|date||Feb 15, 2011|
Body and Seoul Sweepstakes: And the Winner Is...
By Patricia K. Kummer
You never know where an Internet search will lead. For Katherine DePasquale, it led to a week in Seoul, experiencing Korean medical tourism. While online to make an appointment at a Korean spa in Manhattan, Katherine saw the link to KHIDI's Body and Seoul Sweepstakes, which not only featured a day at Konjiam Resort's spa but also included a VIP health checkup at Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, a dental exam and teeth whitening at Seoul National University Dental Hospital, traditional Oriental medical treatments at East-West Neo Medical Center, and skincare at Arumdaun Nara Beauty Clinic. The sweepstakes package also provided round-trip, business-class seats on Korean Air, six nights at the JW Marriott Seoul, breakfasts at the Marriott, lunch at various restaurants, and tours of Seoul and nearby areas, which were coordinated by Hyundai Medis. The winner could bring a companion who would also receive the medical and spa treatments.
According to James Bae, KHIDI's director of international marketing in New York, about 2,500 entrants from throughout the United States responded to the sweepstakes. In August 2010, KHIDI notified the lucky winner—Katherine DePasquale, a senior writer with The Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board in Manhattan. Her companion on the trip was Rodolfo (Rudy) Chaparro, Ph.D., a biochemist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx.
Katherine and Rudy are seasoned travelers but had never been to Asia. As residents of Manhattan, however, they have many opportunities to sample Asian cuisine. One of their favorites is Korean barbecue. Katherine's enjoyment of spa treatments, Rudy's science background, and their joint desire to experience authentic Korean foods and traditional culture prompted Katherine to enter the sweepstakes.
After selecting the last week in October for their trip, Katherine and Rudy met with James Bae to find out more about the trip and to be assured of their rights of medical privacy and confidentiality. They also learned that a camera crew* would capture their experiences but, of course, would be restricted from the exam rooms. Via e-mail, Katherine was introduced to Elly Kim, a member of KHIDI's international marketing team in Seoul, who coordinated the trip with the medical and spa facilities in Korea.
The following is the day-by-day story of Katherine and Rudy's Body and Seoul Sweepstakes experience. Come along and share their trip.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2010—The Flight on Korean Air
After much preparation, Katherine and Rudy left their Manhattan apartment and headed to JFK International Airport for the 2PM direct flight to Incheon International Airport. Comfortably ensconced in their Prestige Class seats (Korean Air's business class), they settled in for the 14.5-hour flight. With plenty of reading materials, a wide selection of in-flight movies, and plentiful food and beverage service, the time quickly passed. Unfortunately after dinner, they had to begin fasting in preparation for the medical tests they would have on Monday morning—the day after they arrived in Seoul. As you know, when traveling west across the International Date Line, you lose a day.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2010—Arrival at Incheon International Airport
At about 5:30PM, Katherine and Rudy arrived at Incheon. After successfully navigating the quarantine checkpoint, immigration, baggage pickup, and customs, they were surprised that a four-person camera crew was already documenting their Body and Seoul trip. Katherine said that other people at the airport were trying to figure out which American celebrity couple they might be. Rudy in sunglasses added to the mystery.
Amidst the excitement, Katherine and Rudy met Max Song, Overseas Marketing Manager for Hyundai Medis. Throughout the trip, Max served as Katherine and Rudy's driver, translator, and unofficial host. When the camera crew finally finished filming, Max whisked them off to Seoul. After about a 30-minute drive, they arrived at the JW Marriott and checked into their 25th-floor room with a view of the Han River, Banpo Bridge, and N Seoul Tower.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2010—Seoul St. Mary's VIP Health Checkup
At 8:15AM, Katherine and Rudy came down to the lobby of the JW Marriott where they greeted Max and met Elly Kim and Patricia K. (Pat) Kummer, a freelance journalist from Chicago and writer of this article. The five of them would be together as a group during most of the trip. Max in his mini-van drove everyone the few blocks south to Seoul St. Mary's Hospital, where the hospital's marketing staff warmly greeted them and the camera crew began filming.
