Moving to Korea > Health and Medical Services

Eye Care

Eye Care

Depending on where you are from, getting an eye exam in South Korea may be very different or very similar to eye care in your home country.

In South Korea, only opticians and ophthalmologists are recognized by the government.. When you get an eye check at an optical shop in South Korea, the examination is only to determine the prescription for glasses.  Opticians are not allowed to touch the eye or do any eye health testing.     All eye health testing must be done by ophthalmologists who usually work in medical eye clinics or hospitals.  

Optometrists (who are common only in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) are licensed the same as opticians in South Korea so an “optometric eye exam” in South Korea can NOT include testing for eye disease such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.   If you have symptoms, history, or suspicion of any ocular disease, you should go to a medical eye clinic instead of an optical shop for your eye examination. 

Common soft contact lenses can be purchased at optical shops and the fitting process is streamlined.   However, patients who require rigid contact lenses or less common types or powers of soft contacts usually need to be fitted at a medical eye clinic.

Refractive surgery including LASIK and LASEK are common procedures in South Korea.  If you are considering these procedures, it is advisable to choose your surgeon based on his/her surgical outcomes rather than the cost.  Compare complication rates and patients’ post-surgical refractive status. 

The good news is that Korean optical materials are generally of good quality and low cost.   A wide variety of spectacles frames and lenses are readily available.  Due to differences in government safety regulations, optical lenses are often thinner and lighter weight than an equivalent prescription from many other countries. If you purchase materials at an optical shop, the eye check is usually quick and free so the total expense to get a new pair of glasses is often surprisingly little.  

Optical shops’ and medical eye clinics’ staff vary in their English language competency so simply calling or walking in with questions may be the best way to see if you’re able to communicate easily.   

Most hospitals provide the fulll range of vision-related medical care - if the specialist you need does not speak English, there may be an international clinic in the facility or staff who can help translate. However, here as in many other specialties, many physicians have studied abroad and it is not too difficult, especially in or near large urban areas, to find English-speakers (as well as some other languages).

Medical procedures in a medical eye clinic are generally covered by National Health Insurance. For more information on the NHI, go to the Working & Business Section and click on National Health Coverage.


K4E Note: tries to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and complete, so should you notice any errors or omissions in the content above please contact us at

Last Updated on 2015-02-16

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