they were even tested.His son died on the evening of April 20. Jeon’s father John has since fought for a change in the system.
Jeon’s story changed things. At least in theory it did. The Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Korea Red Cross responded, their goal was to create a database of rare blood types. And yet it was still had for foreigner’s to donate even when the patient was a foreigner. ”With the expansion of our pool, we believe that there will be no need to seek the help of foreigners,” said an official, in regards to the new database.
Sarah Crouch, an English teacher in Jincheon with Rh negative blood, donates platelets at a blood center in Shinchon. (source)
Sarah Crouch, an expat who had tried to donate to Jeon and finally did after his father fought for her to donate, tried going again to help an expat. She still encountered some problems. “The head of the donation center that day said that there was a rule that only Koreans could donate. I knew that wasn’t true, because I had just helped edit the Korean/English blood procedure manual,” said Crouch (source).
Since Jeon’s death, the expat community has set up a group to encourage blood donations in Korea. The group called Blood Connections, and has been established by Marie Frenette, a Canadian who lives in Seoul. “I realized I shouldn’t just be happy that I could help this boy, I should be scared. If I walked out on the street and got hit by a car I could be in real danger (because of my blood type),” she said. “I don’t think anyone has thought okay these one million foreigners are here, what services might they need which we don’t have in Korea (source). Jeon’s father has been a liaison between the group and the Korean Red Cross.
That scares me too. With a rare blood type here in Korea…the risks are a bit greater for me.
Documents & Links in English:
Donation interview in Korea
Korean Red Cross – (02) 3705-3668 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct phone number is 02) 3705-8492.
It’s such an easy way to help out if you qualify and aren’t afraid of needles. Donate blood if you can, so many people may need your specific blood type.