First, Katherine and Rudy proceeded to a consultation room where the various parts of the VIP health checkup were explained and they decided which tests and exams would be most beneficial for them. They then went to a changing room where they each received an RFID wristband, donned the hospital's pajamas—pink for Katherine and green for Rudy—and placed their belongings in lockers. When scanned, the RFID band not only gave them access to their lockers but also let personnel in each exam room know that they were waiting outside.
Next, Katherine and Rudy were taken to the registration desk where they officially checked in and their personal information was input to the hospital's electronic record system. This totally paperless system impressed Rudy.
Before starting their actual checkup, Katherine and Rudy were each assigned a nurse who escorted them to the many examination rooms. Being in contact with the same nurse during the day gave the experience a personal touch. Katherine noted that her nurse was sweet and friendly.
Their VIP checkup included routine height and weight measurement, an EKG, urine test, and blood tests for tumor markers, arthritis, cholesterol levels, and liver function. They also each had a complete eye examination from Dr. Na Kyung Sun. Besides her duties as a practicing ophthalmologist, she is also an associate professor of ophthalmology at the Catholic University of Korea. In addition, they each had a hearing test, pulmonary function tests, an echocardiogram, an abdominal ultrasound, a UBT Heliocobacter test that screens for risk of cancer and ulcers, and a body mass index (BMI) test. Katherine remarked that the BMI test was much simpler and easier compared with the caliper or submersion tests done in the United States.
Katherine's checkup also included a breast ultrasound, a mammogram, a bone-density scan, and a thoracolumbar spine X-ray. When her checkup was complete, she noted the warmth, compassion, and caring attitude of the doctors, nurses, and technicians.
Rudy chose to have a brain MRI, ultrasounds of his carotid artery and thyroid, and a coronary artery CT. Rudy said "I've never seen so much state-of-the art medical technology all in one place."
Several of Siemens latest machines were used during the checkup, including the Somatom Definition 64 Channel Dual Chamber for the CT scan, the Avanto 1.5T for the MRI, and the Mammomat Inspiration for the mammogram. Equipment from Phillips included an IU-22 for the ultrasounds and the Pagewriter Touch for the EKGs.
By 1PM, Katherine and Rudy had completed their checkups. They were then taken on a tour of Seoul St. Mary's Hospital. Highlights of the tour were the colorful classroom (viewed through a window) in the children's area of the bone-marrow transplant floor where young patients continue their schooling during their recovery period and a birthing room that provided a heated bed for the new mother after delivery. The tour ended at the International Health Care Center where Ms. Deuk-Nam Chung, manager of external affairs, presented Katherine and Rudy with a gift bag that included a wooden pen holder, inset with a panel of traditional embroidery; a silk pouch; and a CD with information about the hospital. They appreciated the thoughtfulness of the gifts.
Following a group photo, the camera crew left. Max then drove Katherine, Rudy, Elly, Pat, and Ms. Chung to the nearby Suraon restaurant for a traditional multi-course Korean meal. Ms. Chung, Elly, and Max pointed out that this was not the usual lunchtime meal for Koreans. Katherine especially liked the lush raspberry drink, and Rudy enjoyed the varieties of kimchi that accompanied the many dishes. During the leisurely meal, the group listened to young women, dressed in colorful hanboks, sing traditional songs, accompanied by the geomungo, a traditional Korean six-string instrument.
After lunch, Ms. Chung went back to St. Mary's and the rest of the group returned to the hotel. Max then showed Katherine and Rudy how to get to the Shinsegae Department Store, which was connected to the hotel. At Shinsegae, they purchased a few things that they had forgotten to pack. Returning to the hotel about 5PM, the first day of medical treatments in the Body and Seoul trip came to a close.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2010—Dental Exam and Sightseeing
Because they were no longer fasting, they were able to enjoy the delicious array of food offered at the breakfast buffet in the Café @ JW. Rudy sampled a variety of kimchi, and Katherine tried the Korean steamed egg dish. At about 11AM, they again met Elly, Max, and Pat in the hotel lobby. Katherine and Rudy appreciated the later start to the official day after all the medical tests on Monday.
