Treating Depression and Anxiety With Therapy In South Korea

Something that most foreigners have probably heard of South Korea is that Korea is the developed country that has the highest rate of suicide among all the others. After living in the country for almost 3 years, I can personally attest to this fact since my Korea girlfriend suffers from a multiple of psychological issues, ranging from Bipolar Disorder, to Depression, to Anxiety, to Sleep Paralysis. In fact, she probably suffers from all of the most common forms of psychological issues.

Some people might say that it is only the Korean Han, which has been described by the ethnic Koreans as a constant feeling of frustration or anger that is just under the surface ready to burst over. From Wikipedia, it has been described as “a collective feeling of oppression and isolation in the face of insurmountable odds”. After dating so many Korean girls, it seems like every single one suffered at some level depression or general anxiety.

Of course some of the depression and anxiety is not unfounded. Korea is a country that has its cultural values based on old Confucian ideals combined with foreign Christian ideas as well. The moment a Korean is born, they are placed in a box and are expected to fulfill a list of obligations to the people around them the rest of their life. The pressure to do well in school, be the best students, get the best grades, then go to the best universities, followed by a stable, well paying job in Samsung, and then get married before turning 30 are all things that you are expected by your traditional, conservative parents. If a young child does not have the mental fortitude, size, or intelligence to handle all of this social obligation, they are offer ostracized and pressured to try even harder. This is why you would find so many people who put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed.

There are of course certain people who are more susceptible to the pressure and spiral downwards to a negative state due to just genetics. Some people develop some form of psychosis which can’t be removed with a few nights of partying or alcohol. It would be impossible to fix these emotional and psychological problems without getting therapy.

However, it seems that therapy is a path most people choose not to get. For the average Korean, they don’t have any type of general comprehensive medical insurance coverage. If they wanted to get a therapist, they have to pay the fee 100% out of their own pocket.

The cost of therapy for most psychiatrist I looked into was about 100,000 Korean won per hour.

One group of Korean therapists who were able to speak English as well charged 300,000 Korean won per hour.

For me, that cost was just too high. It might seem obvious that maybe one can just go to church and talk to one’s own pastor or minister about one’s emotional problems, but I am not religious. Plus, it seems that most people who work inside the church don’t offer any type of counseling without eventually telling the patient to trust in the power of god to heal them.

So far, I have not found any English speaking Korean therapist in Seoul who I would give a recommendation for.

However, what I would like to suggest for the expats, foreigners, English teachers, and native Koreans who feel that they need to see a therapist to contact me. I have recently decided to form a group to talk to each other.

The group will see each other on a weekly rate, on Saturday usually, in the Gangnam-Dong Area, near the Kukkiwon Building, at the cafe Citti Cafe, close to the Yeoksam Library.

In this group, similar to how people go to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), people meet in small groups to talk about their problems, their difficulties, and hopefully find a partner or friend to talk to. Even though there may be almost 10 million people all living in Seoul, it may be extremely hard to find opportunities to meet people. Making a real connection with another person is hard these days, when everyone seems to be only staring at their iphone screen.

So come by our weekly Therapy Group session to get help, talk to others who are understand your problems, and maybe meet a new friend.


  • Citti Cafe
  • Gangnam-Dong, Gangnam-Gu

Leave a Reply