With everyone in the mini-van, Max drove north over the Banpo Bridge, past the National Museum of Korea and the War Memorial and Museum, and up to Tosok-chon, a famous samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) restaurant. The long line of people waiting to go in for lunch attested to the restaurant's popularity. Katherine and Rudy enjoyed the chicken, which was stuffed with rice, ginseng, gingko nut, jujube, and many herbs, cooked in a broth, and served in an earthen bowl. This main dish was accompanied by vegetables, cool tea, and a thimbleful of potent ginseng liquor (also called Korean Folk Liquor).
After the hearty lunch, Max drove east past Gyeongbok and Changgyeong palaces to Seoul National University Dental Hospital where the camera crew was waiting. Katherine and Rudy had appointments for a two-hour dental exam and teeth whitening at the hospital's International Dental Care Service. They were treated by Dr. Woo Cheol Lee who received his D.D.S. from Seoul National University; completed an internship, residency, and fellowship in the Department of Conservation Dentistry at Seoul National University; completed a residency in endodontics at the University of Pennsylvania; and currently is an assistant professor in the Department of Conservative Dentistry at Seoul National University's School of Dentistry.
Katherine and Rudy thought that the dental procedures went smoothly and comfortably and were pleased with their outcomes. Their mouths felt refreshed and their teeth much smoother. Again, they both appreciated the care and concern shown by Dr. Lee and his assistants.
After a few hours in the dentist's chair, the rest of the day was free for sightseeing. Heading to downtown Seoul, the first stop was the King Sejong statue. Following a quick tour of the below-street-level Story of King Sejong, Katherine and Rudy re-emerged to street-level. They snapped photos of the King Sejong statue and of some of the scientific instruments that were developed during his reign. Across the street, they saw the Stars and Stripes flying at the U.S. Embassy. Then, they were off to Namsan Park and N Seoul Tower. As they approached this high point in Seoul, the streets narrowed and became twisty. At the park, they took a cable gondola car across to the tower. From the tower's observation deck, a stunning 360-degree view of the city and the mountains to the north and south appeared.
With the sun going down, Katherine and Rudy said good-bye to Elly and the camera crew and left Namsan Park for a memorable evening with Max. He drove them through an area of northern Seoul with many traditional hanok-style homes before stopping at the Gilsangsa Buddhist Temple. Entering the temple grounds, Katherine and Rudy could hear the monks taking part in the evening chant. Before entering the temple, they removed their shoes; then they knelt on padded cushions and listened to the chanting for several minutes. Afterwards they walked through the temple grounds, taking in the beauty and serenity of the buildings and landscaping.
With their spirits revived, Max next drove them to Ongdam Gol, an authentic galbi (Korean barbecue) restaurant in the Samchengdong area of northern Seoul. They were seated on low stools at a small roundtable with a ventilated charcoal burner in the middle. Between sips of Max Beer and Soju (a less potent ginseng drink), Rudy and Max took turns cooking the meat. Katherine and Rudy agreed that galbi was better in Korea. Finally, it was time to return to the hotel.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2010—Arumdaun Nara and East-West Neo Medical Center
About 9AM, Katherine and Rudy were ready to start a full day of health and medical treatments. Max drove the group a short distance east in the Gangnam district to the Arumdaun Nara Beauty Clinic. Dr. Sang Jun Lee and members of his staff greeted them as the camera crew began the day's filming. Dr. Lee, president and owner of Arumdaun Nara, received his medical degree from Kyung Hee University in Seoul. He is board certified in dermatology and plastic surgery and is best known for his noninvasive skincare treatments.
After gaining some background about the clinic during a tour of the facility, Katherine and Rudy had a consultation with Dr. Lee to determine which treatments would most benefit them. While the consultation was taking place, the staff prepared something special for the couple. When they entered Rudy's treatment room, large signs and balloons wished them each Happy Birthday. Katherine's birthday had occurred shortly before they left for Seoul, and Rudy's birthday was coming up that Friday. The staff also presented each of them with a gift box of the clinic's own line (Anacli) of cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Katherine and Rudy were definitely surprised and touched by the gifts. The following morning, Katherine tried the skincare products and found them easy to use—smooth to the touch, with a light fragrance.
Katherine then left the room to prepare for her treatment—a laser procedure to brighten and even out facial skin tone. She was worried that it might hurt or leave marks and was relieved when it didn't. When she didn't see any immediate change in her skin tone, Dr. Lee told her it could take a few months for the change to appear.
Rudy chose to have a facial mask. Before the mask was applied, Vitamin C was spread over Rudy's face. Then Dr. Lee rolled a wand over his face in a process known as ion phoresis, which encourages the Vitamin C to permeate the skin. Assistants placed a fine mesh over Rudy's face, avoiding his eyes, and applied a cool mask over the mesh. After about ten minutes, the mesh was peeled off thus removing the mask. His skin felt tingly and his pores looked smaller.
Having completed their skincare treatments sometime after 1PM, the couple walked with the rest of the group to a nearby bulgogi restaurant for lunch. Bulgogi is another kind of Korean barbeque with a slightly thinner cut of meat. Although they both enjoyed the bulgogi meal, Rudy said that given a choice he would pick the galbi-style barbecue.
Max retrieved the mini-van from the clinic's parking garage and picked up the rest of the group. They then drove to the East-West Neo Medical Center, which is part of Kyung Hee University. East-West offers an integrated program of Oriental and western medical practices. International patients such as Katherine and Rudy are cared for through the Kyung Hee University International Medical Service (KUIMS).
Ms. Stella Kim, KUIMS's international affairs manager, greeted Katherine and Rudy. Through translators, she gave them an overview of the treatments they would experience—music therapy, analysis of pulse and blood flow, and a voice analysis. Translators accompanied the couple during their treatments at East-West. According to Katherine and Rudy, the translators were invaluable in communicating with the doctors and technicians.
First, Dr. Seun Hyun Lee, director of Oriental medicine music therapy and clinical associate professor at East-West, led them through a music therapy session. She began the session with several minutes of breathing exercises in which they practiced taking in full breaths and expelling them. During much of the session, they repeated the chant "kung dak ttak" while hitting a janggu (a large hour-glass shaped drum) with the palms of their hands and by using a sogo (a small drum with a handle) to hit themselves and each other on the head, shoulders, arms, and legs. The breathing and drum exercises are meant to expel negative energy and emotions, relieve depression and stress, and thus bring the energy of Qi into balance. Katherine and Rudy found this physical exercise and movement invigorating, as it was in sharp contrast to the passive roles they had played in their previous medical treatments.
After thanking Dr. Lee, Katherine and Rudy walked down the hall for the pulse check. A technician used a specially designed, sensory computer system made by Daeyo Medi to read their pulse and to analyze their blood flow.
Next, they met Dr. Sun Heyung Kim who conducted the voice analysis. She received her degree from Sangi University Oriental Medical School. By analyzing the voice, a person's character—physical body type, attitude, and personality—can be determined. This is known as the Sasang Constitution Analysis. The system used at East-West for the voice analysis required Katherine and Rudy to produce a few sustained sounds and speak a few words into a microphone connected to a computer. In Oriental medicine, the body is compared to a bell and the voice to the ringing of the bell. In that way, pitch, octave, tone, and other voice qualities can be used to diagnose the body's medical symptoms. At the end of this session, Dr Kim gave them each a printout of the results from the voice analysis and explained the results to them. The printout included the wave forms made from the various sounds they had emitted, an analysis of the wave forms, and a description of their character according to the Sasang Constitution Analysis. The printouts also included a list of recommended foods, a list of foods to avoid, and suggestions for exercise. The results were quite interesting and gave Katherine and Rudy much to talk about.
When their treatments were completed, Ms. Kim presented them with a gift bag containing information about the hospital and a small disk to apply to their cell phones. The disk is designed to intercept electromagnetic waves, preventing them from harming the cell phone's user. After a group photo in the hospital's lobby, the group left East-West Neo Medical Center a little after 6PM, concluding another day of the Body and Seoul experience.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2010—The Spa at Konjiam Resort
About 9AM after again assembling in the Marriott's lobby, the group got into Max's mini-van and headed south to Konjiam Ski Resort. Entering the resort's grounds after the hour and a half drive, Katherine and Rudy were struck by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and the colorful fall foliage.
As they were escorted to Spa La Spa, the camera crew began filming. Before entering the spa, everyone took off their shoes and put on open-heeled, padded slippers. Katherine and Rudy were then seated in an elegantly furnished library where they received an overview of the treatments they had chosen—yoga, color-and-light therapy, and singing crystal bowls' sound therapy. They were then shown to separate locker rooms where they could change clothes and leave their belongings. Katherine was wearing yoga-style slacks so decided not to change; but Rudy put on the shorts and shirt provided by the spa.
Because yoga is believed to open the body and prepare it for other experiences, the first stop was the yoga room. There, Katherine and Rudy sat on yoga mats and were led through a half hour of gentle yoga movements.
Next, they proceeded to the color-and-light therapy room. This therapy is meant to induce relaxation, reduce stress, and alleviate seasonal affective disorder (SAD). They each got into a narrow, curved, tubular bed with a light tube curved over them. As the light continuously changed colors—from white to green to red to purple to blue to lavender—Katherine and Rudy viewed tranquil beach and underwater scenes on a monitor in front of them and listened to music that accompanied the changing scenes. Katherine and Rudy found this 30-minute session to be quite relaxing.
Then, they entered the singing crystal bowls' sound-therapy room. Two rows of sleeping pads, each with a blanket and pillow, lined the sides of the dimly lit room. Through the center of the room, between the rows of sleeping pads, was a line of crystal bowls. Made from natural Korean crystal, the bowls emit a range of tones. The tone depends on the bowl's height, width, and thickness. Crystal is thought to be a source of good energy (Qi). By listening to the singing bowls, good energy is believed to be delivered to the body. This energy is also thought to help the mind and soul relax. After a brief introduction about the therapy, Katherine and Rudy each lay down, closed their eyes, and listened to the singing bowls. During the 30-minute therapy session, a young woman struck the bowls with a cowhide stick, which she then rubbed around the rim and the inside and outside of the bowls. A variety of soothing sounds were produced. Rudy found the therapy to be so soothing that he almost fell asleep.
With their therapies completed, Katherine and Rudy were escorted to the spa's restaurant where a delicious and healthy lunch was waiting for them. Starting with a selection of exquisitely prepared appetizers, the meal continued with bibimbap, soup, a variety of vegetables, and of course kimchi, and ended with an arrangement of fresh fruit.
After lunch, Katherine and Rudy walked around the grounds of the resort, taking in the ski slopes and the outdoor stage for concerts. They enjoyed the fresh air and the quiet, broken only by the calls of the magpies. Soon it was time to leave Konjiam and return to Seoul.
About 4PM, Katherine and Rudy were back in Seoul and at St. Mary's to receive the results from their VIP health checkup. They met Dr. Jin-Ju Ok, director of the International Health Care Center. She is also a primary care physician in internal medicine. Dr. Ok gave Katherine and Rudy each a booklet and a CD with their checkup results. As Dr. Ok discussed the results, Katherine took notes in her booklet. According to Katherine, the most valuable part of the CD was that it included the actual X-rays and scans from their checkups.
When their consultations with Dr. Ok were over, Max drove them back to the JW Marriott. At that point, Elly Kim said good-bye to Katherine and Rudy, and KHIDI's official role in the Body and Seoul trip ended. The rest of the trip was taken care of by Hyundai Medis and their representative Max Song.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2010—The DMZ; Sightseeing and Shopping in Seoul
Everyone was up bright and early to be ready for the trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that had been arranged through Hyundai Medis. Rudy received Happy Birthday wishes when he, Katherine, Max, and Pat met in the hotel lobby at 7:30AM. Shortly after, they departed on the special DMZ tour bus. Max could not drive them to the DMZ because private cars are not allowed entry—only special tour buses.
Special parts of the trip included Imjingak, the site of memorials for those separated from family members in North Korea, where a feeling of sadness prevailed; the checkpoint at Unification Bridge when a Korean army soldier boarded the bus to check that everyone had a proper passport; Dorasan Observatory, the closest point to North Korea, with a view of Gaesong City; and the tour of the 3rd Tunnel, dug by the North Koreans in an attempt to infiltrate South Korea and attack Seoul. On the return trip to Seoul, Katherine and Rudy noticed the armed fortifications that extend from the DMZ into northern Seoul along the Han.
Back in Seoul, the group left the tour bus. Walking through a farmer's market in Seoul City Plaza, they sampled some cheeses and buttermilk. Max then took them to a different samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) restaurant for lunch. Fortified with a hearty meal, they were ready for an afternoon of sightseeing and shopping. After walking back through Seoul City Plaza, they crossed the street to watch the colorful and sound-filled changing of the guard ceremony at Deoksu Palace. Following the ceremony, they walked through the palace grounds, admiring the architecture and gardens.
Max then got everyone on a subway that took them close to the Cheonggye Stream. Walking through narrow streets filled with swerving motorcycles piled high with goods to be delivered, they safely reached the stream and the famous aluminum sculpture of Tae Il Chon. Katherine and Rudy were touched by the story of this young garment worker from the nearby Pyeonghwa Market. He committed suicide in 1970 out of despair for plight of his fellow workers. From there, they walked through several market areas lined with rows of deep bowls of kimchi, baskets filled with ginseng, and racks of fresh fish. Another market had traditional craft items and packaged foods. Katherine and Rudy purchased ginseng candies and other gift items. Katherine wished they had at least another day in Seoul; there was so much more that she wanted to see and do.
After a bus ride and another subway, they got off at the subway station that connects to Shinsegae and the JW Marriott. As veteran riders of New York's subways, Katherine and Rudy were impressed with Seoul's subway system—the ease of use, cleanliness, and order. At Shinsegae's bakery, Max bought Rudy a cake for his birthday. Katherine and Rudy enjoyed the cake as they packed in preparation for their trip back home.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2010—Back to Incheon International and Home
That morning Katherine and Rudy heard that during the previous day North Korean soldiers had fired at South Korean soldiers at the east end of DMZ They were glad they had been at the west end of the DMZ.
About 8:30AM, Katherine and Rudy met Pat and checked out of the hotel. Max arrived, loaded their luggage in the mini-van, and drove to Incheon. After parking in the airport garage, Max made sure that everyone was properly checked in and ticketed, walked with them to the security area, and said a special good-bye to each amidst hugs all around.
After going through security, Katherine and Rudy bought a few more gifts in the Duty-Free Shops with some of their last won. Just before heading to their gate, Katherine exchanged the last of their won for dollars. They found the arrival and departure processes at Incheon to be well planned and well laid out, making for a smooth beginning and ending of their trip. After saying good-bye to Pat, they boarded their 11AM flight back to New York.
- Patricia K. Kummer is a freelance writer from Chicago who accompanied Katherine DePasquale and Rudy Chaparro to the medical facilities in Seoul, to the spa at Konjiam Resort, to restaurants and various sites in Seoul, to the DMZ, and for shopping in Seoul and at Incheon's Duty Free Shops. She traveled separately, round-trip between Chicago and Incheon.
(A video of the Body and Seoul Sweepstakes trip may be viewed on YouTube at: